Beyonce once said, “It takes a true bad ass to run shit.” But the truth is, Beyonce never said that. And I am not a true bad ass. But the good news is after my first experience as a producer for the student short film, On The Run, I’m 5% there.
People are often like, “What even is a producer? What does a producer do?” Well, well, well. Step into my office.
A producer oversees the creative and business aspects of the production. They help steer the film from it’s conception to it’s completion. They work behind the scenes. They handle the day to day operations, and act as the point of contact for the film. Sometimes I was out and about running errands. Sometimes I was at a desk typing and scribbling away. Sometimes I held stuff on set. Sometimes I went to the car or to the store to get food or coffee or a prop we forgot. A lot of times, I was making calls and talking to people and convincing and asking and bribing (legally, of course) and scheduling and preparing.
I saw a lot more documents than I ever wanted to see, dealt with more people than I thought I’d ever have to, and got really good at professional-sounding emails and a grown-up phone voice. I was the organizer, the solver, and the handler. I wore whatever hat I was handed, whenever and wherever. But my main job was to bring a team together, create an environment where that team could flourish, and then let my team do their job. And that’s how it all happened.
Being a producer is about being a little bit of reckless, and a lot bit of graceful. It’s busy, and then slow. It’s boring, then exhilarating. And like any job, it has it’s ups and downs.
The cool thing about any job in any field is that when it comes down to it, we all essentially have the same goal: to get the job done. Being a producer taught me about the ins and outs of filmmaking and business, but it also taught me about life and professionalism on a larger and more universal scale. Here are some things I learned along the way.
1. Your first option should never be your only option.
2. Your first option is often not your best option.
3. Never be afraid to ask. Just spit it out. Ask ask ask, or you will never know.
4. People are more kind and willing to give than you realize.
5. People are also hard to deal with.*
6. Negotiate. Everything is a balance.
7. Risk is a wonderful, terrifying, very important thing. Befriend it.
8. (See 7) Realize that when you take risks, shit will most definitely hit the fan. Know that in advance. Be okay with it. Prepare for any and every outcome. Handle with grace and care.
9. Often, things don’t go as planned.
10. (See 9) Often, it’s a blessing in disguise.
11. Rely on your team. They are your allies, your bloodline, your heartbeat, your everything.
12. Know you can’t do it alone.
13. Know you will have to do some things alone.
14. Dance parties are important. (Especially in parking lots at 3am)
15. A team that bonds together is a team that stays together.
16. Learn how individuals on your team react and respond. Tailor the delivery of your compliments and critiques to each person. Think about how your words will best be received.
17. You don’t have to be an asshole to get things done.
18. If you don’t like something, say so.
19. If you do like something, say so.
20. Days and nights will get long. People will get tired. People will be stressed. Things will be said. Feelings will get hurt.
21. “Don’t take it personal” is easier said than done. But really—don’t take it personal. You can’t afford to. There is no time to sit and toil over it. Keep moving.
22. Don’t just communicate, communicate well. Be clear. Be concise. Be transparent. With everyone. Always.
23. Sometimes you will feel useless. And it’s not anyone else’s job to make you feel otherwise, which sucks. What you choose to do about it is up to you.
24. Starting early is never early enough. Start earlier.
25. You will probably cry.
26. You will definitely laugh.
27. You will definitely eat a lot of food. And consume more sugar than you ever thought you would, or could.
28. But don’t chug two Coca-colas back to back after 1am. Seriously.
29. No one wants to be the one to crack down, but someone has to be the one to crack down, and when you are the one to crack down, people will get upset. You have to learn how to get over that super quick.
30. You will mess up.
31. (See 30) Sometimes you can fix it. Sometimes you can’t.*
32. (See 31) It will feel like it’s the end of the world, but it’s not. I promise.
33. When you are forced to choose between your pride or the project—choose your project. Always.
34. Things will get broken, both literally and figuratively. Your job is to put the pieces together, but know that sometimes you will have to pick the pieces up, too.
35. Prioritize the right things. Think smart. Work smart.
36. If you come to the table with a problem, don’t forget to bring a solution.
37. Always, always, always give thanks, appreciation, and love. Constantly, genuinely, and graciously.
*Take tylenol as necessary. Or a shot of whiskey.
As a person who fell in love with filmmaking after making Youtube videos at a young age, I am used to having creative control. I have always been the one to conceive the idea, execute the idea, and edit the idea. But to step back and orchestrate a team was different. I had to trust that my team could do the job and carry out the vision. And they did.
Making a student film while juggling the actual task of being an student, an employee, and a real life semi-functioning human being with social and physical needs is hard. Creative work is draining, but rewarding and beautiful, and that’s why we do it. Having a big vision is a big task. It’s not easy. It’s not predictable. I was not perfect. I did good. I did bad. I messed up along way. But that’s the extraordinary part about this and about life. You learn as you go, and put the lessons learned under your belt for next time.
This post is dedicated to my incredible, wonderful, and hilarious team members of Track 02 productions. Becca, Wells, and Tyler—I love you!