The Secret Diary of a Producer

Dear Reader,

I hope you don’t feel misled by the click bait title – after all, when you Google ‘The Secret Diary…’ the first suggestion that comes up is ‘…of a Call Girl’ – so bloody well done if you managed to resist the pull of temptation and have found yourself on this article instead (or even afterwards).

Unfortunately, I won’t be divulging anything near as interesting as that, but I do hope to shed some light on the murky underbelly of producing.

Of course I joke, we’re really not as bad as you think we are. In fact, we’re a bunch of sensitive souls who just really want to make a good film. Something my producer mate is famous for soliloquising on after several post shoot pints (for the record, like all good producers, his verbal skills are in no way impeded by high levels of alcohol – it’s how we pull through).

Yep, we all laugh at the stereotypes associated with each department in film. No doubt because we often see a glimmer of truth in them. To be frank, there’s no point denying that we’re a funny lot.

Film manages to draw together a fascinating cross section of personality types who rub along together and there’s a beautiful inevitability that a crew who gel well together have the ability to translate their off-camera love to on-camera magic.

Seeing a team of people working together excited about a project that you’ve been working on with the Director for weeks, or months, leading up to the shoot, is truly one of the best feelings a Producer can have. It makes up for the back and forth between the various significant parties, the last-minute amendments, the crazy 1 am dash to get hold of a specific bit of kit/prop/wardrobe/cast member/reptile imported last minute from Germany.

Yet, the true heart of a Production team’s neurosis is that as a department we’re never seen as the good guys. Production holds a rocky territory as the gatekeepers to the coffers – particularly since budget limitation are famously perceived to be mutually exclusive with impeding creativity.

There is a good reason that this stereotype exists, as quite often a project is limited to a certain extent by budgetary restraints. But the thing is there is always a budget for every project, whether you’re a one-person band working solo on a project, with just good old passion paying those heating bills, or have a huge all singing dancing pile of cash to invest into all of the bells and whistles.

As a Producer who is managing a budget for a project, you’ll always have to set guidelines and make careful choices on where and when to spend the budget. The tricky part of this is that it can be very difficult to explain to different departments, who all have an equally valid and important role, what the budget actually allows for.

For me, the crucial role of a Producer is to make every member of the crew, the agency and or the client, know that you have their back and that the creative matters above else. It is absolutely not about saying the dreaded word ‘no’. This is when a creative Producer will come into their own and offer another way to go, a solution, an alternate route, a new direction – something that works for everyone and shouldn’t feel like a compromise, rather a stronger route to go down for the resources available.

I know that you’re thinking: offering another solution is a nice way of saying no, but there is a distinguishable difference between the two – and for me a determining factor on whether or not you have a Producer worth their salt standing in front of you.

At the end of the day, your Producer shouldn’t be a roadblock. They should be the enablers of a project, giving ideas, developing the creative and pushing it on further. Coming within budget is the obvious task, supporting your team with the creative is what really determines a project.

Over and out,