Many people do not know the difference between a movie producer and a film director. They think they are the same thing. In some cases, they are the same person. In most cases, they are not, and it's actually the movie producer who ends up choosing and hiring the director.
Role of a Movie Producer
The producer is the person who puts everything together in the film. They are the one who pretty much does all the leg work and manages the entire filmmaking process. They pick the screenplay they want to use, they hire the actors and the director. They are in charge of developing a movie concept into a finished product.
The Executive Producer is the person who puts up the money for the film. They are someone that you need to know or have if you are producing a film. They will usually put up the money in exchange for a cut of the final production. Some executive producers do very well in this investment field. Some films end up grossing a huge box office draw and are made on very tight budget. This can end up making quite a bit of money for an executive producer.
Then there are executive producers who take a bath when they finance a picture that promises to be a success but turns out to be a bomb, despite staring box office draws. Everyone has been in the business for a long time and should know better, but end up producing bombs that are still stinking up Hollywood to this day.
Just Because You Were a Beatle Doesn't Mean You Make Good Movies
"Shanghai Surprise" with Madonna and Sean Penn, when they were a couple, was produced by late Beatle George Harrison's film company and went on to lose millions for all involved.
Sean Penn, a brilliant actor, survived the ordeal and ended up becoming a noted director and producer in his own right. Madonna kept getting hired for movies (Evita) until it became apparent that she was what is known as "box office poison" and ended up concentrating on other endeavors. Harrison's production company, which had found some success with some Monty Python films, went kaput.
When the Academy Award, which are the ultimate film prize for anyone who is anyone in Hollywood, for best picture is announced, the person who accepts the award is the producer of the film. Most often, the director usually wins the best director, but not always. There have been many recent cases where the best direction award was received by someone other than the person who directed the best picture.
How to Succeed as a Hollywood Producer
If you are going to act as your own film producer, you are going to have to understand something about film making as well as camera angles and direction. You should also consider getting someone to help finance your project, if you can manage this. As they say, good luck.
You are in charge of the entire film and have to keep the peace between the stars and the director who are often butting heads. The actors will have an idea that a scene should be shot a certain way and the director will insist that it is shot his way. The stars, depending on their clout, will storm off the set. The director may quit.
The movie "Tombstone" is an example of a film that was very successful and entertaining. It is considered to be one of the best westerns ever made. They went through 7 directors to make this film as no one could seem to get along. Added to the angst of the film was the fact that Kevin Costner, king of the three hour long epics, was filming "Wyatt Earp" at the same time. Rumor has it that Kurt Russell, a consummate professional who portrayed Earp in "Tombstone" and who has been acting since he was a child, held the film together. "Tombstone" opened on Christmas Day, one of the most popular days of the year for openings, was critically acclaimed and grossed far more than Costner's "Wyatt Earp" which turned out to be not as bad as "Waterworld" or "The Postman," but not the second strike of lightening that Costner hoped would happen after "Dances With Wolves."
Golden Age of Hollywood Filmmaking
In the early days of Hollywood, there was a very strict code as to who were the producers, who were the directors, who were the actors, etc. Back in what is known as Hollywood's Golden Age, the heads of the studio were like lords of the manor.
Actors, directors and producers had contracts with the studio which were usually very strict. The studio virtually owned the actors and would often lend them to other studios in exchange for an actor that the other studio owned. The actors had no choice as to what vehicle they would play in. If they refused a part, they were in violation of their contract. Bette Davis is one who frequently challenged the studio when she was under contract.
In exchange for being owned by the studio, the actors got their personal lives protected from nosy reporters. We think that the Enquirer and other tabloids are horrible now for printing private stories of the celebrities. They are like puppy dogs compared to how the gossip columnists used to print their stories about celebrities.
Two of the most feared and loved (depending on which side of them you were on) were Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. But they could only go so far with insinuations against stars who had drug problems, marital problems or were degenerates. Studio heads were very powerful and often paid to hush up problems of their top players.
Many people feel that the stars today who often make the tabloids, like Justin Bieber, are degenerates when compared to the grace and style of the stars of the 1930s through the 1950s. But people like Joan Crawford, Errol Flynn and a few others made Bieber look like a girl scout. You just never heard about it because their privacy was protected by the clout of the studio heads.
The studio system started coming apart in the 1950s. Today, stars are not "under contract" with studios. They often play the part of film director and movie producer and even put up the money for their own films. Stars like Tom Cruise paved the way for actors to ask for a percentage of the gross of the box office in addition to their usual salary. Many stars do this today which is why you will see them touting their films to the public.
So You Wanna Make Movie Magic?
If you are going to produce a movie, you have to understand the history of movie production and how it works. You should know something about direction, sets and camera angles as well as how to deal with people and finances. You will have a budget and will want to keep everything under the budget.
The job of the producer, during pre-production will be to hire the cast and get everything organized for the shooting of the picture. You should understand how the screenplay will be shot, how long it will take and how much everything is going to cost. You also need to have a deadline as to when the production will be complete.
You should have an idea of when the production will be completed by how much footage for the movie you want to film each day. Each time you film, you will want to look at the footage and see if it is a "print." In the film industry, each scene is often filmed several times before it is considered a "print." This is what the audience will see. It is up to the director which scenes are considered worthy of being called "prints."
The job of a film producer doesn't end with the final cut. Once you've nurtured a movie concept into final film, it will also be your job as the movie producer to market, promote and eventually make money from the distribution