By Maria Aparo
I never thought I would produce creative content when I was in my twenties. It was something I thought you could only do if you had a lot of money and career clout. So imagine my surprise when I found myself producing an original multi-media play Off-Off Broadway for a five week run.
The play was “Degeneration X,” and it consisted of a great script and a very creative storytelling concept. We were going to blend live theater with film to create a riveting story about a young artist losing his eyesight. While this was an exciting idea, it came with its own challenges. Ever tried to crowdfund thousands of dollars, or navigate production paperwork? Neither had I…but here I was, a curious and passionate creative pulled together by other passionate people to make something unique and original. So how did that happen?
Well, if you’re an artist waiting for your big break, I have no doubt you’ve looked around at the plethora of work your peers are producing or even heard casting directors say things like, “while you wait, create.” Maybe you’ve even thought, “surely I can do something like that if so-and-so is doing it.” Here’s the big secret: YOU CAN! You can create your own work NOW just by giving yourself permission to start.
That’s what I did and somehow I’m still doing it five years later. Here are the biggest lessons I learned when I accidentally “fell” into producing.
1) It doesn’t take a fancy degree or a ton of money.
Sure, some producers are the ones that back the production. If that’s you, amazing! But if not, it truly just takes being a relatively organized person with a collaborative spirit to get started. Not to mention a great project. Which leads me to…
2) You must really, really, really, (did I mention REALLY) love the project.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with this material and the people associated with it. Make sure you won’t be ready to shoot yourself three months in! You can be certain that you’ll face times of intense pressure and stress. Anchoring yourself in your love of the project will help keep you sane.
3) The title “producer” could easily be changed to “problem-solver-and-sometimes-driver.”
Basically, as a producer you keep the machine running. Sometimes you may be in charge of driving crew to the set or ordering food (depending on the project’s budget). The main thing to take away is that there’s not a lot of room for ego as a producer. Your main job is to make sure the work gets completed while staying on budget and schedule.
4) Embrace the paperwork.
Whatever paperwork needs to be done for the project, do it and move on. Your team will thank you for paving a smooth road. Sometimes new producers shy away from projects because they fear they will have to deal with a union or an actor’s representative. But it’s important to make sure that you’re taking care of your project and team to the best of your ability.
5) Talk to other producers.
Other producers are the best source I’ve found for advice. Also don’t be shy about speaking to someone who seems like a “big fish” even if you’re starting off with a tiny showcase. You may get great ideas and advice regardless to make your production the best it can be.
Accidentally finding my way to producing has been one of the most rewarding surprises of my career, and I never would have tried it without someone encouraging me. I hope this peek behind the producing curtain also gave you a little encouragement. It’s not as scary as it may seem.