APATA – The Australian Performing Arts Teachers Association

Studio News > Article

What the…you want to be a producer?

Posted by Team APATA | Nov 20, 2019

One of the most mysterious roles in the entertainment industry is that of the producer.

Audiences tend to have a generally good understanding of the role of a director, but when it comes to a producer the role and expectations is a little fuzzy and often much more mysterious.

The Producer Cliché

Often the first image that comes to the fore is that of a cigar-chewing, money-grabbing cliché. Instead it’s a job spec that’s challenging to articulate.  The role is in fact vast, self-defining and suggests the producer is boss of all they survey. Notably producers working throughout the industry are positioned in completely different contexts but more and more frequently notices are being posted for this invaluable role with companies seeking to appoint producers. But beware the old clichés no longer apply and often it’s the director being sized up by a producer before appointment to a role especially if they’re mighty good at what they do.

If you take a step back from the perceived glamour and elitist view of the performing arts which I’m pleased to say is slowly vanquishing from opinion, it becomes obvious this is business – its about creating a new product and taking it to market. As with any new product it starts with an idea, needs a champion, and the work develops and comes to fruition.

The Real Deal Role of a Producer

The producer is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the production, overall financial and managerial function through to providing or seeking financial backing, hiring and firing and for positioning creative talents to bring the product to life be that writers, directors, designers, composers, choreographers etc.

What do Producers do?

What do they actually do is often a question asked as they don’t appear on stage, nor direct the production and mostly work in the background. Universally, a producer ensures that a production happens on time and in budget and then everything that follows after that’s required to move the product into market. Today a producer assumes the role of creative producer in recognition of the role they take in mounting a production – from infancy a product is nurtured from the original concept through various drafts in development to workshops and rehearsal through to release. From inception they raise investment from backers, manage venue requirements and hire the creative team. Often, it’s misunderstood the production is their vision and they will move heaven and earth to make it happen.

The Entrepreneur

Consider a producer a commercial entrepreneur and please note today a producer will stake their claim in the artistic product they have brought it to life as a creation – they’re more than a mere facilitator. Interestingly universities across the global are now looking at how to fuse creative producing in courses “the producer’s vision and the creator’s art”. Whatever the role involves and whatever it’s called – producing, creating, facilitating, enabling, realising – product in performing arts and creative industry can’t happen without this dynamic and the communications between directors and producers has never been more important.

Producers Learn on the Job!

While there’s no textbook for producers per say and while educators have identified course development for this unique and multi-faceted role, ultimately those who have been in industry as producers and built successful careers will tell you ‘you can only learn it on the job’. On the producer’s support team you’ll usually find depending on the size of the company several types of producers performing a variety of functions – executive producers, associate producers, co-producers and line producers. All work to support the producer in different ways, but none would have a role at all without the producer having backed a good idea.

Producers Make a Good Idea Happen!

‘A good idea’ in essence sits at the heart of a creative producer with the ability to recognise a product which is much less tangible, for example, drawing up a budget or a schedule and, while the latter can be out-sourced, the former is the very foundation of a producer’s business. A producer is all encompassing – they need a nose for ideas and concepts, the ability to inspire the right people and take a concept through conceptualisation into market.

Producers in Action

  • Artistically create and support the creative team and the entire company throughout the process at every level.
  • Work through complexities, get bums on seats, work strategically, collaborate and coordinate press and marketing.
  • Crucial engagement with financial backers and engage key supporters who make the production possible in the first place.
  • The investor-producer relationship is special, nurtured over time and kept close to your chest – they’re your lifeline.
  • Believe wholeheartedly, be fair, diligent, grateful and transparent.
  • Go for it at 110%.
  • Juggle many balls at the same time and unify purpose, vision and direction.
  • Appoint rock solid creative specialists – the producers pick across creative, technical and production teams is invaluable.

The Best Producers in the Business

Best in the Business – Theatre

Sir Cameron Anthony Mackintosh / www.cameronmackintosh.com

  • British Theatrical Producer & Theatre Owner
  • The most successful, influential and powerful theatrical producer in the world [The New York Times]
  • For nearly 50 years Cameron Mackintosh has been producing more musicals than anyone else in history, including the three longest-running musicals of all time, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, which are still running extraordinarily successfully across the world.

Best in the Business – Music

Dr. Dre / www.drdre.com

The hip hop culture knows about many great producers and the ex-owner of Beats by Dre, is one of them. Dr. Dre has changed the music industry by implementing his unique style of making music and progressing with his label. The pure west coast sound the rap fans are familiar with was developed by this N.W.A. member. Andre Young (Dr. Dre) started his career with the group N.W.A, but his astonishing moments came as a solo artist and producer. He made a huge musical impact with his debut album The Chronic and signing one of the most influential artists in rap music – Eminem. Andre’s producing skills have entertained many legendary names such as Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige, The Game, Kendrick Lamar and many others.

Best in the Business – Film

Kathleen Kennedy / www.lucasfilm.com

American Film Producer & President of Lucasfilm

In 1981, she co-founded the production company Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg and Frank Marshall. She has been the president of Lucasfilm since 2012. Her first film as a producer was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Kennedy has produced or executive produced more than 70 feature films, which have collectively garnered 120 Academy Award nominations and 25 wins. Among her credits: Jurassic Park, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, The Sixth Sense, the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Gremlins, The Goonies, Poltergeist, Empire of the Sun, Lincoln, War Horse, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Schindler’s List, The Colour Purple, and The Adventures of Tintin.

Kennedy has produced the films of such directors as Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, JJ Abrams, Julian Schnabel, Marjane Satrapi, M. Night Shyamalan, Frank Oz, Peter Bogdanovich, and Richard Donner.

Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most successful and respected producers in the film industry today. As President of Lucasfilm, she oversees the company’s three divisions: Lucasfilm, Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound. Kennedy was the producer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), which set a record for the biggest domestic opening of all time, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the number one grossing movie in 2016. She went on to produce Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), the highest grossing movie worldwide in 2017, as well as Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). Kennedy is currently producing Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) and is executive producing The Mandalorian (2019).

Sign Up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about the latest news and events.

Sign Up to our newsletter and be the first to hear about the latest news and events.