So my executive producer Niyi Akinmolayan has instructed me to do this post and talk about coordinating a team for film, defining job roles and the importance of multi-tasking. To truly do justice to this, one would need to do a series of posts, so I am just going to pick on a few production areas.
To start with, Oga Niyi is at the very top of the food chain as the executive (Ogbonge/oga-at-the-top-things/gbogbo big boi etc) producer! Which simply means that he is this nice guy with a vision for a project and has money to make it happen.
He then goes ahead to hire a Producer to deliver this project, ‘The Film’. Now, who is a producer? “A producer may do any or all of these: find the literary property (a novel, play or original script), shape the idea into a viable film, raise the money, hire the director, choose the cast, oversee production and postproduction, mastermind the marketing, negotiate the worldwide rights” –Wiki
Did you notice the part where it says, “Raise the money”? Well that’s because, ideally, this is the normal chain of events. A producer would run to an executive producer(s) to raise money for his/her film project, but things don’t usually line up this way. Sometimes, it’s the executive producer who sets the ball rolling, or as in most cases, the producer who is making the film with his/her own money borrowed from friends and family.
Moving on! The Producer having broken down the script (by this I mean, he/she has read the scripts and compartmentalized all the different elements and flagged potential bumps on the road to making the film) he or she then needs to assemble the right team to bring the production to life. The first challenge is finding the right director for the project. The idea that once you are a director, you can shoot anything or make any genre of film is NOT TRUE O! (Except for Niyi Akinmolayan, the guy can shoot anything). The producer has to find that one director with the skill and temperament to deliver the project. See, when a director makes a film, he or she doesn’t just visually interpret the writer’s vision; they also leave their mark on it, as in, the director imprints on it, his DNA. Amaka Igwe, bless that woman, said, “writers write scripts, but it is the director who writes the film”. Don’t go and carry action film script to a director who is great with slapstick movie!! But that is not to say some directors, like some actors, are not versatile.
Once the decision of the director has been made and terms of engagement agreed, he/she will in turn put together his own band of merry men; DP (Director of photography), First AD, Second AD, Sound man, gaffer, Production designer etc. He has to do this in consultation with the producer because everything has to line up with the production budget. The producer’s wing person in every project is the production Manager, aka chief organizer. Think of the PM as that traffic offer at a road intersection. This person’s job is to make sure equipment and personnel needed on the project be where there have been pre-planned to be. He/she does this with the help of production assistants and runners; without these foot soldiers any production will be tough to pull together.
From the moment pre-production starts all through to the wrap of the project, the PM is the one who makes sure the various units get what they need to deliver on the project and reports directly to the producer. He/she is the first line of defense and has to be at least two steps ahead of everyone on the project. That said, it is expected that the Producer and director have hired the right mix of professionals to deliver the production. The most important attribute for a crewmember to have is discipline; understanding that you are a part of a team is key. Imagine a film production set up as a line in a factory. Everyone has a specialized role to play, if one person drops the ball at any one point, it impacts the synergy of the entire production. Work stops, Producer begins to lose money with every passing hour, executive producer’s eye is turning red, all because one person refused to follow the PM’s instructions.
Let’s now talk about the person called the production designer, which by the way really isn’t a very popular office on this side of the globe for reasons I will not get into right now. The production designer works closely with the DP and the director to nail the look and feel of a film. The art director is the guy who has the singular job of interpreting this pre-designed look. However, this is not taking anything way from the editor who is at the end of the line and will still need to work his magic on the final clips.
That said, not every production has the luxury of a full complement of crew members and here is where multi-tasking or multiple roles situations play a huge part when you are trying to make a film. What if there is no budget line for 1st and 2nd AD? The director will have to step up and be all of this on set. Where a production cannot afford a production designer, the props and set guy steps up and becomes art director and must do the best he/she can within the budget or lack of it create a look and feel that works for the film. Where there are no runners or assistants, the PM is going to get one hell of a workout every single day. In the end, a tight ship with passionate crewmembers can still get the project across the line; it’s all about discipline and supporting the next man or woman on the production line.
With Room 315, we have is an amazing hybrid situation where we have some of the best hands volunteering to work on the project along side a select group of young people investing time, energy and resources to acquire hands-on production skills. My message to all of you is, ‘learn everything, ask questions and never stop asking’.
When I left the university, one of the first places I worked at was the BBC Media Action, back then it was BBC World Service Trust. I was a young trainee-producer, myself and my good friend Sola Mosuro, would stand watching the head producer work with actors, and ‘can’ scenes after scenes under the hot Northern sun. Then one day, suddenly, the head producer (Emeka) turned to me and said, “now it’s your turn”, and tossed his headphone towards me, strolling off to have a pepper soup break. Here it was, my opportunity and with everyone watching I swung into action.
How was I able to do it? I had watched, asked questions, made mistakes, and finally gotten it right. I would go on to write and produce radio spots in multiple languages, was part of the story telling team for “wetin dey” and till this day, still a part of the writing team of the hit radio series “Story-Story, Voices from the market. I have learnt to tell stories, write radio drafts, screenplays, been a PM, thought myself to edit sound, directed plays at the MUSON center all the way to the big stage at the Eko Hotel, and have also been a dancer for ten years. Now, I am the owner of the Production Company that made the global award winning MTVShuga season four, but learning never stops. I learn from everyone I meet and niyiakinmolayan.com has been an incredible resource for me.
The core of this post is to let you know that you can pick up different skills along your way to becoming a film maker till you decide on that one thing you want to be good at because you never know when you will be called on to pick up the ball when your teammate needs you to be there.
Thank you for reading.
Emmanuel Kalu Uduma
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