From the start, in her book ‘Producer To Producer’, Maureen A. Ryan points out there is always a need for a producer on a low-budget film and this is the roots she comes from as this is where she works and gets her awards. Essentially, the producer is the instigator and organiser that ensures the director can do his or her job properly. As you read this book, you realise this also applies to practically every job in a production. This is what is being a job as a producer is all about. You’re the boss that everyone answers to.
If you thought that the role of the producer was to attract money to pay for a production then you will be vastly mistaken. It includes budgeting and hiring and being extremely diplomatic in making good choices and not upsetting people and that’s just for small films. You certainly couldn’t make a film ad hoc without any planning. As you read this book, you realise that a producer has to be a good organiser and this book is a guide to all the pre-planning, filming and post-production and I expect you as a producer to chain this book to your arm so it doesn’t get lost while working because you’ll be referring to it a lot.
We’ve all heard that producing a film is like running a military campaign and seeing what is carried out certainly proves that. Looking at the responsibilities of the Assistant Director (AD) alone, certainly needs a book of its own as that appears to be the second most important job in organisation. Things I’ve read from other books makes even better connections here and I can see why the same crews are often selected for films if they are available. A common denominator is being good at your job and being nice. You don’t last long with an attitude and you make a good impression with decent catering. A properly fed crew and cast work better when the hours are long.
Ryan explains that aspects of set safety was missed in the first volume although not why it was omitted. When you read the details here, it should be at the top of your list in making sure everything from equipment, location and people are covered.
Something that did occur to me when looking over the budgeting, although not stated is that it’s better to over-budget and bring the film in under-budget than do a Goldilocks and either not made allowances for cost or run out of money. It is better save as much money as possible where you can but paying for the right crew, including union people, is economic sense and saving.
Although this book is targeting the US market, much of information can also be applied to other countries as well. Ryan points you in all the right places to get as much information as possible. The one thing she doesn’t point out is what does the producer live on while all of this is going on? As it can take a couple or more years to get a film ready to be filmed, let alone the work after in getting it seen, is it possible to work on more than one film at a time and the day job. Ryan is a professor in film at Columbia University by the way but I don’t think she would have started that way.
Even if you aren’t planning to be a producer, there is so much you can learn about what is done behind the scenes. I even learnt what a Foley does and where the name comes from at long last. If you’re planning to incorporate information on the subject into a story, then this book will teach you all your need to know. No doubt for the bigger films, this multiples up again. Ryan uses the 5 minute short film ‘Sundae’ (2015) that she produced as the main example. I wouldn’t have minded seeing the finished production on the Net as topping on the cake.
I knew a lot of planning was needed for any film but I did spot some similarities to my editing job here. There was even advice about using copyright material that is universal. In comparison, I think I have the easier of the two jobs although mine is more on-going on a monthly schedule.
Get the production sheet out. Roll the cameras. Read the book.
(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 390 page large enlarged paperback. Price: $41.95 (US), £22.51 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-61593-266-5)