Why Can't Producers Get Along & Work Well Together?

Today's guest post is from NYC-based feature film producer Adam Brightman. Recently I was asked by a couple of smart but fairly inexperienced producers some good questions about how producing teams can work well together (and not so well).  For better or worse, in my career, which is now in its third decade (ouch), I have averaged about 70/30 good to bad.  Maybe that is par for the course.  Maybe it is reflective of how much of my film work has been on non-studio, extremely challenging films.  In any case, since they asked, and since it is a crucial and, perhaps, unappreciated part of the filmmaking process, here are my thoughts.

1.  Everybody counts.  All producers on films today are important, and unless they are clearly dead weight or baggage (a star's manager, an executive's friend, what have you) then every producer makes a valuable contribution.  And whatever the credit one gets on a movie, if you are part of the producing team then you are a producer.  Plain and simple.  So as I said, everybody counts, and the producing teams that recognize and acknowledge that fact work well.  The ones that feel a need, for whatever reason, to undermine and minimize each other's contributions do not work well.2.  Communication.  That's the business we're all in, yet some people are better at it then others.  I have worked with some producers who can barely articulate a thought, much less effectively communicate an agenda, a plan of action, an argument.  If you cannot communicate, you are in the wrong business.  If you have other skills that lend themselves to being a producer but have trouble communicating, then, in my opinion, you should let other people be the communicators and confine yourself to the role you are best suited for.  Which leads me to...

3.  Define the work.  Movies are complicated to make, and only get more complicated, which is really why we do in fact need bigger producing teams (that and the practical fact that there are very few people around anymore who are the great 'all around' producers of the past.  It really was simpler then.)  The producing teams that work best are ones where everyone understands their role and does what they do best.  This is not to say that a good team does not share and overlap duties.  The best teams feel free to advise each other, and support each other, but also trust each other to do what they do without being second-guessed.  Which leads me to the most important and admittedly cliche part of this little essay...

4.  Trust and Respect.  Easier said then done, sometimes, but a little bit of the latter goes a long way, and if you don't have the former, why are you on the team?  Of course, there are many answers to that question, since movies come together in so many ways and with so many combinations of people.  But if there is one thing I have seen over my many movies that really made the difference between a good team and a bad one, it would be trust, or lack of it.  Making movies is a frightening enterprise.  There is generally a lot at stake.  Money. Career.  Relationships.  Success!  Failure!  This pressure can bring out the worst in people.  But I say, if it is so hard, and so much is on the line, then all the MORE reason to depend on each other and work together to make it a success.

Adam Brightman has worked in film production since 1982. He has been a part of the producing team on many movies, including "Two Family House", "Funny Games", and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist". He is currently producing the Amy Heckerling comedy "Vamps".