In Barry Levinson’s 1997 film Wag the Dog, Dustin Hoffman’s producer Stanley Motts complains about the fact that there is no Academy Award for Best Producer. There is of course the Irving Thalberg Award, but that’s a special award for outstanding producers, only given sporadically.

Multi-Tasking Producers Multiple ProjectsThe absence says something about our perception of what producers do, specifically it says that most of us don’t really know what they do, and that the difficulty of the job is often underestimated. There is a perception that producers simply find the money, throw it at the director and say “now get on with it”, but there is much more to it than that.

Very often it is the producer who finds the project, brings the right team together, shepherds it through production and manages its release through the various markets. It’s a huge job, and the best producers can do it for multiple films at once.

Multiple Projects

Time was when it was commonplace for producers to oversee multiple projects. The aforementioned Irving Thalberg, although his name never appeared on a film until after his premature death, produced every high end film that MGM made, almost half of their production roster. The other half of their films, the cheap ones, was handled by Harry Rapf.

That of course was in the days of the studio system, and in MGM films were made via a factory system which did make producing easier, but it was nevertheless a remarkable achievement.

These days it is not necessarily expected of a producer that they handle multiple films at once, but those who can (and who do so successfully) are much in demand, they find it easier to fund films, to get them green-lit etc.

A producer trades on their track record perhaps even more so than a director, because the producer is responsible for the money, and the one thing any investor wants to be sure of is that their money is in safe hands.