Acting as an executive producer

Posted: 21/07/13 by Francesco Vitali
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Actors who have successful and rich careers often turn to executive producing. Famous actors who have created their own production studios or simply been the executive producer for one project are common. Is this a money grab, or is it about fame, power, or creativity? Sometimes these factors are at play, but there are many varied reasons that an actor might want to become an executive producer. Their success also varies wildly, too, because the skills that an actor must call upon are very different than those of an executive producer. Whether they are a success or not, we should not be surprised when an actor tries his or her hand at something new.

Executive producer is a confusing job title, and many of us aren’t really clear about what one does. This is partly because the job is a fluid one. The executive producer may have to take on many roles for the success of the venture. Generally, they bear the financial responsibility for acquiring rights to screenplays or literary works that must be adapted. They might be the creative genius that came up with the idea for a film and commission it, or they might simply be the backer who recognizes the value in someone else’s vision. They may (or may not) make final decisions about any particular aspect of a film. This all depends on their level of involvement, their talent, and their vision. Much like a CEO, an Executive Producer is the “big boss” – and the management style varies from person to person. Above all, an executive producer must have a talent for management and team building to be a success.

Ben Affleck, Penny Marshall, and Tom Cruise were all very well known when they became Executive Producers. This is typical of the actor-turned-producer. The actor probably has no need for fame, money, or acclaim, because they have plenty on their own merits as an actor. In fact, the opposite tends to be true. It’s well-known that many movies in Hollywood are criticized for being generic and unoriginal. There’s a reason for that – production companies don’t want to risk money on something that might be unpopular, so they play it safe. An actor with a creative drive can risk more because of fame and financial security. Movies that that might not see the light of day if left up to the more dominant production companies can get a chance if a famous actor backs them.

An interesting example of actor turned executive producer is Drew Barrymore. After her stint as America’s Sweetheart and then America’s Bad Girl, she branched out and showed us she had a serious mind for business when she brought us Charlie’s Angels, Donnie Darko, and He’s Just Not That Into You. Her business acumen and management skills were put to the test, and she came out on top. She might not have felt like she had anything to prove, but she still amazed people who thought she was simply another pretty face. No longer simply a lifetime actress and makeup model, she suddenly gained acclaim and respect she had never commanded before. Donnie Darko, in particular, was a risky move for someone new to the job, but because she had the money and resources, this movie has acquired cult favorite status. Without Drew Barrymore, we might never have seen this quirky offbeat movie.

George Clooney has used his fame as a major name in Hollywood to be the executive producer for a number of popular movies, such as A Scanner Darkly and Men Who Stare at Goats. He has also used his power, money, and fame to executive produce a series of webinars on human trafficking. An actor lending his name and talents to such an important cause can do a lot of good with their position in life.

The reasons an actor becomes an Executive Producer are as varied as people themselves. It is not all an ego trip, despite what you may have heard. An actor might want more creative control and flexibility than they ever had as an actor. They might want to back art that they believe should be given a chance. They could simply be altruistic in their endeavor. Or perhaps they are shrewd managers and want to explore that side of their talent. Sometimes they just want to try something new, and stretch their boundaries. Whatever the reason, the evolution of actors into executive producers is often one of the most positive and natural transitions in the movie industry. Our entertainment has profited enormously from actors who pushed the boundaries and tried their hand at producing movies.


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