Producing Film Projects As A Service – A Tough Prospect
July 25, 2008 1 Comment
Producing film projects is not always the endless task of “finding Waldo..oops, the Money”. There are many small production companies that do what’s called in the biz, “service work”. The servicing production company, located in the local area where the film is to be shot, is skilled in finding the best local crew, locations, equipment deals, their State/Provincial tax incentive rebates, a local casting director, etc. This practice allows a local producer, and a small staff, to earn an income in a field which they love, while they are developing their own projects. However, service work comes with a conflicting set of purposes – who is really in charge, the financiers or the independent film producer?
Here’s how it goes. The financiers want to make a film with a certain “bottom line” based on their projections of that particular film’s income earning capability. Of course, the financiers want a creatively sparkling film, but primarily to earn income, not as an art form. Whereas the independent film producer has a different purpose to create a BIG effect on the viewing public – something that will change a viewer’s lfe. The independent film producer does want to make money, but that’s really a secondary purpose. Now you, as a service production company, are hired by the finaciers, or at the VERY least, approved by the financiers. So… who’s really the boss? Where is the cutoff line between the indpendent film producer’s decisions and the financiers decisions? When do you, as a serivcing production company, say NO, or say YES, and don’t get fired by one of your two masters?
A typical case of being a service company is like this:
You’re working like blazes on someone else’s script, with (most times) very heavy pressure from the financiers to control costs. Your budgeting and cost reports, your daily cell phone calls, are cross checked and questioned with a demand for detail that leaves you invalidated and exhausted. Meanwhile, back on the set if you rein in their favorite, but costly, favorite shots, the independent producer, and his creative team (writer, director, dir of photography, etc) become suspicious that you have joined the ‘blue suits’ and aren’t caring enough about their project.
That sets the scene for a conflict that makes service work in the film business a very tough prospect.
The only solution is to very good at what you do, and communicate like hell from the very first phone call – never hold any bad news back and never kid the creative team into believing that the money will be “found somehow”. If you’re new to the business, check out a series of free articles that I have written about the MAKING IT IN THE FILM BUSINESS. Go to http://www.talkfilm.biz and sign up.