For Nike’s Lebron 17 spot, the team at Blue Ox Films knew they needed to do more than think outside the box—they needed to create a new one.
In filmmaking, it’s really easy for a project not to make it off the ground. At the beginning of pre-production, there’s a laundry list of things that can make you stumble out of the gate, which makes the production of Park Stories’ 8 part docu-series Prodigy even more astonishing.
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.
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.
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.
Whether it’s documentaries, mockumentaries, feature films, or wildly popular television shows, you can probably find it somewhere on Alex Buono’s résumé. Although he’s primarily known as a cinematographer, he’s also a successful writer, director, producer, and workshop instructor. Oh, and he’s been nominated for an Academy Award.
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.
Every project comes with its own lessons. There are lessons in failure and success, lessons in easy clients and difficult clients, and lessons in not being able to drum up any projects at all. Some of the most important lessons, though, come when we make projects for ourselves ⎯ passion projects. When left to our own devices, we have the chance to discover what we really have to offer, what we value, what we believe good work actually means. The lessons we learn by making passion projects have the ability to affect every aspect of our work, from the clients we choose to the stories we tell. Often, that’s worth the cost of production alone (whether that’s dollars, or simply the time spent by the people producing it).
From the outside, it’s not always clear what a producer does. Turns out it’s the same on the inside. “There’s no manual for it,” Nicole Irene Dyck told us, a prolific producer who, at the time of this interview, was working on no fewer than six films. “When people ask me what a producer does, I laugh and tell them, ‘Oh, everything’s my fault. That’s what I do.’” It’s an essential role. And as anyone who’s ever made a film knows, a good producer is the unsung hero behind every successful project, and the scapegoat for every failure. So it goes.
There’s nothing harder than doing work that conflicts with what you truly believe. So, instead of changing your mindset to adapt to your work, why not adapt your work to your mindset? That’s what Rand Getlin did. As a prominent sports reporter with the NFL Network, he enjoyed the job, but also felt constrained by the parameters of traditional journalism, so he left to start his own production company. According to him, it’s the same type of work, just tweaked to reflect his own philosophies on truth and objectivity.