Shaista Justin

8 Reasons You Might be a Producer

In The Film Scene on February 14, 2011 at 2:12 am

For an artist, I’m keeping strange company these days: venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, the occasional bank executive, and small business owners. Granted they may form more a part of my freelance writing life than my creative one, but

as I’ve been in meeting after meeting, I’ve begun to notice a pattern in my clients, or to be more specific, in their personalities. They talk passionately about their ideas; they are motivated to test out a range of ideas; they absorb, assess, and re-frame information quickly; and on average, tend to have nimble minds where they encourage problem-solving together. Oh, and have I mentioned that they are fun and creative? After a particularly loud giggle in a meeting today, I spontaneously blurted out to my client: “You know, you really should be a Producer!” After a quick smile, the client continued on with the business at hand, pretty much ignoring what he took to be a throwaway remark. After all, not everyone in the world wants to be a producer, or may think it is out of their reach. But, it got me thinking. I wondered, what kinds of people not working in theatre or film would make good producers? Here is the list I came up with (see if you’re in there).

You can be a producer if you’ve:

  1. Been the captain or coach of a winning sports team.
  2. Run a successful company, especially a volatile start-up (re: Dragon’s Den).
  3. Conducted peaceful negotiations between hostile parties. (The Middle-East doesn’t count since it is still a mess, consider yourself a failure if you’ve been involved there).
  4. Led a political party to victory (preferably via social networks).
  5. Had the position of band-master or conductor of an orchestra with more than 30 members (who show up for rehearsal without chewing gum in their mouths—don’t get me started!).
  6. Studied chimps/wolves or other animals living in social groups in the wild.
  7. Organized an international academic conference and had to plan the dinner seating arrangement.
  8. You have never worked for the government.

Okay, so my list is a little tongue-in-cheek. But, if you got off your treadmill, sat down and wrote a list of the skills you would need for each of these jobs/or attributes thereof, you would find that they group together as a skill-set: IE, leadership, team-building, flexing to people styles, dealing with numerous stake-holders, public-outreach, goal-oriented, project completion/deadline focused, stress management, risk-taking, and profit-based. (Keep going if you like, or finish your work-out).

In other words, producers = entrepreneurs.

Now, I must say, in my 20’s if someone had put the words “art” and “business” in the same sentence, I would’ve probably tossed them out of the cafe where we had met and we would be friends no more. But in those days, I had this strange idea that artistic production was a pure-outcry-of-the-soul without realizing that the pure outcrying artist also had a business plan (if they intended on having any creative success).

Have you ever heard U2’s Bono pitch a business plan? Me neither, but I bet you he’s damn good at it.

I know it feels dirty to slosh those two words around in your mouth: artist-business, business-artist, artist-argh! But, I think it’s time we ‘fess-up and realize that they must in fact learn to be said together without rinsing with Scope afterwards.

So now that we are absorbing the idea that good business people may make good producers, I’ll toss in my one caveat….good business people also have to know what good art is in order to be producers! And that’s where the comparison may die. Aye, there’s the rub my friends.

Case in point, I have a friend who I’m trying to help learn the ropes as a producer. She’s a very bright, successful business-woman, who is a quick learner and a delight to boot. However, whenever I throw out a classic filmic reference (people who work in film talk through other films after all), she’s lost. So, her first step to being a film producer despite having a strong skill-set otherwise, is to start watching every film out there and learn what makes a good film as opposed to what makes a successful one (there’s a difference). Because, if you’re a film producer and can’t figure out why a screenplay is a hit or a miss, no amount of people-skills and budget management is going to help you.

So while a producer may be an entrepreneur, it may not work the other way around. Though it can…if you also have an eye for art (hence, the proliferation of book/film agents). And every artist out there is going to have to take an equal step back and consider the business angle of their art.

As for my client, he turned around an hour later and with a charming smile asked if I wouldn’t consider joining the world of the “start-up”! Though you never know, let’s not get too hasty….

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