The Difference Between Directing and Producing

It was June of last year. Tyler, me, and the rest of the Advanced Television and Film (AVTF) graduates from Sheridan College were all celebrating the completion of our first and final year of school. Tyler and I knew we wanted to work on The Talk, a short film directed by Tyler and produced by me. So on that night we found a lonely booth and filled it with the creatives responsible for the film. Lo and behold, the night that we all finished school, was the night The Talk started to come to fruition. In February, we filmed the short.

The Talk is the third film I have written that has gone into production; however, this is the first film that I’ve produced. I’ve always wanted to write and direct but as I learnt more about the industry, producing had grown on me. There’s something about helping bring a vision to life that is so rewarding. I’ve been a director working with producers, a writer working with directors and producers and also a producer working with a director. There are a lot of things that go into each job, but here’s what I found from my experiences.

The Difference Between Directing and Producing

As the director, no idea is too big for you. You are responsible for telling the story through the visuals, the characters and their dialogue. You create the vision for the film. You are leading the charge, you in essence are the pawn in the chess game — and, yes I said pawn. You are the forefront of the vision, working with the rest of your team to achieve it. Your team; the producer, the cast, cinematographer, art director, editor, sound supervisor and the rest of the cast and crew are all the other pieces with their own special skills helping you get to the other end. And if you’re passionate, creative, determined, and wise about the choices you make, well, we all know what happens to the pawns when they reach the other side of the chess board — they turn into the Queen, the most powerful player in the game.

As the producer, it’s your job (as well as the director’s job) to find the right people to bring the story to life. While the director is coming up their vision, you’re there alongside them. Sure paperwork comes with the role, but you have creative input as well. You’re responsible for grounding the director and making sure they understand the limits of themselves and the production.

As the producer, you are the rock tied to the balloon, responsible for reminding the director of certain questions like: Does this shot add to the story? Does it showcase what our characters are going through? Is what they’re wearing contributing? You’re the second pair of eyes on the project. You have to think like an audience member and see and feel how they would.

A common misconception about being a producer is that you have no creative input and that you just find or provide financing. This is false. As the producer, you are no less creative than the director. While the director’s role is like a pawn in chess, a producer’s role is like working on a puzzle. The end result is this beautiful picture — the decided vision for the film.

The Difference Between Directing and Producing

The Talk’s team and cast.

Working together with the director and the rest of our team, we have been fortunate with the success of The Talk. We’ve picked up several awards for our film, including the Gold Award for Best Short Film and Best Director, and the Platinum Award for Best Screenplay at the LA Short Awards. Most recently, we’ve managed to make the top 10 list of short films in the Just For Laughs Eat My Shorts Competition. We are so excited to have the success continue with the screening at this year’s Toronto Youth Shorts. You can see it on August 12 this year as part of the Proposal programme.

Written by Tanner Sawatsky for Toronto Youth Shorts.


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