A Producer’s Perspective: 8 Tips To Help Get a Producer For Your Short Film
Have you ever wondered how filmmakers working on short films were finding a good producer?
Someone as dedicated to make it happen as if they were working on a feature film?
If you’ve answered yes, you’re in the right place.
Through three articles in the coming weeks, passionate producer Savannah James-Bayly is going to share a ton of knowledge to help us, filmmakers, find the right producer, be creative to find funding for our shorts, and to shoot period pieces.
You can watch the short at the end of the article, and see for yourself how theory connects with practice.
Needless to say I’m very excited about this series and I hope you will be too!
A Producer’s Perspective:
8 Tips To Help Get a Producer For Your Short Film
a Guest Post by Savannah James-Bayly
As an independent producer I get emails from writers and directors all the time asking if I’d be interested in producing their shorts.
When you get sent multiple scripts each week it can be hard to make any distinction between projects, so here are a few tips to make you stand out, and to make your film a more appealing proposition to a producer:
1 – Do your research
Before approaching a producer look up their past work – request links, watch their previous films and see if you might be a good match.
I have a clear policy on my website which spells out the sort of films I’m interested in making, so if anyone approaches me with a documentary or a horror, it’s an instant flag that they’ve not done their research.
When you approach a producer you’re essentially asking for them to commit months of their life for little to no financial reward; they’re much more likely to make that commitment if it’s the sort of film or story they’re passionate about.
With Fingers, I was sold the instant Alex told me he wanted to retell a biblical story with a feminist perspective – he knew that was something I’d be willing to commit over a year of my live to realising.
That said, don’t take this too far! I had someone write to me once who listed all the films I’d produced before shoehorning in how impressed he was by my GCSE results and saying perhaps we could meet up at a specific café because he knew I liked their coffee (something I’d mentioned on twitter over a year before)! Whilst I suppose I was somewhat flattered, it’s safe to say we haven’t worked together.
2 – Start a dialogue
The writer-director-producer relationship is THE most important on any production. Invite them for a coffee, see if you’re a fit. Know what you want from a producer and see if that matches their expectations too.
Personally, with a background in development, I like to get involved early on in a project, whilst the script is still being worked on.
On Fingers, Alex and I discussed the story and intention before he put pen to paper. Other short film producers would rather get involved later down the line, once the project has some traction.
Most important of all is to make sure you click personally as well as creatively. If you have good rapport the likelihood is that then even if they’re too busy to take on your script now, there might be an opportunity in the future.
3 – Have a plan
Obviously you want a producer who will drive your project forward, but it’s much more appealing a prospect when a writer/director comes to you with a realistic and well thought out plan of when they want to shoot, potential funding sources, a sense of what they can bring to the table etc.
It’s important to realise that short films are primarily a director’s medium – although they can be a boost for everyone’s careers, it’s the director who might win awards/get an agent/book a job off the back of them – they’re proof of the directors talent over anything else, so it’s a big bonus when the director is active and engaged in the process too.
With Fingers, although we both intimately involved from origination onwards, Alex already knew he wanted to apply for Enter the Pitch competition before we begun discussing the project – he had a clear plan and a strict timeline.
A director with a plan – not just for the production, but also for what they’d like to achieve with their film – strikes me immediately as someone who’ll be a committed and active team member.
4 – Highlight your personal connection to the story
I want to know why this film means something to you. If I feel that you’re the only person in the world who can tell this story it’s instantly more stirring.
One of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved in developing is a series about a mental health ward written by an ex-psychiatric nurse – she’s a fabulous writer, but her past experience makes the script authentic and unique.
Obviously solely writing autobiographically may be quite limiting, but the emotional crux behind whatever you’re pitching needs to feel genuine. If you really care about your subject matter, you’re much more likely to convince me to care too.
5 – Be realistic
If you send a producer a short film script set on a private jet alarm bells will instantly ring – unless your aunt/father/best-buddy owns a private jet, in which case DEFINITELY write that script, because we can capatalise on the added production value!
Certain scripts require a lot more work as a producer – unusual locations, period films, children/animals, vehicles. I’ve made films with all of those elements (Fingers is set in the 60s, Smithfield in a working meat market, Camilla is about a woman learning to drive…) so they’re certainly not deal breakers, but (generally) a busy producer is much more likely to be inclined to take on a brilliant script set in a straightforward location with a couple of adult actors than an sci-fi epic across 4 different eras in time with an ensemble cast of eight.
If you do have an excellent sci-fi epic, don’t despair, just make sure you have a realistic plan of how you intend to direct it and that you’re not asking the producer to work miracles.
Although Fingers is set in the 60s, and did involve working with a teenager under 16, Alex was still realistic in terms of how he’d create that world within the budget we had. The film is all set in one venue, and he instead managed to make the world feel expansive through the party scene at the start, which could be shot in just over half a day.
6 – Sell yourself as well as your film
The main thing I am interested in when producing a short is to build a relationship with a writer or director that I rate and think might go on to interesting things (hopefully with me!).
Fingers was the second collaboration between Alex Marx and myself, and we are now developing a third short film together which is associated with a feature project. Making a film, even a short, is a big undertaking, and so I want to know why YOU are the person I should be investing my time and energy into.
7 – Send follow up emails
All producers get sent lots of scripts. There are simply less of us than there are writers/directors. If you don’t hear back from the producer of your dreams, don’t just assume they have no interest, wait a week then send a friendly follow up.
If they say they simply don’t have time to get involved, suggest a coffee and start that dialogue – it may lead to future collaborations.
8 – Ultimately, story is king
Despite all of that, the priority is an exceptional story.
Keep working on your script – ask each producer you engage with to give some short feedback (if they have time) and keep working to improve it.
At the end of the day really excellent scripts are rare gems to be treasured, and will get you further than anything else!!
BEST OF LUCK!
Watch Fingers, written and direct by Alex Marx and produced by Savannah James-Bayly:
Savannah James-Bayly founded Fox Cub Films in 2012 and has subsequently produced eight short films across a range of budgets staring talent such as Jason Flemyng, Alice Lowe and Bill Paterson.
She’s currently developing her first slate of feature films, and has recently entered into a development deal with Channel X (The Detectorists) for a TV comedy-drama series that she co-created with writer Geoff Deane (Birds of a Feather, Kinky Boots).
To coincide with the online launch of FINGERS, her sixth short as producer, Savannah will be writing three articles highlighting some tips she’s learnt from her producing experiences.