Posted by: ethosworld | September 13, 2010

So…You Wanna be a Film Producer

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.  Filmmaking is a lucrative business and your work has the potential to be seen by millions.  From development to release date, no two days are the same and you are also required to have a high determination and passion for your story.  In an industry like ours, it is a must to know the ins and outs of how the business works and who your potential audience is, along with knowing even if there is a market for your story and if it is profitable.  

All these are what the producer should know.  You should know every aspect of your film and the requirements of running a production.  Every year, thousands leave university to enter the filmmaking business and only about 5% really break in.  There are many reasons why this is so and I have already mentioned some of them but up-and-coming producers and filmmakers alike lack the knowledge of what it is they really want.

As a producer, one of the first decisions to make is whether you want to be an Indie producer or work for a studio.  As an Indie producer you work outside of major studios and Indie producers often make ‘art films’ or ‘independents’, which are different from most mass market films. 

To be successful as an Indie producer you may need to co-produce with a major studio for distribution, but of course this is something you can do yourself and allows you to have full control of your film.  Indie producers make Indie films and you can often tell this from the content and style. It also means that you often have to work with considerably lower budgets and the film’s marketing avenue is usually ‘limited release’.

Now is the time for Indie producing and digital filmmaking, made possible mainly because of the large volume of inexpensive high-end digital film equipment available at consumer level, which means you no longer have to depend on studios to provide you with the tools you need to produce your film, and thanks to the falling cost of technology, you can obtain the resources you need to produce an entertaining film at a fraction of the cost of major studios.

Post-Production has also been made easy and simplified by non-linear editing software available for home computers.  With the boom in Indie productions, major studios are cashing in and the big six studios have all created a number of independent subsidiaries to develop less commercial but character driven films which appeal to the ‘art house’ market.  These include: 

  • MGM
  • Universal Artists – under MGM
  • New Line Cinema
  • HBO Films
  • CastleRock Entertainment
  • DreamWorks SKG
  • Fox Search Light
  • GoFish Production – under DreamWorks

The list goes on and because of this popularity and the feasibility of Indie films over the last 10 to 15years, there has been a major increase in the number of aspiring filmmakers who have written scripts and have raised several millions of dollars to turn the script into a successful Indie film.  Some of these films include: 

  • Juno
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Little Miss Sunshine

If you’re up-and-coming one thing is for sure: the rise in independent filmmaking has led to a prolific rise and re-popularisation of short films and short film festivals which in turn has meant that filmmakers who win awards are usually more likely to get picked up for distribution by major studios.  The following lists are considered to be the most prevalent for Indie films and they are used to produce/release independent films:

  • Film 4 Productions
  • LionsGate Films
  • Summit Entertainment
  • Overture Films
  • IFC Films
  • Samuel Goldwyn Films
  • The Western Company
  • Dimension Films
  • Magnolia Pictures
  • Palm Pictures
  • Tartan Films
  • NewMarket Films
  • Think Films
  • Troma Entertainments
  • First Look Studios
  • Image Entertainment
  • Yari Film Group

So…the question is? Short or Full Length

When you’re up-and-coming you must decide if you want to make a well-funded short or use the money to make a feature.  This decision should be based upon what you want/need from the experience and there are several issues you should consider before making that decision. I must say, that whilst considering whether to make a short or full length film, you could start by creating ‘the buzz’ which can be done even before you have written the script, but I would advise against this as the industry is unpredictable and you may be selling yourself short. 

What’s important to remember is that when choosing between short and full, is the script.  If you have two scripts – one full, one short, go with the better script because whatever you decide to make has to be based on a good script.  Always think about what you want to show off, which can prove to be tricky for a producer as there are many great scripts and with that comes competition.  If you do decide to make a short…length matters, so making a short that’s between 6min and 10min long is more likely to be accepted at festivals than a 20min long.

Is money your main goal?  You and I both know that we all want to make money from our films and if that’s your main aim then I suggest you make a full length feature.

Money, Money, Money

How much do you have? Because that can be the deciding factor whether you make a short or a full.  Don’t think you can make a full that costs €50,000 for €5,000 because that won’t work. The only time making a full for €5.000 will work is, if the film is budgeted for that amount.

We now know that the majority of up-and-coming filmmakers don’t make it, and after speaking with an industry insider, it was made clear that the top reason they fail is that they are not realistic.  They hardly spend time analysing and evaluating their goals and reasons for making the film – Don’t be one of them! Be realistic and don’t make decisions based on hearsay and emotions. 

To finalise this, your timing and your topic must be of importance too and if you do decide to make a short it can be beneficial as shorts are created and finished faster than full.  Plus some topics are better off as shorts.  And last but not least, do you have access to crew?  People who can commit for the time frame it takes to complete your project – it can be disruptive to have crew coming and going.  This can cause a problem with the creation of the film.

When all is said and done, what’s important here…are your goals, resources and quality of your project.  And you should always trust your instincts.

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