A brief chat with producer Stephanie Serra
On Saturday, January 13, The International Film Institute of New York will welcome back Stephanie Serra of Triserratops Productions to its Manhattan classroom for a one-day Introduction to Producing Seminar. According to Stephanie, becoming a successful producer takes a lot of creative thinking and some elbow grease, plus a few other considerations you can read about below or learn in person if you sign up for her course at www.nyfilmschool.com.
What is one thing you learned as a producer after working on your first project?
My first project took place in a New Jersey junkyard, filled with rusty old cars. I had 10 filmmakers on my crew and three actors (two of whom were children). We had little-to-no money and two days to shoot a script that included gunshots, rabbits, choreographed violence, a burial, and a runaway sequence.
When you’re making movies early on and have little-no experience, things will inevitably go wrong or not according to plan. When this happens, I’ve learned that the most important thing a producer can do is to make decisions with your collaborators’ best interests in mind. A cast and crew that is taken care of and that feels appreciated at every turn will help carry a production through its most difficult challenges.What is your favorite part of producing a film or TV show?
When I was producing in college, I recognized, early on, the value of pre-production.
Since my crews and I were mostly working with ultra-low(-no) budgets, it was critical that we spend time conceptualizing and planning for the execution of each of our shooting days – and to do so with the resources we had available to us, in mind.
For the plans that included the use of resources we didn’t have at our disposal, pre-production was where I learned to think creatively about my negotiations and where I began to take risks as a producer in reaching for the things I needed for my crew and production.
Are there magazines, websites or social media pages that you subscribe to or follow for industry news and info?
I usually turn to the industry trades: Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), IMDB. Box Office Mojo will give you a sense of how films are doing in the box office and Nielsen reports are a valuable source for industry related research and data.
If you could only give our IFI audience one piece of advice on being a producer, what would you offer?
Don’t let a lack of money (or the very rare surplus of it) be an excuse for not telling a decent story. If you can’t get financed when you’re starting out, take a creative look at the resources you do have at your disposal and, make your movie anyway. (Also learn a craft within the industry… even though, that’s a second piece of advice.)
The elements of a successful movie have remained constant since the inception of the art form. The International Film Institute of New York (IFI) was founded in 1997 to provide those with a sincere and abiding interest in filmmaking with a high-quality, low-cost education in all aspects of the filmmaking process: screenwriting, directing, producing, cinematography, and editing in a curriculum combining classroom instruction and hands-on technical workshops. http://www.nyfilmschool.com