Indie Film Producing 101

You’ll need some hats…as in, more than one.

Unfortunately, I don’t look good in hats. But I had to buck up and stuff my ego into the dark recesses of my psyche if I wanted to become a film producer, albeit a Bambi producer who’s struggling to learn the ropes.

Here’s a partial shopping list compiled from trial-by-fire knowledge:

  • The I’m-just-learning hat: It should be something whimsical and not too serious so people know you haven’t become jaded and cynical like the producers who’ve graduated to “studio” films.  Think of something like a colorful beanie with a plastic propeller on top for when you ask a stupid question like “What’s B-roll?”

After you get a film or two under you belt, you can graduate to:

  • The I-Know-Just-Enough-to-Impress–My-Non-Producer-Friends hat: This can be your average run o’ the mill baseball cap worn properly and NOT backwards, which comes later.  You can wear this one once you know what it means when someone says “We’ll fix it in post” yet still Bambi enough not to understand how much it’s going to cost.

Once you’ve learned some of the jargon and have a production or two under your belt, you can consider moving up to this:

  • The I’m-a-Member-of-the-Tribe hat: You’re getting comfortable on set. You know when to keep your trap shut, when to tell someone there’s a boom mic in the shot but still not cocky enough to shirk the menial crap like fetching a low-foam, half-caff,  double-shot latte with unsweetened almond milk for the talent who just can’t get through the day without it.  A nice fedora style could work, so you look quasi hip when you go to Starbucks for the fourteenth time.

Here’s where the fledgling Indie Film Producer turns a proverbial corner:

  • The I’ve-Earned-It hat: You’ve gained a modicum of respect and a decent amount of knowledge.  This is when you can wear your baseball hat backwards on set and not look like the dork who wears it this way but hasn’t earned it and everyone knows it.

This next step sounds like a giant leap for womankind. It certainly can be, but don’t let it go to your head.  The world of Indie Producing is humbling and very hard work.

  • The I’m-an-Executive-Producer hat: This doesn’t actually require a hat. It requires knowledge and/or money or both. If you’ve been passionate and diligent enough to earn the titles of both Producer AND Executive Producer, it shows you’ve done the hard work. In this case, you’re allowed to go hatless.  Yay!

Just remember, this is  just a partial list of hats you’ll be wearing if you’ve taken the plunge into the wild and woolly world of independent film production.   If you’re working on ultra-low-budget films (or less!!) you’re going to do everything from cooking breakfast, taping cables to the floor, making coffee,  waking up before the sun knows it’s tomorrow, schlepping equipment until you’re ready to drop, watching the budget…and most importantly, loving every minute of it!

By the way, the end of the shoot isn’t the end of your job as a producer so don’t give those hats a Viking burial just yet.  You’ll need them until the film is ready for distribution and beyond so be prepared to learn just how much “fixing it in post” really does cost.

Oh, wait. There’s one more hat I forgot to mention:

  • The Holy-Shit-I-Really-Fucked-Up dunce hat: It’s tall, black and pointy and not at all stylish. But trust me, you’ll need it at some point. Everyone does.  But don’t despair, newbies.  Own the fuck up, put on the hat, sit in the corner with your nose to the wall…until somebody needs a latte and you’re once again…golden.

Godspeed, Bambis!








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