Or, more importantly, how do you find the right producer for your film?
It’s a daunting prospect for any filmmaker, let alone for independent filmmakers who may not have a huge collection of previous box office successes with which to market themselves. And in this scenario, finding a good producer is even more important—while just about any producer may be able to get a production financed, will they be able to go the extra mile and market it successfully to the right audience?
Getting the movie made is only half the job, and getting it seen is arguably the more important half.
And of course, this is a two-way street. Simply finding a producer who you feel would be perfect for the project is no guarantee that they’ll want to get on board; as writer and director Ryan Koo puts it, “Finding a producer is like dating: you need to spend some time getting to know the other person, and you’re not going to like everyone you meet. Nor is everyone going to like you back.”
Assuming you’ve already crawled through IMDB and the like to construct a longlist of possible matches, here’s the NYFA guide to:
Finding the Right Film Producer
The operative word here is ‘right’, and ultimately, only you can decide on who qualifies for that distinction but the following tips will at least help you begin whittling down the list in search for ‘the one.’
If you’re looking to craft a movie which centers around the theme of, say, addiction and substance abuse, don’t discard any and all producers who have never tackled the topic before since it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to undertake it.
Also consider that just because a producer has worked on a number of titles similar to your own doesn’t mean they’ll want to retread the same ground again—in fact, the converse is usually true.
Finding a Kindred Spirit
Given all of the above, it’s often wise to ignore producers who have worked in similar genres or themes and instead focus on those who share the same essence (for what of a better word.) Do they draw from the same influences? Approach storytelling in a similar manner? Do the kind of work you admire as an independent filmmaker? If their previous work makes it clear that they share the same sensibilities as you when it comes to making movies, you’ve potentially got a match.
Do Your Homework
This will come naturally in the process of finding out if they appear to be on the same page as you creatively, but you’ll also want to dig a little deeper and find out where they are in their career. It’s not uncommon for new filmmakers to make the mistake of trying to contact those who have retired from the industry, and it’s also a poor use of time to reach out to someone now working on multi-million dollar productions expecting them to drop everything to work on a micro-budget movie. The same goes for most producers who are working full time for a particular studio.
Location, to a lesser extent, is also a factor for consideration—while the producer being based on the other side of the planet isn’t necessarily a locked door, it makes sense to focus your search (at least initially) to your local area.
Word of Mouth
Tying into the idea of casting your net locally, never forget the power of a personal recommendation. Proportionately speaking, most matches between directors, screenwriters, and producers are forged thanks to personal introduction and very few arise from random emails fired into the aether.
Attend Film Festivals
Don’t feel like you’ve got any contacts to hit up? Get yourself to as many film festivals and screening events as you possibly can, and that’ll soon be rectified. You’ll be surprised at how many golden opportunities arise in extremely strange ways…casually mentioning you’ve got a killer screenplay about the civil war to a key grip at an after party who then goes on to mention it to an agent who just so happens to have a client looking for a writer who’s got a killer screenplay about the civil war, et cetera.
These million-to-one occurances happen nine times out of ten in an industry as close-knit as filmmaking, so get out there and start making ripples (while being courteous to everyone you meet, given that you don’t know who may be the catalyst to turn one of those ripples into a wave.)
And most importantly of all…
Be Courteous to the Producer
As a screenwriter or director, you’ll no doubt be familiar with that dreaded line: “Oh, that’s neat! I’m something of a writer myself…will you read my screenplay?”
Effectively this is what a producer gets on a daily basis, ad nauseum. And while it is his or her job to read and select screenplays, it doesn’t negate the fact that when you email a producer you’re asking them to give their time for free.
You may have already figured out that they’re a good match for you, but you should strive to make it as easy as possible for them to do the same. A full script is industry standard, but becoming increasingly popular is the idea of a “presentation package.” This typically includes a director’s statement, mood reel, any stills or promo shots available (compiled into a ‘cookbook’), and all related contact info and social media links…and definitely make sure you’ve got a strong logline!
This generally only applies to outreach that has been previously welcomed; with unsolicited inquiries, a simple two-paragraph email explaining the movie and why you’re contacting that particular producer is preferable. No need to send the full screenplay until it’s invited.
Above all, keep your initial contact brief, to the point and free from any kind of gimmickry. Even if things fall through, if your professionalism leaves a lasting impact it may earn you a coveted recommendation.
With a bit of luck and perseverance, you’ll hopefully find a perfect match with your producer-to-be. Best of luck!
PS: Before you write a single email, be sure to get intimately familiar with what a producer actually does! Our previous guide on the topic is a great place to start your research.