COVID-19 rocked so many different aspects of the filmmaking process. A recent poll shows that independent producers are finding it hard to exist in the pandemic world. Things were bad before COVID, but now, it's a job that's dying out.
Independent producers work to raise funds for a film. Most times, they only get paid when the movie gets made or when it sells to a distributor. Because of this burden, many independent producers report less than $50 thousand in income, with many surviving on unemployment and succumbing to the pressure to get other jobs.
A new poll from the online industry forum Dear Producer found that 77.8% of respondents called for minimum producer fees—money paid to producers to take on projects regardless if they shoot.
Right now, producers usually get 5% of the budget, but that rule only applies up to about a $5 million budget. Generally, the fee for each producer is based on what the producer has earned in the past, and caps out in the $150,000 to $250,000 range for most producers of independent films.
So few producers ever see this kind of money.
The poll submitted by Dear Producer had lots of other disturbing numbers. Most producers face hurdles, including a lack of access to financing and having to work another job, which were the top two barriers to entering or progressing in producing as a career. When asked what would make them leave or consider leaving producing as a career, the number-one consideration by far is the lack of money or financial concerns.
You cannot have a career without a paycheck.
Rebecca Green, founder and editor in chief of Dear Producer, says being an indie film producer is not the glamourous Hollywood job many people think.
"That may have been true 20 or 30 years ago, but it is not reflective of the industry today. The reality is that producers rarely make a living wage. We work for years to bring movies to life—which may or may not happen—without compensation, and in fact, we are often spending upwards of $5,000 of our own money to even get a project started," Green said in a statement.
These hurdles have thinned out working producers.
Green hopes this poll and the results will inspire more studios to work with producers.
“People often underplay the role that producers fulfill in finding and championing talent in the film industry,” said Green. “Producers are crucial in not just bringing the right people together, but also in our skill and talent for discovery. Producers are usually the first people to take a chance on a filmmaker or script—to recognize and nurture talent, to polish the rough gem of a story. We are the ones who fight for new perspectives. We nurture talent in directors, writers, and others who are then moved up the ranks to bigger budget movies, while we’re left behind being asked to waive our fees and wondering how we might pay rent next month.”
Only time will tell if these practices will change moving forward. But I don't want to live in a world without independent producers bringing independent films to life.
You can read the full report here.