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Remember the opening title credit sequence of the last movie you saw? Do you remember many different types of film producer credits? Have you ever wondered what an independent film producer does?

Film jobs are usually very specific: a camera operator operates the film camera, a scriptwriter writes the screenplay. To learn these skills wannabe filmmakers go to film school. But a film producer is different. It’s not an occupation you usually train for in film schools around the world. It has to be one of the most unusual and difficult to explain jobs in film.

What Is A Film Producer?

I am going to try and define who an independent film producer is, and what they do.

A film producer produces. A film producer spends their entire time and energy figuring out how to produce films. The film industry is such a complex one. And film producers come in many different shapes, sizes. A film producer has many different roles requiring a wide range of skills

What does independent film producer mean?

An independent film is a film made outside of the film industry, usually with private money. When industry money is attached it usually only commits on the completion of the film. For example, when a distributor wants to market the film following film industry norms.

An independent film producer stitches the finance for the film from a whole variety of sources. Increasingly, a producer will get money from different countries utilising different nation’s tax incentives. To make this work, the filmmaker will need to find a local independent producer. This producer partner will make a portion of the film budget qualify for his or her national tax incentives. This is called a co-production. The joint producers of the film will take advantage of national co-production treaties.

Let’s learn filmmaking independent film producer style

So you want to make a movie? That makes you the producer. Your job is to make the film happen. There are a whole range of movie-making processes you will need to embrace. Everything from the very start of the process (the script) to the very end (sales and marketing). Few individuals have all of these skills. There are several different categories of tasks a film producer needs to do.

The producer

This is you. It’s your project and you own it. Your job is to produce the movie. Along the way, you will need to pay cast and crew. The producer generally hires the screenwriter and director. You’ll also need to pay people to help you get the money and to secure distribution. Some of these people will work on a cash basis, others will want equity. The trick is to keep as much of the cake as you can.

A producer has two parallel jobs – one is to manage the financial package. This aspect involves creating a business plan. Once completed you need to have the ability to present to investors. The other job involves managing the creative development process.

Let’s delve into more detail on these different tasks.

Skills

  • is a creative entrepreneur
  • knows how to spot new talent
  • possesses excellent communication skills

The Development Producer

A development producer trolls through unpublished manuscripts, forgotten novels, comic books, and fringe theatres looking for stories that can become films or TV shows. Development producers can work either for a producer or on their own. If they work for themselves they hope to sell their project to a film or television company. That company will have its own production arm that will produce the film.

Skills

  • knows how to analyse screenplays
  • knows how to work with writers to make their scripts better
  • is able to pitch projects to film companies and TV studios
  • is able to assess the audience for a project

The co-producer leads you to talent

Let’s say you, the producer, wants to meet Danny Boyle.

I happen to have a connection to Danny Boyle through the British Independent Film Awards. Slumdog won 3 prestigious awards at BIFA in 2007 – which added a lot of media attention to the film before the amazing awards scoop at the Oscars™ in 2007.

I would ask you for your script, your business plan, and sales projections. If I thought you had a solid project that would not look like an idiot by presenting to Danny Boyle I would. If he accepts that would make me the Co-producer. I led you to talent. For which I would charge you a referral fee and make sure I had a co-producer credit.

A co-producer can also refer to a producer in another country who leads you to his or her national funding in a co-production.

Skills

  • ability to assess the creative elements of a project
  • excellent communication skills and good networking ability
  • excellent pitching skills

The associate producer leads you to finance

An associate producer helps the producer secure finance. The associate producer will be able to present the producer’s package to suitable financiers, both public and private.

Skills

  • ability to assess the financial elements of a project
  • understands the basics of movie-making
  • be able to produce a sound business plan

The Executive Producer (EP) oversees the entire project

The executive producer is either the lead financier or a producer who leads you to different pots of money. An EP doesn’t necessarily put money into a project themselves. Each ‘EP’ has a different business model. Researching trade papers, and attending industry networking events and seminars are great ways to find out who might be interested

Some, like Phil Hunt at Headgear Films only finance a film.  They only get involved if your project is de-risked. In other words, Headgear will advance your film the money from tax rebates your film qualifies for upon completion.

Other Executive producers like Paul Brett (The King’s Speech) are experts at leading you to different pots of money.

Skills

  • ability to assess the financial elements of a project
  • understands the basics of movie-making
  • be able to produce a sound business plan

Line producer/production manager

A line producer (production manager in television) is the heart of the production. Once the film is financed a line producer oversees the hiring of the crew. Accordingly, a good line producer will also know how to juggle the budget. A constant challenge is to make sure the available money is spent in the way that the director’s vision is realised. A line producer also creates the schedule and the budget.

In a smaller film, producer roles are combined. A line producer ensures that the location, the budget, and the equipment is allocated and maintained according to the budget and schedule.

Skills

  • understanding of contracts
  • an excellent summary of filmmaking techniques
  • ability to oversee the entire crew
  • good negotiation skills
  • ability to innovate

Other producing terms:

Showrunner

A showrunner is a lead producer on a TV series. In Canada and Britain, they are credited as the producer. In America, they are credited as the Executive Producer.

Supervising producer

A supervising producer is often hired by the producer or executive producer to oversee one of the elements of a production. Often when a film is shooting in a different country the supervising producer will oversee that aspect of the production on behalf of the producer.

Coordinating producer

A coordinating producer links two different aspects of a production. For example, in sports or news the link between the producer at the event with the broadcast.

Consulting producer

A consulting producer offers advice to the producer on specific aspects for which they have specific knowledge and experience.

Segment producer

A segment producer produces a specific segment of a multi-segment series.

Field producer

In news, The Field Producer is a coordinator for a story while the crew is on location. For example, the field producer oversees the production. In news this person will set up interviews, gather footage, and co-ordinate with the post-production team and the broadcast unit.

Edit producer

The edit producer oversees all the footage and works with the editor to create the story.

Post producer

The post producer oversees the post-production process. Primarily the post producer makes sure the producer is able to meet all the delivery requirements.

Producer of Media and Distribution (PMD)

PMD is a new term coined by the American filmmakers Jon Reis. A PMD is an individual responsible for managing the press, crowdfunding, and social media elements of a project. This person starts with managing crowd-funding strategy, collecting footage, photographs, and interviews during the shoot. A PMD assists with the sales and marketing of the film. Jon Reis wrote an excellent book describing self-distribution: Think Outside the Box Office

Sometimes you need to stop working and just make your movie!

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About 

Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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