Ages ago, I wrote a post about why Producers matter. All of that hold's true, but none of it is why we get hired. In these days when jobs are scarce and many a long time cohort is looking at new enterprises or a new career, I find myself often reminding my brethren of the simple truths of what "they" want from us. Producers are respected for six things I figure:
- Validation - Your support of them means that the project is real (or at least they think it will mean that for others). It may be it's own category, but I think the "Cover Your Ass" criteria is a subset of this; those that are in the employ by others, need to make sure they have someone else to blame or deflect off when SHTF. That someone is often you.
- Taste - Whether it's picking or crafting; be it a slant towards commercial or critical success; and whether it is the financiers or the creators doing the selecting, your work matters, and should be protected where ever possible. Your past represents where you want to go in the future. What you've done won't go away and it speaks about what is NEXT for you.
- Access & Relationships - Its not just who you know, but also how much they want to pick up the phone when you call. People pay for contact and efficiency. In getting things done, you want to make sure you are also working to make it all go smoother, faster, better in the future. Work not just for the now but for the later too.
- Integrity & Trust - As both keeper of the purse and warrior at the front lines, you are asked to manage both the art and the financial. Both require leaps of faith by those who say yes, and we can expect that to be followed by constant careful consideration - what have you done both before and during is how you get to earn and maintain their support and commitment.
- Cost Control Skills - maybe in times of wealth and growth, execution takes precedent, but I think I have lived through such times (and we certainly are not in them now!), and granted I may be corrupted by the prism I look through, but first and foremost those that surrender the capital want to know you can turn off the spigot. More for less is what people always want and it is the producer's responsibility to give it to them.
- Experience - Everyone's looking for the shorter path. They need a guide. That is the producer, and you must learn the way.
I don't know if there is really anything else. And I certainly don't mean that these six reasons are WHY we should be valued -- just that this is why we are. Whenever I say this sort of stuff though, I am surprised I don't get more arguments. I wish we were valued for our storytelling skills and our dramaturgy know-how. I am confident that I make scripts, movies, and campaigns better, but it is very rare that this is raised as the reason that people bring projects or money to me. I wish that would change...
I am also very proud of the overall financial record of my films. I feel that I have learned at what price point projects must be produced at to deliver a positive return. Yet again, people generally prefer that films are delivered on time and on budget (as opposed to make more money than they cost). I hear people often state that at the end of the day no one will ask if it came in on budget or schedule, just that it if it made money -- but that has never been the case for me. And you would think that in this world where everyone appears to be profit motivated that they would care more if one's work was profitable than if it was any good, but it doesn't seem to be that way at the end of the day. I make movies that are both good and structured to make money -- but that isn't what drives new work or funding my way. Maybe profits matter when someone is making the commitment, but on initial meetings when people speak about the reason they came through the door, it seems to still be about quality only. Maybe it is that only big profits matter? Is it all size and not ROI when it comes to returns?