48HFS-FILMPRODUCTION

48HFS 002: Film Production

Producer Keith Collea talks about the ins and outs of film production.

Keith Collea is a producer and instructor at Shanghai Vancouver Film School. His Chinese film credits include The Monkey King «西游记之大闹天宫», Gone with the Bullets «一步之遥» and Mojin: The Lost Legend «鬼吹灯之寻龙诀». Prior to moving to China, he also worked as a supervisor on numerous big-budget studio projects, including Independence Day, Titanic, Pearl Harbor, Collateral and Three Kings. We catch up with him for a talk about what makes a good short film, how to spot a bad producer and get some advice on keeping your cast and crew happy (and motivated) during production.

The following is part of a special series we’re doing in the run-up to the 2019 48-Hour Film School in Shanghai (August 31-September 1) and Beijing (September 7-8). Check the bottom of this page for details on how you can sign up to be a part of the action.


EastIndie: What are some of the most common mistakes new or inexperienced filmmakers make when making a short film?

Keith Collea: Short films are often confused with being features only shorter, but short films aren’t big movies. You don’t have time for backstory, sub plots or even character development—you get in there and you get out and you need to setup the ending in the most economical way possible.

EI: What does the role of a producer on a short film entail?

KC: Short films aren’t just for thought and entertainment—they can be calling cards for filmmakers. If a short film makes it to a film festival and wins an award, there’s usually a future for the filmmakers out of it, but in order to get into film festivals, it needs a producer who will follow through on all the producing requirements necessary to get it into film festivals or to get distribution. Their job is similar to the job of a producer on a feature length show, but they usually have to do way more work, like that of a location manager, a unit production manager and maybe even a PA getting the food to set.

They need to know what a good story is and when a story should be made into a movie and how to fix it when no one else can.

EI: What should others look for in a producer? What are some of the characteristics of a good film producer?

KC: A good producer needs to be a well-organized individual, with good negotiating skills, they must know everything about the business, about everyone’s jobs, how much everything should cost, how long things should take to get done and how many people are needed to do it. They need to be problem solvers and sometimes psychologists. They need to be able to convince rich people to invest in something that has the lowest odds of paying back. They need to know what a good story is and when a story should be made into a movie and how to fix it when no one else can.

EI: Conversely, what are some of the telltale signs of a bad producer (someone you wouldn’t want to work with)?

KC: Someone who just says “No” to everything when there’s a problem or when crew members need help or when crew members need a leader and they just get negativity.

EI: As a producer, when you come on to a project, what is the first and/or most important question you need to ask before you do anything else?

KC: Is there any money? Is there a story? Also, who’s already committed to the show?

EI: What is the most common paper work that gets overlooked by inexperienced producers?

KC: Copyright releases.

EI: What are some of the most common traps productions fall into when it comes to copyright issues? And, how can these be avoided?

KC: Featuring products or brands in their shows without permission. Anything that can be considered contributing to the look, feel or character of the show or the actors needs to be either blocked out or releases gotten. Trying to get releases after the fact is insane.

Every situation is different and has its own particular needs, but I think that the most important thing to do is listen and not blame.

EI: What are some of the things producers should take into consideration or be aware of when selecting locations to shoot in? What makes for a smart location?

KC: Something that is close to home base, not lots of time spent coming or going to set. Cheap or free is always nice. Private property and away from neighbors.  Bathrooms, parking, close to subways. Plus, nothing expensive that’s liable to need repair after the crew wraps.

EI: When it comes to mediating disagreements or managing trade-offs during production, is there a right or wrong way to go about it? Is there a good rule of thumb that can be applied in these kinds of situations?

KC: Every situation is different and has its own particular needs, but I think that the most important thing to do is listen and not blame.

EI: Finally, what is one piece of advice you can offer to new or inexperienced producers for keeping their cast and crew happy and motivated during filming (and ultimately ensuring the success of the project)?

KC: Feed them on time, give the crew a decent place to go to the bathroom, and don’t over work them and you’ll be fine.


The Shanghai 48-Hour Film School will take place on Saturday, August 31 & Sunday, September 1 at Shanghai Filmspace, 3/F 102 South Xiangyang Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai / 上海市徐汇区襄阳南路102号3层. For details and registration, click here.

The Beijing 48-Hour Film School will take place on Saturday, September 7 & Sunday, September 8 (venue TBC). For details and registration, click here.

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Michael Thede

Michael Thede

Founder & Contributor

Michael Thede is a Canadian screenwriter and story consultant. He studied Film & Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario and is a graduate of the Writing for Film & TV program at Vancouver Film School. He came to Asia nearly 15 years ago and is currently based in Shanghai, where he is also the founder and organizer of the Shanghai Screenwriters Workshop. WeChat: michaelthede78

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