What’s a Movie Producer?

 

In the popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’s The Producers. To classic-era screenwriters, producers are treated in their biographies as greedy capitalists and script-butchering philistines. To film directors, who screenwriters generally regard as their sworn mortal enemies, producers are generally treated as meddling, movie-altering oafs disguised as white-shoe country clubbers.

Real-life producers laugh this off, but they do resent it. And they’re used to it. Being a producer is a real job and a hard one, whether you’re on the money end of it, the production end of it, or both.

A producer is the prime organizer of a film project. It’s a two-headed eagle of a job with different skill sets for each side of it: getting the money and spending it efficiently. Many producers are entrepreneurs who do both. They originate a project, often well before a director is even hired, and work with a writer or a team of writers to present a script that can win a production deal from a studio. These deals are complex and sometimes involve securing outside money as well, from a bank or an individual. Locking those deals in, and making them stick throughout the long period of production, is a specialized, full-time business skill all by itself. Some producers are valued strictly for that expertise.

Financing a feature film usually means setting up its distribution in advance, and getting worldwide interest means casting, giving foreign markets the stars they want to see. Getting the money is one thing, continually reassuring the people who lent you the money is another. Keeping them off the backs of the director and cast is a normal part of the job, as is keeping up a steady patter of confidence about the quality of the work in progress.

Physical production is a different part of the job, calling for a logistics specialist and process workflow expert. This kind of producer is often called a “line producer”. Someone who knows how many hours a day you can work a crew without legal repercussions; someone who knows helicopter rental companies with the special stabilizing gear and camera mounts to make movies; someone who knows how many electricians are actually needed, and how many of them have to be transported up the side of a mountain, housed and fed on location.

Like a construction project or a military campaign, you need continually updated alternatives because you can’t be in control of everything, especially the weather. Keeping the crew on that set costs $2 million a day; what if it rains all week? Or say you’re supposed to have 100 extras costumed and ready as 19th-century townspeople, but only 25 show up. Do you give up on the shooting day, or persuade the director to improvise a way to use a smaller crowd? The star has an iron-clad “stop date”, and now it’s only four days away. Is the director pushing hard enough to get the star’s most essential moments done no matter what?

Suppose you choose to save money with a smaller, less cumbersome crew. Bravo! But if you do, will you be the one who gets blamed if there’s some kind of technical hang-up and there’s no one on set who can deal with it instantly? And If you get blamed, will the studio back you up, or will they crumble like a wet paper bag and fire you, the supposed “boss” of the production? Unless you own the film yourself, they can do that.

Series TV is a different world than feature films, even though the job titles are the same, just as “Captain” usually conveys a different level of power in the Navy than it does in the Army. In the movies, the director is like a football coach—the boss, the leader in charge. In series television, the director is more like a baseball batting coach—a respected pro who helps the stars do their jobs better, but a hired hand, not an authority figure. The show’s writer outranks him, and ambitious TV writers seek to become writer/producers—“show runners”—rather than directors. BTW, Rob Long wrote the best book on this general subject of why producer/directors are the emperors of film, while writer/producers are the ruling gods of television.

The challenges of production for a comedy half-hour series filmed entirely on the studio lot are obviously different than those of a standalone feature film on location. It’s less like training for the Olympics and more like a daily commute from the suburbs, with the possibility of a sane home and family life. But it does have some challenges of its own. You’re not turning out 120 minutes of finished entertainment for your year’s main work, but 484 minutes. You’ll have to thrash things out with a dozen writers over the season, and handle talent relations with two dozen guest stars. Plus you may need to do the show before a live audience. You generally don’t have to do any of that when you make feature films.

(BTW, “Film” is mostly just a traditional description of what’s nearly always a digital process now. “Feature” is defined here not as a theatrical-vs.-streaming question, but as a simple format issue, intuitive in any medium: does it tell a complete story in somewhere between 80 and 180 or so minutes? Does it look and feel like a movie?)

One reason that the title “producer” may not always have gold standard-like value is job title inflation that, while sometimes comical in Hollywood, is by no means confined to it. “Assistant Producer” is legit; there’s a lot to do every day, sometimes in varied locations, and direct assistants to the big boss are often needed at each site.

“Associate Producer” isn’t much different, but it often subtly implies a degree of specialization. They have some personal authority over a specific area, like special effects or talent relations. Unfortunately, it’s also become a well-meaning perk to a non-producer who really put in time and effort and is felt to deserve a little ego boost that’ll look good on the resume. Like money’s gold standard, a little bit of constant minor job title debasing here and there starts to add up to less value for an often-deserved distinction. Too bad.

But the really vague, crazy job title is the biggest one of all, Executive Producer. It sounds like the boss of everybody, right? Sometimes it is. Clint Eastwood is not a mere employee of his film company. Jerry Bruckheimer knows something about producing Pirates of the Caribbean. If Tom Cruise thinks he ought to do a skydive scene one more time, no one is going to stop him.

Much of the time it means something more like, “He got the Kuwaiti Emir to put up the final $30 million”, or “He bought the book first, and he wouldn’t sell his rights to anyone unless they gave him a meaningless Exec Prod credit”. This is how Brian Kelly, the dad on Flipper, would end up being officially credited as one of the producers of Blade Runner, without ever so much as stepping on the set.

This is also how longtime cinematic schlock merchants, Si Raab and Max Litinoff, were able to dictate high placement as executive producers in the credits of A Clockwork Orange, although they had nothing to do with the actual film. Their sole “contribution” was having bought the rights to Anthony Burgess’ unknown new novel for about $600. They thought they could turn it into a showcase for the Rolling Stones. Raab and Litinoff’s title “card” came up third in the credits, as contractually required. But Stanley Kubrick pulled one of the driest of all inside gags. For the first and (to our knowledge) only time in film history, the fourth card, immediately following, was for the hairdresser. “Hair Styles by LEONARDS of London,” it said in bold colors, in 1971 a none-too-subtle sign of how little respect Kubrick actually had for his unwanted so-called “executive producers”, Si and Max.

Here’s a historical side note that’s a fading sore spot for producers and writers: “les politique des auteurs”, more commonly known here as “the auteur theory”. It’s an intellectual attitude and set of ideas about films that came out of France in the late Fifties. It declares that most of the time, the director is really the main creator of a film, not the writers or the producers. This wasn’t a crazy idea, and at the time it was a useful idea, though not a new one. Frank Capra’s great screenwriter, Robert Riskin, once sarcastically handed him 120 pages of blank paper. “Here, give this the ‘Capra Touch’”. The auteur policy wasn’t completely a theory. Prestige movies in particular had become ponderously, pompously literary by the postwar Fifties and a revival of screen basics was overdue. The Boomer directors provided it.

Think back to a nighttime scene in Jaws, 46 years ago this summer. A couple of men have finally sunk a harpoon into the killer shark tormenting the tourist town of Amity. They tied the rope to the old wooden pier so it won’t get away. But the (still unseen) shark is so strong that the end of the pier snaps right off and is towed rapidly to sea. The two fishermen, gloating only a moment ago, are now frantically thrashing in the ocean, their arms and legs visible underwater, and by now we know what that means. The end of the dock that’s being rapidly dragged away ominously slows to a stop, and we know why. Then, it begins to start coming back to shore, slowly and then faster as the audience is shouting with excitement. Author Peter Benchley didn’t create that timeless moment; Steven Spielberg, the director did. The so-called auteur theory emboldened a generation of directors, some to be geniuses, some to be dullards, some to be egomaniacs, and of course, some to be all three. It may not have been a golden age of timeless dialog, but it enabled some of the most kinetic, visually exciting movies of all time.

As ‘80s-‘90s film budgets got pushed into the upper stratosphere, though, and after a few well-publicized excesses, studios took a much firmer daily watch over their high-risk investments. Even on independent film productions, Baby Boomer producers began to regain more control over Generation X directors. A tacit balance of power was restored. Today the X-ers are the business bosses in the producers’ offices, and the Millennials are the skinny, surly artist-rebels with sunglasses sitting in canvas folding chairs with their names on the backs, making the creative decisions on the set.

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  1. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    Gary, I always enjoy your essays about how show business and the associated media really work. This was another fascinating read.

    • #1
  2. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    That was the most thorough, thoughtful, exhausting description of what always intrigued me, but I never knew where to go for a proper lesson. Forget Congress, this seems like where the real sausage is made. What an excellent post!

    • #2
  3. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    I really enjoy these glimpses inside the entertainment industry – and I always learn so much!  Fascinating stuff.  Thanks for putting these together, Gary! 

    • #3
  4. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte
    @Charlotte

    Gary McVey: What’s a Movie Producer?

    Gary McVey: “Feature” is defined here not as a theatrical-vs-streaming question, but as a simple format issue, intuitive in any medium: does it tell a complete story in somewhere between 80 and 180 or so minutes? Does it look and feel like a movie?

    Finally the answers to things I’ve wondered about forever!

    Gary McVey: Much of the time [Executive Producer] means something more like, “He got the Kuwaiti Emir to put up the final $30 million”, or “He bought the book first, and he wouldn’t sell his rights to anyone unless they gave him a meaningless Exec Prod credit”.

    I KNEW IT.

    Gary McVey: “les politique des auteurs”, more commonly known here as “the auteur theory”. It’s an intellectual attitude and set of ideas about films that came out of France in the late Fifties. It declares that most of the time, the director is really the main creator of a film, not the writers or the producers. This wasn’t a crazy idea, and at the time it was a useful idea, though not a new one.

    It may be useful/not crazy, but for heaven’s sake, the French can be so tiresome.

    • #4
  5. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    One of the more common uses for Executive Producer these days is the actor, signed for seven years who becomes the most popular character in the show by the second season.  You can pay them more without renegotiating the contract.

    • #5
  6. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    I wish I’d read this superb educational article 40 years ago.  You’ve used your exceptional writing skills (for no added cost to us) to make the mysterious term “producer” so perfectly clear.

    Rico is more than one thing for us.  It is a place for ordinary people to air their thoughts and share their life experiences.  But it is also a real intellectual journal, like The Criterion or the old New Yorker or the old Scientific American.

    • #6
  7. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Gary McVey: Like a construction project, or a military campaign, you need continually updated alternatives because you can’t be in control of everything, especially the weather. Keeping the crew on that set costs $2 million a day; what if it rains all week?

    I’ve heard that Hollywood became the center for movies because you could count on a large number of days with clear skies. Then states started film tax credits to try to coax filmmakers to their cities or states, and if it worked, it was because the credits were worth enough to cover the additional risks. Anything to that? 

    • #7
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

     

    • #8
  9. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Another great bit of coverage of the entertainment business.  Thanks Gary!

    • #9
  10. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    Fascinating read.  Thanks, @garymcvey!

    Check out the prices on Rob’s book.  Yowza!   It must be very, very good.  And rare.

    • #10
  11. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    JennaStocker (View Comment):

    That was the most thorough, thoughtful, exhausting description of what always intrigued me, but I never knew where to go for a proper lesson. Forget Congress, this seems like where the real sausage is made. What an excellent post!

    Thanks, Jenna! And the same goes for Joel,  and Dr. B!

    • #11
  12. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    One of the more common uses for Executive Producer these days is the actor, signed for seven years who becomes the most popular character in the show by the second season. You can pay them more without renegotiating the contract.

    Absolutely true. It’s a money boost, plus it’s a trust boost that’s good for the ego. Now, the actor feels like a partner (even if a limited one) rather than just an employee. He identifies a little more with management. 

    • #12
  13. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: Like a construction project, or a military campaign, you need continually updated alternatives because you can’t be in control of everything, especially the weather. Keeping the crew on that set costs $2 million a day; what if it rains all week?

    I’ve heard that Hollywood became the center for movies because you could count on a large number of days with clear skies. Then states started film tax credits to try to coax filmmakers to their cities or states, and if it worked, it was because the credits were worth enough to cover the additional risks. Anything to that?

    Sure there is. California also had the advantage of being 3000 miles from the Edison Trust, who claimed to hold the patents on motion pictures (courts tossed that claim out). Florida also had great weather for filming…well, except for the hurricanes…and it was much closer to New York. But somehow it never really caught on as a year-round location for the industry, other than as a place where Popeye cartoons were made, and The Jackie Gleason Show. 

    The states didn’t always have film offices or today’s generous offers to attract production. As a phenomenon, it’s only a few decades old. Yes, Hollywood milks the tax breaks and subsidies for all they’re worth–wouldn’t you?–but they’re offered because as sudden influxes of outsider money go, they’re not attached to having to spend on roads, schools, water lines or waste management. We leave town as fast as we arrived. 

     

    • #13
  14. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

    They really didn’t like each other. Mostel would stand on the set, staring right at Brooks, bellowing, “Is there a director for this film? What, him? He’s a director?” 

    • #14
  15. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    The Cynthonian (View Comment):

    Fascinating read. Thanks, @ garymcvey!

    Check out the prices on Rob’s book. Yowza! It must be very, very good. And rare.

    The pages are pressed gold, the hardcover is diamond-encrusted, and the ink is a plutonium-rhodium blend. I mean, hey, if someone wants to offer me $900 for mine, there’s always a price. 
    *

    • #15
  16. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    The states didn’t always have film offices or today’s generous offers to attract production. As a phenomenon, it’s only a few decades old. Yes, Hollywood milks the tax breaks and subsidies for all they’re worth–wouldn’t you?–but they’re offered because as sudden influxes of outsider money go, they’re not attached to having to spend on roads, schools, water lines or waste management. We leave town as fast as we arrived. 

    It looks like I’m going to be setting up a grant program for film production. It’s always some young senator proposing the program, hoping that when the the crew leaves they will take him/her with them. 

     I’ve also noticed that when we have been asked to help scout sites, we’re usually looking for places without roads, schools, power lines, or development of any sort. 

    • #16
  17. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

    They really didn’t like each other. Mostel would stand on the set, staring right at Brooks, bellowing, “Is there a director for this film? What, him? He’s a director?”

    I heard that once Zero was up for a part in something that Norman Jewison was involved in casting, but didn’t get the part. Some time later, Jewison was directing and producing Jesus Christ Superstar and called Zero’s son Josh to tell him that he had the part as Herod. Zero happened to be visiting, and Jewison could hear him over the phone ranting in the background “Oh, sure … you he hires!”

    • #17
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

    They really didn’t like each other. Mostel would stand on the set, staring right at Brooks, bellowing, “Is there a director for this film? What, him? He’s a director?”

    I heard that once Zero was up for a part in something that Norman Jewison was involved in casting, but didn’t get the part. Some time later, Jewison was directing and producing Jesus Christ Superstar and called Zero’s son Josh to tell him that he had the part as Herod. Zero happened to be visiting, and Jewison could hear him over the phone ranting in the background “Oh, sure … you he hires!”

    I remember. Zero lost the part of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof to Topol, and he was still steamed.

    • #18
  19. Flicker Member
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

    I tried showing that movie to a bunch of kids.  Heck, I was a kid I think when I first saw it.  The mothers wouldn’t let it get passed the opening scenes.  But I had thought it was something for everyone; a comedy that night.

    • #19
  20. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

    I tried showing that movie to a bunch of kids. Heck, I was a kid I think when I first saw it. The mothers wouldn’t let it get passed the opening scenes. But I had thought it was something for everyone; a comedy that night.

    Perhaps next time The Twelve Chairs (1970)?

    • #20
  21. Flicker Member
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Clavius (View Comment):
    The Twelve Chairs (1970)

    I’ve never seen it.  I’ll have to find it.  But I’m not into that highbrow stuff.

    Last week I tried to show 10 or 11-year-old kids Mr. Bean’s Holiday, but they got bored after 10 minutes.  So I showed them Johnny English.  I think even that was a little too subtle.  Whodda thunk Rowan Atkinson was subtle.

    • #21
  22. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):
    The Twelve Chairs (1970)

    I’ve never seen it. I’ll have to find it. But I’m not into that highbrow stuff.

    Last week I tried to show 10 or 11-year-old kids Mr. Bean’s Holiday, but they got bored after 10 minutes. So I showed them Johnny English. I think even that was a little too subtle. Whodda thunk Rowan Atkinson was subtle.

    It’s another old Mel Brooks film:

    In 1920s Soviet Russia, a fallen aristocrat, a priest and a con artist search for a treasure of jewels hidden inside one of twelve dining chairs, lost during the revolution.

    Sadly, I looked recently and it is not available except as legacy DVDs at a high price.  It is a funny film.

    • #22
  23. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member
    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler
    @Muleskinner

    Clavius (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Clavius (View Comment):
    The Twelve Chairs (1970)

    I’ve never seen it. I’ll have to find it. But I’m not into that highbrow stuff.

    Last week I tried to show 10 or 11-year-old kids Mr. Bean’s Holiday, but they got bored after 10 minutes. So I showed them Johnny English. I think even that was a little too subtle. Whodda thunk Rowan Atkinson was subtle.

    It’s another old Mel Brooks film:

    In 1920s Soviet Russia, a fallen aristocrat, a priest and a con artist search for a treasure of jewels hidden inside one of twelve dining chairs, lost during the revolution.

    Sadly, I looked recently and it is not available except as legacy DVDs at a high price. It is a funny film.

    Hope for the best, expect the worst.

     

    • #23
  24. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    The Twelve Chairs was in release at the same time as Five Easy Pieces. In those pre-streaming, pre-Blockbuster, pre-cable age days, films often lingered around for a couple of years in second run and/or on the bottom of double bills. For two nights, I (and a lot of other people) were amused that nobody fixed a marquee on an east side of Manhattan movie theater that read Five Easy Chairs

    • #24
  25. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Percival (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Gary McVey: In popular imagination, though movie producers act like big shots, they’re merely fast-talking con men, like Max Bialystock, the crooked Broadway impresario of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

    I read an article once a about Sidney Glazier, the producer of The Producers. It sounds like Sidney was both very good at his job, bringing the movie in on schedule and under budget while keeping first-time director Mel Brooks from murdering star Zero Mostel. I kind of wanted him to have been charging around the set behaving like Max Bialystock, though. Maybe he did a little bit. I hope he did.

    I love that movie.

    They really didn’t like each other. Mostel would stand on the set, staring right at Brooks, bellowing, “Is there a director for this film? What, him? He’s a director?”

    I heard that once Zero was up for a part in something that Norman Jewison was involved in casting, but didn’t get the part. Some time later, Jewison was directing and producing Jesus Christ Superstar and called Zero’s son Josh to tell him that he had the part as Herod. Zero happened to be visiting, and Jewison could hear him over the phone ranting in the background “Oh, sure … you he hires!”

    I remember. Zero lost the part of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof to Topol, and he was still steamed.

    I don’t blame him! It would be like doing a feature film of The Honeymooners only seven years after the original show went on the air, and recasting Ralph Kramden. Topol is a more than decent actor and singer and does a fine job, but it’s like seeing the originally cast Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly after you’ve already seen Michael J. Fox do the definitive version. Zero’s hammy brio brought a lot to the role, as it did to his acting in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

    • #25
  26. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    The states didn’t always have film offices or today’s generous offers to attract production. As a phenomenon, it’s only a few decades old. Yes, Hollywood milks the tax breaks and subsidies for all they’re worth–wouldn’t you?–but they’re offered because as sudden influxes of outsider money go, they’re not attached to having to spend on roads, schools, water lines or waste management. We leave town as fast as we arrived.

    It looks like I’m going to be setting up a grant program for film production. It’s always some young senator proposing the program, hoping that when the the crew leaves they will take him/her with them.

    I’ve also noticed that when we have been asked to help scout sites, we’re usually looking for places without roads, schools, power lines, or development of any sort.

    Well, that Springsteen album forty or whatever years back created a romanticized image of sorts. An irony here is the vast majority of scripted shows that could be set in any large city could be filmed there too, not just the stuff out in the Delta Quadrant. 

    • #26
  27. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    My direct experience with producers is through my younger brother.  He was a producer on Swingers(1996), and was a key money guy.  He also impressed the crew by bringing donuts in the morning (“Producers don’t do that.”).

    His main contribution was pressing Fabreau not to spend all of their money on post production once they got Mirimax to buy the film. I think they spent roughly a million on production but Mirimax gave them five.  Not bad if you don’t burn it up in the editing room.  They paid out everyone’s net participation on the sale which they didn’t have to do, but it was a good thing.

    And my brother made more money on the album.

    P.S., my sister is the “girl with a cigar.”

    So endeth my brush with producer greatness.

    • #27
  28. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    The states didn’t always have film offices or today’s generous offers to attract production. As a phenomenon, it’s only a few decades old. Yes, Hollywood milks the tax breaks and subsidies for all they’re worth–wouldn’t you?–but they’re offered because as sudden influxes of outsider money go, they’re not attached to having to spend on roads, schools, water lines or waste management. We leave town as fast as we arrived.

    It looks like I’m going to be setting up a grant program for film production. It’s always some young senator proposing the program, hoping that when the the crew leaves they will take him/her with them.

    I’ve also noticed that when we have been asked to help scout sites, we’re usually looking for places without roads, schools, power lines, or development of any sort.

    Well, that Springsteen album forty or whatever years back created a romanticized image of sorts. An irony here is the vast majority of scripted shows that could be set in any large city could be filmed there too, not just the stuff out in the Delta Quadrant.

    Give a studio enough incentive and they will make it work.  Incentive = $ if I wasn’t clear.

    It is all about the Benjamins.

    And as Gary noted, more so for episodic (TV) than features.

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  29. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Clavius (View Comment):

    My direct experience with producers is through my younger brother. He was a producer on Swingers(1996), and was a key money guy. He also impressed the crew by bringing donuts in the morning (“Producers don’t do that.”).

    His main contribution was pressing Fabreau not to spend all of their money on post production once they got Mirimax to buy the film. I think they spent roughly a million on production but Mirimax gave them five. Not bad if you don’t burn it up in the editing room. They paid out everyone’s net participation on the sale which they didn’t have to do, but it was a good thing.

    And my brother made more money on the album.

    P.S., my sister is the “girl with a cigar.”

    So endeth my brush with producer greatness.

    Good for your brother! There’s an old NYC joke among real estate people that applies to the film business. 

    “There’s good news and bad news. The good news is, we have an option to buy the Empire State Building for one hundred dollars!”

    “Wow, so what’s the bad news?”

    “They want cash”. 

    So it is with the Seventh Art. In the beginning, someone must pay, priming the pump, setting the spinning wheel in motion. 

    • #29
  30. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    I think the movie/tv industry is about to hit some tough times. Without a real box office to generate the bulk of a film’s revenue (either here or over seas) a movie just isnt going to generate the kind of revenue it would have – even just a few years ago. I think the movie industry is about to hit what the music industry did 20 years ago. The streamers are going to squeeze all the revenue out of a project – and into their own pockets.

    In 1995 the US music industry revenues peaked at $21.5 Billion. Its now less than 1/2 that. Of that revenue 90% is generated by the top 100 acts. (I think that’s also true in book publishing – that a few authors generate a bulk of the industries revenue)

    So the days of a $200 million ‘tent pole’ feature film I think are numbered. As are the days of actor’s astronomical salaries.

    Hollywood should be doing everything possible to get movie theaters back into mainstream acceptance. But they won’t its far easier for them to swim with a cultural current – than try to push against it – even if that eventually will kill their business.

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