29  September  2017

Former Senior Exec. at Warner Bros. gives insight to the world of producing

This week, the European Film College had a visit from Rick Senat, a world-known and renowned independent producer and former Senior Executive at Warner Bros. He spent the entire day with the students, telling them the history of Warner Bros, from rags to ritches, but also sharing a rare insight to the role of a producer, a role that everyone knows, but only a few people understand.

Written by August Colding, student at the European Film College 2017/18

Throughout the history of cinema, even the most undevoted movie-goer can tell you the basics of what goes on behind the camera. The actors act, the directors direct the actors, and the writer writes the story. However, when it comes to the role of a producer, very few people outside the business gives any thought to what the producer does. However, according to Rick Senat, the producers couldn’t care less.

“What the producer wants is a good movie. And if he gets that, most people couldn’t care less what people thought about them. Maybe they are overlooked, when it comes to giving credit for how the film is made, and looks or feels. But as a producer, you are normally quite happy for the director, or the writer, to be given credit for those things.”

Roles and titles
The confusion is not made any easier by the many different titles a producer can call themselves by. We have creative producers, executive producers, associate producers, line producers and all those different roles you don’t bother reading in the beginning credits of the big blockbuster you’re about to see. According to Rick Senat, the difference comes more down to the size of the movie:

“There are line producers and there are line producers. I mean you can be a line producer on a 250-million-dollar movie, but that is very different from being a line producer in Ebeltoft. Different set of skills required. In fact, I wouldn’t want to be called a line producer, if I was on a 250-million-dollar movie, I would be called a producer or an executive producer.”

Since Rick Senat himself is an executive producer, he takes the chance to shed some light on that particular trait:

“I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule, but many executive producers are not necessarily involved in the day to day aspects of production. Occasionally they are, but generally speaking, they are involved in financing transactions, and the discussions that take place around the setting up of the whole project. Occasionally they are asked for their personal opinion on the staffing, and casting of the project. Who would be a good director, a good producer, a good director. Usually the Executive Producer has a connection to the making of the film. And very occasionally the Executive Producer will have previously worked on a project and passed it on to somebody else, and then he attaches a condition to the sale of the project, that he be an Executive Producer, and then he might not have anything more to do with it.”

A rapid changing film business
In recent years we have seen a large increase of interest in the movie business from giant companies such as Apple and Facebook. When asked in which direction the movie business is headed, Rick Senat says the change has already begun:

“The impact Facebook and Apple will have, will be on the way in which product the film is brought to the marketplace. If people's main source of income is a telephone the size of the iPhone, then the number of people that are going be watching that product, on that iPhone, is going be enhanced because that is what the telephone companies want. Or Facebook for that matter. Or Twitter. And in time that will have an impact on peoples viewing habits. I don’t think it will kill of the next Harry Potter or Star Wars, because they are still going to want to see that on the big screen. In itself this development will not stop people from going to the cinema, but it will mean that sometimes less expensive dramas are less likely to be financed for a cinema release.”

A filmmaker must know more about the world than films
Rick Senat knows more about movies than most people will ever learn, and his love for films is his driving force; a force that drove him to abandon his original career as a solicitor. Despite all of this, he urges young filmmakers to broaden their knowledge of the world, and study other traits as much as possible:

“You need to be educated. Broad knowledge of the world. Not movies, but learn what is going on in the world. Definitely. I did law, but really it could be anything… Greek mythology, architecture… Anything! George Miller is a doctor. The director of the Monty Python films, one of them is an architect. You will be more interesting to other people if you are a more interesting person. For example, if all you know is Harry Potter and James Bond, Roman Polanski… That’s boring.”

Feels connected to European Film College
Rick is an old regular in the European Film College. He is a former board member, and has been coming here regularly for the past 25 years. When asked what he thinks of the European Film College, he gets almost poetic:

“I feel kind of connected to it. I think it is a very natural place, very devoid of politics, so you can come here to think. And the students, they are all interested in films, that can’t be too bad. I like the people who work here. For me it is a pleasure, I think it is a really good place to be. I come here once a year when I can, I’d be happy to come here more often, if I had the time.”

He decides to end the interview with a solid piece of advice. I ask him what he would have done differently in his early career, and his response was much shorter than I anticipated, but still an answer that will probably make the students here feel pretty good about their future career:

“I would have liked to had come to this place”