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How to Become a Movie Producer

Updated on June 27, 2019
Kenna McHugh profile image

I've written, contributed to several books on film, and worked in the film industry. I like to share the insights of the movie business.

Film School

You can say, "No film school." You save money that way, and then you work your way up the industry ladder becoming a movie producer.

I talked with the owner of a puppet artist company. He has worked in the film industry for decades and told me he hires people who are not fresh out of film school. He likes working with people who work hard and are willing to learn the ropes - not think they already know it all. He explained that film school students tend to have preconceived ideas of what it means to work in film. "They don't want to work hard and work their way up the industry ladder."

The film industry has its fair share of movie producers who were college dropouts or didn't attend secondary education. Self-taught directors and producers seem endless if you look at the list. Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Francis Ford Coppola are just a few to name. Each one has their own story of how they worked their way into the film industry and became successful without attending or finishing film school.

What Makes a Good Movie Producer

Becoming a movie producer is a brave choice of profession. A producer makes a production happen. In Myrl A. Schreibman’s book “Creative Producing from A to Z” he writes, “The producer is the one who is able to obtain the creative ingredients to prompt a project to go or the person who is able to raise the funding to give the project a green light but who then turns it over to another producer who makes it happens.”

I recommend reading Schreibman's book because it covers all aspects of filmmaking from location scouting to funding a movie.

To become a movie producer, you need to learn what a movie producer does and how to take on the hat of a producer by having the mindset of being willing to be the creative force behind the project whether it’s a movie, TV or Cable show or theatrical play.

Some producers take on responsibilities of filmmaking like earning tax or industry incentives, financing, product placement or distribution deals. They work the niche of the business until they are a professional and know all there is to know about the particular aspect of film producing. They become part of a movie production because of their experience is beneficial for that production.

In Myrl A. Schreibman’s book “Creative Producing from A to Z” he writes, “The producer is the one who is able to obtain the creative ingredients to prompt a project to go or the person who is able to raise the funding to give the project a green light but who then turns it over to another producer who makes it happen.”

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise at one time sponsored a film website, which was highly ranked by Google. There you can find information on how to become a film producer. The site said, “… learning how to become a movie producer puts you in the driver’s seat of film production. The producer is possibly the most misunderstood, yet most important person involved with any movie. The producers – people like Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, and Jerry Bruckheimer – all join a film project at the very beginning and commit themselves to see it through to completion. In short, they’re the generals running the entire production, doing it all.”

Nothing could be closer to the truth. Producers are the ones who make sure the project gets done. They are the CEO or the general of the camp. It’s hard work, and yet, has many rewards – like an Oscar or food on the table.

Film School or Not

Would you go to film school?

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Alumi Meaning in Film School

You can attend a film school with proactive alumni and network. There you can meet students who have the same desire as you - produce movies. Writer and director Nicole Holofcener told me in an interview how she hooked up with her producer while she was in film school in New York.

They met in film school, and he produced her first movie called Walking and Talking. The movie was her first feature film that launched the careers of Catherine Keener, Liev Schreiber, and Anne Heche.

Holofcener told me that her producer friend was instrumental in getting the film completed and in the movie theaters. During the same interview, she told me going to film school is a great idea as long as you have the funds.

Movie Producer in Hollywood

Jordan Peele wears many hats in the movie industry. He's an actor, director, and producer. He understands how to make movies.

He knows what it takes to become a successful movie producer. He is so down to earth and realistic about the movie-making process as you can see the video interview. It's hard for me to believe he starred in Mad TV and is a comedian.

Jordan Peele Director of Get Out and Producer of BlacK k Klansman

Tim McGahan Describes Producing Winchester

Movie Producer Contract

The average salary of a movie producer is between 44 thousand and 176 thousand per movie, but there are bonuses. Bonuses are how the movie producer excels in the industry.

Those pleasant perks are what makes being a producer so much fun. The bonuses include profit sharing and commission. Profit sharing means sharing the profits while commission means bringing in investors and getting a percentage of that investment. Then, there is the good old bonus, which is whatever the producer's contract stipulates. An example is producing the movie under budget.

Movie Producer Benefits

The character of being a producer and the related jobs that go with the position is nothing short of an adventure. Once a producer is successful, he or she rarely quit the movie business because it is a creative and rewarding job. When you become a producer, you will hustle and work very hard because many people will count on you. Their jobs will be in your hands.

© 2014 Kenna McHugh

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