How to Become a Producer

Dylan writes:

I just graduated in May and I plan on moving to LA at the soonest possible time. My question, though, is this: what exactly is the best route to producing features? I’ve heard advice to get an office PA job and try my best to attach myself to a producer that will take me under his/her wing, and then I read in your blog that you get it through being an AD1 (starting out as a set PA I assume?).

I know people that have done some good stuff in documentary and independent films… but none in the big budget stuff I want to get into. Any help and advice you can lend would be much appreciate! I’m confident that I can outshine the competition and impress the people in charge — all I need is an idea of a good path to work on from someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

First of all, I don’t actually know what I’m doing. If I did, do you think I’d still be a PA?

In any case, yes, moving up the AD path is one way to become a producer; riding the coattails of a successful producer is another. Or, you could rise up the ranks in a studio or production company, and then switch over to actual producing. And there’s always the possibility of just producing an indie that hits big.

The point is, there are any number of paths leading to the same destination. You don’t want to artificially limit your options now.

And while we’re on the subject of career paths, here’s two more bits of advice– work in the field you aspire to be in as soon as possible. If you want to make independent documentaries, great, go for that. If you want to produce big action movies, look for work on one of those. If you want to create reality shows… may God have mercy on your soul.

Secondly, producing is a very competitive field, and there’s a very real chance you won’t make it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t aspire, but you should be prepared. So, don’t work in a department you hate because you hope someday it will lead to producing.

For example, I could never, ever be an AD; I’m just not wired that way, and I’d be miserable doing it. If I took that job as a stepping stone, I may not actually have anywhere to step to. Then I’d be stuck in a job I hate.

So don’t take a job just because you think you’ll like where it leads. Take it because you like what it is, now.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever said this. I may have said ADs become UPMs, who may eventually become line producers and even producers, but I don’t think that’s what Dylan is talking about.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

6 Responses

  1. Why would you be so miserable being an AD? And what do you mean you aren’t wired that way?

  2. Do you mean line producing or executive producing?
    Way different, although technically anyone can become an executive producer type producer, because it’s all about relationships (well, once you learn how movies/series actually come together)

    A producer gets an idea, develops it with writers possibly, makes it (which includes financing it) and then sells it any number of ways. You will need relationships with writers, agents, film crews (or at least line producers who work with them) and distributors and/or financiers to get that done in a meaningful way. I mean I can produce a movie for $250 starring my grandma, but so can anyone else, so I wouldn’t consider myself a real producer for doing that. You know what I’m saying.

    Those relationships, and of course knowing what to do with them is what producers have that not everyone else has, and they exploit them to produce movies while everyone else is busy not producing.

    To be a producer you need to put yourself in places where you’re developing those kinds of relationships (whether it’s starting as an agency assistant, or a development assistant or making indie films or even working at a post/effects house) I’ll tell you one thing, knowing writers, big agency agents and people who work for distributors is very important.
    Every time you actually develop a relationship with one of these people, it’s “achievement unlocked” in the producing game.

    Just a hint, being an agent’s assistant is a good starting spot because you meet so many people, especially if you’re working for a lit agent. Your mileage may vary for those jobs though, but working a desk for a year is the best if not the only way to get other meaningful work (usually involving a phone and a desk) that actually pays the bills and can “unlock the achievements” you’ll need.

    It’s hard. You’ll have to want it as much as you want to breathe.

  3. ADing can lead to producing. HOWEVER, do not apply to the DGA training program because it says the producer plan. Even if u make it out you will be an AD for 15 more years which usually leads ppl to quit the program or not become an AD. And if you become another person who gets in and quits while sooo many aspiring AD’s get rejected every year, I will rip out your throat.

  4. “So don’t take a job just because you think you’ll like where it leads. Take it because you like what it is, now.”

    This is the best advice my recently-unemployed self could have received. Thank you!!

  5. I applaud Dylan’s ambition and confidence (he’ll need it), but I thought I would offer up some advice I was given. I live in a major media market nowhere near LA, and also aspire to produce. They film a good number of features and tv shows here and there’s also plenty of commercial work that comes from LA. The advice given to me was stick around here, make a decent name for yourself and cultivate the LA connections you make. Once some people out there know you out, then make your move.

Comments are closed.