The job of a video/film producer is often thankless. Plain and simple. You get to do a lot of the dirty work, you are the point person on a shoot, and you are not always the most popular member of the video team.
The role of producer includes the following (not a complete list by any means):
● finds the script or story idea
● connects with the client (if there is one)
● does the number crunching
● hires the video team
● makes all travel arrangements
● arranges interviews and shooting of b-roll
● scouts locations
● works closely with the director and the DP to make
sure all equipment is purchased/rented/picked up/
delivered/returned, etc., etc., etc.
● makes sure everyone shows up where they need to,
gets where they need to go, eats what they need to eat,
and has a place to lay their weary heads at the end
of a long day of shooting.
Watching the Purse
The producer is also the “bad guy” when the director and video team start going over budget. It’s the producer who watches to make sure that the budget is not violated, and it is the producer who must give the client the “bad” news, when, for example, equipment shipping charges turn out to be twice as much as expected because of new airline rules that went into effect five minutes before the video team was about to get on the airplane.
If the video team is traveling overseas, it is the producer who secures a carnet, if needed, makes sure all equipment is adequately insured, that everyone has their proper passport info, and that the team makes it through customs without ending up in jail. (For instance, you have to make sure your grip isn’t traveling with any happy pills while on an overseas assignment.)
The producer is the one who knows where the American Embassy is, knows how to barter in any country, regardless of the language, does all the research on local customs so as not to insult the talent who is being interviewed, and on occasion, pays the bribe to get the team into or out of said country.
Producer, Butcher, Candlestick Maker
Nowadays, since most crews are small, the producer may end up being the director, and/or the videographer, and/or the sound tech, and/or the D.I.T., and/or the interviewer, and/or ______ (fill in the blank). So often the producer has to be both practical and creative, the money person and the artistic leader, the person who makes the reservations and the person who aims the lights.
What does it take to be a good producer? Stamina. I repeat. Stamina. And when problems arise, a producer has to be a quick thinker. Often a producer will be heard uttering the phrase, “Okay, that didn’t work. Let’s see if this will.”
When the Going Gets Tough
A producer must be personable, and yet direct when need be. Nicey-nicey just gets you in trouble as a producer. You have to think like a pack leade, draw yourself up to your full height, act in charge, and move forward with resolve (even if it is in the wrong direction.)
Polite is good, but beware of being indecisive–either with your client or your video team. Think General Grant, Eisenhower, or Swarzkopf. You have a mission, and you are in charge.
So yeah, being a producer can be a thankless task, but there is nothing quite as gratifying as getting through a shoot, getting everyone home safe, getting through post-production and sitting in a theatre as the lights go down and your show comes up on the screen.
And remember, when the production makes a splash, it’s usually the producer and the director who get to pick up that shiny award!