The Director & Producer
Ask the students at almost any film school what role they want to play in the industry and 70% of them will say Director, 20% will say Director of Photography, the 7% who are well dressed and smart will say Producer, and the remaining more realistic group will name some other position.
To a large extent it’s because it takes a while to actually understand what a Director and a Producer do, and how in many cases these roles will cross over, or also include Writer, Editor and others. This is especially true outside of the feature film industry, where the words Director and Producer are often combined into just Producer – or merged into some new beast, like the Preditor (Producer, Director and Editor). I was amazingly fortunate enough to start out as a Director in broadcast film and then long form advertising film, working under Producers who told me where to be and what to do during those formative years. But as soon as I started including corporate and non-broadcast work in my portfolio I became that single Producer/Director character.
The change was a fascinating one because all of a sudden you were responsible for everything – and had to not only know when you need a crane for a shot, but how to justify the cost, then work out an alternative solution when the numbers didn’t add up. After twenty years or so in this multiple personality place I have pretty much worked out the answer to being a good Director/Producer:
- Surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and aren’t afraid to “improve” your performance.
- Try to do several of the key roles you are qualified for yourself so the clarity of purpose of the piece is never lost in translation.
- Be prepared to take no more than a reasonable pay check yourself in order to put as much as possible into the production.
- Oh yes, and have a very understanding wife!
At their bare bones, the two roles are relatively straightforward – the Producer deals with money and the Director deals with getting the project onto media that can be edited to create the final piece. The Director’s Guild and Producer’s Guild have it down pat
According to the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), a director “contributes to all creative elements relating to the making of a motion picture and participates in molding and integrating them into one dramatic and aesthetic whole.”
- Participate in selecting cast and other creative personnel
- Approve rights to third parties
- Approve script, locations, set designs, and shooting schedules
- Recommend script changes
- Direct the film
- Help select the second unit director
- Consult with the second unit director about shooting second unit photography
- Review unedited footage (also known as “dailies”)
- View the editor’s assembly (also known as an editor’s “rough cut”)
- Supervise the editor’s first cut
- Instruct editor to make changes necessary for the director’s cut
- Prepare the director’s cut
- Consult throughout post-production
- Work on the last version of the film before negative cutting and dubbing
- Direct dialogue replacement (also known as “looping”) and narration
- Participates in spotting and dubbing of sound and music
- Participate in the rating of the film by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)
- Participate in previews of the film before it’s widely released
- Consult on the content of the DVD release
Naturally, many of these tasks are done in consultation with other people. For instance, directors and producers often share these tasks. That said, what are some of a producer’s major tasks?
According to the Producers Guild of America (PGA), a producer is the person who bears most of the responsibility for a film’s production. In other words, the producer has significant decision-making authority over all phases of a film’s production.
- Conceive of the premise of the production
- Select the writer
- Secure the necessary rights and financing
- Supervise the development process
- Select the director, co-producer, cinematographer, unit production manager, production designer
- Select principal cast
- Participate in location scouting
- Approve the final shooting script, production schedule and budget
- Supervise daily operations of the producing team
- Provide on-set consultation with the director and other creative personnel
- Approve cost reports
- Consult with the editor, director, composer and visual effects staff
- Consult with creative and financial personnel
- Participate in marketing and distribution
Or, as Shekhar Kapur put it very nicely:
- “As a director, my job is to spend money, and the producer’s is to save money.”
On many if not most projects that CLAi are involved with there is rarely a need or desire to split the two roles up: in the interests of having a single minded clarity on the project, and in squeezing every last penny of the budget into the actual production. And because we don’t play any part in raising production funding or in selling a final piece, these key parts of a Producer’s role aren’t needed, which makes it much easier to combine the roles.
I produce almost all of the projects we create under the CLAi banner, putting together the right team and talent, managing the budget, handling our clients, and generally cracking the whip to keep everyone on time and on track. In this role I also have the heavy responsibility of seeing beyond the detail and keeping the big picture on track. Usually I work with a production manager and/or a production assistant to help keep everything on track and add other perspectives.
As a director I bring some 30 years of experience in the film, broadcast, advertising and corporate worlds to every project. In many cases, particularly where budget is very tight, I will write the script or the treatment for the script, come up with the design and styling, work with the client and producer on casting, direct crew and cast on location or in the studio during the shoot phase in collaboration with the Director of Photography and Lighting Director, and then often oversee the editing, sound design and color grading of the project to master.
Being a dedicated multi-tasker and detail freak I may also combine roles where this makes creative and financial sense I will, for example, both direct and act as cinematographer, and/or direct, edit and color correct – but this only works well in collaboration with a client/producer with a very focussed vision… someone who can step back from a project and see how all of the details fit into the big picture.