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Filmmakers.com

THE FILM PRODUCER Page 3

View Spec Screenplays
 Studio Involvement 
Packaging means the combining of two or more elements, such as a writer, actor, or director into a single project, which is then presented to prospective financiers. When a package is brought in front of a prospective financier, it has a better chance of approval. This is because when a buyer is offered a script along with an actor and a director they can more easily make an intelligent decision on the creative and financial aspects of the film. A package deal can relieve some of the stress that stems from unknown aspects of the project.

Motion picture studios are the principal source today for obtaining the funds needed by a producer to produce and distribute their films. Unfortunately for a new producer finding backing by a motion picture studio is very difficult. In the past few years there has been a great deal of films that have been made independently, and this is due in great part to the fact that a producer had the inability to sell their project to a studio. Some of the major studios today are Warner Brothers, Fox, MGM, Paramount, and DreamWorks. 

There are also many so-called "mini-majors" which are companies that finance films but then distribute those films through other companies. Examples of these mini-majors are Castle Rock and Interscope.

The editor is considered a great and valuable ally for the producer because production executives will normally listen to the editor's suggestions.
There is a tall ladder that must be climbed in order for a producer to gain financial backing from a studio. The first step is the reader. Production executives normally give the material they receive to readers to look over and make comments on. The reader gives a synopsis of the script, describing the plot and the characters in brief detail. The reader also will state their opinion on whether they think the script will make a worthwhile movie or not. If the reader gives the script a negative report, there is a good chance that the script will be rejected and will not even be seen by anyone else. 

Above the reader on the ladder is the story editor. The editor generally supervises the readers and gives some suggestions on scripts and writers. The editor is considered a great and valuable ally for the producer because production executives will normally listen to the editor's suggestions.

The next step up on the ladder is the production executives and or vice presidents. These positions are generally to draw in "good" material to the studios and to supervise it while it is being developed and while it is in production and postproduction. For a producer to deal with someone that will actually be receptive to their ideas, they would generally start at the production executive level. The senior production executive is considered the head of production. They decide upon which projects are to be produced and when, so that the studio will have pictures on the market all year round.
 There have been many cases where a script was well accepted and then management was changed, other projects interfered or financial shortcomings occurred...
Unfortunately for a producer, once the script is given to the studio and it begins the process of hierarchy, there is no way of knowing what is to come of it. Even when it seems as if everything is going as planned, determining a development deal and a commitment for the picture may become a detriment of which the producer has little if any control. There have been many cases where a script was well accepted and then management was changed, other projects interfered or financial shortcomings occurred and the script subsequently foundered. By the time the producer hears a response from the studio a script that was a go at first may be filed away in the end, and the reason is never fully explained.

Screenwriter William Goldman writes a perfect example of this in his book "Which Lie did I tell." William talks about an occasion in which he had written a screenplay for Universal studios, which the producer loved. The producer then presented it to the powers that be where it was rejected. The producer later left Universal and wanted to buy the screenplay from them and they refused to sell it. So much occurs behind closed doors that result in movie rejections. In this case both Goldman (the writer) and that particular producer felt they had a script that would make a good movie, but for one reason or another the studio denies the proposal and the script becomes just another file in the cabinet. 
 "The Green light" versus "The Turnaround" 
Once a project finally becomes a development deal, the next task is to make the material as perfect as possible in order to get the picture made. Hopefully it is possible for the producer to work closely with the production executive responsible for their particular project. It is important to be aggressive and push your film. Together with the production executive, the hope is that the studio will give the picture a "go" or "the green light." Often, studios have numerous projects in the works and without the constant efforts of the producer to keep the project moving it may never get made.
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