What Does a Film Producer Do?
I’m basically a rare film jack-of-all-trades (producing, directing, audio, lighting, shooting, etc.), but master of none – except actually being a jack of all filmmaking trades – which is a specialized and valuable skill in and of itself that has served me well on my particular film journey. However, if I had to only be one thing in this field – it would be a producer above all else.
That’s been my primary role on the tv programs and films I’ve worked on and it’s the role that I find most challenging (always) and rewarding (most of the time), because it’s so multi-faceted, dynamic and unpredictable. The ability to be think on your feet, be resourceful and maintain your composure under stress is an absolute requirement. It stretches the very limits of everything I’m capable of…and on occassion even breaks those limits. My most direct description of what a producer does is:
The Producer is the person that makes it all HAPPEN.
The writer creates it. The D.P. visualizes it. The gaffer lights it. The audio person records it. And the director dreams, shapes, and guides the creative vision. But once all those people decide what it is they need to create the vision…the producer is the person that has to actually set the wheels in motion to realize that vision by finding a practical, legal (mostly), safe (always), budget-conscious and realistic way to actually find, acquire and manage all those resources be they financial, human, equipment or logistical.
When you see an insanely wild and spectacular car chase like the centerpiece chase in “To Live and Die In L.A.”, it’s not just the directors, stunt people , D.P. and sound designer crafting that. Before any of those people could do their job, somebody had to:
- hire the stunt coordinator that could handle it
- find a suitable stretch of highway
- get permission from the city to shut down the roads
- arrange for multiple helicopters to shoot from
- alert the police and fire officials
- round up a ridiculous amount of cars (some that need to be wrecked)
- round up a ridiculous amount of stunt people to drive and safely crash those cars
- find a freight train and available stretch of train track
- get production insurance to cover it all
- hire a small army of extra P.A.’s to set it up and manage traffic
- rent multiple camera packages and grip trucks
- arrange daily catering for the hundreds of people involved
- find a staging area for all these people to eat, rest and go to the bathroom (No, McDonald’s won’t cut it.)
- convince the studio to pony up the massive sum of money it would take to pull this all off
- manage that money deftly as one surprise after another inevitably came up
- make sure everyone involved fills out their paperwork, gets paid on-time and in-full
- and plenty more.
…Well that incredibly busy somebody is called the producer. (And I’m really only talking about the job of managing logistics for one big scene here, nevermind the job managing the other 87 scenes in the movie or all of the people involved which is arguably the biggest X-factor for any producer.) All of that can be summed up as the person who makes it happen.
Check out the below car chase scene from to Live and Die in L.A. again, only this time I want you to not just admire the editing, stunts and storytelling, but think about all the problem-solving, resources and logistics that went into translating just this one scene from a vision on paper to a reality that was successfully captured on film…
Simply making it happen is not as simple as it sounds, but that is the never-ending challenge of producing.