Monday, September 28, 2009

The Creative Producer By Ike Ong DGGB


The term, 'Producer,' is often misunderstood and the industry definition is:

Ideally, the first person on a project and the last person off. The producer's role is to find and develop a project, hire the writers and develop the script, hire the director, actors, etc, arrange for financing, oversee the production, on this and any other projects he or she may be producing concurrently.

In episodic TV, this person is called the Executive Producer. Also, the producer maybe involved in the release and exploitation of the film. Some directors and actors who initiate their own projects act as their own producer.

Since Bob Yaris was disqualified from receiving an Oscar as the producer of the film, 'Crash' which won the best film for 2005, the Producer's Guild and the Academy has defined by his contribution to the process:

A producer must prove they have made a significant contribution at least 30% of development, 20% of preproduction, 20% to production, and 30% to post-production and marketing.

Filmmaking is a business and not an Art Form. The product has to be commercially successful and the customer is the audience. In other words, the film has to provide a level of emotional satisfaction for the audience to want to see it again. The market in Malaysia is small and for our film industry to develop, we must make films that are universally appealing so that they can be competitive with imported films and will be suitable for export.

This is the problem in Britain. The audiovisual industry trade deficit rose from USD $ 2.7 billion in 1989 to USD $ 7.2 billion in 1999 and is on the increase. As cost effectiveness goes American products have a much lower cost per viewer ratio. One of the solutions is to make films with a good story, well told and this will make it sale-able in other countries.

The British film industry has a tendency to moan about the unfair advantage the marketing and distribution the American products have in the economies of scale. The reality is that British audiences and others in most countries prefer American films. The reasons are that they are bigger productions with all the facilities for the marketing vehicle and also their scripts are more accessible and elicit emotion. Invariably, they provoke emotion in the audience and the audience derive a greater sense of satisfaction from such films.

The problem is not that we are incapable of writing such scripts but we have not been trained in the art of screenwriting for the benefit of the audience. The London Filmmakers Studio specializes in training components of the film industry in making films that elicit emotion with artistic integrity.

Let us examine the leaders in the industry and analyze why they succeed. Everyone is as capable as another in coming up with an idea for a story. After all there are only 12 stories in the world. The secret is in the art of story telling and story making. This method of elevating the quality of film is inexpensive and once the exponents have understood the principles of story telling, it is placing different characters in the same situation that will cause a different result in the conclusion.

Filmmaking is a collaborative process and requires all the disciplines in the Arts. We all listen to music but we do not write symphonies. The writer is a composer and the conductor will not have a work to conduct if he does not have a score. The director is the conductor who may not be able to play all the instruments but has to be aware of what each instrument is capable of to enhance and achieve his vision or interpret the score.

We are often impressed by a film because of the style and the content. Style is the way the story is told visually and the content is effectively, the story. As Art House cinema became more fashionable it developed to become a new genre. They are stories with a minimalist plot structure or an anti-plot structure.

The Malaysian Film Producers and Financiers Facebook Group is initiating the composition of the symphony!

Conventional plot structures have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and they may not necessarily be told in that order. Plot is a sequence of events in the story. Story is the meaning and purpose the events occur in the plot. The overall content is a good story well told.

The approach in development we advocate is to choose characters we are familiar with and with whom we can identify with. Secondly, the basic principle of visual arts is to be visually illustrative with actions, in other words, show and do not tell with dialogue.

The American tradition is one of the comic book culture and makes them in the mode of illustrating and not narrating with dialogue. European films generally have 50% more dialogue.

Basically, we should be able to understand the story without the sound.

Thirdly, more scenes should be used to illustrate the action, this increases the pace of the film, and engages the audience makes them participate in the drama.

Fourthly, make the ending 'ironical.' When the audience goes to see a film, they suspend their disbelief and allow the producer to take them on an emotional journey. The satisfaction should be greater than the experience they attain in everyday life. A feature film screenplay is about 120 pages and is the labor of the developers over a period of a year.

Most screenplays are never read because it is costly to have it read professionally with a script report written. Often it is the apprentice in the office who volunteers to read. The way to circumvent the obstacles is to make the officials in power have a taste of the product without having to incur the time of reading the 120 page screenplay.

It has become an industry standard for writers to produce the following, supplementary to the screenplay:

Firstly, a Synopsis.

Secondly, Detailed Character Biographies of the main characters to help the readers visualize the sophistication of the plot.

Thirdly, a Detailed Treatment of the final script is required.

Fourthly, A Step Outline of the screenplay is the manageable reading material which will make the producer buy the script.

The development procedure in screen writing we have adopted is one where the Story Design is established to express the meaning of the story in the film. This is then transcribed to the Step Outline, which is a group of scenes which expresses the action of the drama. This provides a greater opportunity for the writer to illustrate the film and not to tell the story.

The dialogue is the last procedure and is applied to supplement the action in the film. Students will practice deconstruction to Step Outlines on ready made films and familiarize themselves with the motions of thinking in cinematic terms by Step Outlines.

The Step Outlines are then summarized into a story design for students to understand the concept of the development process. With experience, the students will be able to proceed in the order by progress of development.

Within each scene and at various stages of the story, the principles of screenwriting have to be adhered. The principles of filmmaking are not the same and are complementary. What the composer requires in composing the Symphony is not the same as what the conductor requires in expressing the music score. It is essential for the composer to provide the fundamentals for the conductor to bring to life, the Symphony.

The first rule in providing for the audience is not to be Boring.

The majority of our audience are under 21 years old and have been conditioned by multimedia, and the Internet, and are less forgiving then the audience of the past. A good story is where a sympathetic hero comes up against incredible barriers and manages to overcome them.

In the design of the story we have to create a universe with its own rules, limits and values. It is like telling the story of a Chess game. Chess has the rules of the game, the characters are the pieces who behave in a particular manner, and the limitation is the Chess board. Then there are also the players who control the game but are also the story tellers.

The concept of the story will be examined in the different form structure and the principles as established by Aristotle in The Poetics. The principle of specificity is that the story teller is the originator of the story and his prejudices and consciousness has great influence on the story.

The world the story teller imagines is a part of the writer's style of screen writing. The story design is transformed into a screenplay and the screenplay is open to interpretation. The meaning and purpose of the story is examined and how the same story can be told is demonstrated to students.

We hope to be able to run The Creative Producer Course at the end of the year.

All readers interested please e-mail us at

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