“If our business relies on female producers like Tracey and Lori to fill this gap” in the representation of women on screen “then we’re not doing enough” said Ian Bryce (Transformers, Spider-Man). “As an economic model,” he added, “there’s a hole in that business right now and I think studios, which is where I work, recognize that.” The All Things Producing: Ask the Pros panel the afternoon of Day 1 of the Produced By Conference gave fledgling filmmakers an opportunity to gain insight, knowledge, and get their questions answered by the industry experts. These pros included the aforementioned Tracey Edmonds and Lori McCreary, co-president of the Producers Guild of America with Gary Lucchesi, plus Ian Bryce, John Heisen and Stu Levy. In the Q&A session moderated by Vance Van Petten, a recurring issue seemed to be diversity representation on screen.

7th Annual Produced By Conference - Day 1“I want to see people like me up on the screen and I want to see people like Tracey up on the screen and powerful women who are doing all of it,” said McCreary (Madam Secretary, Invictus) when asked about portraying a realistic picture of the population in film. There is progress, she said, because “we are seeing all types of women up on the screen” and there are male producers that share the same sentiment. When it came to racial diversity the moderator pointed out how Empire has broken barriers in mainstream television. Edmonds (Jumping The Broom, Soul Food) added that “The nice thing about Empire is that it’s showing us [African Americans] in a different light… and showing that our stories connect to people of all color.”

produced-by-conference-2015Although there has been much success with diverse programing lately, the panelists advised that the story has to be interesting. “Take a look at the marketplace and see what’s working,” Edmonds said. “Tell the stories and tell the reality,” said Heisen (Bunnygraph Entertainment), who cited Norman Lear as an inspiration. And when it comes to the executive gatekeepers, cautioned Levy (Priest, Pray For Japan), it’s more productive to choose your battles.

7th Annual Produced By Conference - Day 1New media platforms for distribution figured prominently in the discussion. When panelists were asked what route they would take today if they were to start over,were to start their careers over, McCreary said, “I would go online and start putting it on YouTube if you had to for free and let people pick it up. I think eyeballs are the key.” Building you own audience is essential in today’s market. Heisen added, “you see a lot of these young people getting TV deals and it’s based off of blogs, it’s based off of Vine accounts… If you can build that brand online, that will get the attention of the agents.”

Speaking of original content, with the domination of franchises it seems like original stories are struggling to find their commercial footing. However, Lucchesi, producer of Age of Adaline, said he believes there is still a viable market. He stressed the importance of quality to up and coming filmmakers. “The audience is dying for original content… but they have to be good. You can’t make a marginal movie and expect everyone to come, but if you make a good movie the word of mouth will get around and they will show up” in one platform or another.