One of the most common questions I get about movies is "What does the producer do?" So far I have not dealt with the producer, because, at this time, I am the producer. I am also looking for another producer who can help find financing.
In short, the producer finds the money.
Sometimes he has it, but most of the time he has to find the money from private investors or a studio or distributor. Someone once asked me how he could become a producer, my answer was that it was easy, "just find me $2 million." That is what producers do. Generally they option the screenplay and then begin to put all the pieces of a movie together, they find the script, hire the director, start casting actors with the director, begin looking for crew, do budgets and generally supervise the production even after it's finished.
They are the first ones in and the last ones out. And the best ones are legendary in both their movie choices and the showmanship required to stay at the top. Who makes the best producers?
To be honest, conmen, thieves, used car salesmen and bank robbers.
They have to sell a product that does not exist and to do that, you practically have to stretch the truth.They were common for decades, the cigar-chomping guys and the smooth ones in expensive suits, but there are fewer of them, and ironically, they were better than many of the producers now because they always got the money somehow without getting help.
That's not to say all producers are like that. I've worked with both, and some like Norton Wright and Steve White, are honest and smart and they get the job done. But there are others who are just plain criminals. Every now and then they get arrested and charged with some phony scam they were running. And this isn't just small time, MGM has had it's share, as had other major studios and companies. I know of one who was arrested for "creative accounting" and was just released due to lack of evidence, and he's back on the street, doing $5-10 million dollar movies. They just don't make 'em like they used to.
Where does that put me? I take my lead from Norton and Steve, maybe it's a little harder, but I prefer that way, my mom would be very unhappy if I were doing it any other way. I also happen to enjoy doing budgets and proposals as with Travel Day, it's an essential part of being a producer. I did the budget on Ghostkeeper, my first feature, with a calculator, way before computers. Now I use software like Movie Magic Budgeting and Scheduling which makes it much easier.
And having done the movies and TV shows I have, I always snooped around the producer's office and the accountants and picked up valuable lessons in how money is spent. Nobody ever talks to accountants so I would bring in chocolates on the first day. Yeah, it was shameful, but they liked me, and they told me how money is spent and lost. I became so aware of money being thrown away I would always tell the craft services people to divide muffins into 4 pieces as most people won't eat a whole muffin and end up leaving it somewhere or throwing it away.
Don't get me started on water bottles and cell phones.