How do you go about finding a producer partner?
If you’re just starting out as a filmmaker one of your key relationships will be with producers. At the lower budget levels of independent filmmaking, finding a producer partner is a crucial piece of the film puzzle.
If you have a body of work behind you and an agent, it may be that your agent will send out a script to producers they know and who they feel will match you / the material. Finding a producer partner with experience will add value and reach to your project.
However, as a new director, possibly without an agent, how do you go about finding a producer for your project?
Finding a producer who can deliver in the role and who understands the movie you want to make
- It’s a little like online dating – reaching out into the void and hoping to ‘match’ skills and personality traits. You have to be in it together for a long time and need someone you respect and trust – because there will be tough moments along the way.
- Do you like them – do they like you? Share your director reel – it will give them a sense of who you are / compatibility.
- The producer will want to hear your pitch on the movie – it has to be good, because the producer knows that pitch is going to be rolled out across meetings for a while until the film is financed and greenlit.
What does the producer do?
- I think of them as the Managing Director – the go to person for everything about the movie; the problem solver; the overseer. The producer is there from conception to delivery of this baby.
- A producer needs to give input in the creative; attract the financing and sales to your project as well as have the ability to pull the production team and cast together alongside you. And then be able to work with sales / distribution partners to get the movie out there.
- Sometimes you have a producer who is brilliant at creating a team, preparing a budget and getting the movie made – but less so when it comes to business meetings regarding complicated financial structures.
- On a smaller movie, you will have a key producer partner who is supporting everything you do – and negotiating financial deals as well as contracts for crew.
- On a larger movie, you will have more producers e.g. line producer (film budgets); executive producer (usually has some financial input); co-producer (involved in a specific aspect of production); associate producer. However, still one main producer prepared to fight for (& against) you as the need arises across the whole movie’s lifespan.
How do you show something without having the finance to make it …
- If this is a first or second feature, the producer will know it’s tough to have ‘you’ as a bankable asset for the movie. The usual distribution response is “let’s see something” i.e. show us some footage to prove that this amazing new filmmaker can actually deliver.
- This is where finding a producer partner with (hopefully) a little more experience than you can help – they know the various funding bodies; sources of finance; industry players willing to back a new filmmaker.
- If you’re new to the industry, having an experienced team around you will help get the financial and creative attention you need.
- Unless you have amazing source material or a producer who’s personally affected by the story you’re looking to tell, it’s unlikely you will get a multi million dollar producer on your micro budget movie. They might add their name to the EP list though if they like what you’re trying to achieve.
- What if you get financed and the movie is good but you don’t get festival attention? You and the producer then need to investigate ways to distribute the movie yourselves. You see … the relationship is more like a marriage than a holiday romance.
Ask friends & colleagues
- Who have they worked with that did a good job. It’s likely that you and your friends will get on with like minded people.
- Is there a producer of a similar movie – or shot in a location you need to use – who can help you based on experiences they’ve had.
- Experienced producers are busy. They will respond if they see a professional approach; a project that has themes which appeal to their sensibility; and if they feel they know a way to get this movie made
Finding a producer partner via festivals e.g. Sundance; Berlinale. At these events, filmmakers work has been read / approved i.e. a producer knows it’s worth their time meeting.
Local networking events and festivals – wherever filmmakers gather; it’s definitely a case of who you know (and trust).
When you have your screenplay; your look book; mood reel; your ideal cast list etc. start doing your own research into producers – who might ‘get’ the movie you are looking to make?
- Once you find a producer whom you like and who gets what it is that you’re trying to make, remember that filmmaking is a collaborative process. The producer will have thoughts on the script; on cast; locations; budget etc. They want to make your movie but you may have to be willing to compromise in order for that vision to get to the screen.
The producer can line up meetings; casting; finance etc – but the director is leading the team and has to inspire them that they’re on a happy ship.
- Always be polite and keep it brief – and accessible on all formats! Busy people are opening messages on their smart phones – so make sure anything you send can easily be opened and read (& doesn’t require downloading software!).
- Once you’ve grabbed their attention with the ‘short’ pitch – then you can send over the follow up materials.
- Have an agreement in writing. Finding a producer partner is the first step – having a signed agreement is key before you start working together. Agree on their involvement in the project and responsibilities towards it. Eventually you may find a producer partner with whom you develop and create your own slate of projects.