A documentary producer is the person who makes a documentary film happen.
The producer may have to act as a manager, a financier, a visionary and an
entrepreneur. Sometimes they're directors, cinematographers and writers. These
are the people in charge of all aspects of making a documentary film.
Generating the money to make a film is one of the most important parts
of a documentary producer's job. The producer has to secure all the funding
for the movie, hire all the people needed and make sure the project is finished
on time and without going over budget.
"Being a producer means you have to do everything if you want to see the
project through," says Christine Venegas. She is a documentary producer in
Los Angeles. "Most documentaries are done on a shoestring budget, and you
wear many hats in the course of the project."
Money doesn't come easy in this type of film producing. Because documentaries
are almost never big commercial successes, finding funding for them can be
Producers can expect to spend a great deal of their time getting the finances
for their film from individual donors, foundations and federal and state film
"You have to have perseverance," says award-winning documentary producer
Alexis Krasilovsky. "I know one filmmaker who spent seven years raising the
money for her film."
The job involves a lot of responsibility. Anything that goes wrong during
the making of a film -- running out of money, conflicts between staff members
or even the uncontrollable situations that come with filming nature documentaries
-- eventually involves the producer.
Depending on what kind of work they're doing, documentary producers may
be required to travel to work on their project. The hours can be long and
the work can be intense.
"When I'm making a film, I live with it 20 hours a day," says Krasilovsky.
"It takes over my life."
In addition to all their other duties, producers must also keep afloat
in what is often a sea of paperwork. Producers handle all the business details.
And they're often kept busy with grant and funding applications, accounting
and other paperwork.
Once the paperwork is done, producers get to be involved in the creative
process. In fact, in small, low-budget documentary companies, the producer
is often also the director. It will continue to be common for producers to
wear a lot of different hats. With arts funding drying up, they are being
forced to do more with less to get their films made.