Production: What Can Go Wrong?

Production:  What Can Go Wrong?

Production is a multifaceted undertaking.  Ideas, rights, contracts, performance, technology, crew, relationships, education and economics are all a part of the big picture where the goal is to produce a tangible form of intellectual property applicable for media distribution.

Ideas – An idea is just that, an ”idea.”  It is not protectable until it is in some tangible form.  The tangible form can be a manuscript, a screenplay, artwork, music or a distinctive mark called a trademark.  All are protectable once in tangible form.

Rights – After the idea is placed into a tangible form, someone has the rights to ownership and, that person has the right to protect the property exclusively unless it is already infringing on another person’s Intellectual Property.

Contracts – After the idea is translated into a tangible form and hopefully registered with the Library of Congress or the USPTO, the initial rights are established.  At this point a person might want to capitalize on the first two steps and enter into an agreement to make money from the property.  (More on this later.)

Performance – In the process of “producing” the Intellectual Property, the “producers” need some knowledge of “how” to produce.  Every person engaged has to complete their responsibility:  the investors have to complete the investment; the producers have to contract the right artists, then a new list of important factors emerge.

  • Technology – The technology has to exist (you cannot edit without the software) and the technology has to work.  It has to exist meaning, you have to lease it, buy it, barter for it or borrow it (but don’t steal it.)  It has to work meaning it can’t be outdated or not functioning.  If you are going to sell your work, you must meet certain standards.
  • Crew – The people who make it happen are the crew.  Without the crew, their expertise and ability to perform many things can go wrong.  Imagine brining in your footage it doesn’t work for you.
  • Relationships – Relationships are included because as independent producers “there is never enough.”  Not enough money, preparation time, people to help, hours in the day, etc. and this means as a producer you will have to “produce” when there is not enough.
  • Education – Education helps – all kinds:  business, writing, legal, film, gaffing, animation, editing, insurance, union rules, art techniques, design techniques, carpentry, acting, makeup, script supervision, photography, camera knowledge and the list goes on.
  • Economics – It’s hard to function without money and when there is money, it has to be appropriated wisely.

Now we ask, “What can go wrong?”

Any step of the way , even with planning you need to remember that the only person you truly control is yourself.  So many things can happen, it doesn’t even suffice to make a list, but there is a reason for “a list.”

Usually there is a production book and the book should have the blueprint.  This book is the master plan and it should have a lot of lists, starting with your intellectual property.  Keep in mind that different departments have different books because they have different needs.  Some things (not comprehensive) you might include in your production list:

  • The Intellectual Property (the screenplay)
  • Daily Changes
  • The Contact List
  • The Call Sheets
  • The Budget (if you are privy)
  • The Scene Breakdown Sheets
  • The Shot List – especially important for low budget projects and music videos because you may only have enough time and money to “capture” exactly what you “need” to fulfill the integrity of the literature.
  • Locations, Directions, Times and “who is supposed to show up where.”

Supposing there is no Intellectual Property until the project is completed such as true Reality TV or a music video. The absence of a script should equate to a very organized shot list to capture what you need to produce what you want to produce.

After the principle photography, provided you have brought in what you need or what is usable, you can now begin from the beginning, postproduction.  Postproduction the project starts all over and an entire new set of creativity skills are employed.

Here are a few tips to be aware of.

  • Before transferring any rights consult your attorney.
  • Before telling too many people about your project, file the copyright.
  • WGAE or WGA registration is not a copyright.
  • Use the right software so that your work is respectable and “industry standard.”
  • Maintain relationships and contract people that have accountability.
  • Bring on crew that understands technology.
  • Don’t start too big! Either begin small and grow with budgets or work under or intern with people who have more experience than you.
  • Know your shot list as a producer if you are on the set.  Nothing is worse than footage that isn’t what you want or does not tell your story the way you want.
  • Don’t be afraid to read websites, books, attend seminars, intern, production assistant, and watch, participate or even get coffee if you are starting out.
  • Economics – Economics is going to play a part in every project you do.  Consult attorneys, accountants and people who can guide you in the areas of your weakness.

Last word – when things go wrong, it means not as planned and it is not necessarily doomsday.  Having the resources and experience to think through the problems and vision the planning is a quality that makes a producer successful and valuable.