Marginalia, Graduate Blog

The Producer’s Kit

Conor O'Farrell

One of the production designers, Abby, told me my new business cards reminded her of Batman. I don't know how, but okay.

One of the production designers, Abby, told me my new business cards reminded her of Batman. I don't know how, but okay.

In the film industry, the creative producer isn’t always on set during principal photography. The line producer is the one responsible for the physical production of a film. But in Columbia, you become a jack-of-all-trades, because, regardless of what kind of producer you hope to become, you need an inside-out knowledge of how production works.

Before this year is out, I will have produced my fifteenth short film. Looking back, the first short film I produced was a shambles, but that’s how you learn in this game. I’ve made my mistakes but learned a great deal along the way.

For those of you braving your first few film productions, here’s my top ten must-haves I’ve learned to include in my producer’s kit.

#1 FIRST AID KIT Producers, you’re running the show. If someone is injured, it’s on you. You had better have your insurance in order and a band aid to hand.

#2 INTERNET Whether you need to find the nearest hardware store or email tomorrow’s call sheet or today’s daily production reports back to studio execs or Columbia faculty, make sure the Internet is available.

#3 PRINTER Let’s say your actor turns up, unhappy with their contract. Do you let them perform and have them sign a different contract later? No, they might change their mind and then you’ve lost your footage. Nobody should be on set without signing a contract. Plus, you’ll inevitably need to scan receipts or copy something for the art department or print more scripts or schedules. Bring a printer.

#4 BATTERIES It will most likely be the sound department that comes looking for them, but a dozen AA batteries will never go astray.

#5 HARD DRIVE Depending what camera you’re shooting on and the size of the production, you may not have a data wrangler, so that job might default to you. Transferring the days picture and audio files and bringing them to the editor is a big responsibility. You don’t want to be the producer that lost a day’s worth of material.

Time is money, so you want something fast. Bought myself this firewire hard-drive last semester, it has been good to me. And it's pretty.

Time is money, so you want something fast. Bought myself this firewire hard-drive last semester, it has been good to me. And it's pretty.

#6 TORCH (AKA Flashlight)  As the producer, you should be the first to arrive on set in the morning and the last to leave at night. It can be dark at night, and when you’re doing your final walk through to make sure the location is left in good condition, a torch comes in real handy.

#7 GARBAGE BAGS You’d be amazed how often people forget these, and then what do you do with trash? Film sets are messy places. On a side note, make sure to find a bucket for cigarette butts. For some reason, even non-smokers seem to smoke on set.

#8 TAPE Be it scotch tape, duct tape, or masking tape, somebody will inevitably look for tape. You might have to stick up directions or warning signs. Or maybe it will be used to mark actors positions, to secure a lighting stand, or something. Who knows! Bring tape.

#9 RED BULL Days can be long on set and crews get tired, especially grip & electric who do most of the heavy lugging throughout the day. They like red bull, and don’t be afraid to lend them a hand while packing up the truck. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way.

#10 BUSINESS CARDS Film sets are likely where you’ll do the most networking. It’s a good sign when, come the end of the production, someone indicates they’d like to work with you again. Try to have your business card to hand. It’s a nice professional touch.

Between these top ten—and whatever else you might need to have with you, depending on the shoot that is—this all makes for a producer’s kit that will likely be difficult to lug around, so your #11 must-have will likely become a car when you’re a working producer. Next year, after we move to LA to finish the program, I have this romantic notion of dashing from my apartment to the gym early morning before heading to the offices at the studio, then driving by a film set in the evening to watch dailies with the director before picking up friends at LAX that are visiting for the weekend. This might be a few years out, but whether you’re figuring out your producer’s kit or where you’ll be in a few years time, forward planning is a must-have trait for a producer. And here’s my dream LA runabout, my must-want.

The Producer’s Kit

In the film industry, the creative producer isn’t always on set during principal photography. The line producer is the one responsible for the physical production of a film. But in …

Cinema Art + Science - Creative Producing Conor O'Farrell, conor.ofarrell@loop.colum.edu
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience