Huh, do I need a producer for my short movie?
You’ve written a great short film and you’re even going to direct it yourself. You’ve planned out the storyboards, you’ve got some actors you’d like to work with in mind, you’ve even checked out a D.O.Ps IMDB page after you saw a low budget feature film that they shot and you really liked their work so you’re going to drop them a message and see if they’d like to be involved. So, you’re pretty much good to go. But are you?
Remember, you’re an artist, that’s why you’ve written a script and drawn all the stick people that will represent the actors in all the shots you’ve designed. So, with all the artistic basses covered, why are you even wondering whether you might need a producer on this short film project? Well, here’s why…
If there is no one else there to do it, people are going to expect you to be incredibly well organised and to not only know all the artistic stuff about the film but to also now know all the boring ass logistical stuff to. So, if you have a producer on board, people will then go to the producer for all the boring ass logistical stuff and they can leave you alone to focus on the film itself.
‘Hi, I’m directing a short film…’ is a fine way to approach people you’d like to work with but ‘Hi, I’m producing a short film…’ just sounds a touch more professional and even like you might have a few bucks in your pocket (even though you don’t.) It’s the producers job to go out and speak to people and let them know straight away that this isn’t just some tinpot, backroom organisation (it is) and you have very serious ambitions for this project (in fairness, that bit is true.)
Producers know money. At least they’re good at giving that impression across to people. And if those people believe that your producer knows money, well, then they might just trust them with some of their money for your project.
“The lead actors drinking whiskey in the bathroom in between takes and the manager of the pet store wants to know exactly what time we’ll be finished filming as he did actually say we could only use it for an hour” you’re first A.D might say to you. How are you going to handle it? Scream at the lead actor to be more professional and tell the pet store manager that you’re making art here for God’s sake so he’s just going to have to wait. How would the producer handle it? A little word with the lead actor to say they’re going to be taking everyone out for a few drinks to celebrate as long as the film is wrapped in the next half hour and a gentle word with the pet store manager to remind him of how many extra parrots he’ll be selling once people see his store name in this amazing Cannes bound short film.
As well as keeping on top of everyone else, it’ll be the producers job to keep on top of you to! A producer will have the budget and all those associated things, so when you get the bright idea to go and shoot an extra scene halfway up a local mountain somewhere, they’ll be on hand to look at the logistics (dollars) and tell you whether or not that’s a great idea or, more likely, that you really can’t afford to do that right now and it’s probably an unnecessary scene anyway (which it probably will be.).
Again, the professional face will be useful as, not only for when you attend film festivals to see your film on the big screen, but also in the period leading up to it. This will be when you work out that sending your short film off to say 20 film festivals will probably cost you around $800 and you don’t really have $800 so if you try and raise the extra money, it will again just look a little bit more professional if it’s a producer whose trying to raise the cash and not just the person who directed it.
Your producer won’t be a moron. They’ll know about films and if you pick the right person they’ll also likely have good thoughts on the project as a whole and they’ll be good to have on set to just bounce ideas off. Plus, as you’re the director, you can take or leave their suggestions. Either way, it’ll be useful to have someone there who hopefully cares about the project as much as you do to talk to about it.