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In Praise of the Movie Producer
by Spotlight Mike

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What the public think Producers are

What the public think Producers are

What do you think of when someone says movie producer? You may conjure up the image of R.K. Maroon, the big fat cat in an impossibly cavernous office, sitting behind a big desk smoking a big cigar, making or breaking the careers of young hopefuls, just begging for a break.

Or, in a more recent example, you may think of Bennet Sinclair, the sleazy movie producer, who thinks the world is his toilet and he can do his business whenever he pleases, to whomever he pleases.

Then there's Max Bialystock, existing from hand-to-mouth, scraping every single cent he can beg, borrow, or steal to fulfill the dream of his world-famous, award winning production.

While I'm sure that there are examples and combinations of all those caricatures in the Entertainment Business, the example I've come across in my experience here on the Left Coast is Max Bialystock , probably not to the extreme as portrayed in The PRODUCERS, but nonetheless, the working slob, doing whatever they can to get their movie done, having day jobs to pay the bills, taking care of their families, and whenever they have access to the equipment and few bucks, shooting scene by scene the miracle we all call the Saturday Night Out.

It's a crappy job. The director gets all the credit for creating an artform, the actors get all the accolades for bringing the dream to life, even the production crew, all the way down to the production assistants (no insult intended), get their piece of the adulation pie. Meanwhile, the producer is, well, producing. They are the ones to make sure there's film (or in today's technology, memory cards)
I'm A Producer!

I'm A Producer!
in the cameras, the costumes have been acquired, and to quote a recent comic about Barack Obama, they even have to bring the expletive-deleted donuts!

In the independent film world, the producer is the first line of reality between the dream and the multiplex. The writer may create the world, but the producer is the technician to make it work. The added bonus, if you can call it that, is that the producer usually IS the writer. And the director. And the costumer. And the cameraman. And sometimes even the actor. Multi-million dollar budgets? Most independent producers would salivate at the possibility of a multi-THOUSAND dollar budget.

So where does the money come from? Using the Max Bialystock template again, although it usually doesn't come from little old ladies, funding does come from friends, family, credit cards, and supporters that believe in your dream. You, as a contributor in fact, buy a stake in making the dream a reality. Contributions, sometimes as small as Twenty-Five bucks can get you a stake in a movie. Internet sites like indiegogo are an excellent venue for struggling movie makers to guide potential cinema patrons to peruse the projects that could use some help. Look around Facebook also. Independent producers have created their own pages hawking their movie projects and guiding you to their contribution sites. A personal friend of mine, Michael Bonomo, is producing a full length version of his noted short, ASSASSINS,
What the skeptic think Producers do

What the skeptic think Producers do
and a couple other of his projects coming down the pike. With the right contribution, a patron could get a credit in a movie, all the way up to an Executive Producer credit, if you have the bucks.

Other filmmakers, Diana Terranova, Scott Wheeler, Mike O'Dea, Jose Montesinos, Frank T. Ziede, and a host of others are cranking out some decent storytelling, all on a shoestring. Most could use some help in one form or another. Cash is the main way to help, but others could use alternative types of help. Lending your talents as an extra or on the crew, or even a Production Assistant for these types of movies is not only a great learning experience, but is a way to get "your foot in the door." Example:
Jon Peters, producer of A STAR IS BORN, BATMAN, FLASHDANCE, and a few dozen other Hollywood movies, started as a little boy, an extra, pulling a donkey across the Red Sea in the 1956 Cecille B. DeMille's blockbuster and one of the first remakes, The TEN COMMANDMENTS. For short time, he was hairdresser for Barbra Streisand. One thing lead to another, and now he is the producer of such million-dollar blockbusters like WILD WILD WEST, SUPERMAN RETURNS, and the upcoming MAN of STEEL.

The poster child of the independent movie producers George Romero, wrote, directed and produced a low-budget horror film, using his friends in the Pittsburgh area as actors, shooting on nights and weekends, because his cast had real jobs to feed their families. Today, NIGHT oft he LIVING DEAD is virtually an
What Producers Think They Do

What Producers Think They Do
industry unto itself, creating a new genre, the zombie movie, and has to date grossed over $300,000,000. Not bad for a cheapo black-and-white movie shot on a $114,000 budget.

Drawing only from what I've learned for previous experience and speaking with many Entertainment types out here, I'm sure there are huge, gaping holes in the description of the life of a movie producer. So if any producer would like to chime in, even if it's to comment that this article is as factual as a politician's campaign promises, I'd love your feedback.

So, Max, though a comic caricature of the movie producer, you hold the mirror up to the would-be dream makers, and what it really takes to make the dream come true. Though not always realizing the Great American Dream (
Ed Wood, for example, writer, producer and director of PLAN 9 from OUTER SPACE, touted as the Worst Movie Ever Made, died homeless and penniless at the age of 54), the movie producer will always remain the unsung hero in the Entertainment World, never quite gaining the fame and adulation of the Executive Producer (see George Lucas or Steven Spielberg), but nonetheless, having the satisfaction of getting the dream done, through their own sweat.


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Mar 7, 2012 10:58 AM
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Good column, Mike. I never quite knew exactly what a producer did.

Now if I can just figure out what that pesky cinematographer does...
Mike Thomas
Mar 7, 2012 1:51 PM
[X] delete
That's easy, Tim - he's the cameraman supervisor.

Why he needs a supervisor is beyond me, unless it's a Union Criteria...

Thanks for reading my column!

Mar 11, 2012 3:37 PM
[X] delete
Behind the cameras means there'll be actors in front of the cameras. All the details, large and small, must be attended to inclding making sure the money doesn't run out. Informative as usual, Mike.
Mike Thomas
Mar 11, 2012 4:12 PM
[X] delete
Thanks, Jon.

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Every other Wednesday

Until I find my footing, I'd like to vent on the state of today's movies. I will occasionally praise a movie that piques my fancy. But it's a whole lot more fun railing against a person's work who makes more money on a single project than I would make if I lived 500 years. Oh, I will usually make observations on movies rather than films. The difference? Films are critically acclaimed, while movies are just darned good fun.

Other Columns
Other columns by Spotlight Mike:

Adventures in WonderCon

The Life of a Film Reviewer



The Real Unsung Heroes

All Columns

Spotlight Mike
Born in the Fifties with an extreme phobia for movies in general, I became obsessed with movies when I broke that phobia with the first movie I actually enjoyed, “The Ten Commandments.” I particularly like the kind of movie where you can put your brain on hold. I get enough reality and drama in my everyday life; I refuse to pay someone to subject me to the same.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Spotlight Mike by clicking here.

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