Monday, February 15, 2010

Giving credit where it's due

I was part of a contract negotiation a while back with a producer. One important part of a contract you get from a producer is the part that says they can boot you off the project any time they feel like it, even if it's something you created from scratch.

On this point, I had a lawyer explain to me - well, if they're putting up their money for development, they want to protect their investment. They're taking a risk.

This may well be relevant for you US folks. Over in Europe, however, 'their money' rarely ever means just that. More often than not, it means the public money they applied for. Development grants, non-repayable government loans and that sort of thing.

The only difference between them and you is whose name is at the end of a form.

So who is taking the risk? He who may end up signing his creative work away for damn all money (and you can take that as a certainty) or the one spending public money that was never his to begin with?

After years in this business, I'm left slightly baffled by the power of producers over here. Because their real power isn't in their money. It's in form filling. And yet filling out those forms is something rarely taken seriously unless you've got the word 'producer' on your business card. They do hold all the power.

And yet the real power is hidden. Unrewarded. Or at least barely rewarded. The creative talent.

Producers know this.

It scares the living crap out of many of them. Not all of them. But many of them.

Why? Because anyone can fill out a form. If a producer puts a creative talent out there in front, gives them the credit they have earned, that talent may well just walk across town to another form filler. Or decide to fill forms themselves.

Leaving the producer with nothing but a company name.

If you see an animation company or content production company's website and don't see the creative talent out there in front, or even listed, it's simply because the producers are terrified. They need to make it seem like the creative talent don't matter. Like the power is in a company name. On those where you do see the creative talent out in front, you'll find those people are company directors. Either as part of a formed partnership (a great way to do it) or brought in on some percentage to try to lock them into that company.

Even in those scenarios, however, the fear will come as soon as they use an external talent. And, invariably, they will at some point because producers are always looking for new talent. New talent is easier to mould, to control, to wrestle rights from. The industry keeps things moving this way and so producers retain their role.

It's odd how, at so many different times, we're told what we do is a team effort. And yet so many producers fear their own team.

But, to bring it back to the title of the thread, producers deserve credit where it's due. They do schmooze on boats at MIP or hang out in bars in New York at Kidscreen (they should be just back from that now) and, while many of us creative types are envious of how that sounds, we simply can't be arsed doing it. Producers deserve credit in this industry.

Just not quite as much power.


Red Pill Junkie said...

That indeed seems like a sign of insecurity on their part.

I think if producers and the like can handle all the bureaucracy so the creatives are left alone to create, they have done their work.

Of course, that doesn't mean they should assume creatives are these photosensitive Mole men, that would go blind or mad if they get their chance at the limelight to receive their due credit. Most of us do need that occasional public applause once in a while.

Anonymous said...

This post reminds me of the Ren & Stimpy episode 'Stimpy's Cartoon Show' - a quote would've been good, but I can't seem to find a script anywhere...

Let's just say that Ren asks what Stimpy's jobs are and then Stimpy tells him that "the producer then takes all of the credit."