Producers are an odd bunch because no one, not even other producers, actually know what a producer does. We are the money raisers, publicity whores, arrangers of time and time travel, the figurers of what to do when the crap rolls down hill, the stand ins, the momentary boom operators, the extra hands, the craft table managers, the wardrobe cleaners, etc.
Me, personally, I’m what is usually known as a UPM/Line Producer. I generally have one project in pre-production, one in production, and one in post production. I’m the fixer. When there is a question about who goes where, who is doing what, who needs to be doing something in five minutes, I’m the one with the answers. If a crew member gets sick, I can jump in and take over their position with no notice. If the director is having a meltdown *as in the case of the Yeller Director that I wrote about before*, I either have to bolster the crew and cast or I have to find the screw up. If I have to find the screw up, I’m usually the one who has to fire him/her. I will spend months in pre production working with 1AD to come up with a schedule as well as produce the bible.
The script bible is a spreadsheet with every scene broken down with every item in it. Actors, crew, props, music, make up, wardrobe, etc… Then I give each scene its own page with this list in chronological order. Then I meet with the cinematographer, and get the story boards and include those. Then I also produce the schedule as well as contact list.
Associate producers are usually a title given to someone who was exceptionally helpful, going beyond their call of duty as a small thank you. Associate producers can also be people that the film is somehow being forced to acknowledge for one reason or another, whether it is some sort of donation of food or product, or someone’s cousin who needs an imdb credit.
In the end, producers are either a film’s greatest unknown asset or the biggest pain in the ass. Here are some of the types that you will probably meet
- The Momager: their kid is somehow involved. They managed to stick their nose into production, acting like the Queen of Sheba, and believe they cannot be questioned.
- The Silent One: Quiet, only interjecting opinion when asked. Will help when asked. Will do what they can but generally speaks little and carries a big stick
- The This is My Film: Believes they know everything despite not being the director, nor the cinematographer, nor the editor, nor the writer. They see themselves as some sort of savior. No one else does.
- The I want to Learn: They just want to learn something new. They have no desire to go to film school or even a class at the local county extension office, because they believe they can learn more on set. They usually don’t want to learn, they just want to bitch about something. They will also cry at the drop of the hat because they have no clue about set etiquette.
- The What Else Can I do: Always in the way because they want to help. They do what they are told and then extrapolate that into extra work. Sometimes they make more work for themselves and sometimes they make more problems for everyone else.
- The controlled one: rarely flustered, rarely emotional. Know when to work, when to rest, when to speak up and when to shut up. Has the entire day planned out and is already anticipating problems and figuring out how to skip that or mitigate those problems. Knows how to do everything on the set, probably not the best but passable.
Producers will either make or break your set. Having a good one is hard to find. When you do, do whatever you can to keep them on your project.