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Job Description of a Producer of Indie Movies

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While other jobs in the film industry are well defined, such as the actor or writer, the job of the producer is a bit ambiguous. The difference between producers of indie films and producers of studio films lies in the resources and goals of indie and studio pictures. Studios are often more bottom-line focused, willing to scrap a flick on a second's notice if profit isn't easily visible, whereas independently produced movies focus more on artistry. Without the funds of a studio, indie producers usually raise the money for funding on their own, taking on extra duties in the process.

Types of Producers

The types of producers are the same in independent films as in Hollywood. Executive producers are the heavy financiers of the film. They procure at least 25 percent of the budget and may own the rights to the book the film's based on. Executive producers usually remain off set, far away from creative and technical procedures. Co-executive producers are studio executives or distributors who also have a financial stake in the film, albeit a smaller one. The co-producer helps with casting and in post-production. Line producers are always on the set supervising the budget. They have little to no creative input. The associate producer ensures the production runs smoothly along schedule, handling all problems that the production faces. Of these producers, there are essentially two types -- business and creative. Business handles the money; creative works with the director.

Primary Responsibilities

The producer gives birth to the project. This is done by acquiring the financing for the film. The producer may be responsible for hiring the director, overseeing casting, and assembling the crew. Producers also may occasionally come up with the concept or storyline of the film. While procrastinating on writing "The Dark Knight Rises," directors David Goyer and Christopher Nolan conceived "Man of Steel." Goyer shared his idea with Nolan, and the two of them expanded on it. Nolan called the studio instantly, and got the green light on producing the film. Depending on the extent of their involvement, producers may also dabble in post-production work, such as editing, music score and promotion. The most important difference between indie and studio producers is independents assume legal, business and financial responsibilities, while studio producers have the luxury of letting the studio shoulder those burdens.

Added Responsibilities of Indie Producers

Independent producers take on several additional functions compared to studio producers. Indie producers act as business managers, dealing with dozens of rules, regulations and necessary forms to close deals in order to get their movies created. They develop their projects by writing or supervising the screenwriters' progress, as well as acquiring the rights to the material. After completing the screenplay, the producer packages the film by presenting potential financiers with the script, director, producers and cast. Producers may find sources of financing from family, friends, equity investors, banks or distributors. After the financing is in place, producers must set up production, which includes hiring employees, setting up accounting and payroll and finding locations. Once the film is finished, the producer must find a distributor. When the deal is in place, the producer then has to deliver the film and all its physical elements. These include sound tracks, masters and stills, and paper elements such as copyright registration, rights documents insurance and talent agreements.

Salary and Finances

Depending on success rate, independent film producers make varied salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, producers and directors earn a median annual wage of $68,440. Studio producers often receive a salary upfront from the studio, but independent producers do not get their money this way. Their salary depends on the contract they negotiate. It may help if they have Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists membership. SAG-AFTRA negotiates the best wages and working conditions for actors and other media professionals. The amount of money indie producers earn depends upon the deal they negotiated and the film's gross.


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