I have loved entertainment all my life. I began working in the entertainment industry as a child actor performing off-broadway musical theater in NYC. With time, I moved into film and voiceover.
8-week run of a musical theatre production starring Elaine Stritch
Ubiquitous milestone Law and Order: SVU
ADR voiceover sessions in the booth with the Coen Brothers
Now I find myself behind the camera, doing it all as we sometimes have to do. My main paycheck these days? I take your production from pre-pro to post. I’ve gained a knack for numbers, having now line produced two features.
Over the past decade and a half, I’ve learned a few important things while working in our industry. Maybe call them instincts and insights? Your mileage may vary, but here are 10 tips that I’ve found invaluable for film producers time and time again. I hope these can help us all as we navigate our way through life in the world of film production.
1. Be easy to work with, heck, be fun to work with. Everyone will notice.
Get the job done well, on time, and under budget, and try to make friends along the way. You will become the all-star by the end. Being a good mood, a positive vibe, a charming or funny individual to be around only enhances the environment you’re in. Sure, it’s easy to wear a frown but no one likes to rehire a frown! People will want to work with you if you are exhilarating to be around.
2. Anyone can make a mistake: that’s why they put erasers on pencils.
On a film set, anything can go wrong at any minute. The camera PA can drop a lens, the above the line producers can make critical failures in preparations. That’s why as producers, we must be known for our resourcefulness and fast-acting capabilities.
In this climate, stakes are always high and even careers are on the line. These high-stress scenarios lead to mistakes, but it’s important to recognize that we are all human: these kinds of things happen and that we must work together to overcome the hurdles that each production throws at us.
Inevitably, someone is always to blame and producers are often thrown into the crosshairs. If something is even slightly due to your own fault, take ownership of your mistakes and fix them. Be the rag doll.
3. At all times, filmmaking is athleticism in trickery.
Whether it’s tricking your audience into believing the blood wound was real or to tricking your investors, haha! Or even tricking yourself to believe that a day’s worth of shooting the same thing over and over can eventually cut together into something genuine and authentic. As filmmakers, we are always exercising our ability to trick people. Believe in this trickery with all your might, despite discouragement.
Constantly watch to learn and understand how others do this, and you may just find your own style of trickery. In a more genuine sense, producers must be able to convey a sense of trust and confidence that allows productions to do things they might not have been able to do. Confidence in speech is vital.
4.Honor your commitments, look into everything, be diligent.
If it’s a 12 pm lunch, be there early. If it’s a 6 am call, be on time. Don’t miss the courtesy van. Be scrupulous about everything. Be the best there is while being kind and sensitive. Confidence leads with authority, and if you are on top of the ball, you will have no trouble finding future endeavors.
5. Run out of ideas? Audit culture.
The monotony of production sometimes discourages producers. Yes, we sit inside on our computers for too long. Go outside. Listen to your environment without headphones. Watch people pass by. Engage in interaction. Pick up a magazine, a book, or even a hobby.
I guarantee you will discover something about yourself you may have never thought about before. Or something you never wanted to address. And if you have still run out of ideas, produce something you don’t want to do. Because while you’re doing that, I’m sure you’ll discover something you’d rather produce instead.
6. Failure is the condiment in which success gets its flavor.
This one is over-said, but it’s said for a reason. If you love this crazy thing we do for 12-16 hours a day, 5, 6, or even 7 days a week, you understand that our trials and tribulations are preparing us for a work of sheer genius. You just have to want it that bad.
7. It’s okay to say “No.” Don’t commit to something you can’t deliver.
It’s important to decompress. We cannot always be superheroes, and sometimes it pays more dividends to not take the job than to take the job. Know your limits, and make clear boundaries for the work you do.
8. Remember to have fun in the moments.
Productions require a serious amount of determination and planning to be pulled off successfully and as producers, we are entirely responsible for how our day goes. We get carried away so easily when there’s so much work to do, but if you find yourself on set and have two minutes to spare, look around.
Are you making worthwhile contributions despite the chaos?
Are you having fun?
Take the time as a producer to create a positive working environment so that you and those around you can have fun in the moments.
9. Most everything in life is mental. If something is broken, perhaps it may be your outlook.
We can always work harder. Push yourself to do more and outdo yourself.
10. Have a strong why.
Stanley Kubrick once said, “the very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning…” Believe in what you do, have a reason for what you do. Don’t just say, “because.” If you believe you are owed extra overtime, speak up. If you are making a movie for a purpose, define that purpose. Take faith in the work you do. If you can motivate yourself to believe in the trickery, perhaps you are motivating others to believe in it as well.
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