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MENTORING MATTERS - Blessing Or Curse: When It Comes To Producing, Having An Outside Gig Cuts Both Ways

Posted By Meta Valentic, Thursday, October 27, 2016
I have a love-hate relationship with producing independent films. I love the creative freedom, the risky subject matter and the chance to work with emerging artists. Having been in the indie world in one form or another for the last 20 years, I’ve had many amazing experiences but just as many frustrations. Producing indie film is a slow, uphill battle that is often unpaid. I constantly wonder how producers do it—and wonder the same for myself! I’m lucky enough to have a flexible, well-paid job within the industry (as a DGA assistant director) that supports my producing habit, but I have yet to call myself a bona fide, self-supported independent producer. The majority of films I am developing have social-justice angles in decidedly non-blockbuster genres. How can I carve out the best career for me, one that allows me to work on my passion projects, while still earning a living?

That question led me to the PGA Mentoring Program. I finally got myself a much-needed mentor to help me navigate my specific professional challenges. Zanne Devine started as an independent producer and has transitioned into an executive role as the President of Miramax Films. She sat down with me for three hours this summer and we went very deep into my roster of projects. She immediately saw that my dual life as an AD and producer is both a blessing and a curse. Zanne revealed that even she, as the president of a major company, still produces small indies. In fact, she had just gotten back from the set of a film she’s producing—a small film shooting near the Arctic Circle. Talk about commitment!

She offered invaluable advice and tasked me with several important producer duties. I haven’t always gotten attachment or option agreements on my projects. Zanne stressed the importance of advocating for myself for those agreements. She also sees the upside of being an AD and a producer, and advised me how to use that to my advantage. She also helped me network with an executive at a like-minded production company—one that produces films with a heavy social-activism component. Zanne has encouraged me to lean into my producing niche.

It’s given me the kick in the pants I’ve needed for a long time.

So thank you to the whole Committee, as well as Meera and Kyle at the PGA office. Spoiler alert—I’m the co-chair of the Mentoring Committee. I’ve seen hundreds of mentorships blossom over the years, and I’m proud to join the ranks of successful mentor/mentee pairings that our committee facilitates. 

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