A producer doesn’t just finance films : Ashish Bhatnagar
Often perceived as Mr. Moneybags though that’s not the only hat a producer dons. He’s the big man who brings alive a project, tells Ashish Bhatnagar, Founder and CEO – IDream Motion Pictures, in an exclusive chat. He also talks about the lesser-known members on a production team.
“The producer is the big man who puts the film together, gives life to a project. Without a producer the film can’t be made. He gets the story in place, a director onboard, gets the artists and finances required for the project. That is the classical form of how a producer works in Hollywood,” says Ashish Bhatnagar, Founder and CEO, IDream Motion Pictures, and quickly adds, “In India, except for Yash Chopra, Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar and, maybe, Sajid Nadiadwala and Subhash Ghai, producer’s function differently. Here the director or actor calls the shots and they don the mantle of the producer and put the project together. If it’s a director like Imtiaz Ali, who has carved a name for himself, a studio or production house will approach him to co-produce any of his projects. So here a Producer is actually considered as a financier, a man who will put in the money and then shut shop and will not interfere in anything.”
That’s what traditionally a Producer does, but changing times, professionalism and high risk involved is changing the importance of Mr. Moneybags. “In recent times some directors have gone through the ups and downs so studios are getting wise and imposing certain control to make sure that the project remains on the same line as discussed,” says the producer who kicked off his career with films like Monsoon Wedding and Bend It Like Beckham.
He elaborates on each position that builds a production team of a film unit.
Barrie M. Osborne perfectly exemplifies what a producer’s job entitles. He happened to meet with Peter Jackson (Director of The Lord of the Ring series), who wasn’t a big name back then. Osborne loved Jackson’s idea of making a sequel of films based on The Lord of the Ring books. So he hired Jackson as the director and acquired the rights of the book for the film. He put in his own capital to buy the rights. Then they went to New Line Cinema (NLC) for finance. They too felt it was a brilliant story and came onboard. NLC became the distributor though they financed the movie. At the Oscars, when TLOTR won the Best Picture Award, Barrie Osborne went up to take the award, and not NLC. That’s the power of a Producer. Sadly it is completely abused, misunderstood and badmouthed word in this industry. A producer is the one who takes maximum risk and gets the financiers. He may or may not pump in the money for the project. If the film doesn’t work, others move on to the next project and he is left holding the can. It’s the most unrewarding post (here). One out of a 100 movies makes money but for that 1/100th opportunity a lot of names emerge and die in the process.
Executive Producer again considered a very important post in Hollywood. Over here it is misunderstood. An EP is the guy who along with the Producer is responsible for putting the project together. Do you know Tom Cruise is an EP on the Mission Impossible series? He’s the one who bought some of the element/s together to make the film. He wasn’t interested in handling the entire project. An EP brings in an important element for the film – an actor, getting money from a source, getting a distributor, etc. So he takes a certain percentage of the profits. There can be one EP or five EPs on a film.
In Hollywood it’s a Unit Manager, in Europe it’s Line Producer and here it’s Executive Producer. They are different names but everyone does the same thing. LP is given a budget by the Producer that has been approved by the Director. Of course, the LP also makes a budget but the final approval is given by the Producer. He’ll negotiate the cost for lights, cameras and equipment because these are very big expenses. Sometimes even the Producer is involved in making these decisions. Once the major outgoings are locked, the LP ropes in Head of Departments (HODs), i.e. production designer, cameraman, costume designer, etc. In some cases the Producer and Director are also closely involved in finalising the positions. After this process the team gets into prep. That’s when the production team – comprising of production manager, assistant production manager, production controller, production assistant and boys – and direction team are formed. Each one is given a specific task to handle. They do everything that is related to day-to-day activities.
Production controller’s job is to oversee what the art, costume, make-up, etc. teams are doing. They ensure the money is rightly spent. They control and monitor the day-to-day activities.
Usually there’s an auditor on the set who handles the money. Often different teams give the production team their requirements for the next day’s shoot. For example, the action team will tell us that they need cartons for an action sequence. So it’s the Production Manager’s job to get it approved from the Line Producer, auditor and arrange for it. Production Manager manages to accomplish any job assigned.
In Hollywood, they are known as Production Assistants. Spot boys are the ones who run around to do errands for the entire unit. For example, someone wants tea and snacks, attending to artists, bringing chairs and tables, etc. They are slaves, but are paid well. On a Hindi film unit there are around 10 spot boys.
He is the person sitting in a corner with all the things required on a shoot. It can be anything from batteries to Johnson tapes to butter paper to miscellaneous things needed on the set. He buys and takes care of all the things brought for the shoot.
Given that film units have 150-crew nowadays there’s a Transport coordinator appointed to handle the logistics to arrange and manage commute for the entire team.
– By Rachana Parekh