Producer As LeaderThe producer must always be a leader for his team, as much as (if not even more than ) the director, if a film is to have a chance of success. Unlike the writer and director of a film however, the characteristics of a successful producer can be difficult to pin down.

After all, the producer wears many hats (each with different skill set requirements) throughout the various stages of a film’s development; marketing, production and exploitation. In addition, the producer deals with longer term strategic management, as well as the financing of the company or distribution business.

Therefore, the producer needs to be two different kinds of leader. He must be transformational while he seeks to convince financiers that they should spend enormous sums of money on a film, and he must also be transactional when he uses his managerial skills to run the production company, any legal negotiations, and the production management during the shoot.

From a larger business strategy perspective, independent producers tend to be responsive, bargaining, manipulative (particularly in circumstances that deal with external power), intuitive and entrepreneurial. They cannot rely upon meticulous long term plans or rational analysis, because their financial and business environment tends to be far too chaotic and interdependent for that to be reliable.

After all, unless a producer is a broadcaster or a studio executive, he will not generally have instant  access to money. Instead, he must work to raise the necessary money for a script from the marketplace. For this reason, the characteristic in a producer that is most critical from the list given above is that of entrepreneurship. Every film a producer launches, is a new venture; a new business.

In addition to being a manager of the film enterprise, the producer must also be a champion for the people on his team, particularly the writer and director. Typically, a person with entrepreneurial traits will also have personality traits like creativity, risk-taking, independence, proactivity, innovativeness and the ability and willingness to live with uncertainty. Finally, like other types of creative people, entrepreneurs often exhibit a sensation-seeking mentality; desiring excitement in their lives and finding it by taking financial, career, or personal risks.

Now that we have set forth a very general overview of the major character traits found in successful producers, let’s slow down and look at some of these characteristics in more detail.

Characterizing the Producer as an Entrepreneur

The following is a list of common entrepreneurial characteristics and the likelihood of each of these traits being found in a film producer:

Independence – The entrepreneur wants to be his own boss, a desire which often serves as the motivation to take on the heavy workload expected of a producer. Sometimes this can lead to a reluctance to allow external involvement or to accept professional advice. This is particularly true of producers who are not motivated by the desire for profit.  Likelihood of this trait in a producer: High.

Achievement – This can come in two different forms for a producer: desiring profit (the more common mark of achievement) or desiring respect (usually in the form of awards). Likelihood of this trait in a producer: High.

Control – The entrepreneur has a strong ability and/or desire to control his environment. A negative side effect of this character trait is the tendency toward excessive micro-management. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: High.

Risk Taking – This doesn’t simply entail a willingness to take risks, but also the possibility that a person might actively seek out these risks. For example, a high risk-taking mentality would put their own house on the line in order to fund a new venture. This type of characteristic can also cause someone to be making their decisions in short term increments, rather than through long-term planning. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: High.

Opportunistic – The entrepreneur is willing to exploit major changes if it brings with it the possibility of profit. This is the type of person who will sell a business in order to move on to something new. A negative side effect of this character trait is that sometimes this type of person gets bored with a new venture too quickly and moves on to a new opportunity before it is a good idea to do so. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: Moderate.

Innovative – This is an extension of the opportunistic characteristic. Before an entrepreneur moves on to a new venture, he must first recognize that the opportunity is there. This is where innovativeness comes in; the entrepreneur sees the chance for success and instinctively favors it. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: Moderate.

Self-confident – The entrepreneur is extremely confident and trusts in his own judgment. Sometimes this can become a negative trait if this self-trust borders on the delusional.  Likelihood of this trait in a producer: Moderate.

Self-motivated – This is a critical trait in a field that entails long work hours. The entrepreneur must want to work to avoid quick burnout or boredom. He is driven, determined, and actively seeks out opportunities because he wants to, not because he has to. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: Moderate.

Self-taught – Often this type of person prefers to learn something by doing it rather than by being taught formally. This might explain the reason why some film producers tend to resist any kind of conventional training courses on film production. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: Moderate.

Visionary – The entrepreneur has flair in his vision, which is often good for motivating others in his team. He doesn’t wait to get lucky; rather he makes his own luck. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: Moderate.

Fanatical – The entrepreneurial film producer is often a fanatic, possibly even obsessed with his work to the exclusion of personal relationships or family.

This trait can cause the producer to believe that he has a higher chance of success than others are inclined to believe. Rather than being a negative trait however, this fanaticism helps the producer to persevere toward his goal even when there are setbacks.

This is particularly necessary when one considers how highly the odds are stacked against a typical idea’s success. As Tim Adler, the film business journalist, once pointed out, only one of every ten ideas will get turned into a treatment; one of ten treatments will become a first draft; one of every ten first drafts will be further developed; one of every ten developed scripts will be developed; and only one of ten scripts at the financing stage will eventually be made into a film.

Even at this point, the risk faced by a producer is high, since 50% of films that get made end up losing money, 40% eventually recoup their losses after a number of years, and only 10% become relative hits.

Considering this, as well as the fact that a producer doesn’t earn any extra money when a film does become a success, it doesn’t take long to realize that a film producer absolutely must be fanatical about his vision in order to remain motivated throughout the entire process. Likelihood of this trait in a producer: High.