It Could Be Getting So Much Better All The Time #5: Training And Mentorship

Today's suggestion is from Jane Kosek, producer and blogger over at All ABout Indie Filmmaking:

Much of the struggles of the industry are due to the lack of resources, training and mentoring to producers. If we have enough support for the group of people whom actually greenlight the pictures then maybe that will trickle down over everything.

I can't think of one organization that strongly focuses on the development of indie producers. Film school producing programs are just the beginning of training. And most indie producers don't attend film school anyway. You must already have films distributed in order to join the Producers Guild as a producer. By then you have already typically made a few crappy ones that never got distributed. IFP and Film Independent and Sundance try to offer help but they also heavily service directors and writers. And much of the best resources are given in tiny labs that are very hard to get into.

I think we need an organization specifically for producers -- that will be the most effective.

Most of the interviews in film magazines are with writers and directors. I know more about the writers and directors of indie films than producers. That needs to change. More publicity and knowledge of what a producer does will help. Maybe those less experienced won't jump in so quickly if they really understand how big a job it is.

I think that if we start an organization that is helmed or guided by successful producers that really gives back to the next generation of producers then we are on to something that can help indie films get better. Teach indie producers how to develop strong films and be a strong creative partner to the director. Help them understand the importance of a strong cast. Distributors have said they want projects with name actors. How do indie producers make this happen? They need help. Bigger producers could help make inroads with the agents so they are more open to having their clients in smaller films. Give indie producers resources that really help them secure distribution.

You help to teach and build the skills of indie producers and I guarantee there will be significant change in the quality of films being made. They will develop projects longer. Staff it right and cast it well, etc. We lament the loss of billions of dollars each year on indie films. Who is gathering this money and using it? Producers! Let's get us trained and organized and perhaps these losses will diminish. I'm ready to do what it takes to fix the situation. This is my livelihood. If I don't help fix it, who will?

If there were an organization providing more significant training and support from the top at the producer level, we would see a huge difference in the quality of films being made. I know my producer colleagues and I could use more support and the problem is that we haven't been able to find this "ongoing" support. We lean on each other and we join all the usual associations that do exist, but we still struggle finding the mentoring that we really want and need.

Sure, most of us have worked with amazing producers in the past who try to be approachable but it's not an effective system. These amazing producers are extremely busy and have their own projects to worry about. I think these producers would be more available if they were working within an established system of giving back. I personally find it much easier to give back through an established means rather than random email and phone requests that have a high chance of getting lost in the shuffle. In addition, an established system would allow mentoring from multiple sources, which benefits everyone.

I am a case study in what is broken in our system. I work extremely hard and have the best of intentions for making entertaining films that appeal to a wide audience. I want my investors to make their money back, and I believe I am making the right decisions but if I had a system to lean on a bit more, I know I would increase the odds of my films being a success. And if producers like me have a hard time building a proper support system, how do those just starting out have a chance? It's a real dilemma.

We need a system that offers producers a means for receiving guidance and training, and in turn, allows those producers who have "made it" to give back in a significant way. By the time a producer has made a name for him or herself, he or she has usually already made a few films that have lost money. I am sure this "learning" period is where we are seeing the greatest loss in the billions of dollars of investment money. We catch producers at this phase in their careers and we provide a foundation for a thriving independent film industry.

Hope For The Future pt. 4: The List #'s 14 -17

My goal was to provide my friends, collaborators, and co-conspirators 52 Reasons Not To Feel Glum About The State Of Film Culture, and precisely that sector of independent art film culture I call Truly Free Film.  I figured with the economy in the toilet, traditional media stepping into the grave, and a business leader or politician being revealed as a crook daily, we didn't need more gloom poured on.

I didn't think I would have to do build the list alone though.  Isn't that part of the glory of the whole blogosphere?  That people collaborate?  I started the list and kept on adding to it until we go 25% there, hoping that the list would then write itself.  It didn't.  
I guess that is the bad news: either people don't like to participate or that the film world is a bunch of pessimists.  If you know which one it is, let me know.
The good news is that I had no problem completing the list solo.  Granted it took about an hour, but I stopped when I got to Number 52.  Taking it further might make us giddy.  As this year winds down, we can rest knowing we have many reasons to be cheerful.
And so, I continue this list in no particular order.  When I approach its end, I will provide it somewhere, if someone wants it, in its entirety, with an ordered logic and some other tasty filler.  But for now...

14. We have seen a perfect distribution model and its success: the Obama social network was nothing short of a thing of beauty. Its methods should be an inspiration for all truly free filmmakers. People had a reason to visit the site, to supply information, to reach out and connect to others. They were supplied the tools and a mission. Now go out and find someone to vote for the culture you want.

15. The DIY/Do It With Others model is now recognized as a real alternative to traditional make-it-and-pray-that-others-will-pay-to-distribute-it-for-you. Filmmakers are planning for it as a possibility from the start of production. This preparation becomes the key to success.

16.Filmmakers are recognizing the need to define their platform at early stage AND make it on-going. Be they producers like Bill Horberg or Jane Kosek , directors like Raymond DeFelitta and Jon Reiss ,or writers like John August and Dennis Cooper, creative filmmakers are taking upon themselves to find and unite their audiences at an earlier stage in the process. Okay, maybe it isn’t so Machavellian; maybe they just want to talk to people. Either way, it is going to lead to more people seeing better films.

17. A curatorial culture is starting to emerge. Creative communities need filters. Every year I have as many “want to see” films on my list as I do “best of”. It’s not that there is too much as some like to claim, but it’s that there is still too little discussion on what is best and why. We started Hammer To Nail (soon to debut in a new & improved form!) for this reason, but we are not alone. Although they tread in much different waters, popular email blasts/broadcasts like Daily Candy and Very Short List, these sites work as much as filters as they do identifiers. Social Networks most popular features are members “favorites” in their profiles. We are all being trained as curators, but are only now starting to share it publicly.