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Filmmakers.com

THE FILM PRODUCER Part I

View Spec Screenplays
Jobs such as directing, writing and acting are all well defined in the entertainment industry. Producing on the other hand is a different story, and adding titles such as associate, executive and supervising just make it even more confusing. Richard Zanuck once stated, "The producer is like the conductor of an orchestra. Maybe he can't play every instrument, but he knows what every instrument should sound like." 

In general, the producer is responsible for turning creative ideas into practical or marketable concepts. They are also the person(s) who get studios to finance projects. Because producers are essentially supervisors at whatever level they produce, there is no union or guild that governs the jurisdiction of producing like what is seen in other professions such as writing, directing or acting. There is also no special school one can attend to learn the skills of being a successful and effective producer like there is for the other professions in the entertainment industry. 

In most cases, the producer is in charge of bringing the production together, bringing in the creative elements and taking care of the numerous and frequent problems that may occur with film development and production. For those that actively produce, this can mean any number of activities including but not limited to: hiring the writer to write the original screenplay, selling the script to a studio, signing the major actors, doing the budget, hiring the crew, and making sure the set gets made on time. It is very clear that a single person cannot perform all these tasks. Likewise, different people prefer to do different tasks, but all perform some facet of a producer's overall responsibility; getting the motion picture developed, mounted and sold.

Those who take on all three tasks: writer-producer-directors, immerse themselves in the project, and almost totally control the quality of the final product
In movie credits, there are a lot of titles with the word producer (or some variation) listed. They can be typed into many different categories according to the nature and extent of their responsibilities. Some of these categories are Staff Producers, Independent Producers, Executive Producers, Associate Producers and "producer hyphenates." Production companies and or organizations employ Staff producers on continual bases. Often, they are assigned to specific projects, and often specialize in specific types of films. Independent producers are responsible for the bulk of theatrically released films, and will be discussed in more detail later. 

An Executive Producer title is invariably the least descriptive. Generally, unless a person is directly involved in the film, you will not know exactly what task this person has performed. This title could be used to describe the person who raised every last cent to get the film made, or could be a person who made one phone call to a studio and then had nothing further to do with the project. The title could be for a person who was on the set constantly making sure the budget was kept intact, or simply for an actor who wants a little more credit for the film.

Associate Producer on the other hand often refers to a person who physically produced the project, making sure everything happens according to schedule and handling all production difficulties and problems that may come about once the money is allotted. Producer hyphenates combine the role of producer with other roles such as writing and or directing. Those who take on all three tasks: writer-producer-directors, immerse themselves in the project, and almost totally control the quality of the final product (along, of course, with the studio itself).
 Finding and Acquiring a Property 
The producer is almost always the first person on the project, even before the writer. It is very likely that the producer does not come up with the original idea for the screenplay, but they may see a play or read a book and believe that it would make a wonderful film. The first decision of a producer (and probably the most crucial) is to get involved. Once a commitment is made, a screenwriter needs to be found.

Ideally, a producer would find a ready-to-shoot script that could be taken directly to the studio, but this rarely occurs. Normally (if the screenplay is prewritten), the ideas will be there and the elements will be good, the script just needs a little work to become outstanding. In any case, the producer must obtain the rights of the material before they can proceed with making a film. 

Rights are obtained by purchasing the material or by an option agreement (which provides the producer the exclusive right to purchase the material). The reason for this is that most published material is copyrighted and any use of the material without the author's consent could bring about major lawsuits. There are exceptions however, such as the works of Shakespeare or Charles Dickens. These works exist in the public domain and may be used to make a motion picture without having to acquire any rights to them. These days, at the time of publication most novels are automatically offered for production. Although this is the case, very few are actually optioned or purchased by a studio. 

If a producer wants to find out where the picture rights currently stand for a piece of material, they can easily have a copyright search performed. Such firms as Thompson and Thompson Copyright Research Group (located in Washington DC) specialize in such searches. Performing such a search would reveal the entire chain of title of the material in question.

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