Life is funny. Sometimes it’s haha funny, sometimes it’s holy shit funny and sometimes it’s of the “what just happened” variety. It’s the latter that I sometimes reflect on because producing wasn’t really on my Things To Do During Middle Age list. It was never in any of the literature AARP started sending me when I was still south of 40.
Then again, I wonder what I’d be doing with myself if I hadn’t stumble into it almost by accident. I got tired of the endless stream of no, no, no that writers encounter when they’re trying to get their scripts made into films. Or worse yet, hearing nothing at all. It’s a miracle to get anyone at a production company or studio to even take the time to read and that waiting game is excruciating.
Having teamed up with some super cool creative and trustworthy people with way more experience under their collective belts, producing an independent feature has been a really eye-opening experience. Rather than be intimidated by it, I found it very fulfilling on many levels. Here are a few of them:
- The For-The-Love-Of-Pete-Just-Do-It level. Yes, I kinda sharked the Nike tag line but sometimes there’s no choice because that simple phrase is just so goddamn pure and appropriate in pretty much any circumstance. In my own defense, I did try to mix it up a bit by adding Pete, whoever he is.
- The I-Feel-Free level. I’ve said it before; there’s no better time to be a content creator than now, now, now! If you have the time, energy and determination, you can bring your creation to some kind of satisfying fruition in some form or fashion. That kind of freedom makes one want to run naked through a field of California poppies! [Doesn’t it?? … kind of??]
- The I’m-Not-Too-Old-To-Learn-Something-New level. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve finally made something of myself and it only took fifty-six years!
- The No-Manual-Needed level. I’m sure there are books like Film Producing for The Clueless Hausfrau but I have to tell ya’, the best way to learn is to hook your wagon to honest filmmakers who know a thing or two about it and be willing to do anything and everything to gain knowledge.
And lastly, my favorite pearl of wisdom I acquired by being put through the spanking machine known as the film business:
- The Know-Who-You’re-Dealing-With level. Trust me when I tell you, I’ve learned the hard way how not to be a pushover as it relates to the film biz. Trusting no one until they prove otherwise has become a mantra. There are lots of con artists in them there hills and they just LOVE starry-eyed film worshippers. I’m convinced this is the basis for the horror film The Hollywood Hills Have Eyes but that’s another post all together. I have a healthy appreciation for the hard-earned knowledge about who to attach myself to and who to run screaming from. I’ve learned to never take for granted the incredible gift that trust and honesty can bring. Without those, one is just waiting to get stripped of money, time, energy and probably the Jimmy Choos right off one’s unsuspecting little feet.
As a way for me to break down some of the more important aspects of producing, I’ve come up with my own Top 5 Things To Know About Indie Producing. Mind you, it comes from a neophyte and I’m okay admitting that because I’ll be one for a while.
#1. Know your market and choose good material because you’ll be responsible for your project from script through distribution and beyond, so aim for the best cast you can afford and the highest production value you can muster. In other words, make your $100K budget look like $1MM.
#2. Set realistic goals. Regardless of whether you’re a writer, director or Indian Chief, this is a business and there’s money involved. If it’s yours, you’ll be cautious by default. It it’s not, you better understand what “fiduciary duty” means.
#3. LEARN your shit!! That means learning everything you can about every aspect of pre-production, physical production, legal contracts, unions, post production and what a good and bad distribution deal looks like.
#4. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people and leave your ego at the door because nobody knows everything and everybody started somewhere.
#5. The buck stops with you, the producer, so be PRESENT through every step of the process because at some point, you WILL find your boobie/pee pee in a wringer over something you may or may not have had control over. But guess what? YOU’LL be the one who has to fix it. [Put a big star by this one!]
Cheers and Happy Producing!
The Clueless Hausfrau