Transitioning from Actor to Web Video Producer? Here is the first thing you need to know…
In 2007 I had the crazy idea to produce the first multi-camera live-streamed video web series.
Two important facts
- Our entire budget for 100 minutes of footage was less than $6000.
- The executive producer/line producer/lawyer/head PA (umm.. ME) had never produced a film or video before.
I had spent a lot of time on stage and some significant time in front of the camera on small films and small soap roles – but my entire experience on the other side of the camera was as script supervisor for The Last New Yorker (one of my most physically, intellectually and emotionally challenging, yet least creatively challenging jobs I’ve ever had).
Translation- my budget was ridiculously small and had no idea what I was doing. What I was certain of however is that I was doing the right thing.
The night before load-in finally arrived ….
After two full days putting together furniture and running all over NYC with my co-producer extraordinaire/husband picking up cables, props, food, and equipment we made one last stop at a Duane Reade for light bulbs – a lot of lightbulbs (our DP had requested copious numbers of chinese lanterns). It was late, the line at the counter was long, the customers were grumpy and I was balancing 20 boxes of lightbulbs. Not fun. I ended up commiserating with the man behind me, who as it turned out, worked in film production. We struck up such an immediate comraderie that I invited him to join my husband and myself for the drink we had planned to end our very long weekend with.
My husband was a little peeved, but assuming this guy must be an old friend of mine, tried to nice. So much for our romantic twosome. The three of us had a drink, and talked a lot about the challenges that two new producers embarking upon a 12 day project for which no blueprint existed would face… and then he said it…
The Producers Job is To Make Decisions
Woosh! One of those lightbulbs light exploded in my head! Deceptively simple right? But unequivocally important.
Above and beyond anything, the simplest and most important thing any producer must do – when a problem arises, the producer makes a decision. When multiple options present themselves – a producer makes a decision. When your first DP quits a week before the shoot, when the internet fails, when your location surprises you with a demand for a $20,000 deposit four days before shooting- it’s a producers job to make a decision.
Nothing depletes a company’s enthusiasm, slows down a production or defeats a crew’s energy quicker than uncertainty. It doesn’t matter if the decision is perfect, or even right, what matters is that a decision is made – quickly and with and with authority (a sometimes foreign concept to an actor who has spent their career taking direction from others).
This is the one piece of advice that made what should have been an impossible project a great success. Now, now many projects later, it is the one tenet I keep at the forefront.
When in crisis, when in doubt, when faced with an impossible problem – the solution is easy. It is a producer’s job to make a decision.