DO YOU KNOW THE INDUSTRY AS WELL AS YOU THINK?
The know-how to approach a producer
When as a creator, whether screenwriter or a director, you show your idea to a producer, are you sure you know how to do it? How to talk to them? How to present yourself? How should you take their assessment? I get the impression that the majority of people don’t know or are a bit lost when it comes on how to best approach them. I stand by a precept: Know your industry, and that includes understanding production.
As said previously, the luck I have of being with Filmarket Hub is that it forces me to get to know people extremely interested in the audiovisual sector daily. One day I’m talking with a producer and his screening success, next to a screenwriter and the strategies to steer his or her script. I’m a procuress, a matchmaker to breach both sides and in the last few years, I’ve noticed that in our industry many professionals don’t know each other. There is no clear communication between both sides. An oximoron on itslef, as without one, the other cannot exist.
Things that as a creator, you should know about the industry.
1. You can’t put all producers in the same basket. There is a tendency to generalize and equate the production and its professionals to a hike through Mordor. That is a major mistake to commit as a creative, first because it blocks the creator and doesn’t allow the development of the project. We can’t deny that there are producers that shouldn’t exercise the profession, and then there are others who to get out of situations say the wrong thing, and end with creators turning their backs on them. However, repeating what most people say without making an effort to think critically, doesn’t do any good. One thing is the people exercising a profession badly and another very different is the exercise of the profession. I want to make it clear that when I say “know your industry” I’m talking about the profession and not the individual case-study. I believe it is important to stress this point as it will help creatives get another perspective. The conduct of a few does not condition the other professionals. In Spain it is believed that writers can’t write stories other than those about the civil war, is this true? You have to work out the criteria and learn to separate things.
2. Know the production process. Once it is understood that one producer does not represent all the producers, it is necessary to take the time to understand what exercises entail the production process. How does it work? What are the processes, risks and responsibilities that the producer assumes when taking a script? What are the steps to take to turn my script into a film project? How are films financed? What rights does the producer assume? How do you pay for a movie? Why do you choose some stories and not others? The easy and ill-focused answer, “ ’cause they’re only interested in money” hides a mouch more complex reality than it seems and is impossible to explain in a single paragraph. We are talking about many administrative processes and production values that have to be aligned to give a green light to production or not.
3. Do not underestimate funding. It is a mistake to think that when a person or institution with capital does not contribute the same as others did, they are “bad”. I will insist on the concept of criteria and not be swayed by what is said by the majority. A script or a project has to work on capital, earn it because that’s what the idea deserves. This “whatever attitude” devalues the idea, be careful here. So a producer needs to know where the capital is and how to sell that script to get it. That doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to do it. It may seem that some are better off than others, but the reality is that seeking funding is the most difficult and ungrateful task of all. Not to mention the great responsibility this entails for the producer. Within the script and funding selection process, a series of assessments and small nuances occur between each type of funding that a producer may have in mind but a creative one may not. By simple logic, just as a producer does not specialize in writing the second act of a script with interlaced plots through which we can appreciate a transformation of the main character, the screenwriter knows little about how much money is required to recreate that second act, which suppliers could be used, how much technical equipment has to be hired, the impact that that second act will have on the audience so that you could surely get as many copies in cinemas, or as best the distributor advises, which will allow such several spectators to accumulate the necessary money at the box office to amortize that second act. Movies have to pay off. This process, which is much more complicated and lengthy than what I’m saying here, is what the producer has to do when choosing a script.
So, before you start up such a company and risk your reputation, your company and your assets, you simply want to look for an idea that is viable and that you like.
4. The funding has to be won. Many will say “Obvious”. But it is not so obvious. We get projects with budgets of 1.5 or 3 million euros that submit to our platform with packaging works composed of: an explanatory dossier of a few pages, a script in their third version and without any audiovisual or photographic work. It changes a lot the perception of a project when it comes accompanied by a complete biography of the characters, their intentions, their relationship with the story. A script with more versions transmits more confidence than one with few and a script that has passed through other hands, analysts and experts, has less risk factor.
5. It is NOT someone else’s fault. The fault for a script not succeeding is the same creator. Neither the producer nor the distributor nor the network wanted to invest. On the other hand, it is important to understand that:
- The producer who does not select a film is not a bad default producer.
- The public who does not go to the cinema to watch the film is not because they have bad taste or are ignorant by default.
- A film that is not successful at the box office is not a bad film by default.
Production and distribution may have been misjudged. And, pay attention:
- There are bad producers
- There are very complicated audiences
- Bad films exist.
There is everything in our industry, you just need to have criteria! And when I say that the fault lies in the creator I say it for point 6:
6. Don’t sell your script to the wrong producer. Finally, it is important to bear in mind that not all producers will accept and want the creative idea in the same way. This is why it is always advisable to do an investigation first. It is not necessary to stay only with the producers around. Maybe the opportunity is not there, why not try in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, France, UK?
I would like to invite all creators to join a recreational activity that I propose. Have a coffee with the producer (and invite him, man! That will be the sea of good). But above all, when they do, they try to establish true and honest communication, without trying to sell anything to you, to discover for themselves how production works. This will help them develop a different perspective and generate it for the producer as well. Get out of those trenches you’re in and remember, wars weren’t won from the trenches. They were won by fighting on the field and knowing the opponent’s strategies.
CEO & Founder de Filmarket Hub