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Careers in Location Production for Television and Video: Pre-Production, Part 2
Maybe you are getting a better idea of what a producer is all about in the media industry. Whether it is film, television or video, a producer's role is crucial to geting a project completed on time and on budget. Okay, now remember you are a producer who has a great idea...
At some point in time, you have to decide who will be in this masterpiece. Be it a leading role, a supporting part, or just someone in the background, they all have to be auditioned or recruited. You may find a place to hold auditions, send out announcements for casting calls, review photos and promo packages, or as in our case ask friends and coworkers if they are interested. Then there is the issue of legalities and copyrights. Everyone who is recognizable on screen must sign a talent release. This is a very important thing to remember. I do not care if you are making a video using your main squeeze and close friends in it. Get them to sign a talent release! Look at it this way. Say you upload the video on the web then break up with your girlfriend. She can then legally demand that you have no right to publicly display her likeness, and your video is off the site. A talent release will prevent this. It should list an agreement in detail of how their image will be used, and how much compensation (if any) they receive. You can write one up yourself, but there are sources where you can purchase professional packages containing a variety of production forms. Not only do you need talent releases, but you also need Property Releases for any location you shoot at. The same reasons apply here too.
Another legality concern is artistic copyrights. For example, will you be using music during the video? Well you cannot just use any music lying around. You have three options; create the music yourself, pay someone else to do it for you (with releases), or pay for canned production music. If you use production music, you can either purchase single-use music (needle drops), a single CD with several songs and time variations, or purchase an entire library. All have certain restrictions and conditions on how you can use the music. In our case, we purchased a needle drop for one scene. For other music, I just broke out the old keyboard and modified a few pre-installs. In regards to any graphic necessities, it depends on the project. A simple production may only require titles and credits in editing. It may also include digitizing PowerPoint pages, documents or images. Sometimes custom graphics and animations are required. Graphic work like this is either accomplished in-house, or might be farmed-out to another company (more contractual agreements and releases).
If outside sources fund a production, the producer must keep the investors updated on progress, manage the budget, scout locations, manage scheduling, make phone calls, conduct research, validate information sources, secure releases and props, conduct inquiries, acquire artistic licenses, consult with legal help, and a whole host of other responsibilities. Hiring a director early on will be necessary so that the production end of things can commence their preparations. Crews will need to be hired and scheduled. An editor(s) must be secured and waiting in advance. Everything must be; plotted out, scheduled, reviewed, re-reviewed, rescheduled and reviewed again. Then and only then, can you begin the Production and break out the cameras. It all sounds like a lot of responsibility, and not very creative. It all depends on how you look at it. Always remember, it is the difference between aspiration and expectation.
You may not realize this, but there is a creative process in everything we do. Which shoelace you tie first, what route you use to get around, how you comb your hair, the order in which you shop at the grocery store, just about everything is a creative process. In terms of overseeing an entire production, it holds a similar process for the producer. Remember, the producer is the one with the idea, and sees to it that their vision comes to fruition. The producer may not write the script, play the music, or direct the crew, but when everything is finally being put together, you can be sure that the producer is there conducting how the final piece will ultimately look. How creative is that? It does not matter if the production is a feature film, or a promo video for a local business, it is not finished without the producer. Sometimes they do it with teams of assistants, other times they assume a variation of roles, and there are times when the producer does it all.
OK, so how does this all relate from a local market perspective? How can this knowledge help you with employment? I realize that being a producer is beyond any entry-level position, unless you have lots of money, a sugar daddy, or a rich relative. While most of this is not necessary related to your immediate career goals, maybe the overall way of how things are accomplished in this business are becoming a little clearer. How you can apply it to your own goals will vary. One thing it reveals is just how many different types of employment opportunities are out there in this industry. If you like to write, draw, organize, file, research or most anything else, there are positions in this field that can fit. Just make sure you place yourself where opportunities may arise. Maybe you are an entrepreneur with some equipment and want some extra income (don't forget about Uncle Sam). In this case, knowing what a producer does may help in adapting the techniques for your purposes. The methods they use help you understand organization, planning and scheduling on smaller projects. Even the experience from managing a small, non-budget production will help you in the future when seeking funding for other projects.
On the other hand, if you just want to grab a camera and video tape your friend's band, or post your comedy sketch on a web site, some of the methods producers use might be helpful for your production. They may even save you from the embarrassment of a lawsuit. In any event, it is the role of the producer to make sure that the project is complete, and come away with a final product to show for their efforts, but there are two phases left to overcome before that. We next turn to the Production phase and the role of the director.