In June 2014, screenwriter Tom Kerevan produced his first feature film, Tear Me Apart. Here he talks about the tricky transition from writer to producer, and why he believes it’s so important in today’s industry.
I never wanted to produce. As far as I could tell, producing meant a constant headache, interrupted only by violent migraines. I’ll stick to Final Draft, a cup of tea and characters that do what I tell them thank you very much.
Slowly though I began to realize that I needed to understand the industry better, and this meant getting onto film sets. At around the same time I met director Alex Lightman and cinematographer Ernesto Herrmann. We started producing adverts and music videos, mostly one day shoots, so all ‘producing’ meant was making lunch for a small army.
In May 2013, somewhat frustrated at the lack of feature finance coming forth from producers, we made the snap decision to take the plunge and do it ourselves.
Having never produced a feature before I fully admit that the undertaking was terrifying, but with that dangerous mix of confidence, arrogance and blind optimism we felt that between the three of us we must amount to at least one competent producer…
And it turns out we weren’t entirely wrong. Nine months of raising finance, four months of pre-production, four weeks shooting on location in Cornwall, and we were able to shout the words, “That’s a wrap!”
So here’s 7 things we believe are vital in a successful transition from writer to producer:
1. Network. Network. Network. I know, you’ve heard it all before. But it’s #1 for a reason. People invest – their time, their money, their belief – in teams more often than individuals. You can’t climb Everest on your own.
2. Producers do not necessarily hold the key to your career. Meet film-makers who are at the same level as you.
3. Produce stuff. You’d be amazed how many people I meet who want to produce a feature without actually having produced anything. Ask your musical friends if you can shoot them a music vid; ask ad agencies if they need any free content; ask your mum if the village hall needs a promo. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Just get out there and produce shit.
4. Take a leap of faith. If we can do it, so can you. Trust me.
5. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Once you’ve taken the leap of faith, now it’s time to take a step back, figure out what you know, and more importantly what you don’t. Difficulty is, you don’t know what you don’t know. And there is a LOT to learn at every stage of the way: budgeting, raising finance, accounts, contracts, managing a large team, casting etc. The good news is that you’re in the best industry in the world. We spoke to everyone we knew who had gone before us, asked for advice and discovered just how generous people are willing to be with their time. We spent months doing this before we even started trying to find the money. So ask anyone and everyone, “Can I buy you a coffee and pick your brain for 15 minutes?”
6. You’re going to enjoy it more than you think. Yes, it’s ridiculously hard work and you will have to make sacrifices in other areas of your life (probably relationships!) But it’s also great fun. So enjoy the process. Even when everything is going wrong, and it will, remember you’re living the dream.
7. It’s not rocket science. It’s just problem-solving, and who doesn’t like giant puzzles?! We could only ever see half a yard in front of ourselves, but thanks to a huge amount of support from filmmaking communities like the London Screenwriters’ Festival and Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass, as well as advice from countless individuals, and a quite incredible cast and crew, we have a movie. One step at a time and you’ll get there.
“But why is any of this important? Why can’t I just stick to writing?” Well, you can, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I have to ask, why would you want to?
Firstly, understanding producing will inform your writing no end. You suddenly see the business side of the industry, and it makes perfect sense.
Secondly, there are a lot of talented people in this industry. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of talk. The best way to get the attention of the people at the top is to put your money where your mouth is, stop talking and take action. We haven’t finished post-production yet and we are already getting meetings about what we’re up to next, as well as seeing an increase in opportunities for work in our individual creative capacities. These people have no idea if the film is any good or not. All they know is that we did it.
So put all your fears, all your doubts, all your insecurities aside because you can do it. And you will.
And if all this scares you, it should – as I said, it’s terrifying. But if you’re not scared, then you’re not pushing yourself, you’re not learning, you’re not living.
Succeed or die trying, hey?
Tom Kerevan is a writer and producer. His debut feature film Tear Me Apart, made with Cannibal Films, was shot in June 2014 on location in North Cornwall. It is currently in post-production, scheduled for completion early 2015. See more guest blogs from the team on how they made the movie on the main website, Twitter or Facebook.