Hollywood pioneer and producer Jesse L. Lasky once described his profession thusly: “The producer must be a prophet and a general, a diplomat and a peacemaker, a miser and a spendthrift.”
In 2017, in the age of YouTube, instant gratification, and Social Media, it turns out that he or she must also be a marketing guru.
Lasky was a co-founder of Paramount Pictures. His filmography includes the cinematic landmark “Wings,” which claimed the first-ever Academy Award for Best Picture in 1927, and the 1941 biopic “Sergeant York,” which was nominated for the same honor, won for Best Editing, and had the most nominations that year.
With such accolades under his belt, this “first gentleman of Hollywood” certainly knew what traits a producer must exude. Let’s break his legendary soundbite down.
Lasky said a producer must be…
- A Prophet: A producer is often heralded as having a kind of second sight; the ability to recognize that potential for lightning in a bottle when others don’t see the clouds or hear the thunder. In film production, a producer frequently discovers and/or secures the source material, be it a literary property or screenplay, for development. He or she then nurtures this content, and prepares it for production.
- A General: Although there are some inherent differences between a film and television producer, the big picture of this multi-faceted role is fundamentally the same. A producer takes the reins and leads the charge. He or she is the all-encompassing manager of the production, and – perhaps more than anyone else on set or in the studio – is involved with nearly every aspect of the production. Like a general, a producer’s job is to ensure an optimum outcome through strategy. He or she approves locations, authorizes script changes, develops a shooting schedule, and oversees the entirety of the project.
- A Diplomat: Being a producer is synonymous with being a negotiator. He or she is charged with hiring the talent, including the director, actors, and crew. In filmmaking, producers negotiate rights and collaborate with distributors for release into theaters. All of this legwork ultimately means that the producer is the first to reap a project’s rewards, but also the very first in line to be assigned blame if something goes awry. Speaking of which…
- A Peacemaker: If there are dustups with the crew or staff – guess who steps in to mediate? The producer is largely tasked with creating an environment that is conducive for creativity and efficiency. This can be anything from making sure the correct brand of ketchup is available on the craft services food table, to talking talent off the ledge in the event of creative differences or a clash of egos.
- A Miser and a Spendthrift: Perhaps most importantly, a film producer raises the loot. He or she then must determine how to balance the egregious expenses typified by the moviemaking process and the need to deliver the finished project under budget. For their troubles, a producer typically has final say on any given project.
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