By Matty Simmons
The producer of National Lampoon's 'Animal House' and the 'Vacation' movies. But what does a producer actually do? He attempts to explain...
The screenwriter, obviously, writes the screenplay.
The actors, of course, act in that screenplay.
And the director, without question, directs the whole thing.
But what does the producer do?
I will attempt to explain.
A film producer is the guy who, when a writer tells him about a good idea he's got for a screenplay, says, "That was done in 1938 by William Wyler. It costarred Fredric March and Loretta Young, with Claude Rains playing the black hat. But you know what? I think we could update it, if instead of making the leading lady a nun, we have her working in a casino in Nevada. We put George Clooney in the Fredric March role, and we make him an undercover agent for the CIA who has tracked a Russian agent to Las Vegas. Angelina Jolie would be great for the girl.
"They meet and fall in love, but he discovers that she's pregnant by the Russian agent. George has been licensed to kill this guy, who, incidentally, will be played by Jack Black, but Angelina begs George not to kill the father of her unborn child. In a tearstained scene at the Las Vegas airport, Angelina says goodbye to George and walks to the plane to join Jack Black for the trip back to Moscow. Our big ballad here. Maybe we get Elton John.
"George stops at the airport and pulls out a quarter-a quarter she gave him. He drops it in a slot machine. The place goes nuts-bells ringing and all that stuff. George has hit the $1 million jackpot! He collects his money in a single large suitcase. It's all in ones to make it more visual-this is a visual medium.
"He goes back to his hotel. He's still sick about losing Angelina. He takes the $1 million down to the hotel casino and puts the whole thing on No. 27, which was their number. We see the ball rolling around and around and around-endlessly, while the theme music, sung by Celine Dion, soars until every butt in every seat is up in the air. The ball drops into No. 29, then hiccups slightly and pops into 28, then, as Celine reaches a pitch so high that every dog within a mile of any movie house in America is howling with pain, the ball goes blip-and drops into 27."
By now, the writer, who is on the edge of his seat listening to the producer, is ecstatic. "And Angelina returns to him!" he screams.
"No," says the producer. "That's what would have happened in 1938. Instead we go for total realism. George meets two bimbos, played by Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, buys champagne for everybody in Las Vegas, and sends a telegram to Angelina, which she gets as she and Jack Black land in Moscow. It reads simply '#*%! you!' in Russian.
"As we go out on a big rock number by Bon Jovi, George is buying a training bra with diamond studs on it for Paris, and Lindsay gets the last big laugh of the movie by falling up a down escalator."
"I love it!" says the writer, leaping from his seat. He drives like a maniac back home and writes a first draft overnight, and the producer takes it to one of the studios.
There, a reader who occupies a small closet-like office in a building near the parking lot and drinks from a Star Wars mug reads it and condenses it to about a page and a half. Finally, because this is a prestigious producer, it wends its way through numerous assistants and production vice presidents, and, on the big day, the producer arrives to meet the head of the studio.
The head man, who hasn't read the screenplay or the condensed version but does know who has been suggested for the leading roles, because that's more important than the script, says, "George Clooney is in the dumper. Angelina's fine, and the kids like Jack Black. We want Brad Pitt for the guy and Ashton Kutcher for the girl's kid brother."
The producer doesn't remember that there is a kid brother, but he's on a roll, so why argue? He agrees to the casting.
"And," says the head of the studio, "we want Steven Spielberg to direct. We've already contacted him, and he says as long as you stay off the set, he'll do it."
The producer then negotiates his own deal, taking an exceedingly large piece of the pie, flies to Bimini, where his yacht has been moored for the winter, and for the next six months sails around the Greek islands with Britney Spears and her mother.
The picture is made and released, is a huge hit, and garners no Oscar nominations. The producer makes millions, leaves his yacht in Greece, flies back to America, and buys another one.
That's what a producer does.
At least, that's what I'm told.