Five Good Producer Skills

By Angela Taylor, posted 1 April 2006

You may believe a thorough knowledge of filmmaking and the entertainment industry is enough to make you a good movie producer. While it certainly helps to know the nuts and bolts of movie production, and even the details of financing and marketing a movie, that knowledge is not enough to create a good producer. It might make for a good studio executive, or other job out of the fray, but you need to develop specific skills, to help you make an independent film.

The first and most important skill you need is organization. If you were the kid who kept the minutes of the club meetings, edited the yearbook, or organized the prop-closet by era, you already have this skill. It is something that is hard to teach, but you can certainly learn it, to become more organized. If you are the person who can't find his keys and has no idea how much is in your checking account, you need help. Get organized. There is simply no substitute for it. Buy a book about getting organized. I recommend How to Get Organized When You Don't Have the Time, by Stephanie Culp. Or take a Franklin - Covey course. Do whatever you have to do, but get organized. Second, you need to be able to make decisions quickly. Despite the best planning, things change moment-to-moment during production. You will have to decide right now whether to set up the next shot despite the looming storm clouds, or to move on to another location, completely disrupting the schedule. The best way to develop this skill is to completely bury your doubt. Know that you are in charge, any mistakes to be made are yours to make and you will suffer the consequences of bad decisions. If you act decisively, and accept blame when necessary, your cast and crew will accept your decisions unquestioningly. Third, you must be a good negotiator. You will have to make deals for every single thing on the set - the equipment, the sets, the crew, the film stock, everything. Even if you’re borrowing your mom’s station wagon, you will have to convince her you will take good care of it, and return it washed, and with a full tank of gas. Everything will have to be negotiated. When negotiating rates, know the maximum you can pay for any one line item on your budget and try to shave 20 or 30 percent off of it. If they negotiate up, you may still save 15 percent or so off what you expected to pay. There is one thing you need to know when negotiating: You can always say no. If you can't get the deal you want, just say no. Practice it. No. There is no need to be a jerk, just make it clear that you will take your business or offer elsewhere. If a crew member doesn't want to accept your day rate, he doesn't have to. You will find someone else (assuming you set your rate at a reasonable low-budget level). Fourth, a producer also needs diplomacy. It's surprising how often a film shoot devolves into a third-grade playground. In just a few short weeks, cliques form, rumors start and friendships are formed and ruined. Crew members and actors will, believe it or not, come tattle to you. Sometimes you will have to intercede in petty squabbles and personality conflicts. The trick is to smooth ruffled feathers while not making one combatant feel like you’ve taken another’s side. That will only set factions against you, and that’s the last thing you want on your set. And fifth, of course, you will need energy. Lots and lots of energy. Caffeine helps to get you started after only a few hours sleep, but it is no substitute for real, healthy human energy. One of the things you must do during pre-production is get yourself in shape for the rigorous weeks of shooting. You’re in training, not for a sprint, but for a marathon. Working on lower budgets, independent films often have a much tighter schedule, making for longer days and fewer days off. Take it seriously beforehand, and train like a champion. Exercise, eat healthy, and take vitamins and supplements to build your energy stores, so you can get through it. After you have these five basic producer skills down, you will be ready to develop your knowledge of the filmmaking process and the entertainment industry, by producing a successful independent film. ----------------------------------------------------------- Angela Taylor is a Hollywood producer, and a seven-time Telly Award winner. She teaches Independent Producing at ----------------------------------------------------------- © 2005 Angela Taylor, All Rights Reserved. You may forward this in its entirety to anyone you wish. Hollywood Seminars, Box 2449, Hollywood CA 90078 USA

Reader Comments

More Posts

Tarantino and Team Talk About Shooting for 70mm on The Hateful Eight

In this featurette for the release of the film, Quentin Tarantino and others talk about the experience of shooting on 65mm and using the now rare Ultra Panavision aspect ratio.

27-Nov-2015  • 

Birdman and the Secret of 'Continuous' Takes

The Film Theorists take a look at how Alejandro González Iñárritu's Oscar-winner Birdman achieves the feel of being shot in one continuous take (when it wasn't).

23-Oct-2015  •  Benjamin Craig

Script Rewrites: The Good, The Bad, and The Convoluted

Zachary Evans looks at some of the benefits and pit-falls of having more than one writer on a project by putting the lens on three films whose multi-writer scripts had very different outcomes.

12-Oct-2015  •  Zachary Evans

Manage Collaboration During Post More Effectively with Everytime

Anyone who's worked on a creative project knows that one of the hardest things is managing the review and feedback process, particularly when you can't always get everyone in the same room. Feedback and direction in emails or on the phone only goes so far. As always, it's way more effective to be able to show someone what you mean.

8-Sep-2015  •  Benjamin Craig

Callsheet Operator - Call sheets for the 21st century

The concept of call sheets hasn't changed much in over half a century. Although there have been many valiant efforts to modernise them over the last decade or two, there hasn't really been anything to revolutionise the process... until now.

18-Jun-2015  •  Benjamin Craig