“Film-making is even more enjoyable when it is a social activity. While it is possible to do everything on your own it is incredibly gruelling,” said Mark. “It is exhilarating to work with people who care equally about the project as I do. They also care very strongly about their particular field. Although I have very strong ideas about what I want the sound to be like it is brilliant to work with a sound person who is obsessed about making the sound superb, beyond what I would expect. I can relax knowing the sound will be technically better than if I did it myself”
The producer and director are at the top of the decision making process. It can be quite ambiguous who is in charge. This is why the right partnership is important. Inevitably the people you work with best are the people you get on with as friends. “When you make a low budget film it is almost like fighting a war. It is far more likely the thing you set out to achieve won’t be achieved because the odds are stacked against you. It is easy to think you have a good idea but it takes a year or more of work after that to turn it into a film. There are so many stages involved that can destroy the idea, or present it less favourably,” observed Mark.
“Obviously you are going to come up against all sorts of problems during the production. If you can trust the producer to sort them out with you then you can relax. If you don’t trust the producer to sort them out, or if you think they have a hidden agenda, or they think you are being too finicky about something, then it may be better not to have a producer. That goes for every member of the crew, there is no point in delegating unless you trust the person who is doing it.”
The next speaker, Nico Crama, was introduced as Mr. Holland Animation. He has worked with many top Dutch animators and recently produced Paul Driessen’s The Water People.
Holland does not have a traditional film industry. However, every year around ten feature films are made, some fifty documentaries and one or two animated films. They are mostly known as personal films. Nico has been involved with personal films from the 60s. He started out with live-action films and is a director of documentary films. His favourite subject for documentary films is art and artists. He became involved with animated films when he discovered there were artists making their own films. He decided to work with them and produce animated films. “Sometimes it is very difficult and sometimes it is great fun,” said Nico. “It is very important the producer and director work together as a team.”
People often ask him: What does a producer do? – so he has made a list. It explains how he sees his duties and responsibilities. It starts with the idea – it must be an idea that appeals to him. The first step in the production is to produce a proposal and budget for the people who are going to commission it. “Nearly all the productions that come to me are low budget productions and I try to make the best out of the money,” said Nico. “I do not want to waste the filmmaker’s creativity and I do not want to waste money on the way.” As well as the financial planning, the film¬maker and producer have to choose and contract designers, animators, the camera people and the sound people and it is always a question of money.
Money can be saved by careful planning, for example he likes to be very well prepared before they go in the sound studio in order to keep the hours to a minimum.
The film-maker and producer must make a decision about the animation technique and the completion date. “Film-makers are much too optimistic about how long it will take, and although I do not want to be a pessimist to the film-maker I always allow for it to take longer” said Nico.
The format is very important; there are films commissioned for showing on television screens, and films designed for cinema screens, which could be wide-screen. And then there is all the modern technology of digital pictures and high definition television. It is the duty of graphic artists to ensure their films can be shown on all the systems without losing too much in their composition. Nico also discusses the title and credits at the commencement of each new production.
Then as producer he will buy the materials and sub-contract to the studios, and attend to all the responsibilities involving the financial backers of the production, ensuring the film-maker does not have to worry about contracts. “I try to give the film-maker a green light,” said Nico. “In the beginning it is like a long road with all the lights set to red. I try to put them on green so the animator can proceed. Sometimes there is an orange or red but I try to think ahead so the film-maker can move on.
There is also the legal paperwork to attend to involving copyright and music clearance. “I have seen student films that have used so many cut-outs of existing art work that they can never show the films because the copyrights are not cleared,” warned Nico. He believes it is also the producers role to assist in the promotion of the film. He produces small personal films that are not shown in cinemas so they are difficult for people to discover. He accompanies the film-makers when they set out to sell their films, putting much energy into the distribution and the advertising of the films, arranging good qualityphotographs and publicity material so the film can enhance the film-makers reputation and earn them money. “A film-maker’s reputation is important when it comes to attracting money for new films,” advised Nico.