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  • Writer's pictureJason

The Self-Taught Producer: Classes, Books & Webinars

So, I’ve never been one to take classes or read books. I guess it harkens back to my not always loving school. In fact, I graduated a year early from college and never looked back…and rarely took a class afterward!

Recently, I asked myself WHY I didn’t take more classes, read more books, or watched more webinars. While I’m not 100% sure of the answer, I think the main reason could be that I find books on particular subjects (i.e., producing, filmmaking, etc.) overwhelming. In front of me is 200 pages on something I need to learn about. Classes are drawn out, sometimes for months. Webinars? Ugh.

I’m still averse to these things but have learned enough about producing theatre, film and indie series by just doing, (perhaps with a little Google search here and there...wish there was the internet when I began producing!). Producing can be daunting, even on a small scale. The necessary components to creating a story, either on stage or on screen, are numerous and can often be a challenge to juggle, especially if you happen to have written the story and may want to star in it. However, by fully immersing myself in these experiences without relying on the sometimes convoluted and densely written descriptions offered in most books, I learned most of what I needed to know. And, the mistakes I may have made along the way, offered me the benefit of never making them again.

After all, there is a common sensical nature to creating a project. For a play or musical, you need to rent a theatre. I thought, “I’ll search around for theatres that I think are the right size (AEA showcases require a certain maximum for seating), in a desirable neighborhood (anything to entice an audience) and then go about contacting them and asking their rates, etc. Then a sort of “rinse and repeat” practice comes until you finally choose the right one.

I applied this common sense to creating a casting session (sometimes I searched for actors, sometimes it was invite only, depending on the project) and for designers (usually asking people I knew who had already produced for their suggestions). I used this approach to producing on-camera stories as well, asking for help or guidance from friends or colleagues who had already been through the process of producing a project. This is perhaps the best resource there is.

There is another practical perspective to this “learn by doing” mission I’ve been on these last 30 years: it’s quicker and cheaper. By not feeling as though I needed to take a 12-part class (the hot ones are often pricey and sometimes hard to get into), I managed to simply get on with my project, jumping in with common sense and figuring things out as I went along. I did, in fact, attend a workshop on theatre producing years ago, just to discover that I knew most of what was shared. This, perhaps, cemented my aversion to classes, books and webinars and emboldened me to continue with what I encourage all creative people (anyone, in fact) to listen to: your gut. If you feel like “doing”, do. There is no shame in this game.

Now, I realize that everyone is different. I am not advocating that my way is best. Far from it. I only mean to say you should do what is right for you, not what you’ve been told is the “right” thing to do. My innate organizational skills, my actor training which emphasized collaboration and communication and my old-fashioned “let’s put on a show” ebullience made it a no-brainer for me to explore producing by the seat of my creative pants. If you feel more comfortable sitting in class, reading a book or learning and preparing from those who have done it, I wish you all the best with that journey. It will be a useful one. Just remember to take what you know then go and MAKE SOMETHING!

Good luck, self-producers. Can’t wait to see what stories you’ll tell.

Got questions? Want to share any helpful information? Please do so below!

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