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THE PRODUCER
by Rona Edwards and Monica Skerbelis

This is a word we hear over and over again in Hollywood. But not many people know what a producer does. And the term "producer" has been misused through the years. ...that's because the credit of producer has been given out in an arbitrary way.

So what exactly does a producer do? A producer usually finds the story first. Options it, meaning they strike an agreement with the writer or writer's representative, or, if it's a book or an article, with the person who owns or controls the rights to that material. They then further develop the material with a screenwriter within a limited amount of time in which the producer tries to either obtain financing or set it up at a studio and/or television network. From there, the producer shepherds the project to a greenlight and oversees the production of the movie through its delivery to the studio and/or network.

While the writer "births the baby," it is usually the producer who "delivers and raises the child." The job of the main producer on a film isn't over until the movie is released. Prior to the movie being made, the producer usually works with the writer to develop the script further, a casting director to find the right cast, hires the director, and troubleshoots any problems throughout the whole process. Sometimes this is done with studio input, sometimes a producer can do it independently.

There are many types of credits a producer may receive and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences together with the Producers Guild of America's urging, has limited the amount of producers who are eligible for the Best Picture Oscar in recent years. No more than three producers may be nominated or receive statuettes; if more than three producers are credited on a nominated picture, the Academy Award recipients shall be those three or fewer who have performed the major portion of the producing functions and have received a producer or produced by credit. In short, the nominated producers must have fully functioned as producers on the picture.

With the help of the Producers Guild of America (PGA), the following may be helpful in describing the producer's responsibilities:

PRODUCER - A motion picture Producer receiving a "produced by" credit is the primary credit for all theatrical motion pictures. The producer should have final responsibility for all business and creative aspects of the production of the motion picture. A Producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion. The buck stops here. This is the kingpin!

In television movies, however, the executive producer performs the same function as a producer does on a theatrical film. They are the primary credit or all movies of the week. A producer on a made-for-television movie answers to the Executive Producer.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER- Sometimes an Executive Producer secures an essential and proportionately significant part (no less than 25% per the Producers Guild guidelines) of the financing for the motion picture. Sometimes an Executive Producer has made a significant contribution to the development of the literary property, typically including the procurement of the underlying rights to the material upon which the motion picture is based. Regardless, the Executive Producer supports the Producer and helps in an "as needed" basis.

However, the Executive Producer in television is quite a different position than for Feature Film. For example, the Executive Producer in series television is usually the Creator/Writer for the series. In fact, most producing credits in series television are given to writers. For Movies of the Week or made-for-television movies, an Executive Producer actually serves the same function as a producer does for feature films as stated above, in that they are the ones in charge and oversee the development from beginning to delivery to the network of the movie.

LINE PRODUCER - A Line Producer performs the Producer functions involved in supervising the physical aspects of the making of a motion picture or television production where the creative decision-making process is reserved to others (i.e., Producer or Executive Producer), except to such extent as the Line Producer is permitted to participate. The Line Producer tows the line, hires the crew and oversees the day-to-day physical production of the movie.

CO-PRODUCER- Co-Producers are individuals who report directly to the individual(s) receiving "produced by" credit. They can also be the person who has the primary responsibility for the logistics of the production, from pre-production through completion of production. Some producers receive Co-Producer credit in the beginning of their careers or if they perform limited producing duties. Sometimes the Unit Production Manager will receive a Co-Producer credit, seen as a kind of promotion. However, this is one of those credits that get arbitrarily thrown in as a bonus in the deal-making process to writers, their managers, actors, and others who are connected but not actually producing the project. Not to denigrate anyone who receives a Co-Producer credit because there are some very strong Co-Producers who deserve this credit. It should just be noted, once again, that the term Producer is not as appreciated as it should be.

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER- An Associate Producer performs one or more producer functions delegated to him/her by a producer. This credit can also be at the sole discretion of the producer and should be granted only for those individuals who are delegated significant producing functions. However, in series television, Associate Producers may supervise the post-production of the series.

Now that we have our definition of producer, it is important to note that feature producers fall into two categories: the studio term deal producer - a producer whose production company has a first look deal with a studio in which every project they want to develop must first be looked at by their home studio and if they pass, then and only then are they free to go to another studio (sometimes these producers have an exclusive deal meaning once a studio passes, they can't go anywhere else with the project) - and, the independent producer - one without a studio deal who still sells to studios or partners with other production companies whether to sell their movies to studios or raise the financing themselves.

As you can see, a producer is not just someone's manager, wife or brother, or someone who has the notion of an idea, a producer is someone who kneads and develops the idea and/or screenplay until it's ready to go out into the world, from there the producer tries to sell it to a studio or obtain financing and then oversees the production of the film through delivery. So next time someone asks you what a producer does, you can tell them they are the ones who stick with a project, for years sometimes, always pushing, developing and ultimately producing it no matter how long it takes to come to fruition.

You can contact Rona and Monika via their website: www.esentertainment.net

Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis are the co-authors of "I Liked It, Didn't Love It: Screenplay Development From The Inside Out" from Lone Eagle Publishing. They have worked as development execs and producers, and collectively have 25 years worth of experience in Hollywood.


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