A Producer's Contribution (Part 1 of 3)

Recently on my TrulyFreeFilms blog, Michael Walker of Pangofilms asked why more producers don’t invest in their own movies.

This question first assumes that there are producers who could even afford to consider this possibility. Right now, when it comes to financial matters, I don’t know of any producers that aren’t first and foremost concerned about their immediate survival (even the concern of long term survival now looks like a luxury). The business once supported prolific quality producers with overhead deals, but those days are now dead and gone. A financial investment in a movie is not something most producers can afford.

I have made financial investments in my films, but mostly in terms of bridge loans and never with any reward for it. Usually the director didn’t even know I was doing it. And once I got burned and came very close to watching it spiral and thus losing a great deal more as a result. I have also “invested” in filmmakers I believed in, whether to help them complete their movie, or just to survive, but never in a structure that had expectation for financial reward -- more as a friend or family member would. But generally, the reason why, as a Producer, I haven’t invested financially in my projects, is because I, like most producers, can’t afford to. Sad to break it to you, but Indie Film producing is not a lucrative profession. We don’t do it for the money honey.

To be frank, I think investing in films is counter to what a producer should be doing. Investors generally are looking for a financial return, albeit one that contributes something to the culture too. A director is trying to make their movie. A producer has to balance these multiple interests. One of the most difficult things about producing is making sure all collaborators share a common agenda. As much as folks claim to be on the same page, their behavior frequently betrays this goal. The director and the financier both need to know the producer is looking out for their diverse interests.

Producers have a fiscal responsibility to their movie, but it is not their only responsibility. I am surprised that a director would want a producer who by way of their investment was declaring the fiscal responsibility their primary one. I would be surprised that investors would want to go forward without someone to balance their needs with that of the director’s. How would such an investor ever get a great film? Unfortunately, a film’s financial success is dependent on far many things beyond the quality of the script, so even if the producer who developed it had infinitely deep pockets, the intersection of art and commerce would create an imbalance of power. Movies thankfully will never just be about these interests; it is the blend that really makes each film find new heights.