Notes on a Call Sheet

Movie producers

January 6, 2016

[This is an excerpt from my satirical novel Ray D. Shosay's Journal: Dispatches from a (junior) suite in Paris. Though presented as fiction, it is as true as it gets.]

Once in awhile, something so jawdroppingly extraordinary happens to underscore the fact that anyone can consider themselves a movie producer notwithstanding the fact that they have never produced anything or gone through the motions of learning the trade, craft or black magic that it is. The fact of being in the proximity of those who have taken action in these areas is sufficient for these folks to present themselves as players in the game knowing not the first thing about movie business protocol and convention or, often as not, the basic etiquette of social intercourse to further aggravate the situation.

To learn the art of producing, one must read copiously selecting from a menu of subjects including marketing, literature, art, mathematics (it helps to know that one plus one equals two in understanding when and how to break that rule), horse racing, Las Vegas odds-making and whatever else you can get a grasp of as a practical application. It really does help, however, to actually produce a movie for nothing else lets you know what it is that you don't know about the subject than doing the deed.

As an aid to those who don't know what they are doing and so that they can carry on their pose a little longer, I offer a few rules that may be of assistance.

1) The old business adage that if you look around the room and don't see a sucker you are "it" goes double in Hollywood. The top producers in the movie business didn't get where they are by giving a sucker an even break.

2) W.C. Fields' motto, "Never give a sucker an even break and never wise up a chump" should be repeated here for cautionary emphasis.

3) When you are the one asking for something, it is you who pays for the lunch.

4) When it is you pitching a project to someone who can fund it, it is you who pays for the lunch.

5) When anyone who has actually made a movie agrees to meet you for lunch, it is you who pays for the lunch.

6) When one of the movie industry "grown-ups" pays for your lunch it can mean one of two things: He/she likes the project you pitched or he/she does not like the project you pitched. In the latter instance, paying for lunch means he/she has absolved himself/herself of any further obligation to take your phone calls or answer your emails.

7) When trying to raise money for a project, learn the difference between buying a property that someone actually owns and having the opportunity to cash someone out of their option as it is about to expire (See 1 & 2 above).

8) Know that posing as a movie producer when you have never done it before is not as dangerous as posing as a thoracic surgeon but it can be just as embarrassing when push comes to shove.

9) In the movie business, push always comes to shove.

10) There's no business like show business (and be aware that the consequences of this truth are wide-ranging and far-reaching.

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