Who is the Perfect Producer?

images-30OK, so I am going to Cannes in less than a month with my script tucked under my arm.  I am looking for a producer, but who exactly am I looking for?  We can all make lists of our favourite films, breakthrough talent and companies we’d love to work with but what are the qualities you need in your perfect producer?

1. They have to get it.
They can be the best producer in the world but if they don’t understand your story or relate to it, move on.  Feature film producing takes years of dedication for relatively no financial reward (unless your movie is one of the few that makes it big at the box office).  So they have to really want to do it.

2. They have to believe in you.

images-27This is not just to satisfy your need to be loved.  They have to believe you can deliver a great shooting script and, if you are a writer-director, that you can make it into a fantastic film.  No matter what happens, they have to believe you can do it.

3.  They’re persuasive.

Ben Affleck and producer Grant Heslov accept the Best Picture award for Argo They have to convince the people with the money to invest, key talent to come on board, great crew to commit, distributors and broadcasters to buy your film, and you that you can write another draft/move the film from Venice to Venezuela.

4. They’re good people.
Arguably an optional trait in such a tough business, but you need to trust them, and you’re going to be spending a lot of time together.  So when the going gets rough you can lean on each other and feel encouraged to keep going.

5. They’re marriage material

images-32If this is all sounding like a relationship that’s because it is. It ain’t no one night stand. The best producers are the ones you go back to again and again, because you love working with them, trust their judgement and respect them because they absolutely know what they’re doing. Or you believe they do…

6.  They’re you.
You are your own first producer.  If you don’t get your project and believe in it, nobody else will.  You have to persuade people to come on board your project and that you can make it happen.  You need to be kind to yourself on the winding road of development and be in it for the long run, for better or worse, for richer for poorer…

So I guess I’ve found my first producer.  Now I’m looking for a companion.  A co-producer who will take my project to the next level.

I’m hearing music… Love lifts us up where we belong

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Rescue fantasies aside – if you find the Perfect Producer, let me know.  I’ll buy a hat because it could be a marriage made in heaven.

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Check out this list of the newest Top Ten US Producers who are tipped to change Hollywood.

Who is the best producer you ever worked with and why? Or if you’re a producer what do you look for in a writer or director? Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @emlin32 . Good luck in your search!

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5 Reasons to Love Your First Draft

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So I finally completed the first draft of my screenplay.  There was no fanfare, no cheering, just a profound sense of relief.  I may even have cried a little.  I took a shower, walked along the river and spent the day in a profound and pleasurable silence.  It was done.

Or was it?  I sent it bravely to my gifted script editor for comments.  ‘Don’t hurry,’ I said, ‘I could do with a few days off anyway.’  The notes came back the same day  (I told you she was gifted).  And the work begins again.

So what is a first draft?

1. It’s an emotional template for your story.
It maps out the terrain of your character’s journey.  Some of the paths may still be dirt tracks but the general direction is clear.  You know where you’re heading.

2. It’s your signature draft.
You know it’s all going to change and many eyes and hands will pass over it, but right now it’s yours and yours alone.  It has your personality stamped through it like a stick of rock.  Hold onto that.

3. It’s an exploration of problems to be solved.
The first draft throws up issues and questions for you and your readers – Why did she do this? How did they get there? Who are you writing this for and what will they expect?  Does it start one way and end the other?  Stop already, you’re depressing me!  But it’s all vital stuff for moving forward.

4. It’s personal.
Maybe the most personal draft you’ll write.  If you’ve taken the time to dig deep this is your heart on the line.  And that emotional core is what you have to find again, through all the rewrites and heartaches of development.

5. It’s still all to play for.
What’s satisfying is what’s there on the page.  What’s interesting is what’s not. ‘What have you begun?’ is the most enticing question of all if you have the nerve to answer it.

It’s no wonder you love that first draft like the new-born baby it most certainly is.

So what will the second draft be? It may be messy, sprawling, a giant toddler gorged on too much milk. It may reject you as it gets older, or be rejected in its turn.  It may be beautiful and serene and much loved.  It sure won’t be the last.  But you will love it just as much as your first because, in the end, they all come from you.

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What makes you proud of your first draft?  Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @emlin32.  Happy Writing!

7 Ideas for Directing Actors

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I love working with with actors as a TV director and also as an acting coach at  the Met Film School, Ealing Studios.

Here’s what I tell my student directors about working with actors on camera:

1)   Actors are people too.

They are not an alien species with extraordinary demands or mysterious needs. They’re like you. They just want to feel comfortable so they can do their best work for you.

2)   Listen to them.

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The question I am asked most often by new directors is ‘What if an actor refuses to do what I say?’  The reality is this – an actor hardly ever says no. You are the director and they want to give you what you want.  If they question your direction it’s usually because they don’t understand what you’ve said and they want to make sure they get it right. Sometimes an actor will have a different idea about the character or hesitate because they feel uncomfortable with your request. Talk to them about why – they may well have a point!

3)   Don’t leave actors in the dark.

images-21Filming involves very long periods of hanging around, especially for actors. Tell them what’s happening if there’s a delay.   And let them take a proper break if a shot is going to take a while to set up. And it sounds really obvious, but make sure they aren’t cold, hungry, thirsty or in too much discomfort while you get that difficult, time consuming shot.

4)   Let them know if it’s good.

Film and TV schedules move so fast the most commonly heard expression on set is ‘Moving on.’ This may mean you’ve approved a take. But it doesn’t sound too exciting to the actors. Whenever you can, go over and let them know you’re happy with their performance.

5)   Trust them to do the work for you

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Simon McBurney, the director  of Theatre de Complicité, has said that there are three kinds of actor.  The first kind says, ‘Tell me what to do!’  The second kind says, ‘Don’t tell me what to do!’  The third kind (the kind we all  love to work with) says, ‘Well I’ve been doing some thinking and maybe we could try this? What do you think?’  It’s a collaboration and the best actors can show you things you never dreamed of.  So don’t prescribe their actions or speech, let them show you their take on it first and go from there. However…

6)   Be specific in your instructions.

Actors do want direction.  You have to be clear and make decisions, so they in their turn can make choices about how to play things.  The moments you identify must be precise, the language and tone you use is important so make every suggestion or response count.

7)   Have fun!

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The more relaxed you can be, the better.  Keep some freedom to change things, don’t lock it down too fast.  Get to know your actors as people.  The time you spend with your actors off set can be as valuable – and as much fun – as the time you spend on it.

Who is the most exciting actor you’ve worked with and why? Leave a comment below or tweet me @emlin32 on Twitter…