On the surface it looks like an easy straightforward question to answer. A producer oversees all aspects of a movie from start to finish. For example, a producer:
Initiates a project at the story idea or script stage;
Develops a production budget;
Attaches players to a movie;
Hires the director and other key personnel;
Oversees every part of production from script to completed film;
Coordinates all phases of production with budget considerations and schedule in mind;
Arrangements for stills (photos) to be taken on set of actors in character and behind the scene stills for future marketing purposes;
Is responsible for communicating information and decisions to key personnel;
Solves problems quickly, even if it calls for a snap judgment based on only a gut feeling;
Deals with the money people financing the production.
Naively, when I became interested in making movies, I was expecting to learn everything about being a real movie producer from books (I'm a self-confused book junkie). I religiously devoured books looking for clear answers that fit neatly into a universal idea of what a producer did. Many books were entertaining (as I hope this article will be for you) sharing real stories from the trenches of production while providing practical tips to readers. Those were my favorite types of books on filmmaking because I could relate to the human interest parts. I felt like they were talking to me about making movies in my own language. One of my favorite reads on making movies is Make Your Own Damn Movie! Secrets of a Renegade Director by Troma legend Lloyd Kaufman.
Others were very dry read packed with technical film school speak and text book style information. It was clear the audience these books were tailor to were film school students. It was frustrating to sift through pretentious film terms while reading about how to be a producer. A reader will not find terms used on real working film sets like "Gary Coleman" or "wolf" in most technical books. I was just an aspiring filmmaker that was looking for practical advice on producing a movie within a reasonable budget.
Divided Opinions On What A Producer Does
Regardless of presentation and writing style, these books had different explanations for what a producer did. The basic overall definition of what a producer did at the core remained similar, but after books varied very in opinions on what a producer has to do to make a movie. With so many books written on being a film producer and filmmaking it's hard to separate them into clear cut camps.
But I did notice two common schools of thought emerging on producing. One being books that discussed what a producer does on a multimillion dollar studio film with Hollywood stars and award winning directors supported by enormous film crews. The second being about the guerrilla filmmaking philosophy where a producer works with a near nonexistent budget with unknown actors and a skeleton film crew, sometimes only supported by a few people. Opinions were divided on how to produce a movie. As an aspiring producer I knew I was not going to be able to produce a multimillion dollar movie with Hollywood stars and I did not want to produce a no budget movie shot completely guerrilla style. After taking away practical tips from books I felt were useful to my own producer goals I thought to myself, "Where do I go from here?"