Course Guidelines 2 – The Producer Mentality

You are probably saying to yourself, “What the F%yg#$?” am I doing at another website?  More learning?

For those not familiar with the great “Animal House” film, Bluto was played by the comically formidable John Belushi (pictured left) who reigned supreme as a comic genius in the first (and best) generation of Saturday Night Live comedians.   His GPA was less than 1.0.

But Bluto had vast enthusiasm.  And that’s what you need to tap into.  Enthusiasm.  That means “With Fire” in Greek.

 

 

Be a Writer and Understand Producing

Today, the media landscape is changing so fast that you risk getting left-behind if you are just a writer.   Whether you are writing Television, Streaming, comedy, Feature Films or any other audio-visual material, you need to get into the business side of The Industry.   Let’s take one example.  Netflix:

Netflix, Inc. is an American entertainment company founded on August 29, 1997, in Scotts Valley, California,[7] by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph. It specializes in and provides streaming media and video-on-demand online and DVD by mail. In 2013 Netflix expanded into film and television production, as well as online distribution. As of 2017 the company has its headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

In 1998, about a year after Netflix’s founding, the company grew by starting in the DVD by mail business.[7] In 2007, Netflix expanded its business with the introduction of streaming media, while retaining the DVD and Blu-ray rental service. The company expanded internationally, with streaming made available to Canada in 2010[8] and continued growing its streaming service from there; by January 2016, Netflix services operated in over 190 countries.[9] Netflix entered the content-production industry in 2013, debuting its first series, House of Cards. It has greatly expanded the production of both film and television series since then, offering “Netflix Original” content through its online library of films and television.[10] Netflix released an estimated 126 original series or films in 2016, more than any other network or cable channel.[11]

How House of Cards Changed the Industry

In January 2017 Netflix reported having over 93 million subscribers worldwide, including more than 49 million in the United States.[4]

So “House of Cards” was only four years ago.  That’s the show that started ‘binge-watching’.  And if you think binge-watching is just an inconsequential phenomenon, then you would be wrong.  When Netflix decided to dump all the episodes of “House of Cards” (a remake of a British show by the way which I thought was better), their action changed the expectations of entertainment consumer behavior for the entire industry.

Shows which were releasing episodes over a period of time had a few effects to deal with.  One, the audience would not watch now but later – when they could binge-watch on their own schedule.    Second, “House of Cards” drew in an estimated 4 million new subscribers for the company.   Let’s do the Media Math.

 

  1.  4 million subscribers x $10 = $40 million per month
  2. “House of Cards” (U.S. Version budget varies) – from an estimated total of $60 Million to almost $100 million.   Director David Fincher was noted for taking the project from its reputed $4.5 Million to ‘way above that.’
  3. Netflix is an SVOD Service.  Subscription Video-On-Demand.  Subscriptions = Revenue
  4. 4 million additional subscribers x 12 months x $10 = $480 million in Revenue
  5. “House of Cards” made money.

Furthermore, “House of Cards” also established Netflix as a major player.  I was at a Hollywood conference at UCLA in 1008.  Netflix had licensed Starz content for $25 million.  According to one speaker, two years later, the same content would not be licensed for less than $300 million.  That’s how fast, Netflix reach expanded.

The Writer Must Become A Producer

You want to maintain your script’s integrity as much as possible.  To do that, you need more power.   You gain that power with knowledge and positioning.   By moving your project along the farthest within the boundaries of the script – keeping its integrity – to the financing entity or individual.

As a writer and new Producer, you probably won’t be THE producer but you can exert influence.  And that’s a big step.

And that’s what FilmmakingWithaCalculator.com is about.  Learning about production, producing.  And my upcoming book (very shameless plug) called “Screenwriting With a Calculator” is going to take you farther in that direction.  As a writer, you have a ton of ideas – some cheap, some expensive, some in between.  I always think that Ideas can be expressed in many ways and at many cost levels.

That’s where you are here to learn.  Producing, Physical Production and Writing with a Price in mind.

I study and teach martial arts, doing Kenpo Karate.  One senior instructor said that he admired George Washington Carver because he dived into studying the seemingly insignificant peanut to discover its inner secret.  I think writing is like that in some ways.  We can get to the essence of a genuine human story by digging deep.  That seems much better than the VFX universe which seems sorely lacking a lot of humanity.

Doubts About Learning a Producer’s Skills

You can certainly have some misgivings but I suggest that you put them aside.  One skill to learn in the film industry is eternal optimism.  The other skill is to brush away rejection and keep going.  While healthy criticism can help you learn and take risks  with your energies and resources, personal criticism just stymies the human character.   There’s a great book by Brian Tracy called “Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life.”  Invaluable.

In many cases, I have worked with people who have never produced a film before.  They’re nervous, unsure of themselves and thrown off by too much unfamiliar territory.  No doubt, a movie set becomes another world with its own vernacular, structure, methods and drive.

You learn that a clothespin = C47.   A “Juicer” has nothing to do with fruit – it’s an Electrician (i.e., juice = electricity) on a set.  A “Martini” is the last shot of the day.  A “Cookie” stands for ‘cucaloris’ which is used to diffuse lighting.  A Dead Cat is a microphone muffler.

A Producer can learn these terms and more.  But what they need to have is: Patience, Common Sense, Good Leadership.  I can name more qualities but that’s a good start.

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

Just like the Brian Tracy book’s title.   This is great advice. Change your thinking to take command of your own destiny by learning the skills of a producer. 

 

The industry is changing rapidly.  And the crisis – or rather I should use the plural – crises in the film industry should translate to more opportunities for the both of us.

In fact, the film industry should rightly be called the Media Industry as it encompasses so many overlapping elements.  Furthermore, with social media thrown in as a vast influencer in its revenue creation, the media industry is even more apropos.

Check out the Self-Directed Learning Model for acquiring the knowledge of a Producer.    Self-Directed Learning Model.  See, you will also become a ‘Director’ if you are self-directing.  Four parts to learn – Motivation, Management, Modification and Monitoring.  All starting with you.  Right now, you must be a Type-A personality because you are reading this page.  So you’re already a hard worker.

Why I Wanted To Create this Website

My intention is work up this website with Knowledge that dovetails together with my experience as Producer, Line Producer and Unit Production Manager.  My Aunt Molly was in the industry, working for Mogul Daryl Zanuck in the Golden Age of Hollywood.  The industry is in my blood.   I’m in the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild.  I’ve done several thousand budgets over decades working in this business.  I worked at a bond company, Motion Picture Bond, for a time and have long had a good relationship with preeminent bond company, Film Finance.   I have written novels, scripts, streaming episodes and non-fiction books.  I have been a writer all my life and capped it off with a Masters Degree in Professional Writing from USC.   My goal is to create an Understanding which combines Practical Media Math with Creative Brainstorming.

Best

Michael Mandaville

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sign up now to get our Newsletter for helpful hints!


x