PRODUCERS’ WORKLOAD VS INTENDED DISTRIBUTION
I aspire to become a film producer when I graduate so I thought that this would be an interesting essay to write about. I discovered the difference between studio producers that work for the studio itself, the independent producers where they pitch ideas to the major studio distributors and then the low-budget aspiring filmmakers who make a living out of the Internet platforms. A question popped up into mind and I began to ponder on how would the workload of a producer be affected with the advancement of technology – the Internet.
Film producers are the people who glues the entire production team together.They are essential to the team as they are the ones who turn simple stories to profitable blockbuster films. A producer’s role is active in all four stages – Development, Pre-Production, Production and Post-Production. Job description of a producer is to have a good sense of time management organising the crew call sheet as well as meeting deadlines and financially keeping track of the budget. Producers are the coordinators between the production team and the major networks, also known as investors. In a major film or television series, there are easily over thirty producers in the team. We all know the importance of the role of a producer in a production with the massive workload they have on their shoulders. A question from that statement arises which is what happens to the workload in the near future? In this essay, I will compare the workload of a producer with the intended distribution then and now.
Back in the 1920s, the classical Hollywood era was made up of feature-films about 90 minutes long to entertain the audience. In a studio, there are two categories of producers, which is the administrative side and the creative side. In the early 1920s, producers were more towards the administrative side allotting budgets and keeping track of the finances.
“…the title may be assigned to someone whose sole responsibility is to see that production costs do not exceed the allotted budget (Cantor, 8).”
Muriel G. Cantor has stated that the title, ‘producer’, is given to those who coordinates with the major networks who finances the film. John Lee and Rob Holt (2012) mentioned that studio production team have producers are often “attached to perform production services and rarely these pictures’ creative genesis”. The person who finances heavily on the project is called the executive producer. These people tend to steer away from the creative and technical aspect of the production. Back then, directors have full authority on what gets to be on film projects and what is not. They are usually the scriptwriters like prominent directors, Blake Edward and Ernst Lubitsch. Ernst Lubitsch was a perfectionist. He worked with a handful of screenwriters to ensure that he had the ‘Lubitsch Touch’ to all his films. If the directors were in charge of the creative aspect in the early Hollywood era, then it proves that producers back then were leaning towards the administrative side. On the other hand, there are creative producers who are a “member of a film production team who is responsible for the day-to-day practical considerations such as budgeting, technology hire and maintenance and scheduling” (Dictionary of Media Studies, 2006). They are known as the line producers. They ensure everything on the set runs smoothly and on set and they usually keep things on track and meeting deadlines. Film producers in Hollywood each have their own responsibilities as they are delegated to the many producers that work in the team so the workload was evenly spread among the many producers.
Films were basically financed by major networks who run their own distribution as well as their own producers that will keep the films running. A few major studio distributors, which are huge media conglomerates, are 20th Century Fox, the Walt Disney Company and Paramount Pictures. They have large connections internationally raking in billions of revenue in the market. As Lee et al. (2011, 22) stated:
“The ultimate definition of a motion picture studio is a global distribution entity with in-house production that includes owning its own sound stages and back lots. Within the studio, every department and all operations in their best form are geared toward stabilising and optimizing motion picture marketing and distribution.”
In a sense, producers have their job laid right in front of them. They only have to organise and ensure the schedules go smoothly as well as liaising with other departments like marketing and distribution to market and distribute the films.
As the industry starts evolving, independent production houses are multiplying by the day. These independent producers are seen to “wear two hats” as mentioned by Suzanne Lyons (2000, 4), controlling the business and creative sides of the production team. One example from ‘The Producer’s Business Handbook’ by Lee et al. was Steven Spielberg. Steven Spielberg was not only a famous director, but he was a producer as well. He mostly directs most of his films and hires producers or in some cases co-producers but occasionally when he produces only, he delegates the director role to someone else. Even though he does not sit on the director chair, he is ultimately the one who decides the final decision for all creativity processes.
Another point that I came across while researching was independent producers who are just starting out. The media industry is increasing rapidly so how do these independent production houses intend to survive in this harsh, fast paced industry? Lyons’ claim (2) proved my point on this:
“Today, as film producers, we are taking full advantage of the access the Internet has made possible, and in many cases we are self-marketing and self-distributing.”
With the Internet, budding filmmakers use platforms like YouTube and Vimeo to showcase their work. In a sense, it is self-marketing your own work and distributing freely to everyone. Independent producers have to not only handle the creative side but the business and administrative side. Lyons stressed (3) on the fact that you cannot neglect the business side of your film as they did not call it “show business” for nothing. Independent studios are definitely low budget films as they are not heavily financed by major networks. That also means that distribution is also on the producers’ workload. Arguably, I think that distribution is not what burdens the producer’s workload these days. I believe that the marketing would be the main challenge in independent production houses. Producers will have to make contacts and connections to market their film. To strengthen my point, Lee claimed (53) that the “issue for producers is not distribution” but it is marketing and how they attract their intended target audience and become a “viral-driven recommendation”. YouTube is a free distribution platform to all those independent filmmakers making low-budget films. With just one click to upload your video and 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute (Youtube, 2015). That is definitely a challenge for independent producers to devise a marketing plan.
They all say that if you create videos for Google, they will pay you. Unless you are a partner, the benefits aren’t enough to pay the bills. According to YouTube, over half of the users have partnered with YouTube from 2013 to 2014. YouTube has also stated that over a million channels in various countries are earning from the YouTube Partner Program, making six figures and more per year. PewDiePie is one of the most famous YouTuber who posts videos of his games and his super reactive reactions and Swedish cursing made viewers want to watch more. He has the most views on YouTube, raking in about close to 8 billion views and 34 million subscribers. His net worth is $12 million dollars (Celebrity Networth, 2014).
A little more lower in the ranks, take for example JinnyboyTV, a local YouTuber back in Malaysia, has a few million viewers. However, a friend who worked with them mentioned that they only manage to scrape out fifty ringgit for a few million viewers. That is only 16 AUD here. These people earn by clicks meaning the amount of viewers. Independent filmmakers who put their work up on these platforms usually have low budget or even none at all. They invest in their own films and they make do with what they have. Producers have to work round the budget searching for locations, making connections to boost their production house. Another reason for these independent filmmakers to showcase their work on these platforms is to get a name and recognition out there. Clients are constantly searching on the web for potential filmmakers to get the job done. These platforms act as a resume or portfolio for clients to judge whether they want their expertise or not. Sponsors are a source of income filmmakers rely heavily on. If you attract enough viewers or the right target audience, sponsors will make you wear their brand in your films and definitely will invest in your films. This is called marketing with product placement. Producers will be aiming for these kind of clients to help sponsor their production house and gaining recognition.
In conclusion, I believe the difference between studio producers and independent producers, besides the huge salary difference, is that they have different types of workloads. While studio producers have been given respective responsibilities, independent producers have to juggle both creative and the business responsibilities. Independent producers also have the ultimate creative authority as they are the ones who will be reviewing and selecting screenplays as well as leading the screen test castings and hiring the director. Lastly, there are also indie filmmakers and producers out there trying to make a name for themselves. These people, with the help of the growth of technology, have their work simplified in terms of distribution but the only challenge is to market their product to the right clients and target audience. I believe that the workload of a producer is more simplified with the help of the Internet as compared to film theatrical distribution, however, they are still juggling between the creative and business responsibilities which makes the workload doubled in size.
Danesi, Marcel. Dictionary Of Media And Communications. Armonk, N.Y.: Routledge, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 19 Feb. 2015.
Lyons, Suzanne. Indie Film Producing. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Focal Press, 2012. Print.
Lee, John J, and Anne Marie Gillen. The Producer’s Business Handbook. 3rd ed. Burlington, MA: Focal Press, 2011. Print.
Kilhefner, Johnny. ‘Job Description Of A Producer Of Indie Movies’. Everyday Life – Global Post. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.