Discussing budget, resume, responsibilities, and timing isn’t enough to set proper expectations.
Producers don’t really interview for jobs. We submit for them, but the initial discussions are incredibly fluid and difficult to nail down if the team is a good match. But, I’m noticing in most of my meetings that we’re often skipping a question that could be seen as ancillary instead of foundational. Goal setting is the most important way to start a filmmaking-to-producer collaboration.
What is the director’s goal? Is this is a passion project, no need for accolades as long as the vision is realized? Is this just a pay day? Is this a calling card or even a stepping stone? Everyone needs to know this up front. The director needs the power to helm the ship independently, but should be informed if there are ulterior motives for the other above the line partners. The director needs to express what is or isn’t negotiable for an incoming producer to know where to focus the most effort. And also to assess if the producer is equipped or prepared for that particular journey. Every film has its own path, but all the partners need to be pretty close to the same path to move forward.
What is the financier’s goal? Is it the prestige of certain festival or theatrical standards that set them apart from their peers? Is there a financial goal? Awards? Testing a team for a bigger project? All decisions will be filtered through these types of goals and the producer should genuinely assess whether or not they think these are complimentary to the director or in antithesis to the director’s goals.
What are the producer’s goals? If it is about a rewarding experience or seeing the film through, put those aside and get some more concrete goals on file for these first few meetings. Hear the director and financier out FIRST and then the producer needs to assess if these are folded into their own goals or if this isn’t the right project on which to collaborate. I have my own goals with each project, they need to be in line with the director AND the financier, otherwise we’re headed for a contentious few years.
If these goals are not communicated clearly and possibly adjusted several times throughout the production process, then no one will be happy. But the converse is true, too! If these goals ARE communicated often, then everyone is on track to be happy with the experience no matter the outcome. Setting objectives can often feel like achievements that need to be met in order to continue having a functioning working relationship, but goal setting gives the impression that we are always aiming towards true North and will be flexible about how those goals are measured. Measuring those goals may change as the project progresses. That’s a better way to assess, trending instead of achievements.
What other foundational concepts need to be discussed in the first few meetings? Let me know.