How I Accidentally Became a Producer. And So Can You!

maria 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.

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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.

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When It Rains…

It Pours-2

4749584 By Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

Production work is often a case of feast or famine. You either have too much work or none at all.  So what do you do when you suddenly find that you have more work than you think you can handle?

Let’s talk editing. The ability to prioritize and organize your jobs is key. When you have deadlines, prioritizing is easy. The edit that’s due first gets done first, right? But when you have multiple projects, you have to be able to balance. If you have a more involved project and one that isn’t so involved, it’s important to switch between them. When one starts to give you a hard time and you’re in need of some perspective, go back to the other. This way both projects get done before driving you to frustration and a several-aspirin headache.

Organizing your projects in your edit software in the beginning will save you a lot of trouble later. Taking the time to create folders, enter keywords, or organize by whatever means your software allows will make your edit go faster and easier and help you make your deadline. Every editor organizes in his or her own way. It doesn’t really matter how you do it: just make sure it works for you.

Perspective in general is important in all forms of art–especially editing. It’s important to step back for a bit and look at what you’re doing. It also helps to get a second opinion. You can get so involved in your work that you can’t really see it for what it is. Having a second pair of eyes can help you when you get stuck and are unable to see the answers that are often obvious to an outsider.

As far as priority and deadlines go, remember they can change. Sometimes a client will change a deadline because something has changed on their end. It’s always a good idea to keep in touch to see if any aspect of the project has changed. If you find they’ve pushed the deadline back, then that may give you time to work on your other projects.

All in all, most of us are lucky to get work when we can, so we must take advantage. Say yes and bite off as much as you can chew–maybe more. If you don’t know how to do something, find someone who does, take an online course, or find a helpful YouTube video. You’ll learn and grow in your craft and get paid at the same time.

John Trigonis on Crowdfunding for Filmmakers

4749584 By Jason Godbey, Creative Director, Behind the Rabbit Productions

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with John Trigonis, Film Campaign Strategist for Indiegogo and author of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, 2nd Edition. John began his career as a poet and has since written screenplays and directed short and feature film projects. He is currently writing a comic book series.

His experience with crowdfunding began with a short film called Cerise. He was doubtful that it would work at first, but was converted to crowdfunding after his campaign raised more money than he expected. He has since become a crowdfunding guru and helps other filmmakers achieve their goals at Indiegogo.  

5 Tips for Shooting Video in NYC

4749584 By Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

Behind the Rabbit Productions is based in New York City, and we’ve produced short films, web series, and commercials. We know how challenging it can be  on a production to film here, so in an effort to help our fellow filmmakers, we created this video for those who are new to shooting in New York City.

 

Filmmaking and The Art of Compromise

The Art of Compromise no CAP

4749584By Jason Godbey, Creative Director of Behind the Rabbit Productions

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” –Orson Welles

The art of making a film is also the art of compromise. Because we write in an imagined world but have to shoot in the real world (not counting animation and films that are completely green screen/CGI), there are certain compromises that must be made.

The setting informs so much of the look and feel of a film, so it’s always great if you can write with a specific location in mind. If you have a location you know you can get, it will save you a lot of time and agony later on.

When I wrote The Last Hit, I had very specific parameters I had to follow, but because I wrote with the location in mind I could see the movie clearly in my head. I could also craft the storyboards around that location. The limitations of the space informed my writing and storyboarding. I knew what kinds of shots would be possible.

Have actors in mind as well. If there are some go-to actors you know will want to be part of the project, you can write with their voices in mind. You can start to craft the characters around their mannerisms, personality traits, and inflections.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, “what if I write for those actors and don’t get them when I cast.” This is where compromise comes in. You have clear ideas for the characters, so now you’re able to mate those ideas with whomever you do end up casting.

A famous example of this is C3PO in Star Wars. George Lucas originally saw the character as a slick used-car-salesman type, but in casting Anthony Daniels, he got more of a nervous British butler. After auditioning dozens of voice actors, Lucas finally settled on Daniels’s performance because he inhabited the character so completely. It’s difficult  to imagine C3PO any other way. The compromise paid off, and the rest is cinematic history.

If you’re an independent filmmaker working on a low budget or micro-budget, flexibility is key. If you don’t have the money to accomplish your original vision, you have a choice. You can either wait until you do have the money, or you can change your vision. For most of us working on micro/no budget films, it’s necessary to alter the vision to get the film made. Even experienced filmmakers who work on multi-million-dollar movies have to compromise.

During the making of Othello,  Orson Welles was forced to shoot a scene before the costumes had arrived. He had his cast ready to go, but they had nothing to wear. Instead of delaying the film because he couldn’t afford to add days to the schedule, he made the decision to set the scene in a bath house. The actors all wore towels, and it gave the scene a life that even Welles couldn’t have imagined.

Compromise is a fact of life in any art or profession. In an art as costly as filmmaking, being able to compromise can be the difference between the life and death of the movie. If you have realistic expectations and embrace your circumstances through careful planning,  you’ll have a film that is true to your vision and doesn’t leave you feeling compromised.