The Business of Film & the Role of the Producer

Over the past couple of years, I’ve developed an interest in business and start-up culture, particularly in taking an idea and giving it the maximum chance for success when releasing it into to the world. On reflection, this interest has probably coincided with my transition from camera department to producing, and I find it really interesting to draw parallels between the two worlds [business and film].

I enjoy the creative side of filmmaking, planning for the bigger picture and the day to day organisational logistics far more than accounting and management – areas where I tend to feel like I’ve been thrown in at the deep end the majority of the time. However, I’m learning more the further I go down this path, so I want to share my thoughts from time to time, as I believe that filmmakers – especially in Australia – need to think as much as possible about business models and strategy rather than simply creating individual films.

Last week I was interviewed by Jamie Stenhouse for his blog, which is centred around entrepreneurship and marketing for businesses. Jamie came out on set as one of our extras for the upcoming Wastelander Panda episodes, and asked if he could talk to me about the project. I didn’t know what the focus of the interview would be in advance, so I was a little surprised that his questions were based around managing a team, the long-term development of the project, planning tools and budget implementation – all “business” questions rather than “film” ones. It made me realise how much of the day-to-day filmmaking process revolves around business skills, and that processes we took on everyday as a natural part of our production process – such as arranging for up to 100 people a day to be on set and working towards the same outcome – are actually things to be pretty proud of from a “business” perspective.

Here are a few of Jamie’s questions:

– “When I arrived on set for the first day I was blown away by the professionalism of everything and mainly the size of the team. How were you able to round up such a high quality team of people in such a short time?”

– “I know for a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners working on a 1 year project can be daunting, let alone a 2 year project. How did you keep everybody focused on the same goal and were there any times where you felt like just “calling it quits”?”

– “Being able to delegate and then trust people with a certain task would have been a large part of the project. Did you have any “trust” issues with letting certain areas of the project go?”

As well as giving me a fresh perspective on what we’ve achieved, Jamie’s interview allowed me to focus on my own job as Producer. A realisation I had during the interview is that the way I interpret my role, despite the Producer apparently being “in charge,” is really as one of support. It’s my job to create an environment, a structure and a strategy, that allow each other crew member to do what they do best with as few external issues and concerns as possible. It’s doing the small things that matter from day to day, not only helping out with the project, but being there for the cast and crew. I still have a lot to improve upon in building the perfect creative environment, but it’s something I want to work on a lot more in the future.

For my full interview with Jamie, click here.

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