How to Produce Movies for Television
"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
-- Sir Winston Churchill
There are three crucial phases of film production: 1.) Development/
Pre Production Phase; 2.) Production Phase; 3.) Post-Production Phase.
Successful producers are, by definition, optimists. They have to be in order to survive "development hell." The journey from development to pre-production is a long haul. A director-friend once told us that "I know a movie is real when the trucks drive in and the cameras start rolling. Until the first day of Principal Photography, don't take anything for granted."
Hands-on producers are multi-task people. They understand that it's all in the pre-production. The final outcome of a movie is reflected by how well the pre-production process has been put in motion.
During the development through the pre-production stage the producer is responsible for the following tasks:
Selecting and sometimes conceiving the material upon which the production is based.
Searching for and hiring the best possible writer(s) for the project.
Securing underlying rights and/or all other rights in order to legally move forward in developing and producing the project.
Supervising and overseeing all phases of the development process, including but not limited to step deals which may include story outlines; treatments, and screenplays or teleplays.
Serving as the primary point of contact on behalf of management or the funding source.
Selecting the Unit Production Manager (UPM); director, principal cast.
Supervising the preparation of the preliminary budget.
Selecting the production designer.
Selecting the cinematographer and editor in conjunction with the director.
Approving and signing-off on the final shooting schedule, the final budget, and the final shooting script.
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2.) PRODUCTION PHASE
During production, the producer is involved in the following tasks:
Overseeing and approving deals for the principal components of the production.
Supervising the unit production manager.
In-person consultation with the director.
In-person consultation with the principal cast members.
In-person consultation with the production designer.
Selects the composer (often in conjunction with the director of the film).
In-person consultation on set design, set dressing, locations and props.
In-person consultation on visual and mechanical effects (wherever applicable).
In-person consultation on wardrobe, make-up and hair.
Manages and approves the weekly cost report.
Supervises "on-set" and on a regular basis the day-to-day operation of the shooting company and all talent and crafts.
Supervises "on location" the operations of the location shoot and of talent and crafts.
Screens the "daillies"/"rushes" and provides in-person consultation with the director and editor.
3.) POST-PRODUCTION PHASE
Provides in-person consultation with the editor.
Views and appraises the director's cut.
Participates in-person in the attainment and approval of the final cut.
Provides in-person consultation with the composer.
Supervises the music recording sessions.
Supervises the re-recording sessions.
Supervises the titles and opticals process.
Provides in-person consultation on the answer print or edited master.
Provides in-person consultation on marketing plan and materials.
Provides in-person consultation on the plan of distribution/exploitation.
Participates in-person in the publicity process including interviews and "phoners."
Participates in-person in the exploitation of the production in ancillary markets.
"Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours
to win or lose."
-- Lyndon B. Johnson
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Responsible producers realize how important it is to focus on the day-to-day operations while at the same time never losing sight of the fact that "tomorrow" always hangs in the balance. It is crucial for producers to embrace the philosophy that "it's all in the pre-production."
Next week we'll examine how producers interact during the Pre-Production, Production, and Post-Production phases of shooting a television series.