Monday, April 20, 2009

This is a good meeting

You don't even want to know what a bad meeting looks like.

There's something that's been bugging me. It bugs just about every creative at some point but I don't know exactly how bad things are in different countries. But here, if you want to get anything off the ground, be it a show, film, whatever, you will be expected to sign away all rights to a producer. All rights, according to contracts, across the entire universe and for all forms 'yet to be invented'.

You will likely get paid cack all for that. Like, taking feature films as an example, a feature writer or director or writer/director simply could not live on the amount of money they would make. It can't happen. The only reason to make a film is the challenge or for it to be a labour of love. And that's why there are so many first-time directors. Almost nobody can actually make a career out of it. Those who do have to move to Hollywood and get a gig remaking a film that shouldn't ever be touched.

And yet a producer can buy the rights to an entire film and all of its exploitation for pretty much nothing. I was offered an option agreement recently for five hundred Euros. Five hundred. Oh, and another five hundred if it got into production.

That is not all that unusual. At least, over here.

But you have to consider the old Golden Rule cliche - those with the gold make the rules. But here's the hilarious thing. Producers over this end of the world (it's different in the US) raise most of their finance by filling in forms to access public money. They aren't bringing their own gold. The only difference between them and anyone else is simply that their name is at the end of an application. They aren't bringing their own money to the table.

So the natural thought process is, shouldn't the director or writer access those funds themselves? Well, yes. BUT... there are two considerations here. Firstly, being a creative and being a producer are two very different things. Producers do actually do a hell of a lot. It would be wrong to think they don't. Do they do enough to warrant total ownership of a project? No. Not even bloody close. But they do enough that can often be incompatible with the goals of directing, creating, to make it really difficult to do both jobs well.

There are reasons they are two separate jobs, as I found when I produced one of my own short films many years ago.

But the second consideration is something I don't quite get exactly. On just about all public funds and applications over this end of the world, it is stipulated in the conditions that the director/creative and producer must NOT be the same person. Because they are two different jobs like I said? I don't know the reason. But as all applications must go through the producer, it puts all of the power into their hands.

Because they are capable of filling out forms.

Or hiring a solicitor to fill those forms for them.

Creatives are being complete and utterly shafted. There is something really wrong with this system. It's not working. It's just not working. And I'm thinking, there must be an easy way around the system. In fact, there are easy ways around the system, technically, but because this way of doing things is so ingrained over here it is just accepted that this is the way things are done.

And that's bullshit.


Unknown said...

I can't say for sure, but maybe the reason for the "different people" requirement was to keep producers from cutting out the director, rather than vice versa.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Whatever the reason, it does seem awfully unfair. It almost feels as if producers behave like those assholes who tried—some succeeded—to make a lot of money during the early days of the WWW by registering domain names that COULD be valuable later on. They really don't know what products are going to be successful, they just try to cover as much base as possible, like tigers spraying the trees in their territories.

Maybe the solution would be if a group of 10+ animators got together and worked as a collective. Each one would have a story or program they want to develop, but they would take turns so all of them would work to bring together one project at a time—one of them would be director in one project, then producer in the next. They would then split the profits evenly.

Is that so unreasonable?

Bitter Animator said...

In ways, I think that's exactly it. Partly that comes through the massive negatives of public money.

Of course there are huge positives. I couldn't have got where I am (you know, bitter, depressed and blogging) without the support of public money for short films and just about every show I've ever worked on.

The flip side, and I see this especially in live action over here, is that massive amounts of producers live on development money. One development application after another pays their wages for the year. They don't actually have to make anything. And, if they do make something, they certainly don't have to sell it.

There is an incompetence and complancency that comes with that and their existence depends solely on the number of projects they can put into development. Hence, gathering as many as possible as cheaply as possible and creating a perception that projects have no value.

As for the collective idea, yeah, I've seen that work well. Cartoon Saloon, of Skunk Fu and now with a feature out, pretty much started that way. It took a loooooong time for them to find their feet but they did it and are now a seriously impressive company. Not just artists but businessmen too.

It's not easy and, often, it is destroyed simply by creative personalities clashing, but it can work.

David said...

The situation I'm in is that I'm working with a producer who's not big-time enough yet to stomp my nads, but smooth and "up-and-coming" enough to get meetings and public funds.

He's ambitious enough to want the project to go places, and as long as he thinks it can, our partnership can work. No certainty that the show will get up, but is there ever?

The obstacle for the collective might be that the funding rules are often structured so first-timers can't access the money. Also, the funding board will know who is a viable producer ("because we've met them all").

One reason I failed to get some funding a while back was because I put my animation lecturer's name down as Producer, they knew him, and knew he wasn't a "real" producer (i.e., he's a creative).

Of course, the other reason is that I filled out the budget form without a clue...

Bitter Animator said...

Yes, David, I've had rejections too on the basis that the producer was not taken seriously.

What is kind of difficult and, right now, frustrating me is that most of us creatives who stay in the business for a certain amount of years and stay interested pick up a massive amount about production. About raising finance, about how to budget effectively, about how to put together a crew and manage any external requirements like post-production or whatever. In most ways, we can out-class many producers, especially any new producers.

I had a project a few years ago that went down the toilet. Basically, the producer, who then owned all the rights, was expecting me to produce it. I was the one telling the producer where to go for funding, how the tax schemes worked, what markets to tap into and so on. And I had to sign away the rights for that simply because I'm not a known producer and can't be on a form in two different roles.

It didn't seem quite right. It seemed almost like a blessing when the project went belly-up.