How to Become a Successful Producer: 6 Vital Tips to Stay Dry On Set
"The show must go on" Gene Kelly said to Producer, Arthur Freed as he playfully continued to sing and dance in the well gripped rain. At the time of production, Gene wasn't at his finest; he had a fever of 103 and his wool suit was shrinking from the multiple takes beneath the artificial rain. His body temperature was flashing from hot to cold, cold to hot. Yet he knew that day, what we all know when we are on set -everyone booked for the job is vital and the show cannot continue with a missing part. He understood that he was said part of something bigger than himself, so he stood up straight, hid his discomfort, put on that Don Lockwood smile and kept the show going.
"The Show Must Go On"
~Gene Curran Kelly, American dancer, actor of film, stage, and television, singer, film director, producer, and choreographer
As a Producer, there are going to be days, where more than often, you flash from hot to cold, cold to hot. Your clothes may not shrink, but your world will. Those rainy days are when you get to shine though the storm and learn how to excel at your job. Of course, not every storm can be predicted, but the below 6 vital tips will help guide you through successfully:
It's important to start the job out on the right foot. A Producer must constantly remain accessible and to continually check your emails. Time is a gift we as producers are not often allotted with and everything takes time in our industry. If a talent falls out last minute, that could take up to a day or God forbid a week to find the next right replacement. If you are not aware of changes as they come up, that is valuable time lost. Stay connected. To help you keep track of all communication notes and changes, check out Basecamp. -It is an excellent communication tool.
Along with communication, you MUST stay organized. If you have a phone call with a client or agency, write down what you spoke about, take notes, so that you have reference to recap on later if needed. Do not trust your brain to remember anything, instead write down everything. As soon as a project starts, pull up a new Call Sheet and start filling in notes from the initial meetings. A praiseworthy app worth the $9.99 is Cinema Forms. This app is your right-hand man -a must! If you don’t want to spend money on an app, check out Evernote or Trello to help with your organizational needs.
Your first production day is approaching and you now have all your t’s crossed and your i’s dotted -Great Job. You think you are prepared, but have you planned for the unseen? Make sure that you have back-ups of all documents, numbers, email chains and addresses, permits and backups for talent and crew. You never know when a flight is going to get cancelled and your DP is stuck in Bermuda or your supporting actor came down with a cold; have hard-copies of everything.
Your Call Sheet should have a set schedule for your cast and crew to follow. Time will fly, so make sure that you stick to your timeline as much as possible. This is a HUGE part of YOUR job. Don’t be nervous putting your foot down on deadlines -After all ‘Time is Money’ and money is going to be a factor in determining if this client wants to work with you again.
Continuing with time and money, the budget is the money factor that controls the production from moving or not. Make sure that you did your best to budget everything in the beginning, this will make it easier to stay within your budget during the production. Try to leave room to negotiate if something imperative does come up, otherwise learn to say “No.” – “we don’t have budget for that, let’s brainstorm to come up with another option.” To help you stay within budgets, check out these helpful apps: That’s A Wrap, Department Time Cards and Crew Time Cards
Arguably the most important part of your job, is to make everyone feel that the job is a fun and a positive one. If everything is in place, people are fed, fires are put out in a timely fashion, the budget and time are both on point, you will have a happy production. Just remember to stay calm, be patient, learn and educate and keep going with a positive attitude. Read How to be A Positive TV News Producer by Holly Edgell, Executive Producer, HOMU-TV, for a quick inside on key tips for keeping you and your team in a happy place of production.
As you are most aware, a Producers job is much more involved than these 6 tips, but if you start your foundation off right and hold to these helpful rules-of thumb, you too will be singing and dancing in the rain.
One last tip; after you hear our favorite three words, make sure to have a celebratory toast or party to follow. Everyone deserves gratitude and time to let loose, as do you.