Learning to produce films- Our learning curve as film producers!
When we formed 3 Peepul Productions, a film production house in early 2021, we wondered if we were up to the challenge. We asked ourselves if our lack of experience as producers would impact the kind of films we wanted to produce. We questioned our abilities to produce content that we could be proud of. We debated whether we had bitten off more than we can chew.
We began our journey as film producers in August 2020, and we have made some interesting discoveries with a steep learning curve. Here are some lessons we’ve learnt along the way.
Theatre is story telling on stage and film is story telling on screen. At the core, they are the same, with focus on the story. Having founded a theatre company, that’s been running successfully for nearly 9 years, has given us some grounding in film production, as we do know how to tell impactful stories. The leap from stage to screen is an extension of the craft of storytelling, albeit with a whole new world of learning and growing as storytellers.
Choosing the right stories to produce is a combination of one’s gut instinct, our experiences as filmgoers, plus our faith in the Director’s abilities to tell the story, and the vision to see the film as a final product. When a filmmaker comes with an idea, or a story s/he wants to make into a film, as a producer we have to be able to envision the film. As producers, sometimes we may have an idea or story we want to see translated into a film. In either case, if we can’t see the final film in our mind’s eye, then it’s not the right film for us to produce.
There are stories all around, every person is a storybook, and inspiration is everywhere. As producers, we must find the stories we wish to tell, and be actively engaged in the process of filmmaking, to support the Director fully. If the Director’s vision gets muddled along the way, it’s our role as producers to never lose sight of the story that needs to be told.
As a producer or film maker, deciding which story to tell is half the battle won. If the story moves us, inspires us, shakes our foundation, or in some way impacts us, then we can be hopeful that the audience will feel the same. However, there’s no guarantee the film will hit the mark.
As producers, we have the opportunity to tell so many stories, bringing different experiences and emotions to the screen. We have the luxury of a blank canvas, to paint a vivid, memorable story on screen. So, it’s most important to choose our stories wisely, and make them into the best possible films that we can.
Making a film with a good or a lousy story- both take a lot of effort, time, money and resources. The number of people and manhours involved in making a film are immense, with many processes from pre-production, production, post-production, followed by publicity, marketing and distribution. So why not put all our energies and efforts into making a good film? Along with this learning, we’ve made a decision not to criticize any film, no matter how poorly made it might be, as now we know (some of) the hardships a filmmaker faces. Instead, our takeaway is to learn from each film we watch, and grow from their successes and missteps, as much as those of our own.
Content is king and audiences have become very discerning. Yet some formula films, with minimal storyline and big star cast, become runaway hits. Audiences criticize the storyline but pay to make them a success at the box office. It’s like a parallel universe where the same person as a filmgoer can demand a good story and also watch garbage films. So, when making a film, we’ve learnt to focus on what we want to make; there’s no point trying to guess what the audience will like.
Being a producer is stressful and extremely challenging. We are aware that finally the entire film rides on our shoulders, it’s success or failure depends on the decisions we take. However, as producers, we are only human and can only do our best. The final outcome isn’t in our hands, and whether the film will be well received or not is anybody’s guess at the box office. We may be hopeful for the best but also be prepared for the worst; and we must accept bouquets and brickbats with humility and equanimity.
Producing a film is not only about managing finances (though that’s an important aspect of the role). It’s also about taking the team along, building relationships, ensuring the experience is enriching and positive for everyone involved. As producers, we want to make their journey as joyful and impactful as the destination itself. “Life is too short to be anything but happy” is our mantra, and as producers, we’d like to be mindful of the experiences we create for ourselves and our team, in our filmmaking journey.
Murphy’s Law: If it can go wrong, it will.
Mrs Murphy’s Law: When nothing can go wrong, something still will.
This is true of every stage of film making. Life happens. Need we say more?
As Producers, we’ve discovered that learning never stops, and it never should. The day we stop learning is the day we start stagnating, and it’s time to hang up our boots or sandals, or in our case flip-flops!