By Andrea Karen Hammer
Have you ever wondered about the role of a film producer?
Similar to my position overseeing this umbrella site and every element of Artsphoria Events & Media Group, a creative producer is “ideally involved in every aspect from the proposal and treatment to contracts, marketing and distribution,” explained creative producer Sabrina Schmidt Gordon.
She is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker and impact strategist in New York.
During her presentation at the Sundance Institute’s Nonfiction Filmmaking Session in Philadelphia, creative producer Sabrina Schmidt Gordon illuminated her multifaceted contributions to every project. Her producing and editing debut, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006. Her latest film, Quest, a New York Times Critics’ Pick and Film Independent Spirit Award nominee, premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2017. She co-produced directed and edited the Emmy-nominated BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, which won best film directed by a woman of color at the African Diaspora International Film Festival.
In 2018, she was a Woman at Sundance fellow. Later that year, she was invited to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.
Rewarding and Collaborative Role in a Director-Centric Medium
Schmidt Gordon, who said that she is happy to collaborate, noted that her role of creative producer can be rewarding. She doesn’t need to direct and is content to join other visions.
“In a director-centric medium, when the reviews come in, everyone forgets the producer,” she said. “The Hollywood perception is a little frustrating. I was on a panel, and the moderator didn’t ask me a single question.”
Schmidt Gordon also stressed that an issue is not a film. Instead, she urged filmmakers to consider: What is the story that you want to tell?
“Usually you don’t have enough money, so you need to think strategically about what you want to do. If you are a new filmmaker, you want to be in conversation and collaboration with a producer,” she said.
“Producers are working to get your vision realized. Trust them to navigate–they may have more experience to get there.”
Schmidt Gordon also recommended selecting projects that align with your goals. She noted that the best stories are often specific or “small” but always need a larger message with universal themes, so the film doesn’t become dated.
Challenges During Filmmaking and Producing Process
Schmidt Gordon identified several challenges during the filmmaking and producing process. One is finding a way to reconcile a film’s initial concept with the emergence of the real story. Sometimes, a major shift is needed to ensure the project is not about the filmmaker’s journey but getting others to understand a phenomenon.
“As a producer, you need to be creative with problem solving,” Sabrina Schmidt Gordon said. “You need to pivot and adjust.”
After showing clips from some of her films, the producer noted that she wanted to counter reductive narratives about black men. She is particularly interested in activism through telling stories and advises others to be “wary of poverty porn to entertain white folks,” said Schmidt Gordon.
She added that it’s about how you tell the story about humanity and suffering in a way that isn’t exploitative. Her projects give her the opportunity to change and disrupt the narrative and tell others: “I see you.”
Q&A Segment With Slido Interactive Comments
During a Q&A segment, one participant asked Schmidt Gordon how she pays herself as the producer of a documentary film. She works on more than one project simultaneously, teaches and lives off savings.
“Making a living and documentary filmmaking are two different things. There are easier ways to make a living, so you have to love it,” she said.
Then, another audience member posted an interactive Slido comment, which appeared on the screen above the stage:
“Thank you for being BLUNT, sis!”
To read more about the Sundance Institute’s Nonfiction Filmmaking Session in Philadelphia, see:
Information About Features, Advertising and Special Event Coverage
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For details about our creative communications and marketing services and special event coverage, contact Founder and CEO Andrea Karen Hammer at firstname.lastname@example.org.