As a cinema fan and also a filmmaker, although I graduated from college, I did not major in film or attend a film school. But despite not having majored in film, I do have a passion for cinema.
In fact, if one was to visit my personal library, you would see a plethora of film books. Books on theory, cinematography, editing, producing, books on execution and books that focuses on various filmmakers. And also along with those books is a dedicated cinema shrine of DVD's and Blu-ray's featuring the work of the world's talented filmmakers since the late 1890′s to present-time.
But within my collection of cinema books, the FIlmCraft books are what I find magnificent as the books give insight to some of the leading professionals, may it come to cinematography, editing and now with producing with "FilmCraft: Producing" by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart.
For those not familiar with what a producer is, one can think of the producer as the ringmaster. The one in charge of keeping things together, following the budget and making a sure a film can be made but working with both the creative side and the financial backing side. One that can win over the investors, one that can win over talent and it's one major role of the filmmaking process that is extremely important.
In order to get an idea of what a producer does and how they utilized their skills, featured in this book are interviews and "Legacy" spotlights on the following producers:
Peter Aalbaek Jensen (DENMARK) - Producer of "Dancing in the Dark", "Melancholia", "Dogville", "Breaking the Waves", etc.
Tim Bevan (UK) - Producer of "The Big Lebowski", "Fargo", "Love Actually", "Shaun of the Dead", etc.
Jan Chapman (AUSTRALIA) - Producer of "The Piano", "Bright Star", "Lantana", "Somersault", etc.
Michael Balcon (UK - SPOTLIGHT) - Producer of "Kind Hearts and Coronets", "The Lavender Hill Mob", "Dead of Night", "The Man in the White Suit", etc.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura (USA) - Producer of "Transformers" films, "Red", etc.
Ted Hope (USA) - Producer of "21 Grams", "Adventureland", "In the Bedrom", "American Splender", etc.
Martin Karmitz (FRANCE) - Producer of "Three Colors", "Every Man for Himself", "Au Revoir Les Enfants", etc.
David O. Selznick (USA - SPOTLIGHT) - Producer of "Gone with the Wind", "Rebecca", "King Kong", "Spellbound", etc.
Kees Kasander (NETHERLANDS) - Producer of "Fish Tank", "Prospero's Books", "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover", "Ken Park", etc.
Jon Kilik (USA) - Producer of "The Hunger Games", "Babel", "Inside Man", etc.
Bill Kong (HONG KONG) - Producer of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", "Hero", "House of Flying Daggers", "Fearless", etc.
Dino De Laurentiis (ITALY) - Producer of "Red Dragon", "Hannibal", "Army of Darkness", "Dune", etc.
Jon Landau (USA) - Producer of "Titanic", "Avatar", "Dick Tracy", "Solaris", etc.
Andrew McDonald (UK) - Producer of "The Beach", "28 Days Later", "The Last King of Scotland", etc.
Edward R. Pressman (USA) - Producer of "American Psycho", "Das Boot", "Wall Street", "Thank You For Smoking", etc.
Erich Pommer (GERMANY - SPOTLIGHT) - Producer of "Metropolis", "Blue Angel", "Jamaica Inn", "Faust", etc.
Lauren Shuler Donner (USA) - Producer of "X-Men" films, "Constantine", "Free Willy", etc.
Jeremy Thomas (UK) - Producer "A Dangerous Method", "The Last Emperor", "Sexy Beast", etc.
Ron Yerxa & Albert Berger (USA) - Producer "Little Miss Sunshine", "Cold Mountain", "Election", etc.
Alexander Korda (HUNGARY - SPOTLIGHT) - Producer "Richard III", "The Third Man", "Jungle Book", etc.
"FilmCraft: Producing" by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is a book that shows us how these producer's approached films that they were best known for.
But most importantly, while these editors have communicated with many viewers around the world through the film that they have worked on, through "FilmCraft: Editing", it gives these editors a chance to communicate through their own words.
While I have never produced a big budget film and only have produced smaller productions, I've always wondered how producers managed to do work on these huge, big budget films and of course, their thoughts on productions for these films.
There aren't so many books from the producers compared to the filmmakers who have the opinions on creating the film or the challenge they had with producers who were strict about the money, but I have always felt that it's important for the producer and the director to have a great working relationship and that there is great communication.
I have read a number of books on the French New Wave to Italian Neorealism and other time periods of cinema around the world where there was constantly challenges between filmmaker and producer, but that was then, and with so much at stake today with films priced in the millions, location and big name talent or directors, you just want to know how these producers did it.
In "FilmCraft: Producing" by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart, big name producers took part in this book and some were very straightforward with their advice, discussing their success but even troubles that they had experienced.
For producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, he has worked on expensive action films from "The Matrix" and "Transformers" films and these films are known for their visual effects and 3D. In his segment, Lorenzo talks about how it is important to reinvent and not go back to how things were done before. And it makes sense with films such as "The Transformers" or "G.I. Joe", people expect over-the-top special effects and one to outdo the other visual effects-wise.
Producer Marin Karmitz has had a long career from working with Agnes Varda in the French New Wave film "Cleo from 5 to 7″ as an Assistant Director to working with notable directors such as Krzsztof Kieslowski for the "Three Colors" trilogy, "Melo" with Alan Resnais, "L'enfer" and "Madame Bovary" with Claude Chabrol, "Au Revoir Les Enfants" with Louis Malle, "Close-up" with Abbas Kiarostami. But this is a producer who has worked with many filmmakers who speak a different language and he gives wonderful insight of how he has been able to do that.
In the other hand, Kees Kassander discussed the perils of co-production as he learned in 2009 with "Fish Tank" as the British side of funding tried to push him out and how their can be major challenges if you deal with partners with different attitudes towards production.
For Jon Kilik, he gives wonderful insight on how a big name can help towards the making of a film. Such as "Babel" and having Brad Pitt who was instrumental in getting more of a budget dedicated to the film and getting the 60 extra days to create the film as opposed to the 40 days they were originally had been given.
Bill Kong gives great insight to producing in Hong Kong. But the importance of working with directors who are organized and also why he hasn't produced a film in the U.S.
One of the biggest features is with Jon Landau. If Lorenzo di Bonaventura is known for working with filmmakers on big budget films with wonderful visual effects, only one producer and filmmaker is known for creating the most expensive films ever made and that is Jon Landau with filmmaker James Cameron. From "Titanic" to "Avatar", the production that was needed for those two films but also learning from experience of what his director needs and Landau had worked with Cameron for "True Lies", David Fincher for "Alien 3″ and Michael Mann for "The Last of the Mohicans" and one thing I liked about this interview with Landau is how his mind is set for global and creating films that work internationally.
These are just some of the examples but the fact is that Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart really did a fantastic job in finding producers from all over the world, those with extensive experience, expensive experience and those who have worked in a variety of situations or with filmmakers worldwide, these producers give good insight and wonderful advice to the budding producer or those who feel they are good at managing production and want to learn how the professional producers do it.
While some producers discuss the challenges they experienced, the book doesn't get too involved with those who failed with a film. You have someone like Bill Kong who accepts that some films will very good and some that will do bad but I would like to hear from producers who get into major binds but were able to bounce back. I'm not sure what happens to successful producers who get into "John Carter" territory (budgeted at $250,000,000 and made only $73 million), part of me is curious how one is able to bounce back from that.
Overall, "FilmCraft: Producing" is a fantastic book in the FilmCraft series that interviews some of the well-known producers in the world today and also spotlighting some of well-known names in cinema past. I really do hope that Mcnab and Swart consider doing a part two because their first book was well-done! For anyone wanting to learn about producers or wanting to become a producer, "FilmCraft: Producing" by Geoffrey Mcnab and Sharon Swart is highly recommended!