Getting Acquainted with Producers and Directors

There's no business like show business. But show business, like any business, depends on people. And two of the most important types of people that you'll meet in the film and television business are producers and directors.

Producers: The champions of every project

Show business is full of great ideas, but nothing happens until a producer takes the initiative to turn a good idea into a finished product. Producers are responsible for guiding a project from a raw idea or script to a finished film, play, TV show, or commercial. Producers spend the most time on a project and often risk losing money or their reputation if the project never gets completed (or gets completed poorly). So the overriding goal of a producer is to create a quality product that's both marketable and profitable as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

Basically, producers do the following:

  • Search for and obtain the rights to a story or script that has the potential to be both interesting and profitable.
  • Get money to finance the project. (The money can come from a studio, a production company, individual investors, the producer's own bank account, or wherever the producer can get it.)
  • Hire a director and writer to work on the project.
  • Audition actors and ultimately help decide which actors to cast.
  • Oversee the filming, taping, or rehearsals of a film, TV show, play, or commercial.
  • Supervise the editing of the project.
  • Work with studios or distribution companies to market and distribute a project.

Producers also have the less than enviable job of soothing frayed egos and dealing with problems that may occur between the director and stars on the set. When directors and stars can't agree on the way a project is developing, one or both of them may threaten to walk out of the project (or actually do it), citing creative differences. Sometimes, the producer has to replace the director or star, and sometimes, the producer can convince the warring parties to stick together long enough to finish the project (and hopefully do a great job despite any professional or personal disagreements between them).

Until you're a big star, you may work on a project without ever talking to the producer. When you're on a set and you have a problem, talk to the line producer or one of the line producer's assistants. While the producer takes care of the overall details of finishing a project, a line producer worries about the day-to-day details of getting a project completed, such as telling you what time to return to the set the next day and helping you with any problems involving your costume.

Directors: The bosses on the set

After the producer, the director is usually the second most powerful person involved with a project. Directors typically do the following:

  • Help the casting director decide which actors to hire for the major roles
  • Control the creative aspects of the set, including lighting, background design, and camera angles
  • Work with the actors on a daily basis to shoot the various scenes inthe script
  • Polish the final film prior to its official release

The lighting and set designers may create the actual backgrounds, but the director has the final say on whether to alter the look, add more lighting, or film the set from a particular angle. The director determines the overall mood and tone of the final production. The actors' roles comprise just one of many pieces that the director has to juggle when completing a production.

After shooting a film, the director (along with the producer and, occasionally, the writer and an actor or two) remains with the project in post-production, where scenes may be cut or rearranged and sound effects and music added. In some cases, the director may need the actors to dub in their dialogue in scenes where the existing dialogue doesn't sound right due to technical difficulties, an airplane flying overhead at the wrong time, or any number of problems.

On a set, any number of things can go wrong, from light bulbs burning out to costumes being torn. Every problem that delays the production is likely to fall on the director to fix, so, as an actor, do your job, stay out of everyone else's way, and be flexible. If you do, the director will remember you as an actor who's easy to work with, which increases the chances that the director will want to use you in the next project he directs.

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