The Parallels Between Film Production and Entrepreneurship

There is something that film school graduates
know very well but not many are able to apply to their careers: The more
entrepreneurial they are, the better prepared they will be to make professional
decisions conducive to success. Perhaps it is for this reason that many entrepreneurs
who become film producers
are successful, and this is a trend that
dates back to the early days of the Hollywood industry.

In 1915, enterprising actors such as Charlie
Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks reached out to acclaimed director
D.W. Griffith with a business proposal that resulted in the founding of the United
Artists Corporation
. Griffith used to rub elbows with financiers who
made film productions happen, but he was not always happy with the monetary
arrangements. Taking advantage of his powerful connections, Griffith brought a
former United States Treasury Secretary to this business venture, which sparked
the beginning of a prosperous period of filmmaking known as the Golden Age of

What the founders of the United Artists film
studio realized was that each movie production needed to be managed as a
business enterprise, and this approach to filmmaking eventually became a
Hollywood standard. It is not unusual to see a film production being treated as
a business entity; in fact, quite a few movies are organized as limited
liability companies or stock corporations even though a separate production
company is listed on the credits.

To say that movie producers are serial
entrepreneurs would not be a stretch. When we look at the group of tech
entrepreneurs and investors who were involved in founding PayPal and Twitter, we see that many
of them went on to form other start-up companies; these are individuals who
think in terms of ideas, markets and products. Film producers also think of
their projects as products that can be promoted and sold within certain market
segments. Similar to serial tech entrepreneurs who develop ideas into products,
producers evaluate pitches and scripts that they believe can be turned into
profitable enterprises.

Producers are more likely to operate as serial
entrepreneurs than their counterparts in the tech sector; however, this is not
always the case. Some producers think bigger than others, and this is why we
have major film franchises such as Star Wars, James Bond and the Marvel Comics’
Avengers series. Other producers treat films as branding opportunities, and the
best example in this regard is the extensive merchandise associated with Star
Wars. You know how certain films have modest box office runs that are followed
by straight-to-video sequels featuring different actors and directors? This is
probably the work of production companies that see a better opportunity in
other markets, and they don’t wish to take risky chances.

In the end, the parallels between producers
and entrepreneurs boil down to transforming ideas into moneymaking products. If
a single idea can be expanded into a major brand, a film franchise may be
formed; otherwise, producers will often move on to the next project, which will
invariably consist of developing ideas into new productions.

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