Most of the time, however, you won’t see producers taking interviews on late-night talk shows or appearing on camera.
This is in contrast to music producers, some of whom have gotten just as famous or more famous than the performing artists they work with (we’re looking at you, Dr. Dre).
The lack of public appearances has created a bit of mystery and curiosity around film and television producers.
What do they actually do? What are their responsibilities during production? What does it take to become a producer?
On top of it all, let’s not forget that producers and many other types of production professionals have been severely limited in their work for the duration of the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic.
With the entertainment industry moving back into action, we thought this would be a great time to talk with an expert producer to learn more.
We invite you to join us for a light and fun introduction to the work of a film and TV producer.
Producer and Director Rebecca Berrih
Rebecca Berrih is a highly experienced producer originally from France. She has produced many shorts films, including the multi-award-winning short film 2 Scoops of Love (which she also co-wrote and directed), BlackBerry, Beyond the Sky (for which she also co-wrote the story), and Heaven.
Based on her past work and successes, we’re confident in calling Berrih a problem-solver, and as we’ll see throughout the rest of this article, that’s a very important skill for a producer to have if they want to be successful.
She is constantly finding ways to work around unexpected issues and difficulties, along with looking for better ways of doing things so that each film, once finished, will look much better than its budget lets on.
Even with production ramping back up, Berrih found some time to talk with Vents and give some notes on her career thus far.
The ultimate goal
Producers have many different and highly specific responsibilities before, during, and after production, and many of those responsibilities depend on what kind of producer they are, what the project is, and how much needs to be taken care of to make sure that everything runs smoothly, or, rather, as smoothly as possible.
If there’s one certainty in the world of production, it’s that there will always be hiccups, to put it lightly. Even with the best possible planning, conditions change often, and soon a producer, or a team of producers, might have to rewrite those plans to keep things moving along, which only becomes more crucial when the budget is very limited.
On top of situations changing, producers also have to account for the people they’re working with, from performers to crew members to the writers, director, and other creatives that are on the team.
Their needs and abilities need to be taken into account, especially during difficult shoots that challenge everyone to stay on the top of their game.
But through it all, there’s one major endgame that producers need to keep in mind.
Berrih made it very clear that every producer has one ultimate goal for each project they work on: to get it done and create something great in the process.
“The only thing that matters is the final product. You can’t relax until it’s finished. The audience watching your finished movie doesn’t care how difficult it was to make. They want to enjoy it, they want to laugh, they want to scream, they want to cry, and they want to step out of their life for 120 minutes.”
Losing sight of that goal can cause problems, but skilled producers know how to bring together so many different elements and professionals to make work that stands out and delights audiences.
First things first
All that mystery surrounding the work of producers has also, at times, created an impression that all producers are the same and that they excel in the same areas.
Berrih dismisses this idea completely.
“It’s not a cookie-cutter job. Some producers know everything about the technical side, some are great with script development, some are amazing with financing, and some are great at everything!”
On top of the variation within any producer role, there are also just different types of producers working on larger projects, including Executive Producers, Producers, and Line Producers, just to name some of the most prominent roles.
Even though all producers are there to help the project get made, there are different responsibilities based on the specific role in question.
However, if we’re talking about a low-budget short film with a small team behind the camera, then there will most likely only be one producer, and let’s just say that producer’s work will be cut out for them.
On independent productions, producers need to wear as many hats as possible. One day they might be focused on making arrangements to bring in two dozen extras for an exterior scene, and another day they might be working side-by-side with the editor on a rough cut.
Versatility is the name of the game here, along with a tool typically associated with pros in front of the camera…
Picture this: you’ve signed on as a producer for this short film. After several days of shooting, things are going pretty well. The dailies are looking good and everyone in the crew is in a good mood.
Then, all of a sudden, the lead actor comes down with a terrible case of the flu and won’t be able to work for the next week.
There’s not enough wiggle room in the budget to delay production for that long. Meanwhile, everyone else has shown up for a full day of work. What do you do?
Don’t worry, there isn’t just one correct answer here. Like a lot of on-set problem-solving, it’s more about creativity and quick decision-making.
You could shoot some other scenes at the same location that don’t require the lead, or you could do some quick rewrites and completely rework the current location.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could even add a small storyline for one of the side characters.
Finding a solution is up to you as the producer. You can collaborate with the director and other crew members, but you can bet that the team will be looking to you for guidance.
Berrih shared one of her own stories of a time when she needed to come up with a solution super fast so that the production could move along smoothly.
“On a commercial shoot, there were some garbage trucks that were about to enter the alley that we were using to shoot. In half a second I improvised a solution. I took some assistants and asked them to use the cars for the shot to block the garbage trucks from the alley. When you are a producer you are a fixer and I love that feeling.”
In a situation like that one, hesitating for just a few seconds too long could have caused some serious problems and potentially delayed the entire production.
Producers get things done. That’s just part of the job.
Sharing the work
When it comes time to share a finished film with audiences at film festivals and various screenings, a producer’s work is still not done.
This is especially true for Berrih, who, unlike some other producers, enjoys getting out there and talking about the film, whether it’s by participating in Q&A sessions or just chatting with audience members who want to know more about the film and how it was put together.
“I love when people ask me questions about my film that I never thought of. I also love when they ask how I did this or that. I’ve attended many festivals and met so many humble and incredible people, so for me, it’s always a pleasure to talk to someone who is starting out in entertainment.”
Festivals, in particular, are a great place for filmmakers and audiences to come together and learn from one another. Festivals can also be a great way for producers to gauge interest in a film.
If a film is a smash hit at several different festivals, then there will probably be significant interest in the film from distributors as well.
On the whole, sharing the finished film is an important part of the process for producers, and it’s even a way to see their own project in a very different light.
But at the same time, producers very rarely leave gaps in their schedule, so as soon as one film is finished, it’s time to move on to another one, even if only the preproduction stage of the next project.
In fact, experienced producers might be working on multiple projects at once if they know and trust the other creative professionals working on each one.
A producer’s work is never done, but for producers like Berrih, that’s not a problem. In fact, it’s exciting. Every film is another chance to share an interesting story with the world.