Wanna Produce an Oscar Contender? Follow These Examples

IndieWire spoke with producers David Heyman and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, who each produced two of the year's top movies.

Imagine being in a position to produce both Joker and The Irishman.

What about both Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Marriage Story?

That was the incredible case for producers Emma Tillinger Koskoff (Martin Scorsese's former assistant turned producing partner) and David Heyman. Koskoff helped guide Scorsese's gangster epic and the Mean Streets-esque Joker film, while Heyman stepped into new creative circles with directors Quentin Tarantino and Noah Baumbach.

IndieWire recently spoke with Koskoff and Heyman about how they landed these buzzworthy projects. Here are some main takeaways!

David Heyman
Credit: Gage Skidmore

Learn What a Producer Does

The job of a producer can be difficult to define for those who haven't spent time developing a film project. Koskoff told IndieWire, “I take the movie and set it up and make it work. I keep the schedule.” In the case of Koskoff and Heyman, they both were around for the development stage of all these projects. 

A couple of IndieWire's main points are that both of these producers rose through the ranks and were talented enough to meet and earn the respect of highly sought-after directors, becoming highly sought-after themselves.

Target a director you respect. Maybe you'll want to try to get a position at their production company or land a gig as their assistant like Koskoff did with Scorsese.

Working alongside these creatives will be one of the most important learning experiences of your career. Not only will you see a project from beginning to end, you'll also be able to identify strong stories, which is another of IndieWire's main points.

To be in development as a producer, you'll need to find compelling narratives and be able to work with directors and talent to flesh out plots and characters. Heyman was asked to do this with Baumbach on Marriage Story, for instance, coming onto the project after a rough version of the script was already formed.

Juggle Multiple Responsibilities

As a producer, you'll need to keep a lot of plates spinning in the air in order for a film production to run smoothly.

During pre-production, you'll need to find unique locations, work on casting, and keep the director and studio happy, running interference so that executives aren't able to take over your project. On set, you'll be tracking budget.

Heyman, for instance, had to keep Tarantino to the $90-million budget Sony gave them.

The Irishman had a more unique situation with its enormous $150+ million budget. Netflix was able to step in and cover that cost, but Koskoff likely still had to keep a close eye on things.

These producers also had to do some wrangling in post, as IndieWire points out. Heyman had to be patient while Tarantino produced more than one cut of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, while Koskoff had more flexibility with runtime, since Netflix didn't care that The Irishman ran long.

What's next? Learn more about producing

Here's what producers want from your pitch. Need forms for your production? We've got everything you need. If you're just starting in the industry, we've also got advice for breaking in    

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