As Christine Vachon puts it, producing is a lonely profession; you have so much responsibility and often it feels like you fail more than you succeed. Its general, its a challenge to learn how to be a good producer. You can learn the trade from a mentor, experience, or instruction, and even then, it might not be everything you need to know to prosper. I was lucky to have a mix of all three help me in my early years. Without them working together to shape me professionally and personally, I am unsure if I would still be in the business today. When I can, I offer mentorship to new and promising filmmakers and I don't shy away from having inexperienced PAs on set. I was lucky that I was able to attend film school, but for those who cannot, nothing bars you from self instruction.
These are my top five film books that I truly believe helped me as a first time film producer.
Producer to Producer, Maureen A. Ryan
As the subtitle of this book suggests, it is a step-by-step guide to low-budget independent film producing. It holds your hand guiding you through Development all the way to Distribution and Sales. There is almost never a question this book cannot answer about the process of producing. I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to be a producer, and any first time filmmaker who thinks they know what a producer does. On the accompanying website Producer to Producer you can find resources, links, and if you create a free account, access to templates, downloadables, and printables.
Dealmaking in the Film and Television Industry, Mark Litwak
This book is essential to understanding and comprehending entertainment law if you are not a lawyer. It breaks down legal concepts, offers sample contracts, and gives a brief overview of milestone entertainment court cases giving context to why certain laws are the way they are today. The official website for Litwak's Law practice also shares thoughtful entertainment lawn resources.
Bound by Law, Keith Aoki, James Boyle, Jennifer Jenkins
This comic book examines the laws surrounding Intellectual Property and the Public Domain. You can find a free digital version of this book here. If you are a music lover or maker, check out their most recent book Theft: A History of Music.
The Complete Film Production Handbook, Eve Light Honthaner
This book dives into the nitty gritty of the every day of production and the production team. It covers some of the topics that are in the Litwak and Ryan book, but goes deeper into things that only deal with the production office, production peoples, and set life. In one section it will address shredding and watermarking in the office, and in another it notes what a directors cut is as defined by different unions at different budgets. It is an all encompassing manual of sorts and a line producer's dream. For educators: a great book to have students learn the entire process of filmmaking from a production point-of-view.
The Movie Business Book, Edited by Jason E. Squire
A compilation of stories from various filmmakers in the industry, this book offers history and advice in navigating the Film Business. As Squire states in his thank yous, this book is meant to empower readers and share what might be considered industry secrets or tips from the trade while allowing personal growth and inquisitive thinking. I found it less of a how-to book and more of a "this was my experience, find what works for you".
Think Outside the Box Office, Jon Reiss
Ted Hope wrote the intro. Name doesn't ring a bell? You might not think that his advice is important since he isn't a household name, but he is an acclaimed Indie Producer and currently the Co-Head Movies for Amazon Studios. He might know what he is talking about, and he truly knows the importance of distributing, and exhibiting your work. This book provides the reader a detailed chronicle about distribution, exhibition and marketing, while offering different avenues of showing and getting money for your work without focusing on the big screen.