That’s A Job! (Independent Film Producer)

Thanks to everyone who came out to last night’s Flightpath Artist Talks. We love that so many of you are interested what we’re doing, and the industry in general. It is our pleasure to feature MDFF‘s Dan Montgomery in today’s post, providing a little insight into his job as an independent film producer.

Name: Dan Montgomery
Job Description: Co-Founder of MDFF, at which he is also the lead producer

Knock  Twice Blog: Are you freelance or an employee?
Dan Montgomery: Employee…..

KTB: An employee of the company of which you are also an owner?
DM: Yes.

KT: What background do you have to do this job?
DM: I went to film school for 4 years, and studied mainly production, and in my last two years I focused more on producing. So when I first went to film school, I was more interested in directing and cinematography. In my later years in high school, film was a fascination that I knew I wanted to explore, but I certainly didn’t know I wanted to be a producer, even when I went to film school. It wasn’t until 3rd or 4th year in my program that I thought it might be something I wanted to pursue on a professional level.

KT: So by the time you graduated you had already formed MDFF with your business partner, Kazik Radwanski?
DM: Loosely, but we didn’t officially incorporate until about a year after we graduated. But we had started the process of branding our productions as MDFF. But it was about a year after we graduated that we registered the name, and incorporated, and started laying down the foundation of the company in that way.

KT: When did you and Kaz first work together?
DM: In our third year production was the first time Kaz and I worked together in the director/producer sort of roles. it was kind of the moment that I realized I was going to put aside a project that I had intended to direct and team up with people that I wanted to make a really solid project with. That process kind of started things off for us.

KTB: Can you describe your pay structure?
DM: It’s a per project fee. It’s based on the scale of the projects. So if we’re doing a larger funded project my producers fee will reflect that. Generally, though, it’s a percentage of the budget. We’re not at a point where we’ve structured the pay as a salary position.

KTB: Describe your  workspace.
DM: I work all over the place. Mostly from my apartment (or “home office”), but I also frequent coffee shops, bars, and my colleague Kaz’s space where we have our editing suite and do all of our post-production.

KTB: What is an average day for you?
DM: An average day for me starts at the computer; I will comb through all of my emails and send out any time-sensitive materials. Then from there it really depends on if we’re in production on a project I’ll probably be arranging the day’s shoot, and coordinating pickups and equipment stuff. Right now we’re in post-production on all of our stuff, and it’s not so active, logistically, so I’ve been doing a lot more work in the editing suite and sending out film festival submissions, and contacting post-production houses about the work they’re doing for us. Sometimes I’ll try to contain my hours into a more manageable 9-5 space, but often times I find that I want to work later at night or before I go to bed.

KTB: What are your responsibilities if you’re on set?
DM: When we’re shooting on location or in production on a film, my role is to oversee all of the details relating to the shoot. So I do all the coordination, getting the actors to the location, making sure the crew is on time, making sure all the details of the shoot like meals and equipment are all there and on time. But I’ve also been doing all the sound recording on my own projects as well. We work in a really small way, with a tight team.

KTB: So it sounds like your role as a producer, no matter what part of the production cycle you’re in, is being the logistical boss.
DM: Definitely, It’s tough classifying the role of a producer, because from any one person to another it can change so drastically. It’s really whatever each person makes of it. A producer can be really hand-on, which is how I would classify myself, or can take more of an executive-type role and oversee things.

KTB: Does that depend on the scale of the production as well?
DM: Definitely. In a larger scale production I would have more people working under me, and would likely delegate a lot more of the tasks that I’m taking on myself. Right now, with our smaller scale projects, Kaz and I, and our small crew of collaborators take on multiple roles each.

KTB: Are the projects you work on exclusively MDFF projects, or do people also hire you to produce their projects?
DM: Primarily I’ve been producing purely under the umbrella of MDFF. More recently I’ve begun to consider and take on side projects that aren’t necessarily branded as an MDFF project. And I’ve also begun to get into productions in a co-producer role, so maybe sharing the production and producer role with another partner, or a number of other people.

KT: What is the best thing you’ve done in this job?
DM: I just finished my first long-form project, and it was really an extension of all of the short work I’ve been doing over the last three or four years with my collaborators, and this, instead of being ten days of shooting spread over a couple of months, which is our working style, it was more like 50 days spread across 6 or 8 months. It was a huge deal for us, and we’re still finishing up the project, but I would say that’s kind of the highlight of my career so far.

KT: What is the strangest thing you’ve done in this job?
DM: There are definitely some crazy actors I’ve had to deal with. It’s not the most glamorous part of my job, and sometimes that relationship can be a bit tense because you’re hiring them in for such a short period of time, and they may not be totally aware of our process, and our more unique working style, so sometimes it creates a bit of friction. Crazy in the sense that maybe they have preconceptions about the way a film should be made and when they see the way we make our films it goes against their expectations and can create some problems, but that doesn’t happen very often.

KT: What is the most important tool in your box?
DM: I would say my iPhone. It’s sort of my central hub, and calendar. Because I’m always out and traveling around, I don’t have a working laptop and so I do a lot of business straight from my phone.

KT: What do you think is the greatest misconception about your job?
DM: I think it’d be that it’s purely a numbers position, and that there’s not as much of a creative involvement in the production, but that creative side is really what attracted me to it in the first place and now the business side of it….It’s really what you make of it. If you wanted to focus on one area of it you could, but for me I always knew I wanted to be really hands-on.

KTB: What is an important skills for someone interested in this kind of work?
DM: Organization is pretty key. An understanding of finances would be important. But for me, what is really exciting is a creative awareness about building relationships and partnerships with like-minded individuals. So, finding collaborators and really trusting your instinct about who you’re working with and what kind of project you want to create together. I don’t know if that’s so much a skill as a perk, or something that’s worked for us and I would identify as being really important.

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