Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Aspiring Producers

Justin writes: I'm an aspiring producer. Do you know where I can find writers who'd be willing to work on spec for a couple ideas I have?

Here's the problem...I don't know if I can really advise any aspiring writers to work on spec for aspiring producers, unless they are close friends and really want to give it a shot. Why? No manager, agent, producer or executive is going to see a script that has an attached producer with no experience or credits as a good thing.

(Also, you may want to be aware that all writers have plenty of ideas of their own that they want to work on.)

I know you may want to jump into you producing career, but I'm not sure this is the best way to do it. Usually the way to start producing is to become an assistant at a production company and get promoted. This often involves being an assistant at an agency first, or perhaps being a PA or receptionist at the production company and working your way up (I have friends who have done both).

The other path would be to start producing things independently, if you know how and can somehow raise money. You might look into film schools - The Peter Stark Producing Program at USC is definitely recognized in Hollywood, and many of its alums have been very successful.

Maybe you could start with a short. And to actually answer your question, maybe try the TV Writers Yahoo Group.

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samuel.x.killer said...

producers actually produce... so i'd start there. instead of having someone write your idea as their script, why not find someone's idea you can produce? maybe pair up with a writer on a web series idea. some aspiring writers may even write your web series/short idea if you promise to get it produced. the naive thing to think is that your idea would sell and that you just need a writer to write it so you can sell it. that just doesn't happen, especially for people without credits.

E Dot said...

As a writer, I'm much more inclined to collaborate with a producer on a short script. This forms a bond between the writer and producer, and it's much easier to write a short script based off somebody else's idea than a feature.

Many aspiring writers will eventually need/want to do work-for-hire, so it may be a great opportunity for two determined creative-types to put heads together and creative something substantial. If it turns out to be a good working relationship, this may spark an interest to develop your feature idea into a screenplay...

Jessica Butler said...

Another great way to break in as a non-writing producer is to work as an assistant to a network or studio executive. Most non-writing EPs are former executives.

Dan Williams said...

There are a lot of one-act plays written by great writers that are in the public domain. You might want to tackle one. Shaw wrote some.

Sasha said...

I agree with Dan--to flex your producer muscles, start producing. Public domain one-acts seem like a good place to start learning what producing means.

If you put together a few good shows you'll start meeting good people, some of whom will probably have scripts they'd like to share...the growth will happen organically, as long as you keep going.

I've also learned that one needs a *clear* idea of what one's ultimate goal is, and a *clear* idea of all the steps needed to get there. Don't try to skip any of those steps now--just take them one at a time.

If you try to skip ahead to dictating original material, etc, etc, it will ultimately be a waste of time. You (probably) aren't ready for that stage yet, but humility and diligence now means that one day you will be :)

Greg M said...

I've got a different take on this: Justin, if you want people to write for you--to work for you--you need to pay them. Pay the writer. No writer worth his salt, aspiring or otherwise, is going to work on someone else's project for free. I did a work for hire gig when I first came out here--for a low four digit sum. I set that rate because there was no guarantee the script would ever be produced.

An aspiring producer wanted me to work on a project for free. Turned him down flat. The project never got off the ground.

Writing is a job, like being a plumber or electrician. You want people to do good work for you, you need to pay them.

Pay the writer.

Amanda said...

These are all thoughtful comments... but I think I want to emphasize that if you want to produce things in the mainstream Hollywood system, you probably should spend some time around people who do exactly that. Generally if you can work for someone who does exactly what you want to do, that's the best education. Producing shorts and web series and all that is fine, but translating that into a mainstream Hollywood career might be difficult. I would get as "inside" as you can.

E Dot said...

I agree, Amanda. It's being able to balance your creative, hands-on experience with an assistant position that'll give you the connections to move forward in your career.

Like writing, it's not just about your screenplay. You can have a fantastic screenplay, but if you don't put in the networking work it's much more difficult to break in.

It's all about balance.

Little Miss Nomad said...

GregM, I disagree. There are a lot of young writers out there who would be happy just to get their work made. Just make sure you both know what you're bringing to the table.