10 Tips for Amateur Producers

Posted on: Apr 11, 2024

Photo Credit: True Touch Lifestyle // Shutterstock

By Jessica Mathis

Not all producers are film school graduates and even degreed individuals need to start somewhere. That means the film and television industry is full of DIY filmmakers and amateur producers, working to get their foot in the door or their ideas made.

In light of serious issues arising on-set related to safety, it’s important that independent filmmakers and producers consider best practices, even when working independently from studios or unions.

To help amateur producers hone their skills and craft, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

Set Clear Goals

The first step for any project should be defining your objectives. Clearly determine what you want to achieve, whether it is mastering a new technique, reaching a specific audience, selling a project or simply having fun and expressing yourself creatively. Having clearly defined goals and boundaries will help keep the entire team on track.

Plan Ahead and Organize Workloads

Many independent producers just run and gun their productions, but proper planning is essential for a successful production. Make sure your scripts, shot lists and outlines are detailed, clean and easy for your cast and crew to understand.

Practice due diligence researching and implementing factors like location, timing and budget. Create a schedule or set deadlines for your projects, and prioritize tasks based on their importance and urgency. Schedule shoot days based on common locations and cast. The more prepared you are, the smoother the production process will be, allowing you to focus on creativity and execution.

Consider Safety

This consideration is more extensive than many producers realize and has risen to the forefront of production concerns. Thinking about safety in advance will save time, money and hassle while protecting the people working for you. Safety failures can have serious repercussions, ranging from crew walking out on-set to injury, loss of life and criminal charges as we’ve seen with the production of Rust. It isn’t just gun safety that must be considered.

I was once on a production that was shut down for a day because of cast and crew concerns. The scene required them to be in the water swimming or in canoes at a quarry without a lifeguard or water safety control person. They rightfully refused to work, and the production lost time and money having to suddenly rewrite and make changes. Any situation where people might be injured, such as being elevated, in or near water, operating machinery or handling hot objects are all situations where someone on-set should have the sole job of making sure the cast and crew are protected. This is one job that should not be combined with others. If you can’t afford professional armorers, lifeguards or fire people, perhaps the script should be rewritten.

It’s okay to stop a production over safety concerns, but planning in advance should help avoid this.

Consider Backup Plans

Safety and other concerns inspire thoughts of strategy. Consider each scene carefully and spend time thinking about what could possibly go wrong, have special needs or require sudden changes. Try to create a backup plan or strategy to help handle unexpected situations like weather, loss of location, safety and other concerns.

Invest in Quality

You don’t need the most expensive gear or crew to create great content, but you should investigate quality and reliability for both. Spending a little more for crew who knows what they are doing can really save you money in fixing errors or having to reshoot. Do some research and invest in essential items like a good microphone, camera and editing software, and don’t underestimate the importance of proper lighting and soundproofing.

Respect your Collaborators

While it’s tempting to try to do everything yourself, there is power in necessary collaboration in this industry. Respect the time and efforts of your collaborators and understand your position as a producer is to support them and make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs effectively. Appreciation and respect can go a long way.

Learn Continuously

In an ever-changing industry, a lifelong commitment to learning is necessary. Having an open mind and willingness to learn from those you are working with and situations you encounter will help you grow. Utilize online tutorials, workshops and courses to expand your skill set and stay up to date with industry trends and best practices. There’s also a lot to be said for experimentation and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

Pay Attention to Post-Production

Post-production is where your project truly comes to life, so be sure to have clear goals and notes for the post-production team. Dedicate time and attention to editing, mixing and mastering. Budget extra time in case something unexpected happens and you need pickup shots or ADR. Experiment with different techniques and effects to enhance the overall quality and impact of your content.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Today’s demand for social media content and instant gratification can lure producers into stressing over quantity. However, quality will take you much further in your career. Take the time to refine your craft and pay attention to detail, and your audience will appreciate the difference. Future employers will, too.

Embrace Feedback

Constructive criticism from peers, mentors, collaborators and even your audience will help shape you as a producer and should be considered. Be receptive and allow others to help you become a better producer, but also trust your instincts and stay true to your vision.

Following these best practices and a commitment to learning and improvement will help aspiring producers make the migration from amateur to professional, respect their teams and ultimately realize their creative vision. Roll up your sleeves, embrace the process and let your creativity shine. Your cast, crew and audience will thank you.

Jessica Mathis (AKA Divinity Rose) is an award winning screenwriter/performer/producer from Louisville, Kentucky. She is the CEO of She Dreams Content Development and Production, which focuses on female forward projects in comedy, docustyle and genre entertainment.

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