The Producer Credit: What It Means To Me

Producing is all I do and the only credit I get. The meaning and value of that credit erodes all the time as financiers and packagers and directors seek to share it. I do something very specific though that none of those other collaborators do. I am there from the very beginning until the very end doing my best to make sure that the best team assembled, best environment created, best film made, full potential realized, best release and marketing strategy conceived, and maximum revenue (within those other considerations) achieved. It is my role to make sure that all options are considered and the ramification of each choice considered in advance.

I contribute to the script but take no credit -- yet people comment how "my body of work" has common themes and threads. I help design the production, from the look, to the cast, to the crew, to the rhythm, to the tone, to the marketing -- yet people don't think my credit is a creative one (because it has been undervalued by all those that glom on to it). I strategize how to make the film go from an idea or concept into reality -- I make the film inevitable, with attachments, with financing, with distribution, with an audience, yet somehow the industry thinks producers are interchangeable. The industry encourages that I do a volume business so that they can "service" their clients, yet they give me no support, be it financial or just reinforcement (if a project is not ready or a collaborator not a financial asset, I am the one that must deliver the news -- and even if they agree with me, they take the side of the client).

Six years ago I was one of two key witnesses in the successful anti-trust suit against the MPAA and Studios' Screener Ban. One of the reasons we won was that the judge recognized that my livelihood was dependent not on singular films, but on the perception of my key creative role in a string of films that had a critical, commercial, and cultural impact (and how the added boost screeners gave my films was essential). Since that time, I have witnessed the devaluing of the producer credit as never before.

We are in incredibly tough times for "quality" projects. Fewer get released. Fewer get financed. The budgets come down, and with them come lower fees. It has never been this hard over the last twenty years. When I ask myself "how am I going to survive making the kind of films I do, the kind of films I love?" my one real hope is a deepening understanding of what I bring to a project. And to me that is a deepening understanding of what it is to produce. 

Producing for me is not contributing to the producing process -- it is doing the entire process. If someone needs to receive additional credit because of their contribution it should not just reflect their contribution, but it also should not diminish the contribution of others. It is my job to do a lot of other people's job, but it is not my place to take any credit for that.  When someone takes producer credit and is not there from beginning to the end, involved in all aspects of the development, funding, prep, production, post, marketing, and distribution, they diminish my work and the value of my credit.  When the producer credit is devalued, it becomes harder to get movies made and to respect the process by which good movies are made.  
I also firmly believe that the producer is in service to both the director and the film.  The producer and director are both there to make the best film within their means and circumstances, and hopefully they have a mutual understanding as to what that means.  I have been surprised by those out there who pitch themselves as "filmmaker friendly" but don't have faith in their team's vision.  Similarly, I am surprised by those who go looking for "collaborators" but truly don't want to engage in the discussion about how to make the best the film within the context of their project.  To produce means to be in a collaborative environment in service to a filmmaker's vision.
If we are now involved in a cultural war to protect ambitious film, then who is the enemy?