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Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots Up

Lesson 3 of 18

The Different Types of Producers


Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots Up

Lesson 3 of 18

The Different Types of Producers


Lesson Info

The Different Types of Producers

Different types of producers so as I said, producing does not I don't know if I said this but of bear saying producing does not mean money nor just raising money it's a complete mis calculation especially from the kind of movies I've worked on it's like ah you know money is and financial interest in the film is one seriously important element to getting a film made. And so sometimes there can be a producer who whose whole job it is is to manage the influx of that financial interest but usually the producer of producers not just a person who has given money to the film that's not really how it works that might be the executive producer but you know ideally a producer should be dedicated to the well being of the film for the extent of its life. So if if I raise a little bit of money and then I piece out of that film production, I like that so I didn't really produce that film um so it doesn't really make much sense man it yet like I said, managing the investors and financial partners in ...

a film can be a full time job you know, it's a it's a very important skill set to have you have to you have to know how to set expectations properly the same way that you would set expectations properly for the for the film crew like I said, you don't want anybody to come on board the whole operation with a lot of misconceptions or or misguided expectations, so you have to be honest with them. Well, we'll get into that in a second. Get your take on this. We had a related question coming in from mahogany media, we had a couple of people vote on this, so people wanted to know, but when you're doing a grassroots production like that, how do you convince people who are experienced professionals to volunteer their time? You talk about setting the expectations? How do you do that when you, you know, that there's not a huge budget, but you want these people to be involved? How do you kind of sure that their explorations we'll get go? One answer is, you don't use experience professional, right? No, but, uh, but that's not entirely true beast, I'd say with with, with beasts, it was sort of we did have a handful of people who had a whole lot of experience and thank god they did. And then I'd say, like, eighty percent of the people on set had never worked on a film set before in their life, and it was this weird mix, you know, and it wasn't always like a very easy mix because, you know, people who know what they're doing working with people who've never done it before it can get sticky, but as far as so we the people would never done it before you sort of say this is a once in a lifetime experience, you know, like even maybe you've never worked in film that always been curious this is going to be interesting we're going to be working out of an abandoned gas station in montague, louisiana you know, it's going it's going to get interesting and then with the people with the people who are more professional it's like you say a lot of the same thing I would think but at the same time you say that you've never you never had an onset experience like this maybe they've because that you know, because they've had experience, you can say that this will be very different if it will be you know, if you're going to have a very cushy you gnome or one location bound shoot let's say that that might not be that interesting too that different from what they've done before but basically you you have to all get excited about the challenge you know, and if they don't if it doesn't excite them at that point in their career, you know, maybe maybe for example, of more experienced person can take on a role that they've never had before in the film set on your films that because you trust them they have experienced and they're looking to kind of, um what's the word not bear their teeth I don't know uh, you know, put their nose to the grindstone with a new kind of role yeah, and so that that could be a thing that you can talk to them about if you trust them you don't want to you don't want to do that just because you want to get them involved and you like them if you have a production if you're thinking about somebody for a production designer you should trust that they can actually be a production that sounds like basic but um so time to move on we're going to talk about executive so an executive producer is usually actually a person who does have a financial understand the film or maybe they are a person who gathered money for the film and then and that was that was what they did for example, what I did on gloria tse, which was the uh ben's island short film that proceeded beast of the southern wild I basically came down there as a essentially a p a I mean, I was I was there it wasn't a very large crew, but I was really interested in what ben was doing I did whatever needed doing I had a job sort of in washington d c at the time so just fly down when I could and at a certain point we ran out of money and I held a fundraiser in richmond virginia where I'm from to try together some money to get the thing going again so that's why I'm an executive producer on gloria tse is because I raised that that money but I was not there for the extent of the of the production so I'm not a producer in that film I was there in fits and spurts but I was able to bring some money into the production so um ok now other responsibilities of producers we'll talk a lot about this but um let's see and again it depends on each project or each company you know sometimes you I work in a company of other people and we all have strengths and weaknesses it also depends on a per project basis there might be a project where aye aye more naturally apt to take on a certain kind of responsibility and then on the next project because of the director whoever whatever the project is I might lend a different kind of responsibility entirely so strategizing but here's just some strategizing about financing and managing the financial partners which we sort of already talked about um constructing a budget and then work shopping that budget um in a way that bridges the project's needs to its financial reality so sort of knowing howto knowing me, knowing what the reality is right and and knowing what the director's vision is and trying toe marry those two in something that's a little bit of I want to see compromise, but something that best does that, but in the rial world problem solving at all stages what we'll just call putting out fires, this is more like an onset kind of thing, there's more fires on set, I think, well, maybe not necessarily I don't say that, but basically problem solving, knowing knowing what to do when things go wrong, um during production, managing relationships between the crew, making sure everybody is happy and communicating and understanding each other so that you're getting what you need to get done, um, working toward the same interest um later fostering the right kind of partners that you're gonna work with on in distribution for or in that phase of the film um and strategically thinking about the life of the film once it is finished, no, as I put that's just a few and we'll get into more stuff later, but I wanted to kick it back to people at home. What as you look at these, what are you knowing yourself naturally best or worst at like, what kind of you don't have to be good and you certainly don't have to be good at all these things all at once because producing as usual usually happens in a team, eh? So what do you think that you would be of these skills their responsibilities what do you think you'd be best that what can you lend to a project or making a film happen um and where would you like to improve? So in the meantime I'd love to hear from anyone here what's when you look at that list um what what are you most excited about? Where do you think you can improve etcetera? I personally I've got a lot of experience with the managing crew and putting out fires and and working budgets I don't have a lot of experience with a putting together reasonably sized budgets to manage or working with finance important herself I'm not good with money it's ok uh it's worked out for me thus far there's always been somewhere someone to catch me when I fall but I think my strength is as a people person so I would say putting out fires and managing crew is like I excel and love those the most those roles distribution is a little bit hazier but yeah and also my my media background is writing and directing so I also like mentoring new directors and helping make sure like you know, protecting them and making sure that they can actually direct the film and not worry about what happens if the cops show up that's? Yeah. That's something we'll get into. Yeah, that's very important to, um we have a couple of coming in from from online. Now. Lire says I can lend a hand to help putting out fires, managing crew and budgets. But again, we have a bunch of people in the chat. He said I can improve in the financing areas just like the gentleman in the audience and the woman in the audience as well. We also had that. He says I would love to improve on the financing as well. I have tons of experience with crew. I have experience using small resource is the global sunrise project has experience dealing with the legal aspect lawyers so they want to bring that to the table. So a mix of skills in the chat room structure. Cool. Um, ok, well, now, as a counterpoint, I'll sort of get into the line producer. Now, I just thought of this right now, but I hope it makes a little bit of sense in terms of the practicality of making a film and the creativity of making a film, you can talk about producing being, you know, both ends potentially having both ends of the spectrum now, well, we were just talking about it is, you know, being working with a director to kind of collaborate and make their vision happened that happened sort of mme or towards the creative side and closer to the director. On the other side, I'd say towards the practicality of making a film is the kind of producing that's more like line producing, so that means you're dealing with you're running the basic, basically, the operation of the film production your you're working with a production company, if there is one on all the fun stuff like, you know, payroll and insurance and all that sort of thing, you're managing with your production manager, um, vendor relationships, okay, so we're here in san francisco, who are we going to use for, um, catering? You know who we're going to use for? Um, I don't know any number of things. What kind of in kind donations can we get, if any, that sort of thing? You're also, and that comes in part in parcel with managing the external relations of office set. So making sure that people on the ground who aren't involved in the film are are content with the let's see that footprint of the set itself on dure, the stepping stone to the producer who can sort of be the in between between the line producer and the director.

Class Description

Producing an independent film takes an enormous commitment of time, money, and energy – but there are steps you can follow to make the whole undertaking more productive and less overwhelming. Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots, Up is your guide to reducing friction during every stage of independent feature film production.

In this class, Michael Gottwald, a producer on the OSCAR®-nominated, Beasts of the Southern Wild, will detail the process his team used to bring this sleeper hit to life. By exploring the independent film production process through the lens of Beasts of the Southern Wild you’ll learn how to generate your own independent film success. 

Michael will teach you how to:

  • Find optimal material to produce
  • Engage private and social fundraising resources
  • Craft a production plan suited to your existing resources
  • Distribute and market a finished film

Whether or not you have industry connections, or live in traditional “media centers” (such as New York or Los Angeles), you can still give life to a project that will impact the film industry and artform. You don’t have to blindly navigate the rocky terrain of grassroots film production alone. Michael will offer the insights you need to tackle common challenges during every stage of the producing process.

Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots, Up will show you how to create films that, if positioned properly, rise above the current indie film marketplace "noise."


a Creativelive Student

A top-notch presentation on indie film making. I learned a lot from this course which I hope to soon put into practice as I'm about to embark on my first indie film - as a screen writer for the first time out, but eventually I hope to write, direct, and produce my own film. Very easy to follow the presentations in this course, and the handouts I received when I purchased the course are quite useful.


Such a great course! Being an indie "Grassroots" filmmaker in the middle of three projects, I found what Michael shared to be very valuable. The way that he described the different aspects of producing and illustrated with examples was very clear and fresh. The course really opens you up to examine your own processes, what works / what doesn't and stirs up some new ideas on how to move forward. Thanks CreativeLive team for making the class happen!


This is a tremendous introduction to grassroots filmmaking. Michael takes you step by step through the various elements of film production and offers those so inclined a cursory understanding of what is required. Because filmmaking is a creative pursuit, the direction the individual filmmaker takes from there is entirely up to each. I would highly recommend this course to any one starting out in filmmaking. Well worth the cost. David W. King, Michigan Movie Magazine