Author Topic: Are producers overrated?  (Read 1135 times)

famethrowa

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Are producers overrated?
« on: January 21, 2019, 03:41:32 AM »
Producers seem to be highly celebrated in the biz, fair enough because they're the boss, but can we actually assign them that much artistic or cultural credit? I just saw many many articles noting the death of 80's producer Andy Vajna (fnarrr) and thought well so what, he made the art possible, but didn't actually make the art. I know executive producers just basically shovel money towards the film set, but producers (eg. Robert Evans) are celebrated as visionaries and their name is supposed to be enough to get us into the next movie. Is it?

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2019, 03:44:30 AM »
Very few producers are celebrated for their creativity.  Exceptions: Irving Thalberg, David O Selznick, Val Lewton and, I suppose, Walt Disney.

St_Eddie

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2019, 04:00:53 AM »
I don't know but there's a scheme in there somewhere.

Ornlu

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2019, 10:31:24 PM »
What do they actually do? I'm genuinely asking.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2019, 10:33:09 PM »
I hope they all die horribly and their obnoxious mansions are bulldozed to make way for hospitals and schools.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2019, 10:37:07 PM »
Outside of film nerd circles I don't think anyone could name a single producer from all of time.

Edit: Oh wait there is one who is a household name for certain reasons

Shit Good Nose

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2019, 11:02:03 PM »
Kathleen Kennedy is a good example of a producer who, for good or bad (mostly bad at this point), has a lot of creative control - the current Star Wars universe is basically of her making.

They can be a blessing or a curse, though.  Once Upon A Time In America and Brazil would basically not have happened without Arnon Milchan (although, depending on who you ask, he was also involved to some degree in the terribly bastardised versions of both films as well as being almost solely responsible for their existence).  Kagemusha would not have happened (in fact Kurosawa's career wouldn't have re-started) were it not for George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.

But they've also been the ruin of several films - often a high profile film that has come out as a disaster has been because of producers getting involved and ruining it.  Heaven's Gate was turned from an epic masterpiece into a clumsy and confusing very-arse-end western, for example.


What do they actually do? I'm genuinely asking.

There are many different types of producer, but yer main three are Producer, Executive Producer and Line Producer. 

A Producer is typically charged with managing the director and making sure a shoot runs smoothly, and also acts as the business go-between between studio and director and, usually, they will be the only person other than the director on the set every day and involved with the film until release.  Sometimes they will also have some creative involvement, and occasionally effectively direct the film if the originally chosen director isn't up to snuff or is just making bad decisions all over the place.  In all but instances where the director is a massive name that can basically make whatever they want and any studio will jump at it, they'll often be responsible for getting a film off the ground as well.  They're usually also the second most important person involved in a film production, after the studio head.

Executive Producers are usually strictly money folk only and rarely have any direct or day to day involvement with the production, although whenever cast or other crew members invest money into the project they will get an Exec Producer or Co Producer credit.

Line Producers are like day-to-day admin managers - they make sure that the right cast and crew are on set when they need to be, locations and equipment are all in hand, they'll organise what scenes are being shot when and in what order, etc etc.

There's some crossover with other producing and non-producing jobs as well, but that's their main job descriptions.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 11:18:03 PM by Shit Good Nose »

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2019, 11:05:21 PM »
What do they actually do? I'm genuinely asking.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_producer

EDIT: What SGN said.

Kelvin

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2019, 11:12:12 PM »
Edit: the below is in response to the thread title and OP, not SGN.

If anything, I imagine it's the opposite. Producers have a terrible reputation as interfering, artistically derelict sex perverts, but in reality, I'm sure many producers make and have made very good contributions to films, either in terms of laying out or polishing up a vision for something, or by supporting and enabling more creative individuals to make the film they want to make. Obviously many, many of them are worse than useless, or just friends of the director or star, but I'd bet that many of the best films ever made benefited to some degree from a good, complimentary group of producers who knew how to balance the creative and commercial needs of the work.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2019, 11:22:29 PM »
Executive Producers are usually strictly money folk only and rarely have any direct or day to day involvement with the production, although whenever cast or other crew members invest money into the project they will get an Exec Producer or Co Producer credit.

I've often wondered about this with regards to American television. When a show becomes a big hit, the lead actor tends to be credited as an exec producer by the second or third season. That's just a vanity credit, isn't it? A way of keeping the star sweet by giving them some nominal creative input (and more money)?

Kiefer Sutherland, for example, presumably didn't have much involvement in the actual production of 24 beyond having the clout to make certain suggestions to directors and producers without being told to fuck off.

I think the exec producer/producer credit tends to be more valid when it comes to TV comedy shows. The (disgraced) likes of Roseanne Barr and Louis CK obviously had a huge amount of creative input into the shows they made, and Alan Alda - for better or worse - directed and wrote several later episode of M*A*S*H. Going back even further, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were in complete control of I Love Lucy.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2019, 11:35:12 PM by Ballad of Ballard Berkley »

Shit Good Nose

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2019, 11:28:53 PM »
I'm fairly sure there has to be some financial investment for an exec producer credit, even if it's for cast and/or crew, and the "vanity" credit tends to be Co Producer.

There may be exceptions, though.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2019, 11:35:32 PM »
I'm sure many producers make and have made very good contributions to films, either in terms of laying out or polishing up a vision for something, or by supporting and enabling more creative individuals to make the film they want to make.

Certainly, Danny DeVito comes to mind.

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2019, 11:39:58 PM »
I'm fairly sure there has to be some financial investment for an exec producer credit, even if it's for cast and/or crew, and the "vanity" credit tends to be Co Producer.

There may be exceptions, though.

I can't imagine the likes of Kiefer Sutherland - to stick with my random example - investing any of his money into the production of 24, but I could be wrong.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2019, 11:48:22 PM »
Certainly, Danny DeVito comes to mind.

Mel Brooks too. Without his enthusiastic support and industry clout, I very much doubt that Paramount would've chosen David Lynch to direct The Elephant Man.

Brooks believed in Lynch, he loved Eraserhead and knew he was the right man for the job. The rest, as they say, is The Elephant Man.

Neomod

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2019, 12:42:22 AM »
I can't imagine the likes of Kiefer Sutherland - to stick with my random example - investing any of his money into the production of 24, but I could be wrong.

I've noticed it too on certain tv shows. Having just re-watched Justified Timothy Olyphant's name starts appearing as exec producer from the 2nd or 3rd season onward. I'm sure it's a contract sweetener rather than Tim stumping up cash and that it's specific to TV.

Ballad of Ballard Berkley

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2019, 01:31:30 AM »
I've noticed it too on certain tv shows. Having just re-watched Justified Timothy Olyphant's name starts appearing as exec producer from the 2nd or 3rd season onward. I'm sure it's a contract sweetener rather than Tim stumping up cash and that it's specific to TV.

It is specific to TV, yes, but one has to wonder if, when the likes of Olyphant or Sutherland stride onto the set during season three, anyone on the team thinks "Look out, there's a new boss in town." Probably not. It's just a load of negotiated deal flimflam.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2019, 02:32:45 AM »
With TV shows, I'm pretty sure the ridiculous rash of producer credits is a way to reward long-serving staff, and possibly a legal requirement so they can qualify for royalties.  Look at The Simpsons: you have producers, co-producers, executive producers, co-executive producers, supervising producers, plus 'Produced by' as a credit too.  Most of these will be writers, but Bonnie Pietela, the show's original casting director, is also included.

I've been rewatching The Sopranos lately and in one episode ("Marco Polo") there is suddenly a 'Consulting Producer' credit for Michael Imperioli.  I was sure I hadn't seen that before, and thought that this may have been one of the episodes he had written.  This was confirmed a few seconds later (as the car pulled into the drive).

St_Eddie

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2019, 04:10:59 AM »
Outside of film nerd circles I don't think anyone could name a single producer from all of time.

Scott "snowball" Mosier.

Harvey "Anti-Christ" Weinstein.

I am indeed a part of the nerd circle.

Mel Brooks too. Without his enthusiastic support and industry clout, I very much doubt that Paramount would've chosen David Lynch to direct The Elephant Man.

Brooks believed in Lynch, he loved Eraserhead and knew he was the right man for the job. The rest, as they say, is The Elephant Man.

It's always a little bit strange to see Mel Brooks' name during the opening credits to The Fly.

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2019, 05:20:48 AM »
I've noticed it too on certain tv shows. Having just re-watched Justified Timothy Olyphant's name starts appearing as exec producer from the 2nd or 3rd season onward. I'm sure it's a contract sweetener rather than Tim stumping up cash and that it's specific to TV.

Most such exec producer credits are vanity titles, yeah, and there to keep the stars sweet, like getting a meaningless job title change with no additional responsibilities and a nominal bump in salary in a regular job.

Olyphant's a bad example, though, because he was actually involved in the creative process of the show, even coming up with the (brilliant) solution to this conundrum from the first episode of season three: https://youtu.be/kzeYjPxM450

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2019, 10:28:47 AM »
On the recent Q&A podcast, the writer of Into The Spider-Verse talks about writing on several films 'as a producer' before getting his first writing credit. So I think in some cases a Producer credit of some ilk is there to give credit for stuff that otherwise the Writer and Director Guilds wouldn't allow. (This isn't the same, because it's about co-credit, but the Coen Brothers movies were always co-directed, but they used to split the credit with Joel as Director and Ethan as Producer.)

Exec Producer specifically can more or less mean anything. I don't think it's anything to do with financial investment, though, more the other direction. Jeff Garlin has spoken about Larry David generously giving him Exec Producer credit on Curb, and I think he stated or at least implied it gave him some form of residual payment he wouldn't otherwise get. In which case, it was no extra work he wasn't already doing, but akin to everyone in the band getting a songwriting credit to ensure they get royalties.

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2019, 12:17:25 PM »
I can't imagine the likes of Kiefer Sutherland - to stick with my random example - investing any of his money into the production of 24, but I could be wrong.
Yeah, that doesn't make much sense. Why would spending his own money (on an already successful show) be an attractive prospect for an actor? Especially if everyone knows that the executive producer credit is basically meaningless.

touchingcloth

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2019, 01:21:50 PM »
^^ I was going to mention the Coen's as an example where it seems more clear cut what the producer's role is because with that partnership it's pretty well accepted that the two of them have their fingers in just about all of the creative pies going.

I think producers do a lot, it's just not always stuff that translates onto screen in a tangible way. They can be the person responsible for finding the people who direct, write and cast a film, which can be highly or not at all a creative role depending on a particular producer's way of working.

Has Kevin Feige been mentioned yet? He's produced all of the MCU films and so has been responsible for keeping them cohesive amongst a large number of different writers and directors.

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2019, 01:52:33 PM »
Is The Producers (2005) any good? Only seen the original.

notjosh

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2019, 01:53:04 PM »
I think producers do a lot, it's just not always stuff that translates onto screen in a tangible way. They can be the person responsible for finding the people who direct, write and cast a film, which can be highly or not at all a creative role depending on a particular producer's way of working.

Producers will usually be involved in location, production design, music, casting and many other vital areas. I think the extent to which the director is involved in these decisions can vary wildly, but for some areas they will have to agree a creative vision and the director will leave it to the producer to make it a reality.

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2019, 04:05:38 PM »
Robert Tapert effectively destroyed Ash Vs Evil Dead by disagreeing with the showrunner's idea on how to end the second season and then bringing in Mark Verheiden to create an okay but nothing that amazing third season. And for that reason alone he's on my list of enemies who will one day mysteriously explode in a giant ball of fire.

St_Eddie

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2019, 06:09:29 PM »
Robert Tapert effectively destroyed Ash Vs Evil Dead by disagreeing with the showrunner's idea on how to end the second season and then bringing in Mark Verheiden to create an okay but nothing that amazing third season. And for that reason alone he's on my list of enemies who will one day mysteriously explode in a giant ball of fire.

Ash Vs Evil Dead failed due to poor ratings, not because Robert Tapert demanded a change of course and a new showrunner.  The third season was greenlit by Starz before the second season had aired.  Season 3 and by extension the show as a whole was dead on arrival.  It wasn't a case of a bunch of loyal fans tuning in to season 3 and saying"nope, I don't like the direction this is taking.  I'm out".  The poor ratings for season 2 effectively ensured the show's eventual cancellation.

Bloody awful show but personally, I thought that season 3 was the best of a bad bunch.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #26 on: January 22, 2019, 06:22:22 PM »
Not even in my top 3 Brooks films, sorry.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #27 on: January 22, 2019, 06:24:01 PM »
Kevin Smith's anecdote about Barbara Striesand's hairdresser's stint as a producer is a good example of how destructive a bad executive can be. It's on the Superman documentary.

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Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #28 on: January 22, 2019, 06:27:24 PM »
Kevin Smith's anecdote about Barbara Striesand's hairdresser's stint as a producer is a good example of how destructive a bad executive can be. It's on the Superman documentary.

There was also the wife of the dude who invented Technicolor 'overseeing' every frame of all the early Technicolor movies.

Re: Are producers overrated?
« Reply #29 on: January 22, 2019, 06:28:01 PM »
With TV shows, I'm pretty sure the ridiculous rash of producer credits is a way to reward long-serving staff, and possibly a legal requirement so they can qualify for royalties.  Look at The Simpsons: you have producers, co-producers, executive producers, co-executive producers, supervising producers, plus 'Produced by' as a credit too.  Most of these will be writers, but Bonnie Pietela, the show's original casting director, is also included.

I've been rewatching The Sopranos lately and in one episode ("Marco Polo") there is suddenly a 'Consulting Producer' credit for Michael Imperioli.  I was sure I hadn't seen that before, and thought that this may have been one of the episodes he had written.  This was confirmed a few seconds later (as the car pulled into the drive).

I remember a Simpsons commentary where they mention the fact that David Mirkin was given a Consulting Producer credit after he'd left the show, and they said it's because he'd contributed material to the script despite no longer being officially on the writing staff, so when you see that credit on The Simpsons, it means that.

In Imperioli's case, I would guess it's because he wasn't officially a producer, ie a writer, but contributed the odd script here and there.