Remember in old movies how you’d see credits at the beginning of the film and it seemed like such a small group of key people?
Prior to the digital era it was rare to see more than two to three producer names on a film, and often you only saw one.
We currently live in a new Producing era, where the title itself has lost its own self- identity.
These days it seems that the smaller and more ‘indie’ a film is, the more producers that are listed.
That’s because the Producer credit has become nothing more than a bartering tool in an era where filmmakers are trying to do everything for little or nothing. It’s become convenient to offer a Producer credit in exchange for something of perceived value that a third party is bringing to the table.
It actually doesn’t really bother me that this has become the norm. As a working Producer (meaning I’m the guy who actually does all the work, takes the film from script to screen and assumes all of the risk), what really bothers me today is that the Producer credit is now expected by people whether they deserve it or not.
My first big battle with this was on a film I produced and directed back in 2007.
Aside from a couple of individuals who were listed as producers on the film because they actually arranged and/or contributed to financing of the film, I was the only actual boots on the ground Producer. Not to mention, I was line producing as well!
Midway through the production, the 1 st AD approached me and said that he needed to have a co-producer credit on the film because of how hard he was working.
I asked him what justified him claiming the credit relative to what his actual job was. He looked at me like it was a stupid question. He simply assumed he deserved it because he was working hard.
On the same film, the editor insisted on a Producer credit. My response was, ‘Did you do my job?’ Again I got the idiot stare. ‘Then why would I give you my credit’?
In my logical mind, the ask was ludicrous because they were asking for a title for a job they didn’t perform. Since I was the one actually performing the job, and again, assuming all the risk, I was dumbfounded that someone else would want credit for the job I was doing.
It seems many people in the independent world don’t think it’s problematic to take ownership over a title for a job they didn’t perform.
The role of the Producer has been diminished to the point that everyone feels they are entitled to it, regardless of what they actually contributed to a production.
Low and no-budget filmmakers take advantage of this by offering the title in exchange for services rendered. As a result most independent films today end up with a laundry list of Producers – Executive
Producers, Co-Executive Producers, Co-Producers, Associate Producers, etc.
Today the Producers Guild has put into place somewhat of a system that enables the real risk-assuming working Producers to differentiate themselves, and there are ways to credit on screen to make the distinction as well. But the real problem comes in the entitlement of people who simply want to stack their resumes and IMDB credits and assume ownership over films they didn’t actually create.
One of my recent productions has over a dozen producers listed, of which only three of those individuals actually performed the job, or at least performed it to the standards defined by the Producer’s Guild.
For some reason our industry is accepting of this.
I remember from my days in the video game industry how important titles were to people.
It was something they earned and took pride in, and nobody would ever dare assume a title they were not rightfully assigned and being compensated for.
My father worked in the banking industry for many years and titles were very specific there as well.
My sister is a doctor, and I definitely know that in that field nobody screws around with titles or claims titles that they have not achieved through schooling and accreditation.
So why is it so acceptable in Hollywood to assume a credit for a job you haven’t performed? Not to mention, why are so many people comfortable doing so? Is it ego, or just plain ignorance?
Earlier I said that I didn’t have as much of a problem with the filmmakers giving the credits away as much as I do with people who insist on or request the credit, but it’s also a two way street.
In today’s Hollywood, the title ‘Producer’ is very loosely defined. But the definition of the job that a Producer does is not loosely defined. It’s actually very specific. Filmmakers today need to do a better job and take more pride in the title and the job, and realize that it’s something special and something earned.
The Best Picture Oscar goes to the producer, because the Producer is the person who risked all to get that movie made. So why give that away to someone who didn’t risk anything?
I take a lot of pride in my Produced by credit, as should you – the new generation of
risk-taking independent Producers!