Production takes more than producing: It takes the vision, tenacity, and guts of an entrepreneur.
Producers are not paper pushers. They’re not just schedulers, budgeters or menu-preparers of directors and audio studios. When I’m hiring producers – and I’ve hired over 40 of them across North America – I’m actually looking for one thing:
Being a startup entrepreneur is a lot like being a producer. Sure, an entrepreneur produces a business, and a producer produces a project, but both entrepreneur and producer start with a big idea on Day One and figure out how to bring that idea to life. Both are creative and logistical adventures that suck you in for years. Both vocations require convincing people that the idea is worthy, and solving hard problems to ultimately become a concept and a tantalizing idea. The main difference? Being a producer means your project has a finite ending.
I see the similarities because I started as a producer and became an entrepreneur, owning several businesses over the years.
The entrepreneurial mindset is the thing that’s missing in production. We’re seen in little cubes of capability. That’s why most people think of a producer with some kind of modifier in front of it like music or film. That’s certainly true: specialties are important. But the actual job of a producer is much harder to define. It requires being involved in many kinds of ideas and projects; a producer ultimately brings teams and diverse expertise together to bring an idea into existence.
That’s the founding principle of my company, Makers: Bring together a collective of creatives to execute on big ideas, and together, make anything. And I mean anything. At the beginning of the pandemic we wanted to help local restaurants stay afloat while supporting food banks that struggled to meet demand. We produced a program called “Isolish”. Working with the industry, we created a four-course tasting menu from a list of Toronto restaurants and delivered the meals to homes. We came up with the concept, marketed it, built the software, delivered the dinners, and raised enough money to buy 10,000 meals for the Daily Bread Food Bank. The restaurants we worked with said the program was better organized than all of their other delivery partners.
So, in three short weeks and a budget of only $5,000, we essentially made a competitor to UberEats while simultaneously supporting the community around us. The mindset wasn’t “let’s make a video“; it was “let’s make a movement and let’s make it happen.” Mindset is fundamental to modern production just like it is to creating a business. When you think like an entrepreneur, you produce like one, too and vice versa.
With that in mind, these Production Maxims can help you take your idea from nothing to something. Here’s how:
For all the hype of creativity, Canada is pretty safe. More often than not, the business gravitates to the doable. Why not dream big? The bigger the better. That big dream excites other people and they’ll be motivated to help you accomplish it. That motivation goes well beyond money. So whether you’re making a film, building a company, or setting out to change the world, aim high and share your ideas. If the idea is worthy, people will show up for you in all kinds of ways—like when you need to build an UberEats competitor in three weeks for charity. People stepped up for Makers, and we were grateful for the support.
CULTIVATE > REGULATE
Imagine yourself as a gardener who wants to grow flowers. No one can force flowers to grow. All you can do is set the circumstances for growth. You put the flower in the right spot, with the right environment and nutrients, and it’s bound to grow into something beautiful in a habitat where it can thrive. Similarly, as a producer and a leader of a project or business, how can you set up the circumstances for your team to be their best? Focus on the circumstances and less on chasing a rigid plan.
BUILD THE TEAM
The smartest person is the one who surrounds themselves with the smartest people. When you rally the geniuses, who becomes the genius? The rallyist-in-chief, of course. You certainly can’t do it alone. A film producer doesn’t write, shoot, direct and produce the script. It takes a team, creative and motivated, to get it made. Combine creativity, passion, and track record, and you’re more likely to get funded and deliver the goods.
TOUGH PROBLEMS MAKE A TOUGH CREW
My dad once said “it takes strong pressure to make diamonds” *eyeroll* – which I quickly discovered was absolutely true. As you gain momentum you will face tough problems. With the right team and circumstances, entrepreneurial producers will solve any challenge in the way, and you’ll be better for it. Nothing builds a team quite like overcoming adversity together.
MAKE COOL SH*T
This seems like the most obvious advice until it isn’t. It’s so easy to compromise your big dream to get it done – but that is exactly the kind of mentality that will lead you to something that gets lost in the noise. Make something cool and interesting, and not only will you be in love with it – but so will others. They’ll talk about it, share it, and you can’t put a value on that.
Whenever possible, avoid making wasteful, flash-in-the-pan garbage. That garbage can certainly pay the bills, but we as producers and entrepreneurs need to take responsibility for what we make. We need to ensure that what we make is good for ourselves, our communities, and the environment. If we don’t, who will?
Think like a Producer, get creative, and you’ll find it’s truly possible to make anything.
By Sumit Ajwani, Makers Inc. founder