Grown-Ups Don’t Play Little League

So, a well-known screenwriter blogger (you know who I mean) has announced his intention to parlay his access to unknown writers into a producing career. Despite admitting freely that he isn’t sure what a producer actually does. Well, I guess honesty is always good…

And so the online discussion begins. People criticise him, he critises them… Should you take on a job you don’t know how to do? Does someone who openly says that his role will be to take a script and get it to a more experienced Hollywood producer actually merit the label of ‘producer’?  (Sounds more like a manager to me. Okay, I agree, that’s not exactly what a manager does, but if you have to fix a label to this, ‘manager’ fits a little better than ‘producer’…)

Here’s what I think.

For all I know, this blogger will turn out to be the greatest producer of all time. Could happen. But –

A producer is the person has the expertise, the contacts, the skills, and the access to money that will get this particular project made. In and of themselves. They may decide to team up with other people who have access to something –  additional money, a director, an actor –  that they want, but if push came to shove they could pull together the money, get a different director and cast, and get the movie made, all by themselves.

Of course, that suggests there are different levels of producer for different levels of project. If you’ve written a ten-minute short, that girl you were at college with, or that guy who was a production runner on a TV show, may well have the money, skills and experience to get it made. So sure, go with them as your producer. However, if you’ve written a two-hour FX-laden sci-fi epic…?  Maybe not.

Because writing a screenplay is hard work. In a world where small children break rocks in the hot sun all day and don’t make enough money to eat, it seems kind of self-obsessed to say sitting at a desk is hard work, but – you poured your energy, time and creative energies into that script. You made it the very best you could – and you want it to actually get made, and be made to a decent standard. You don’t want it to turn out the equivalent of the local panto, or worse, vanish into contractual limbo and never be seen again. Because this isn’t just one script, this is your reputation, and mud sticks.

It’s hard to get your script made. And you know what? It should be hard. That’s what keeps out all the crap. (Well, most of it.) So when someone comes along and offers you an easy shortcut to fame and riches if you entrust them with your work, it’s tempting to take it. But think very carefully before you do, because not everyone who can talk the talk can walk the walk.