Learning Experiences

In film school, I worked on a sitcom pilot for the campus TV station. It was for a class, so if you wanted to be either the director, the writer, or the producer, you had to interview with the professors. They made three highly questionable choices.

There were a lot of funny people on our crew, but the writer wasn’t one of them. It’s not that he had a strange, Andy Kaufman-type sense of humor; nor did he make obscure, Dennis Miller-style references. No, his dialogue was just… words. That weren’t funny.

The director had terrible instincts. We found an actor who was able to draw some humor out of the terrible script by creating a layered performance. He essentially treated his character’s public persona as a different person from his private one, and that tension built comedy. (Trust me, it was funny.) The director saw this and naturally decided the actor should do it completely differently. And less funny.

To complete the trifecta, we had a lousy producer. He was totally disorganized. He never knew what was going on, or when it needed to happen. It was amazing we got the show finished at all.

Did I mention I was the producer?

So, you see, Dawn, there’s a very good reason why I don’t want to be a coordinator, UPM, or anything along those lines. Besides the very obvious fact that I’m not good at it, I don’t enjoy it, either.

Being good at, and enjoying, producing is so far removed from my own experiences, that I really do not understand people who are good, and do enjoy it. Of course, my parents don’t understand how I can stand finding a new job every six months.

It’s not an insult. It’s genuine confusion. But I am glad there are people out there who do produce. Nothing would get done without them.

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4 Responses

  1. As an aspiring producer I’m surprised you DON’T find it more interesting.

    Yes, I, like Dawn, am in film school and what we are taught and experience a producer to be is not the reality. Sure, there are more business and physical production oriented producers, and often time when dealing with an acclaimed and talented writer/director, it’s good to leave them to their own devices.

    But there is a whole other aspect of producing, in particular the aspect I hope to be doing some day, and that is the creative. It’s necessary to have a creative force behind the entire project that; while protecting the writer/director to maintain his artistic vision and from outside forces trying to make the most generic film out there in order to bring in the money, it’s also important that they have a trusted outside perspective on their work. As a writer, you know how helpful notes can be, and while no one wants to hear them, everyone needs them. Good creative producers are the ones that are giving the notes that challenge you in a good way by making you think of something new, something deeper, a different way to achieve an outcome. They have relationships with talented professionals that they can bring to your project. They oversee everything, and at the end of the day they take home the Oscar for Best Picture.

    It’s not just about working out the budgets and making the schedule and finding financing and distribution and filling out paperwork. There’s a whole other aspect that I wish people would consider and appreciate. I mean, at the birth of cinema, directors were treated like TV directors of today, where you just come in and set up the shots and work with actors, while the producer was the celebrity and creative force, in essence a showrunner. Wish we could find a healthy balance between that and today’s auteurs.

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