The producer is the great enabler of the motion picture process, the person who makes it all possible. The degree of direct creative input exercised by producers varies enormously, but in general they're the people who assemble and then manage the means of production. One large sub-set of producers do their most important work before filming even begins: raising money, nailing down the rights to novels, plays or screenplays, and hiring the director. In this sense it's possible for a producer to exert a crucial formative influence on a project without ever setting foot on the set. When shooting is underway another type of producer (who may or may not be the same person) tends to take over. This is the line producer, who doles out the financial and physical resources of the production, the tools and the raw materials the creative team deploys on the set. In theory, the producer deals with all the mundane practical and political aspects of keeping a project humming along -- from caterers and industry unions to city permits and across-the-spectrum troubleshooting -- so that the director and his team can concentrate on the creative angles. Producers often get typed as bad guys because one of their principal responsibilities is riding herd on the budget and policing an inviolable shooting schedule. But they can also emerge as heroes if they are willing to take a bullet for the team, shielding a project from the interference of a tight-fisted studio or production company. And a producer with sharp filmmaking instincts of his own can be in a unique position to act as a sounding board for the director, a true creative accomplice.
"Debbie and Phylicia were the executive producers. Because they were both acting in the show and Debbie was directing as well, they needed someone to produce it. So I came in and wore two hats: producer and production manager. I did a schedule and a budget -- how much money we'd need, and how to spend that money. Debbie was a creative producer on the project. She oversaw the adaptation of the play to the screen, she cast the film, and she dealt with the studio, in this case KCET."
"The job of line producer, like that of production manager, allows a certain amount of veto power, but a Producer has more. As the producer, I'll have conversations with the director about, 'Do we eliminate a character? Do we eliminate a scene? Do we eliminate a set up?' But it varies tremendously with the director you're working with."
"When you make a film, as producer you create a company that has all the responsibilities of a company. You hire people, you employ them, you pay their taxes, you pay their insurance, if they hurt themselves on a shoot you're responsible for it. If they come late, or get hurt, or if you make them work too long, or if they drink on the job, you're responsible for it."
"I try to do as much research as I can on a director. I need to know who I'm working with because I need to allow them to put their emotions, their vision on the screen. Then I try to bring people who have the same vision onto the show to create that team, that family, that little nucleus that is going to work for three or four months, day in and day out."
"I meet with every department head -- the production designer, the DP, and the costume designer -- to discuss the concept of the picture. Then, after going over every detail with Debbie, she and I meet each department head together. My job is to facilitate everybody's input."
"Certain rooms had to have flying walls, so that the DP wouldn't be claustrophobic. I knew which scenes required two cameras after talking with Debbie, so I had to make sure the production designer gave me the space for them. I can bring 35 people into a room that plays as 10x10. But it doesn't have to be 10x10 when we work in it."
"I use three computer software programs created by Movie Magic during pre-production. They're for screenwriting, budgeting, and scheduling. I use the screenwriting program to give the director my notes about budget, space, and time issues for specific scenes. I can transfer between the script and scheduling programs to manipulate my schedule and know what I need to shoot each scene, and the budgeting program to manipulate the numbers without affecting the bottom line."
"What's also included in the software I use is the call sheet. The day before each shooting day, the 2nd AD creates a call sheet with all the information about what we have to do the next day and a summary of what we have to do the day after. The call sheet lists times when the cast and crew need to arrive, what scenes are being shot, all props and any special equipment needed. All cast and crew members receive a copy."
"It was cheaper for us to shoot on High-Definition than on film. The raw stock is much cheaper than film stock. And because the end product was going to TV rather than theaters, we didn't have to transfer the film to video, edit on video, then transfer it back to film to be screened. Also, in this case, the original will be aired. We don't have to transfer it to air it. By eliminating the transfer process, you don't lose a generation. We also heard that KCET has decided to screen it in the 16x9 film format, the way it was shot, which is a rectangular image. I think it will have a much nicer look."
"We in the industry think that High-Definition will replace film eventually. Definitely for distribution. With the internet and with satellite, we'll be able to beam down a film to movie theatres and show it without having to transport the print, which will eliminate a tremendous amount of expense."
"High-Definition changes the equipment set up. It's very compact. The sound is recorded on the videotape and it's high quality. But we decided to go one step further. As a precaution, in case something went wrong with the camera, we had the signal coming from the camera go to a deck and record on the deck at the same time."
"My responsibility is to make sure that the film is in the can, that it is finished, shot, given to the editor and that we have the first cut. Then I'll get out and somebody else finishes the show -- a post-production supervisor, a producer, or in our case here at KCET, the in-house staff at KCET."
"We try to use the production sound as much as possible because, unfortunately, when you work on a small production like this you can't afford to do ADR or looping, neither in time or in money. We have one boom man on the set who holds a fishpole with a microphone attached at the end, and the cable goes to a booth where the sound man sits with headsets and listens very carefully to what is being said. This ensures there is no camera noise or noise from people moving on set or helicopters flying by -- so that the line is clean and can be used for the final piece."
"Foley is another job at the end of a show. When we shoot a close-up, for example, Debbie might be wearing sneakers while she's walking because it's too uncomfortable to stand for ten hours in period shoes. So we don't have the right sound of her walking. When the film is all cut, the foley artist will sit in front of the image and create the sounds of the actors walking or putting a cup of coffee on the table or whatever."
"Before I leave each show, I make sure that everyone gets paid, that every invoice gets taken care of, and that everybody returns all the pieces of equipment that we hired from every single department. I make sure that there are no damages, and if there are some to make sure the claims are paid."
Simon Edery is a versatile independent Producer and Directors Guild of America production manager. His projects for Paramount, Warner Bros., Buena Vista, Showtime, HBO, and Zoetrope and other studios have appeared on major networks, as theatrical releases, and at film festivals worldwide. Most recently, he brings his talents to the PBS Hollywood Presents television production of The Old Settler.
Experienced in all aspects of pre-production, production and post-production, Mr. Edery has shot projects in North and South America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. He has realized fourteen feature films, one miniseries, five documentaries, twelve short films and three multi-screen performances in his career. These projects include the film credits Pavilion of Women, Graffiti Bridge, Spirit of '76, Point of No Return and Guarding Tess.
Fluent in three languages, Mr. Edery is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute where he also taught as a professor for seven years. He has co-owned an animation studio in Taiwan and a production company in San Francisco and has owned Edery Productions in Los Angeles since 1978.
Director of Photography