By Bruce Edwin
Talented Actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have also succeeded in becoming successful film producers. In the image here, courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the two producers and stars arrive at The Oscars in celebration of what turned out to be Brad Pitt's Oscar win for producer of Best Picture, "12 Years a Slave."
How to Be a Successful Movie Producer
How to Ride a Horse
Being a movie producer is, contrary to what some think, more than just having a business card and saying you are a producer. Until one actually has raised money to fund a motion picture, they are either not a producer, or are a person aspiring to be a producer. A comparison would be to say that you ride horses, but have never gotten on a horse, although you look at a lot of horses, think about getting on one, may have fed a few horses and brushed them, and may have even had a few horses smile at you. No, you do not ride horses until you have really been riding on one, and know how to do it. Similarly, one is not a producer until they have raised money for a motion picture and know what they are doing. If you are not already a famous actor, the following steps will help you to succeed in the producing world.
I went to college for the arts, and received a B.A. in film studies with a focus on cinematography and producing from Columbia College of Chicago. To those that don't know, Chicago is after New York, the city with the most and greatest theatre productions in the United States. While I have read of many stories of people that attended arts colleges or even any college, and later regretted their decision, I have no regrets with regard to the matter. I knew the pros and cons, evaluated my decision carefully, and stayed happy with my decision. Overall, I loved my time in college and would recommend college to anyone. I actually intend to go back to school one day and get more degrees. At Columbia, I learned the process of filmmaking to nearly every extent. I wrote, shot, directed, casted, produced, and exhibited my own films. I later did a program Columbia had called a Semester in L.A., in which we flew from Chicago to Los Angeles, and spent a semester on lot at CBS Studios in Studio City, full time, 5 days a week, studying producing and getting trained by some of the top industry executives in the business. I learned a great deal from this program, and it was incredibly exciting to be a part of.
I later got a job as a model and talent scout, and worked my way up the ranks of a model and talent agency. Two years later, I launched my own management firm, and had former classmates coming into my office at the studio I was on at the time looking for a job. Some said they were impressed, others said they were jealous, asking me how I did it. That answer is at the bottom of this article. Less than two years after that, I had the offices of nearly every A-list person I selected to approach, willing to looking at one of my producing deals. A year later, I raised funding for a small independent production which was the most amount of money I had ever made at one time in my life. I was elated.
Film school is a good start, if that is the route you want to take, but it also not necessary, and will definitely not make you a guaranteed successful producer. The following things 'will' help you:
1, Get a great story. In order to be a producer, the first thing is to either write a great script or option a great literary property which can be a short story, play, novel, or screenplay. Sure, you can write a lousy script or option a mediocre one, but why not go for a great one? Screenplays are the ideal to option, because you will ultimately need a script for your film. An option is like a temporary lease of the literary property from the owner, for a certain length of time. There are many facets of the option which for the sake of space, I will not go in to here now.
In Hollywood, the story is king, so if you have a great script, then it doesn't matter what anyone else says regarding what they want or need. If it's great enough, and you persevere enough, you will break past the barriers and get it made if you know how. Every great actor wants to be a part of a great story, and they are in high demand.
2, Get attachments. Another necessity as a producer- usually, is to get a big star attached. Most stars will not give attachments, that is, contracts to commit to appear in a film without any funding attached, but here again, rules can be broken if you do not consider it an obstacle that you can not overcome.
3, Get funding. If you have funding attached, that is, money committed to your film, and have that in writing, this is very valuable, as partial funding can attract stars to be willing to get attached, and it can attract other investors to be more inclined to invest. Like attracts like, and a successful moving project attracts more success.
4, Have funding sources. Even if you don't have money attached, but have funding sources, and can convince others of the fact that you do, then this fact alone can attract talent, or other producers or below the line to get involved in your project.
5, Be knowledgeable of your craft. There is little worse in Hollywood than one who calls them self a producer, but who has no education in filmmaking, and has never been on or done a successful project. If you don't know the basics of filmmaking and producing, take a class and learn, or go online or to your local library and read, watch, and study. Knowledge is power. It is also wise to learn banking and finance as a producer.
6, Never Lie. Everyone in Hollywood may have to hype themselves or their projects or clients at times, but never lie. Do not say or commit to something you can not and will not deliver. Do not say you have an element that does not exist. I once had a producer tell me that Denzel Washington was attached to a project he gave to me to read that I was doing due diligence on to consider getting attached to. I called Denzel's agent, and I found out that the producer lied to me. Because of my call, Denzel's agent found out this guy was lying, using his client's name, which I let the producer know about, and I never dealt with him again. Be honest and only deal with those who are honest. If you get introduced to or involved with someone who is unethical, get away from them fast, and stay away, no matter how sweet the deal is. It may be painful to walk away, but trust me, you will be thanking yourself later by saving yourself from the pain and suffering you would have endured, by sticking to your moral integrity and walking away, rather than going for the short end of the stick and getting stuck in a raw, illegal, or dangerous deal.
7, Be prepared for insanity, and how to handle it. When you play the producer game, if you start to do well at it, you are dealing with millions to hundreds of millions of dollar deals. The stakes are high, the pressures rise, and it will often feel like you are on a roller coaster from one day or one hour to the next, where you go from sheer exhilaration and excitement, thinking your deal is going to be funded, to a complete let down, realizing that the funding scenario did not work out, was not real, or that someone said no. Most people can not handle this. It takes nerves of steel, and tenacity beyond compare. It also requires learning how to be a good judge of character, how to read people fast, how to cut through the smoke and mirrors, and how to quickly cut off dealing with any one not at the level of the game you are playing at. You can have no time for deal chasing finders, or other amateurs. Also, you may have to be prepared to bust a few persons or groups you may encounter that try to run big financial scams on you.
8, Try and mentor with a top producer who already has a number of major credits under their belt. Partner with someone more experienced, even if it means giving up a few points (one point is one percent), which can lead to a greater likelihood of your success. Two and a half percent of something is a lot more than ten percent of nothing. Surprisingly, some people spend years learning that simple fact- especially aspiring talent.
9, See a lot of movies. Be connected to Hollywood. If you want to work in Hollywood, be a part of it. See films by your peers and know what is out there. Know what you are up against. Go to film festivals.
10, Learn how to sell. Ultimately, what producing comes down to is sales. If you know how to do telemarketing, can cold call, can make a sales presentation, and close a sale, then you can learn how to be a great producer. I have read books on producing and taken many classes on producing in which people speak or write about the dreaded 'pitch.' There is nothing to fear. The pitch is merely where you present your film to the investor or studio, and get them to agree to look at it to consider funding it. I have done many pitches, and while it can be stressful, if you believe in yourself and in your product; your film, then you have nothing to fear. If you have a great script, then you should consider that you are doing a favor to the person you are pitching to. Why? Because they want a great script, and there is a shortage of them in Hollywood. The large quantity of scripts floating around town certainly does not equate with quality. I have received hundreds of scripts over the years and at least 97 percent of them had no interest or value to me whatsoever. I have spoken with many producers who agree with me on this. Get a great product; your story, package it well and correctly, and then learn how to sell.
The reason I have succeeded in anything at all in Hollywood, again and again, is because I know how to use the phone, and I know how to sell. I attribute this to getting a telemarketing job when I was fifteen. As a telemarketer, adults screamed at me, cursed at me, and hung up the phone on me again and again, when I would call them trying to sell them things or raise money for the companies at the time that I was working for. When I would be screamed at, swore at, told how worthless I was and my job was, and then hung up on, I had to not even let the phone hit the receiver, and within seconds, be on to my next call with an uptone, happy voice. I went from being a shy, introverted, awkward feeling kid, to a fearless punk rocker / business man, able to confront anyone on the phone or in person. Being a telemarketer taught me how to never take no for an answer, how to handle rejection with ease, how to overcome any objection, how to pitch, how to close, and in essence, how to produce. So, if you truly want to learn the ropes of how to be a great producer, take a job at a professional company as a telemarketer for at least a half a year, where they will train you. I guarantee you that it will help give you the essential, needed tools to be great in the world of producing.
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