So you want to produce?

As a follow up to last week’s column on film school, I am often asked by students about choosing a good major to go work as a producer. The short answer is that there’s no major that makes someone a film producer. But there is, however, a long answer.

Other than the film schools that are taken most seriously, the American Film Institute (AFI), USC, NYU or UCLA, I’m not sure that it benefits anyone to major in film unless there’s really nothing else the person can even conceive of studying other than film. I’ve met working producers from dozens of different universities and with every type of degree under the sun. Even if one majors at film at USC or in business at Harvard, or drops out of community college, that person is still likely to start as an intern, grabbing coffee orders in a production office or in the mailroom at an agency. It’s just that with a recognizable school on one’s resume, the person has a good shot at snagging one of these entry-level jobs because people have had a good experience with others from the same school.

It all boils down to what kind of “producer” a person wants to be. Are you into the business side of things, doing the deals? You might be better off majoring in business and getting an entry-level job at an agency or at a company like Media Rights Capital. Are you into script reading and working with writers/directors – the artistic side of the business? You might want to get a degree in liberal arts and get an assistant job at a small production company working with a producer or director and reading/writing coverage. Are you interested in producing special effects? You might want to go a visual arts route in computers or graphic design and get a job at a post house doing editorial work/print design.

Think about what kind of jobs you’d like to do while you work your way into being a producer – that period of your life may last through your 20s. Pick a major based on what will get you those jobs. Transitioning to producer from these jobs is a whole other matter, but that’s another column for another day.

Gina Hall is a writer/producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate of USC’s school of Cinematic Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @GScottEnt.