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Producing

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Producing a non-profit film can be difficult because the work is so important. There’s a looming social/humanitarian/environmental problem and taking a chance on a film production isn’t always in the cards. Also, words like “capital” and “budget” tend to complicate the matter, too.

As filmmakers, particularly documentary filmmakers, it’s our job to do the digging. It can be uncomfortable and it’s never clean, because the truth is never simple. This is why documentaries are so important—they offer the time and context needed for the truth, as long as we can extract it.

Take Stink Studio’s Executive Producer Omid Fatemi, for example. He’s behind the TUMI x Chris Pratt spot, which is simple on the surface, yet infinitely effective—a funny film about a man packing for his first trip to Hong Kong. Of course, it helps to have Chris Pratt as your talent—but, there’s so much more to this project than that. And that’s where Omid’s magic tricks come in.

Amanda is the director of integrated production at Wunderman Thompson in Chicago. If you don’t know what that title means, it roughly translates to “person who does just about everything.” Our conversation about her producing philosophies is an apt reminder that if you’re in the film industry, you’re a creative. You have to be. She’s a veteran in an industry that’s always changing—and she seems comfortable riding the wave of that change way out in front.

Building a production budget is arguably the most important part of the filmmaking process. It creates the framework for the project, a rough outline for what will eventually be a film. But, it’s also one of the least fun parts of the process as well, probably just because it’s so damn difficult. There are an infinite amount of moving variables and unknowns — yet another reason building one is so important.

Micro-budget filmmaking is not for the faint of heart. You end up wearing multiple hats, taking on debt, asking friends to work for free, and toiling away on a project — likely for years — without seeing much (or any) monetary return on your investment. Not to mention it’s highly unlikely you’ll attach a star of any kind at this level, so getting press or festival attention for even a great film can be challenging.

On certain levels, developing a production budget is the same regardless of the type of film, whether you’re diving into a personal project or developing branded content for a client. We’ve already tackled a few notes on developing a production budget on the personal side, but after speaking with producers Sarah Schutzki (Feral Creative) and Zanah Thirus (BBDO Atlanta), we decided the commercial side deserved its own article.

A music supervisor isn’t necessarily a household title, partially because it tends to be a “high-end” job, reserved for agencies and in-house brands that not only see the value in music but also have the budget to pay someone to seek it out for them. Still, Alec Stern, music director for DDB Chicago and We Are Unlimited, thinks the heyday for music in film is right now, and not just for iconic ad agencies:

It takes a lot of people to make a film, but only a handful of them get much credit. Director. Cinematographer. Editor, if he’s lucky. The end credits go on and on, but few people understand what all of these people even do. For example: the producer. It’s a nebulous, seemingly catchall term for someone who does the nitty-gritty work of putting a production together. But while the title might be ambiguous, it requires a very specific type of person. A mix of optimist and realist. A relentless self-starter. A serial entrepreneur. A person like Jens Jacob.