B – Be Prepared to Give Up the Body…and Budgets
Sleep deprivation, body aches, lumps, bumps, headaches, and bruises. ‘B’ should be a reminder that producers are prepared to give up the body. After all, when you need the crew to load in/out in less than thirty minutes, trust me, you will pick up that grip gear and get to carrying. When you need to approve those call sheets before you go to bed, trust me, you will forego sleep. When the restaurant forgot someone’s order, you will give up your own so they can eat. In other words, you will go hungry. But that’s neither here nor there. The ‘B’ we are talking about today is actually Budgets.
Let’s talk about the money baby (or lack thereof).
In order to talk about the money, we must talk about time.
The central role of a producer is to balance time against the budget. In other words, how much time do we have to shoot with the money we have. Questions including ‘how many pages is the script’ and ‘how many locations’ become centrally important. Obviously, the longer the script, most likely the longer it will take to shoot it. The more locations, the less pages you can shoot per day because you will need time to load out one location, move to the next and load in again. If you are budget conscious, limit your pages and limit your locations.
Your time in preproduction should be at least 3 times as long as your time in principal photography. For example if your principal photography is 15 days, the minimal time you should spend in prep is 45 days. Minimum. All this talk about time makes you think we are actually talking about ‘T’ stands for time right? Wrong. We are talking directly about your budget. During prep, often your above and below the line crew are working either for a flat fee or no fee at all. While during principal photography, you are often paying a day rate to below the line crew. The savings here cannot be minimized. The longer time you have for preproduction, the more refined your shooting plan becomes. It also gives you time to put in place stronger contingency plans that will ensure the camera stays rolling once action is called on day one. This directly means the less time i.e. money you will waste.
I know you’ve heard the saying ‘time is money’. Yes, it is.
In summary, so many times, people ask me what is a producer? The best way I can describe this role is that the producer is the one. The one who is prepared, and often called to give up the body. Fly after the ball into the stands to keep it in play. The first and the last line of defense (and offense for that matter). The one who willing accepts that she or he ultimately shoulders the responsibility to keep the project moving, on schedule and on budget. Welcome to my world.
So you want to be a producer. I understand why. It’s a wonderful job. Some of my best moments in life, greatest accomplishments, longest friendships were forged while working as a producer. I never went to film school. Everything I learned, I learned in development, pre-production, production and post of actual projects for whom investors had invested their hard earned money, artists coalesced around, and audiences experienced in some form or fashion. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride SO FAR, and baby I ain’t done. But I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned along the way.
These are my ABCs of Producing.
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