What to Expect When You're Producing

Now that I'm segueing into my new career as a software titan/media mogul shameless self-promoter, I thought it would be nice to use my years of experience in the Hollywood trenches to give something back -- you know, to the kids just starting out. And to my father, who always hoped I'd get a real job after he paid for that useless writing degree.

There are many wonderful books out there on the nuts and bolts of film producing, and I recommend you read them all. Generally speaking, conventional wisdom dictates these traits to be the hallmarks of any good producer: perseverance, commitment, passion, inexpensive eating habits, strong reading and writing skills, fearlessness, social aptitude, stubbornness, stupidity, thick skin.

But now that you're going around LA or New York calling yourself a producer -- having either recently graduated from film school, business school or elementary school (or wrecking the furniture business that took your father 37 years to build) you need practical, specific advice, the kind that you can use immediately as you begin your journey.

I've loved the last decade and have no bitterness at all. I'm grateful for every opportunity I've had, proud of whatever contributions I've been able to make, and -- mercifully -- am leaving on my own terms. My goal is simply to educate.

The average length of time it takes a movie to get made nowadays is 8 years. A lot can happen in 8 years, both to you and to your project.

For example:

The first-time writer you discovered has now been discovered by Wal-mart.

The indie director you found at the Sarajevo Film Festival is now getting $6m a movie to make sequels to sequels.

The star it took 5 years to attach is now considered box-office poison.

The German "financier" who promised you the money is now living in one room with a cellmate named Hans.

The studio executive responsible for those brilliant notes "transitioned into producing" (i.e. got fired).

Thrillers/sci-fi's/rom-coms/comedies/westerns/period/horror/action/whatever category your project is just aren't what audiences want anymore.

You can get hit by a bus or win the lottery.

So I present this pearl to you, distilled from many years of producing movies, dealing with all kinds of people and situations -- the single most important quality necessary for the job.

How well can you wait?

I'm not talking about waiting for a good table at Nobu, or waiting for your landlord to understand what "we can work it out" means. I'm talking about Cubs fans/Jews-wandering-in-the-desert/Brit winning a tennis major waiting. Think about it: how well can you wait? It's a simple question, and many people think they've experienced it a lot in life, but as you embark on your new producing career, you won't just be waiting. You'll be Waiting.


I've compiled a list -- by no means comprehensive -- of a few things you can look forward to waiting for now that you're officially a Film Producer.

A good idea

A writer to turn in a script

An agent to call you back

Your own agent to call you back

Your agent's assistant to call you back

The studio to pay you

The financier to pay you

Anyone to pay you

An actor to read your script

An actor's new girlfriend/yoga teacher to read your script

Anyone to read your script

Your accountant to get creative

Your lawyer to realize that being friends means you don't have to pay him

Your significant other to figure it out and leave you for Steve in Human Resources

Your mother to get off your back

A 24-hour Starbucks to open on your block

That beautiful actress you met for five mesmerizing minutes to dump her A-list boyfriend and take a chance on a "real person"

Imdb to post those "credits" you anonymously (and fictitiously) created

Harvey to finally acknowledge that your legally changing your last name to Weinstein merits a job, and is not a "desperate cry for help", as his bulldog lawyers insist

Nikki Finke to run one of your phantom press releases

The Scientology Centre to accept your membership application

Hollywood to catch up to your genius

Someone -- anyone -- to tell you the truth

There are many productive ways to spend your time while you're waiting for these and other things to happen -- Words With Friends, Germany's Next Top Model (7 seasons!), Cupid.com, rehab. Either way, much like those inexplicably long lines when a new Apple product comes out, know that you're in good company. Out of all the people currently calling themselves "film producers" in America, over 83% haven't actually made a movie in more than 2 years. Eventually they're going to get someone to call them back, find the money for their movie, or receive some other equally good news.

Then again, sometimes they run out of the latest iPhone right before you get to the front of the line.