Programs Tue 10.22.2013

Five Things They Never Tell First-Time Producers—But Should!

For women who love indies, it’s always great to hear about a new project that’s centered around a compelling female character, and even more so when it’s got a solid team of women at the helm. So we were excited to learn that Film Independent Fellow Kate Roughan’s latest project is Day Out of Days by writer/director Zoe Cassavetes; the film is being co-produced by Gina Kwon and its DP is Denise Milford. It tells the story of Mia Clarke (Alexia Landeau), a once well-known Hollywood actress, approaching 40, who’s had her moment in the spotlight and now struggles to get back to where she once was. (To get involved, check out the film’s fundanything campaign.)

With more than a few successes under Roughan’s belt—her last film, Birth Story: Ina May Gaskin and the Farm Midwives won the Los Angeles Film Festival’s 2012 Audience Award, was nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award, and has since become part of the curriculum at Harvard and Yale Universities—she’s got a first-hand POV of the realities of the producing biz. Here, Roughan reveals five things they never tell first-time producers—but should.

Film Independent Fellow Kate Roughan

1. Get a day job
If your focus is features it will most likely take much longer than you think to get one off the ground. And once you do, the fee on your first time out scales between shockingly low to devastatingly free. Find a job where you can earn a living and meet people while moving your projects forward. I love working for non-profit arts organizations like Sundance and Film Independent. I also line produce social issue docu-style films for Wondros Global, which is a great company.

2. Be nice
Your reputation is made every single day. You never really know who you are crossing paths with and what happens to be going on with that person. Treat everyone with respect and stand behind your word no matter what the situation is.

3. Enlist mentors
Just because you’re new to a situation doesn’t always mean that you’ll have to learn painful lessons. There are plenty of knowledgeable people in independent film who are willing to share their wisdom with you. I always have several people I can turn to for help when unchartered territory presents itself. Ron Yerxa and Gina Kwon [who won the 2005 Bravo/American Express Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards] are two great examples of veterans who give back to the community. I stalked Ron into being my mentor very early on and I still try to work with Gina Kwon whenever I’m able.

4. Ask once
I meet new people as frequently as possible because it’s something that I enjoy. I try to stay in touch casually. A rule of thumb that I try to stick by is to favor save. I try to only ask for a favor one time. If it’s a project, I’ll save a contact until I’m positive that the material matches their taste and THEN submit. If it’s a location, time commitment or anything else relating to production I try to never hit up the same people twice. It’s annoying to feel fleeced by a favor asker.

5. Connect with peers
Producing can be lonely. Find a supportive and non-competitive group of colleagues. There’s a short hand with people pursuing the same goals and there’s strength in numbers. It’s refreshing to have people to refer jobs to and vice versa, compare notes, share information, etc. It’s also amazingly helpful attending informative events like the Film Independent Forum. It’s a graduate school semester packed into two days.

By Pamela Miller / Website & Grants Manager