A Producers observations to Directors and vice versa…

Advice to Directors

I’ve worked with a lot of Directors either as an Actress, First AD or Producer and I’m not saying this is the “be all and end all”. It’s just a little advice from my experiences.

A lot of the time, the filmmakers are the Writer/Director of their own project and because of this, find it frustrating that they cannot find a “good” Producer. I have asked myself why, and there is no right and wrong or blame here. “Good” Producers are difficult to find and “Great Producers” are rare. Again, this is due to a number of reasons, Producers are also writers, would be directors, actors etc. They all wish to be paid for the enormous amount of time and investment they are going to undertake. Without payment, it can feel like a burden rather than one of the best journeys ever! But also just because someone says they “produce”, it doesn’t mean they can..

Many Producers collaborate on Projects as each are skilled in different areas. But these are not only business colleagues, they are people who have become friends and realise their own potential. If you’re “good” and better still “great”, who wouldn’t want to be paid for their time. Your time is valuable and if you are going to invest in it for free, little money or hundreds then you have to know your own self worth and the projects worth.

I find some Directors expect miracles for their short films and attempting to tell a Director that he/she needs to have a ‘shot list’ should be the First AD’s job. But wait a minute, there is no First AD and you realise you have not only been recruited as a Producer but you are now the First AD or Make-up Artist and Runner. Nothing wrong with those jobs and I guess as a Producer your wish is to see the Director create their dream. On the point about having a ‘shot list’, make sure you have one and stick to it. It’s all very well in your head, but on a feature, the adage ‘time is money’ comes to mind. You also set structures in place for yourself and your team, don’t forget that you working are with tomorrow’s cast and crew and the last thing you want to be known as was some “wishes washy Director, who could not make decisions”. 

If the Director wants to shoots a bold shot that involves some fancy camera work and movement, you will either find that Director can adapt to the environment and find the shot within the capabilities of the location or equipment. If not, then “close that idea down”. It will not only waste time and create frustration on set but it will add to the number of hours you are already working on the project. External locations can be cold or wet, the priority is heat and hot food/drinks. If you are not keeping your cast and crew happy, you will only create resentment, lack of focus and an unhappy set.

A Director who has a ‘great’ First AD, will work to make sure the hours of the day are kept to and the breaks are upheld. I know going to the toilet is a basic human right but the amount of sets I have worked on in front and behind the scenes where you work through for 4/5 hours non-stop. Make sure you allow for comfort breaks and whatever the weather, make sure there is ‘hot’ drinks, heaters, big warm coats on set. I cannot emphasise this enough, get a Runner on set to keep your cast and crew fed and watered. As an Actress, I can see  people flagging, in need of a break or so  cold they can’t focus. Why do this to your cast and crew? If you care about your project then you need to care about the people who are helping create that dream.

A ‘great” Director will be fun, open minded and keep the cast and crew positive and driven. A really difficult thing to do whilst focussing on the film, again it’s only a short. Remember to treat everyone with importance and give every person your time. The smallest gesture of shaking hands and acknowledging everyone you work with including the extras will make a difference to how they feel about your project and what possibilities will be done on set.

Once the film goes into post, the Producer will be thinking of festivals to submit the film to and making connections for the Director. They will be wrapping up any finances that need to be paid and budgets will be finalised. In the short film world, the film becomes the Director’s film and  he/she will look into the festival circuit to see where their short film with suit. They will also look for a venue for the premiere cast and crew screening and some social media with the Director unless there is a designated person for this.

For me as a Producer, I want my job to end when I see that film screened at  festivals. I think the difference between saying you “are” a Producer and “being” a Producer is ‘honesty and action’. Being honest with what your capabilities are from the beginning at least tells the Director that you are interested but have limitations. Secondly, go the extra mile to think outside the box with ideas and promoting the film. You need to create that buzz, that build up, that something special but find what works for that film. Don’t forget the Producer will have connections to people you might not, it’s worth getting them creatively involved.  I love to read the script and suggest ideas to the Writer/Director and most people are open to this. Lastly, I hope that I will work with that Director again, not only will it be the start of a “great” friendship but the journey to the red carpet.

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