4 Well-Worn Paths to Becoming a Film Producer
Agent to Manager to Producer
Time Frame: 10 – 12 years
Degree of Difficulty: 5
Who is this person? Someone who went to law school or business school and is seriously in love with the art of the deal.
How did they make the leap? They built relationships with talent (actors, directors, writers) and helped set up projects, ultimately with themselves attached as producer.
Words to the wise: This is actually a pretty straight path. There is a preferred educational background involved (though not required) and having great relationships and top-level deal-making experience is perfect for a producer.
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Line Producer to Associate Producer to Producer
Time Frame: 10 – 15 years
Degree of Difficulty: 7
Who is this person? A combination of a drill sergeant and a politician, someone who can move mountains on a tight budget and short notice.
How did they make the leap? They became the can-do person for a certain director, developed a reputation for getting a certain high-degree-of-difficulty movie done, and/or positioned themselves as integral to getting projects done, the only person who could do it right (applying the political skills), thus becoming the first one the studio or high-level creative producer calls when starting their next project.
Words to the wise: If you can’t handle 20 hour work days, traveling wherever the work takes you, untangling logistical puzzles, and dealing with sometimes very delicate egos, this option is not for you.
Development Executive to Production Executive to Producer
Time Frame: 10 to 15 years
Degree of Difficulty: 8
Who is this person? An extremely adept social creature with adaptive skills, great radar, and story sense and recall that allows them to pitch any project on command even in their sleep (after staying up all night reading 20 scripts, for instance).
How did they make the leap? After surviving the rigors of climbing the executive ladder at a studio or production company, they reached a point where they had enough high-level relationships and built a good-enough reputation to go out on their own.
Word to the wise: This path definitely involves some degree of luck. If you get under the wing of a rising executive above you and he makes it to the top of the studio or production company heap, you get a big advantage on your path to producer. If, on the other hand, you manage to alienate him/her (by giving him too much credit for a bomb or not enough credit for a hit, for instance) or, if your mentor gets ousted and replaced by someone you don’t mesh with, you can be set back several steps.
“Nobody” With a Great Script and a Dream to Producer
Time Frame: 5 to 50 years
Degree of difficulty: 10
Who is this person? Someone who is bold enough to embark on one of the toughest journeys there is in Hollywood, becaused on a combination of passion, drive, and ignorance.
How did they make the leap? They kept calling and calling and calling and eventually someone answered the phone. They did this 1000 times, ignored all naysayers, had the luck to run into a number of people who knew more than they did. They refused to hear no.
Word to the wise: This is harder than even I make it sound and, of course, very rewarding if it works out. You definitely have an advantage if you have a big pile of money when you set out on this adventure or a generous benefactor. So be a dot com billionaire first, if you can. It helps.
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