5 Steps to Finding the Right Producer
Time is money and content is king. Your life is busy and so is a producer's. That's why I'm creating quick reads and tips to get you started on your media project.
I will preface this by saying that the title of "producer"is not just for film and music anymore. It now spans across multiple industries including tech, gaming, streaming, news stations, podcasts, radio, and more. This post is generalized for any type of content you wish to create... So let's get to it!
1. KNOW YOUR PROJECT IN AND OUT
I know this might seem pretty obvious, but I highly suggest sitting down with your project and writing out what you want to create, when you want to create it, why you want to do it, and what your goals are. If you've been sitting with a project in your head, writing the story, and doing a little research, this should take 5 minutes. However, if you haven't sat and thought about it at all just yet, you owe it to yourself and the content to hone in on these things. Taking time out now to really research your content will not only save you time and money in the long run, but it will help you communicate your vision in detail to the producer.
TIP: For more detail, here are my 5 Things to Know Before Approaching a Producer.
2. LOCK THE VISION, BUT NOT THE STRATEGY
A producer is the person who plans, coordinates, and executes the content you wish to create from start to finish. If you have clear, written, tangible goals, you can easily communicate them to the producer you seek. Once received, a good producer should gauge if their resources and skills can help your vision come to life.
As I get to know a client, I have found that conversations can sometimes transgress (see what I did there?) into the overall creative vision for a project. This is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, you may need help with some of your artistic aspirations. For example, your budget may not have the bandwidth for a boat rental. So what if you did the scene on the beach? Or maybe you wanted a virtual tour with a specific actor, but your schedules do not align. Could you use an avatar instead? Changes in the strategy to complete your project happen all the time, but they should never affect your overall goals. Your content will still be created, but the process to get there may change.
TIP: Make a list of the creative elements of your content that are you are not willing to compromise on (Examples include script changes, music or sound, casting, locations, narration, production design, etc.). When you have found the right producer, have a conversation about what the producer can and cannot touch, and then make space in a contract that outlines those details.
3. DECIDE WHAT KIND OF PRODUCER YOU NEED
Yes, there are tons of different types of producers with different titles. Here is a general list as it relates to film and video content:
Producer: A general term for someone who manages a project from inception to completion. They are responsible for ensuring all parts of production work together, and making sure the project is completed within budget.
Executive Producer: This person will usually make a major contribution to the project, or obtain a significant financial portion of the overall budget. Sometimes creators of the project use this title.
Director: (I know, not a producer, but you may need one of these instead!) A director determines the creative and artistic vision of a project from pre-production all the way to marketing. Sometimes the producer or a production company may hire a director for a particular project.
Creative Producer: Helping the vision come to life, a creative producer will be involved in artistic choices of the project. This can include screenwriting, casting, crew hiring, editing, and music.
Line Producer: Usually found on larger projects, this person is the manager of daily operations, enabling the maximizing of the budget without going over, and ensuring communication between multiple departments. They will work under the creative producer or producer.
Co-producer: This person typically acts as a supporting producer and they will sometimes focus on a specific area of production.
“In Association With”: This is typically a production company, distributor, or investment group that actually made a feature film or financed a substantial part of it.
Associate Producer: The next billing down from co-producer, sometimes working in a supervisory role for production.
Showrunner: Primarily for television, this person has creative authority and responsibility of a TV show ("run of show"). This person is often credited as an Executive Producer.
Content Producer: Creator of digital content such as blogs, animations, videos - anything that can be posted on a digital platform or social media.
The rest are pretty apparent, like music producer, live-stream producer, agency producer, and so on...
TIP #1: If you are making a film, it's important to know the differences between these roles, as you will more than likely have several producers on set and you don't want them stepping on each other's toes.
TIP #2: If you are making any other content, you will most likely only need one general producer. A good producer will let you know if associates need to be brought on board.
4. RESEARCH AND REACH OUT
The number one way to reach out to producers is still, and always will be, through personal connections. I would say that 90% of my clients connect with me through a recommendation from a friend or former client. It might even be the reason you are here reading this. I really like my friends, so it's no wonder why I like my clients. Suffice to say that if you reach out to your network you will connect with people who you are more likely to enjoy working with. Ask your friends to introduce you over email, with a little sentence or two about you and what you are looking for. But just a sentence or two, no more. You can respond to the chain by introducing yourself and a paragraph about the project (remember those goals you wrote out earlier? Yeah, this is the best time to use them). No need to go overboard. The point of the email is to just see if the producer is interested, has the time, and would be willing to meet with you. If you don't connect, no need to take it personal.
The other 10% of my clientele comes through online service platforms. LinkedIn, Mandy, ProductionHub, Upwork, Thumbtack, and Craigslist are some places you can post your project and have producers reach out to you. A good producer will have a resume, reel, and updated website. Review these things to see who has experience in the content you wish to create but also who may be the best fit for your project. Experience does not inherently mean this is someone you'd like to work with.
Networking by going to events and conventions is another great way to get to know producers in your field. Meeting someone in person can give you a sense of who they are, but it won't give you the full picture. If you think you like a producer for your project, grab their info and see if they'd be interested in learning more about your project. In general, be sure to prepare to pitch your idea in 5 - 10 sec or 2 - 3 sentences (*if you are creating a film, be sure to research "pitching" before going to a big event).
Last, try social media. Researching content on the platforms you wish to create content on is a no-brainer! Search YouTube, find the video you wish to emulate, and reach out to that creator. Same with Instagram and Facebook. The creator is most likely on the platform as often as they are uploading content. If they are a major influencer, sometimes they will have an assistant or costumer service rep to assist you.
Note that this whole process is always at least two steps: introduction and then an initial meeting. It might take several meetings to see if any single producer is the right one.
TIP: Don't reach out to a producer saying "I'm looking for financial connections"or "I'm in search of a $1,000,000 contribution to my project". Everyone is looking for money for their content, even the producers. They have worked long and hard, some for years, to harness their connections. Your goals and passion for your content should always be your driving force to creating it. Let that shine through. The right producer will work with you to find ways to get the funding you need.
5. START EARLY AND TAKE YOUR TIME
Finding a great producer is like finding "the one". Just like dating, it is best to take your time and cultivate the partnership before signing the contract and getting to work. This won't always be possible, especially on smaller projects, like promotional videos or a live-stream event. In these cases, you will have to trust your gut and build the relationship while on the job. Even if you have the best producer on your team, something is bound to go wrong, despite a successful project. Just like partnerships, going over the events of the production, and having safe dialogue about what worked and what didn't, and why, makes that relationship stronger. A good producer will always take feedback and a good creator will learn from mistakes and build upon their work.
Starting to build relationships early, with an understanding that it takes time, trust, and transparency is the most important part of this process.
TIP: Try and build working relationships with 3-5 producers at different levels of their professional journey. Go for coffee or tea and talk to them about their interests. Even if you decide not to work together on this particular project, they might refer another producer or you can refer them to another project. Keep the relationship going on a professional level.
You made it to the end so you get a bonus: You can start your search for a producer now. Reach out to me and mention this blog! Text me at 415-580-2066 or firstname.lastname@example.org