Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meet The Producer Noah Harlan

I'm delighted to present producer Noah Harlan's responses to my creative producing questionnaire. Noah is co-founder of 2.1 Films in NY and maintains a blog, The 401st Blow, which I love to read.

Sustaining the Muse
A Producing Questionnaire

* Please name all the "hats" you wear as a creative producer.

I teach producing at NYU and one thing I reiterate to my students is that, as a producer, you have to know something about everything that is involved with making a film as eventually everyone will have a question for you. That beings said, as a classical 'producer' (ie: not an executive, co-, associate, line or other type of producer) you are a talent scout, a friends/counselor/guide, a collaborator, a financier, a financier-finder, a marketer, and a leader. I think the most important 'hats' are the collaboration and the leadership, but they rest firmly on your taste. Assuming you have taste, your ability to accomplish things is predicated on your capacity to understand the needs of those you work with, support those people and keep a hand on the wheel so you're always moving forward.

* List all of the jobs you've held before or while pursuing a career in producing.

Intern, Production Manager, Production Coordinator, Casting Assistant, Casting Associate, Line Producer, Co-Producer, Field Producer, Producer

* Do you have a Big Dream or career goal as a producer? What inspires you to do what you do?

I love engaging people's imagination, I love creative expression and I love problem solving. There is not a particular film goal that I have beyond trying to make as many films as I can that I believe in. I don't put limits on what type of film I want to make as there are huge blockbusters I love and tiny arthouse projects I love.

I don't know that I can say what inspires me to do what I do. It feels more like a compulsion perhaps. Since I don't see a specific goal to my career, I likely don't have a singular motivation. If there is one thing I do feel, it is that I love to be transported - to forget where I am and get lost - and film and media allows us to bring that sensation to others.

* Please name five essential skills and/or traits a creative producer needs to sustain a career.

(in no particular order)

1) Tenacity: You will hear 'no' more than you can imagine. You will not make a lot of money and when you do, there will be no assurance that you ever will again.
2) Taste: You cannot control whether your films are financially successful. You cannot control whether your films are critically heralded as successes. However you can control the taste-level of the projects you choose. A producer's success if tied, in part, to their ability to get people to respond to their projects and consider them for financing. If you spend your cache on bad projects people will be less inclined to return your calls and read your scripts. If you are always pushing ahead with projects that are admirable then those who pass on one will always be curious about the next.
3) Leadership: If your crew and/or collaborators do not believe you know what you are doing, and you cannot inspire them to keep doing what they are doing then they will abandon you and the work will suffer.
4) An Understanding of Finances: You are asking people for their money, know what you are talking about. Increasingly the notion of a producer who doesn't have to deal with financing is a fallacy. You will have to. Take care of your investor's money, watch the contracts and understand the deals you're offering.
5) Patience: This takes a long time. From concept to script takes at least a year generally. Then you finance. Then you shoot. Then you edit. Then you release. While it can be very short, it generally is a long time in the making and often, if you rush it, the work is half-baked.

* Name a movie, or several, that you wish you had produced. And/or, producer(s) you admire (living or passed on).

The list of films I wished I had produced is probably far too long to reasonably print. I admire the careers of Jon Kilik, Scott Rudin, Marin Karmitz, Marek Rozenbaum, Jean Labadie, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Sarah Green and many, many more.

* How do you define success for yourself?

I'm never satisfied and thus it is hard to define success. Perhaps a time will come when I look back and say, I was successful, but for now, I suppose, it is being able to continue making movies. When I can't do that, I'll have failed.

* What's your motto when it comes to raising money for your project(s)?

It's out there.

* How long did it take to support yourself as a producer?

Given the cyclical nature of our revenue, it's a perpetual question for all indie producers. However I was working for a few years before I could make enough off of producing to not take other jobs.

* Who do you turn to when you need a pep talk?

My fiance and our dog. Mostly our dog.

* If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I'd be a faster reader. I feel like I'm terribly slow, I'm not, but I feel like I am. There's a lot of things on that list I suppose but I try not to think about them...

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