Producers are generally not household names. In fact, name the executive producers of the 5 highest grossing films of all time. No, nothing? Not surprising, since we as film watchers have never been expected to know who these particular folks are. However, do you know that if not for producers, and most notably, executive producers, you would not be able to watch your favorite films? Without them, you would not watch any films, or television, or videos on YouTube. So, exactly who are producers and why is their role in the filmmaking process so vital?
A producers job first and foremost is to wrangle the cast and crew of a film together so that it can be made. Years, months, weeks, and hours are spent talking with agents, guilds, lawyers, managers, wives, sons, daughters, great-great uncles… anyone with access to a particular talent, location, writer, etc. The majority of the producer’s time is spent taking baby aspirin to ensure their chest does not explode with the frustration of finding out that actor “A” will not do their film unless director “A” is hired and financiers “A”, “B”, “C” are putting up enough money to cover their on set expenses.
If and when all of the parts come together, then it is the producer’s job to make sure that everyone actually gets what they were promised as well as making sure that everyone gets along. If a producer is working for a studio and it is the studio’s money at stake, the producer can look forward to sleepless nights, extended arguments, half-baked assurances, in-fighting among other producers, and protecting their film as if it were the answer to the existence of a god.
When the film is finished, when all of the sweat and blood have permanently stained the producer’s psyche, then it is time to introduce the completed project to the public. Mind you, before we ever get to see a second of the completed film, the producer has had to subject the film to pre-screenings with audiences, cuts made by executives (if in a studio setting), cuts “suggested” by the talent, mixing and re-mixing, hour upon hour of toiling over a scene where the lead actress cannot quite nail her line which is simply one word “yes”. So, the film comes out and now the real work begins. If the film is a hit, the talent and directors take the credit. If the film misses, well, the producer is looked at as the goat. Their name is mentioned in angered tones (mostly to do with negative costs), they are forced to lick their wounds in public as critics, audiences, and sometimes, even their own cast and crew, pass the blame on to them.
So, why become a producer? More important, why would anyone choose to do this for a career? The answer is simple for those that do it, more complicated and insane to those looking at it from the outside.
For me, the rush of putting together a creative group of people to accomplish a seemingly impossible goal, the time spent making money stretch, the race to complete the film on a budget or risk the loss of the film completely, the feeling when it is all done and I can look at the project and feel a sense of complete euphoria… this is why I do it. Some of it is ego, some of it is masochistic need, some of it is rage to prove something to myself and others who never believed. Most of it, though, is the desire to entertain people. Creating something that will last long beyond my lifetime and will continue to put smiles, tears, fear, and excitement in people’s lives.
Yeah, it is worth it and for producers, it is always worth it. By the way, the producers of the Top 5 grossing films of all time are as follows:
“Avatar” – Jon Landau, James Cameron, Laeta Kalogridis, Colin Wilson “Titanic” – Jon Landau, James Cameron, Rae Sanchini “Marvel’s The Avengers” – Victoria Alonso, Jon Favreau, Louis D’Esposito, Kevin Feige, Alan Fine, Jeremy Latchman, Stan Lee, Patricia Whitcher “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows 2” – David Barron, David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, Lionel Wigram “Frozen” – Peter Del Vecho, John Lasseter, Aimee Scribner