Wondering if I should just HIRE a producer (who isn't me)

(Nicole J. Butler) #1

I’ve written a web series and have been planning to produce it with a friend. I’m an actress who has been on a ton of union sets, and my friend used to work in production management on large budget projects (where they could afford to throw money at challenges that arose). We know what’s supposed to happen, but neither of us really know what we are doing in the self-producing, low-budget realm, and I’m wondering if it might be worth it to just be the EP and HIRE a producer who does. I could learn from the producer and put myself in a better position to self-produce the next project.

From what I’ve seen, people tend to self-produce web series, but has anyone here ever hired a producer? What percentage of the budget would be a fair/ customary amount to pay the producer?

Thank you!

Insurance for one-day shoot? ($$$$)
(Joseph A. Eulo) #2

Hello Nicole. That sounds like a great way to go. However, you could also, get involved in other projects, work as a PA or an\ producers assistant in some capacity and learn the producing ropes that way. It may take longer but it would definitely be cheaper. knowing what’s what, and how things operate on and off set, will allow you to gauge the experience level of others, and prevent you from losing time and $$ on someone who doesn’t have the experience you need to accomplish your project goals.

There are many people out there who claim to know what they’re doing, but in fact don’t, and if you hire the wrong people you will just be throwing time and money away.

However, if you have budget set aside ready to go for your project, and wan’t to EP the project and tag along with the producer to learn the ropes, then do so. But make sure you do your research on the producer your hiring. The first thing you will need to do, is have your script broken down and budgeted correctly.

I am excited for you and your series. It is a journey that you will enjoy. Production has it ups and downs, but that is the norm, just be prepared to focus on solving the problems, and avoid dwelling of the cause of those problems.

If you’re in the New York City area, and would like to tag along with the producers of my series your more than welcome. I wish you much success.

Joseph A. Eulo
Independent Media Producer/Community Director
NYC | Indie Film Collective
mobile/sms 1+646-755-0003
email: JosephEULO@indiefilmcollective.org

(Emma Drewry) #3

I have a couple questions here–
a) what’s your budget?
b) are you going union?
c) where are you located?
d) how big is your production (i.e. how many cast, crew, episodes, etc. are there)?

I just finished a union production with 20+ eps, 8k budget, 5-person cast, and we had 5 producers. thankfully, all my producers were in it together and especially since we’re still film students, we were all willing to work for % of profit instead of up-front payment. I’ve also found that working in LA there are a lot of people willing to work for experience or low prices when transitioning into a new field, just getting out of school, or having just moved to LA and looking for connections.

if you’re going SAG and don’t have experience navigating that process, finding someone who does will save you HOURS. I had to go union last minute having never done it before and it’s a complex process with a lot of paperwork. I probably spent at least 15 hours researching alone, not even to mention filling out paperwork. it could be worth it depending on your budget and experience with SAG signatory paperwork.

I’d also say that on a small production, especially if you’re starring in it or serving some other role on set, the difference between EP and producer is small. unless someone is giving you money to make it without being on set, an EP on a web series also has to be a producer.

(Nicole J. Butler) #4

Thank you so much, Joseph! I’m based in Los Angeles, but I truly appreciate the offer and all of your feedback.

I’ve produced a couple of my own projects before, but they were very small. I’ve been delaying production on this one b/c it’s larger than I’m comfortable handling and after 6 months of “info gathering” I still don’t feel ready to be at the helm, but I want to start shooting by Feb at the latest. Your admonition to make sure that I vet potential producers properly is a good one. Now that I consider it, I am much more comfortable with the idea of interviewing, hiring, and then paying a qualified producer than I am with the idea of spending money to produce on my own then screwing it up and having money down the drain. That gives me cold sweats. It won’t be a lot of money by Hollywood standards, but it’s a lot by my personal bank account standards! :smile:

I think I have my answer. Thanks again.

(Nicole J. Butler) #5

Hi Emma -

a.) $[redacted] MAX (as in “I’ll be apoplectic if we go over that amount”)
b.) Yes, it will be union
c.) Los Angeles
d.) 3-4 person crew, 4 actors, right now we are only shooting the first 2 episodes + creating a promo to raise money for the rest of the episodes.

Just LOOKING at what needs to be done with SAG-AFTRA gives me a headache, and I’m so worried that I’m going to miss an essential part and everyone’s work + my $ will be down the drain. I need someone who has done this before and done it well. I’m ok with also being a producer, but I’m not ok with 2 people who don’t really know what we’re doing being the only producers.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the advice, and telling me about your experience. When it comes to web series, I only hear about people producing on their own, and it started feeling like there was some unknown reason they weren’t hiring outside producers. From the feedback I’ve received here, I feel confident in moving forward with a producer search.

May angels sing your name - you have helped me so much. :heart:

(Emma Drewry) #6

of course! so glad I could help.

going union is such a pain-- SAG has a good mission but does NOT make it easy on you, so good luck! let me know if you have any questions, definitely been through the ringer with our contract!

(Joseph A. Eulo) #7

Your welcome Nicole. Your selected producer should know how to do SAG paperwork. At first it’s very confusing. But don’t worry. You will probably want to sign a New Media Agreement. You can always contact SAG and they can explain the agreement is best for you. They base it on two things,…your budget amount and your intended distribution… New Media agreement covers a lot the platforms that you will probably distribute on ie internet based, streaming, etc. And will allow you to submit to festivals. Just one caveat…you will need to get Workmans comp insurance…they require it.

If you need help with the process, just reach out. But the Producer you hire. should know how to do it. Wishing you much success. and sending lots of light and good vibes your way. YOU CAN DO THIS!!

(Mika Marcovitz) #8

Hi Nicole,

I looked at Emma’s questions but didn’t see your answers, and I basically have the same questions.
I have quite a lot of experience producing low to no budget stuff, both union and non union and would love to speak with you some more, if for no other reason, then to collaborate.

Mika Gill

(Emma Drewry) #9

SAG’s replaced their New Media Agreement! it’s still offered for series but I’d look into their new agreement (Short Project Agreement) since you’re not currently producing the full series right now; it may be more lenient.

(Miceal O'Donnell) #10

Yes. If they are qualified. A producer doesn’t just physically help you make your movie, they share the contacts they developed to help you get the right locations, better actors, to make sure programmers at festivals watch your movie (beyond just the screeners,) can get Vimeo staff to watch, etc. Don’t think of it as just about getting your movie made.

(Steve O'Reilly) #11

Hey Nicole,

I see you’ve gotten tons of great feedback on this, so what little advice I can give might seem redundant at this point. That said, finding the right producer can make a world of difference in executing your ultimate goal. I’ve had the pleasure of working with several producers as well as marrying one and the more I learn, the more I am aware that everyone has certain skillsets in this world. Many of the best producers have the ability to tackle issues, problems and red tape before they can become toxic to a project. Expect to pay them, but you will be happy you did. They can help assemble a great crew, file and fill out all paperwork for the production, manage insurance, tackle catering, cover the payroll, oversee location booking, coordinate with the DP for all deliverables… I mean, literally the list is endless for good producers. And if you are a creative, virtually every aspect of a producers job is thankless and exhausting, which can effect your mood, your creativity, your process etc… Hire the producer. If you are paying for the series yourself, you will undoubtedly have many responsibilities and decisions to make that fall under “producing,” but without a real right hand man/woman to help you, you will be doing your series a disservice. Hope this helps.

(Bri Castellini) #12

Hey Nicole! Welcome to the forum! Glad to see you had such a great first thread! Speaking from experience, it definitely does seem like a lot, and if you can afford a producer, I would of course recommend it. In general, if you can afford it, you should hire as many people as possible, because filmmaking is collaborative and the more you can collaborate instead of take things on yourself, the better.

However, I think there’s something really important about doing it yourself, especially the first time you’re doing something. I’m a better filmmaker because I’ve written contracts, managed deal memos, done location scouting, researched SAG, held a boom pole, made craft services, held the camera, etc. The only thing you need to be as a producer is someone who wants to see a project through. Check out this article for tips on that, and then check out this one about finding crew when you don’t necesarilly know other filmmakers (ie- producers).

It’s a lot of work, but so is filmmaking in general, and if you’re working with small amounts, you’re going to want to put as much money on the screen and towards your marketing plan as possible. I’m not saying you should avoid paying cast/crew so you can spend that on Facebook ads - in an ideal world, everyone would be getting paid - but for a passion project you’re doing with friends as the first ever thing you’ve brought to life, you’ve got a bit of wiggle room. It’s not impossible to learn this all yourself, and you’ll come out the other side a much more confident, competent filmmaker and leader, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

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(Nicole J. Butler) #13

Hi Mika -

I answered right below Emma’s questions. Right here: Wondering if I should just HIRE a producer (who isn’t me)

I had a reading and am re-writing a couple of script “holes”, but will be looking for a producer very soon. Where are you located? Please do not hesitate to message me privately!


(Nicole J. Butler) #14

Great idea. Thanks for letting me know - I’ll take a look!

(Nicole J. Butler) #15

Thank you! I would never hire someone unqualified, but this broadens my idea of what “qualified” means. I appreciate this info.

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(Nicole J. Butler) #16

Thank you, Steve, for this confirmation. That’s how I’ve been feeling. I can’t wear all of the hats and I really don’t want to. I’d rather pay someone, learn from them, and then on a future project wear more hats.

(Nicole J. Butler) #17

Hi Bri!

Had I realized I’d get SO MUCH valuable info I would have asked the question sooner and not chased my own tail quite as long.

I tend to handle things myself as much as possible (in life), but being overwhelmed at the thought of producing this with my friend who doesn’t know any more than I do has kept me from moving forward. I’ll be very involved, I just can’t wear this particular hat alone. I do want to learn enough from this process to be able to produce solo on future projects though. It’s daunting right now.

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(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #18

Hi Nicole! I hope you found some helpful info from my casting article. Good luck on your producer search!

(Nicole J. Butler) #19

Because so many of you were helpful and encouraging, I wanted to update this post by telling you that I PRODUCED IT MYSELF!

Yes, I was stressed, lol. Yes I did a lot of pacing and had some sleeplessness, but I got it done.

Thanks for telling me that I could.

Here’s a post with additional info and an update at the end: Insurance for one-day shoot? ($$$$)

(Bri Castellini) #20


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