Aidan Oldroyd - Would you tell me about a couple of projects you have produced, please...
João Paulo Simões - Ok, I suppose I can tell you that, as a producer, it all started full on with Frontier Media. As I established the company and started doing work as Frontier Media, that’s when I fell by default into the role of a producer. So Frontier Media was conceived precisely to do commissioned documentaries, music videos, promos, adverts and things like that. So, I could tell you about a couple of projects that I recently worked on, that cover those areas and I found particularly rewarding. I did a series of documentaries called Transmitting Musical Heritage. It was prompted by a research project by the University of Sheffield and, amongst all the films I have made within the factual genre, it’s probably the one that kind of established most a new way of working and I found that particularly rewarding as a filmmaker and, as far as the producing role is concerned, the one that I think of most fondly. Simply because things can go wrong very easily and with that one everything just ran smoothly, you know - which is not to say that something hard is not rewarding either. It’s sometimes even more rewarding as you manage to overcome difficulties that challenge you along the way. But I think it’s the one with most legacy - with a very specific role for posterity, in a way, because of what it tries to explore, to make a record of… And it has opened doors to all sorts of other projects.
|Gingerbread - Music Video produced by Frontier Media|
AO - You say it was difficult to schedule. Is that because of the artist that couldn't do certain dates?
JPS - As well, I mean, yes. You are working to everyone’s schedule, I had to work with the actress’s schedule, I had to work with transport and I had to work with the singer and around her gig dates and, you know, all those things. But, at the same time, it was a project that I had full creative control over. The concept for the music video was approved quite quickly and we all just committed to doing it the best it could possibly be.
AO - The money side of producing: you would have been given a budget to work to?
JPS – Yes, it was established from the outset, the kind of budget I had to work within. When you do this kind of work, which is certainly commissioned but also something that you believe in and commit to, you must embrace it with passion. That’s the only way I think anyone should work, because it shows in the end result. You have to be prepared to be flexible. In this particular case, the fixed budget was established, incorporating my fee, production costs and post-production time. All that stuff was included.
AO - So you have to keep within the budget. There no room for overspending...
JPS - You have to keep in budget, otherwise you would be compromising on some part of it - on how much you would get paid to edit it or how much you would get paid shoot it, for instance. So, yes, Gingerbread was very carefully scheduled and broke-down in terms of costs. It was a limited budget but it was budget nonetheless and what mattered was how we could attain the best result - the finished product that totally honours the original idea, within these limited resources because there were a lot of limitations. So, that’s always what a producer (and myself, as a filmmaker who has to think as a producer) bears in mind.
AO - In a bigger production, the producer is like the boss. The director often comes up with the idea and sometimes writes the script, but the producer has control over the money and has the power to say whether that certain idea can be financially created. So the producer will have a say in the overall creative process. How much say does the producer have?
JPS - I can give you an answer to that, I think. In regards to the director ever being the boss I think it only really happens if he is the producer, as well. I have worked with producers on projects before and I’m thinking of one example in which I was only directing and had, therefore, my decisions undermined by the producer I was working with and, on another occasion, I had a producer pulling the plug mid-shoot, so I have experienced it all, in a way.
I have had a few years of producing my own material, enabling a couple of shorts by younger filmmakers, but mostly I produce my own work.
|Uma Curta de Amor (A Short of Love)|
You will also find that the tricky thing in this business is the amount of people that are producing but have always wanted to direct and then end up taking offense or resent if they are treated as someone who just sorts practicalities out and gets on the phone to secure permission for this and that. I appreciate it all. I mean, I wouldn't say that I have encountered it all, but I have come across a lot of different egos, a lot of different approaches.
I find that it to be a great advantage being my own boss. There’s always a certain degree of friction in the dynamics. If you look at productions of a large scale, for instance, people often wonder who the boss is. It is right acknowledge that the producer is the boss. He has the power to shut down a production, while the director is in there trying to make something special. But it works both ways. There are producers that are more creative than directors and there are producers that are mere accountants working with directors with “too much of a vision”, so it’s just the way it is…
AO - Do you have any words of advice for an aspiring producer?
|JPS Photographed by Marina Vieira da Silva|
Create your own database and treat everyone with the same level of respect and importance really. Don't just pursue it for the profit or the fame. Do it because you love it with passion and it will show through in your work.