Being a producer means putting together a project and seeing that project through to completion. It boils down to hiring the director to execute their vision, and then supporting the director along the way. Whether you’re producing a short film, feature film, or corporate video, the producer really has one job: complete the film under budget and turn a profit.
We’ve already written about how to become a producer in the first place as well as gone over the different types of producers. In this post, you’ll learn how to become a good producer to make sure that your film is successful and makes money.
If you need funding so that you actually have something to produce, submit your one-sentence pitch to our film funding contests for a chance to receive up to $10,000 in funding plus additional prizes to make your film a reality.
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Read on for strategies on not just how to become a film producer and how to produce a movie, but how to be a good one.
Read and Break Down Scripts
If you’re not a seasoned filmmaker or executive producer, you’ll want to read as many scripts as you can. This will give you a background in short film structure, and breaking down the script into a film budget breakdown will give you insight into what a movie producer does, how to translate a script into a film crew list, and what the role of an executive producer is.
It will also help hone your taste for what a good script looks and reads like. After going through a myriad of scripts, you’ll be able to identify a weak or amateur script when you come across one.
Independent film producers and independent film companies need to be able to identify good material and what makes a good story. If you’re reading a script and there’s no whitespace, the formatting is off, that act structure doesn’t make sense, and the story doesn’t grab your attention, it likely won’t make back the production costs, get into a top film festival, or generate a lot of money. After all, being a producer is about being at the center of the business of film.
Develop Interesting Material
Instead of finding scripts that have already been written, develop your own material. You don’t need to be a screenwriter, director, or even consider yourself a “creative,” but you do need to be able to identify what makes a good story. (Hint: that’s conflict, and you can read more about it from a short film by Don Fanelli that we funded).
In many biographies from producers that we’ve read, a common strategy—at least years ago—was to go to a used bookstore and pick a book off the shelf that had a captivating story. The producer would read the book, and if they liked it, they would get in contact with the author and/or publisher to “option” the rights to the book. They would then commission a screenwriter to write the script adaption and go from there.
So you don’t need to be able to develop material out of thin air. While that’s great, and audiences are always craving new content, adapting an already existing story can be even more successful, and it may already come with a built-in audience. This can be a great way to create an independent film and make money as a film producer.
Create an Accurate Budget
As we said earlier, you need to come in under budget. This is largely up to the director finishing their days on time and not requiring reshoots, but as a producer, you hired the director, so the responsibility also falls on you.
There are no qualifications you need to be a film producer, but having a background in business, finance, or accounting can definitely help when it comes to creating and managing film budgets, as you’ll be dealing with a lot of spreadsheets, contracts, corporate structuring, and intellectual property. Your crew members will likely have no idea about any of this.
Independent producers establish rates and create budgets for indie films, and it’s their job to forecast accurate expenses associated with the production.
If you’re a producer at an agency or big studio, you likely won’t have to deal with fundraising. But independent film producers face a different challenge. To secure funding, you’ll need to convince stakeholders that your project is worth putting money into.
With short films, this is extremely difficult to do, as in most cases, short films do not make money. They’re necessary, as they serve as calling cards and examples of work for filmmakers, but they’re not designed to turn a profit. So serious investors don’t invest in them.
Most crowdfunding campaigns fail, screenwriting contests require a script and can be expensive, and grant applications take days to complete. With The Film Fund, you can inexpensively pitch a short with one sentence in a matter of seconds, and you don’t even have to worry about finding a producer for your film to raise the film financing.
Hire the Right Talent
The most important thing in becoming a successful producer is to hire the right above-the-line talent, meaning your screenwriter, director, and principal cast. Yes, as a producer, you will be involved in casting, and a good producer will work with the director to ensure the actors for the primary roles in the film are a good fit.
Not only will a solid lineup of cast, writers, and directors make the film critically viable, but it will help attach more proven talent and financing to the project. People want to work on projects that have names and established traction.
If you need funding for your film project, submit to our funding opportunities for a chance to receive up to $10,000 and other prizes to help produce your film.