PGA nominees roundtable: ‘All That Breathes,’ ‘Hacks,’ ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’

Most people know what an actor does, what a director does, what a writer does, but what, exactly, does a producer do? It’s a job that covers as many wide-ranging responsibilities — from securing funding to figuring out if there’s time to do another take during a day — as there were answers when we posed the question to our Producers Guild of America Awards nominees panelists Shaunak Sen (“All That Breathes”), Lucia Aniello (“Hacks”) and Joe Farrell and Whitney Hodack (“Weird: The Al Yankovic Story“). Watch the exclusive video interview above for the roundtable. Click each name to watch that person’s solo chat.

“I guess I would say it ranges from making creative decisions,” Aniello tells Gold Derby. “Some people who are producers on our show only read scripts and kind of give advice here or there on story and character and things like that, all the way to a producer who does handle money. And in between are the people who figure out the physical production and making sure you can make your days. And does the money make sense? And they’re gonna pitch to the director, can you lose a couple setups and make the day work? I really think that a producer can be one of many different things, but all of them have in common that they’re just trying to make something good happen with the resources they have.”

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Sen describes a producer title as “the most everything everywhere tag that you can think of.” As a documentarian, he can spend a good while searching for the right producing partner and accruing funding for his films. “I can’t think of a single good creative doc that is made in less than three years. It’s really a question of resilience and figuring out where the next burst of money is coming from to permissions to releases to insurance to everything,” he says. “Anybody who is not a director but often also a director like in my case, it’s like anybody who’s helped can be a producer, but I think there’s a critical number of things that you have to do by the end of it to get that tag.”

Farrell views a producer as someone who represents a project whose focus is “getting that thing made for the whole group of people.” “Yes, you have to worry about money and you have to make sure people are treated ethically and responsibly, but really, at the end of the day, from the seed of that idea to the delivery of that idea, you become the advocate for that specific project,” he states. “I think that can take all sorts of forms, but I think Whitney and I are more traditional producers. These projects become our children in a way.”

Hodack agrees, likening the position to that of a therapist who’s checking in on everyone and making sure things are on course. “Your goal is to serve the creative, but your is to serve the budget that you have to make that creative and your goal is also to serve the people who are there making the product for you,” she notes. “Your job is like flipping through your rolodex of skills that you have to get any particular project done. It’s like, who do you know who can help? And who’s the best fit for all these different roles that you have to hire?”

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