March 11, 2017

Watch: How Producers Find Great Stories and Filmmakers to Bring Their Visions to the Screen

American Honey
BAFTA's Producing Roundtable reveals what makes producers successful and offers advice on how you can join their ranks.

Producers do many jobs, but ultimately they are responsible for bringing a film, television series, or other creative media projects to fruition. Producers find the stories, the filmmakers, and the financing, then shoulder the responsibility of making sure the project is completed to the best of everyone's capabilities. Every project is unique, and in turn, every producer is singular in his or her approach to finding stories and creating content.

In this BAFTA Producing Roundtable video, the producers Lucan Toh (Under the Shadow), Lauren Beck (Manchester by the Sea), Pouya Shahbazian (American Honey), and Russ Krasnoff (Denial) share how they find a great story, how they find the right filmmakers for a project, and how you can set yourself up to become a great producer. If you don't have time to watch the video, check out our takeaways below.

How producers find a great story

Each of the producers at the roundtable find great stories in different ways. For Beck and her producing partners, they seek out projects at the script level, looking for "something that gets us in our gut." For Manchester by the Sea, Beck and her team were already huge fans of Kenneth Lonergan's films and plays, and reading his script took them through a range of emotions that made it an obvious fit for their company to produce.

Producers decide to produce a project when it's "something that burns inside of you, something you can't let go of."

Krasnoff and his team scour newspaper articles, books and stories online to find anything that moves them. He decides to produce a project when it's "something that burns inside of you, something you can't let go of. And a week later, two weeks later, a month later, you're still thinking about it, you're still either agitated by it or moved by it in some way."

How producers find the right filmmakers

During the roundtable, Toh points out that as a younger production company in the UK, they have difficulty getting access to the better spec scripts floating around the industry, so they look for up-and-coming filmmakers who they think are ready to move to the next level. For example, the BAFTA award-winning short film Two & Two by Babak Anvari resonated with Toh and his production company. The film was only six minutes long, but Toh could hear the unique voice of the filmmaker come through the project, and they thought Anvari could successfully bring that voice to a feature-length film. As a result, Toh and his team collaborated with Anvari to make the feature film Under the Shadow, which premiered at Sundance 2016.

Under the Shadow
Avin Manshadi in 'Under the Shadow', directed by Babak Anvari, produced by Lucan Toh, Oliver Roskill, and Emily LeoCredit: Wigwam Films

Krasnoff points out that not all producers are alike, and each producer has his or her own strengths. So "putting the best mind on the best part of the process" is important for producers who are collaborating with one another to put a film or television show together. This also extends to finding the right filmmakers and department heads to create a team to bring the story to life.

"You can really set yourself apart by being a voracious reader."

How to become a successful producer

Shahbazian has very clear advice for people who want to know the secret to becoming a successful producer: "My advice to young people [who want to be a producer] would be [to] be a voracious reader…People who say, 'Look, give me ten books in a week, I'll read them all, cover them all, I'll read every script.' You give me those people [because they are] worth their weight in gold. We don't have enough of those people. You can really set yourself apart by being a voracious reader."      

Featured image: Sasha Lane in 'American Honey'. Credit: A24

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