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Andrew Spicer, University of the West of England: Why Study Producers?
Paper given by Andrew Spicer at the Dept. of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, University of Aberystwyth, 2 November 2011

- Thanks to Jamie and Paul for the invitation. As the AHRC project draws to its conclusion, this is a welcome opportunity for me to reflect on the work undertaken and the understandings we - that is the Research Assistant Anthony McKenna and I - seem to have reached. So this paper tries to raise ideas and questions rather than overwhelm you with scholarly knowledge of the minutiae of Klinger’s work. For which: buy the book!

My premise is that the role of the producer has been misunderstood and frequently stereotyped. A whole paper could be written about the perception of the producer but this slide will have to suffice.

mage of the Producer
The caricature
Philip French invoked in his study of Hollywood moguls retains a strong hold in popular consciousness, and, dare I say it, in film scholarship. Irwin Shaw retains the cigar-chomping image but adds the racist dimension. Hecht, as a writer, develops the philistine tag, caricaturing the producer as conservative, timorous and inhibiting; a restraining force on the dynamic creativity of filmmaking working on behalf of the shadowy and venal world of commerce and the ‘bottom line’ which requires unchallenging formulaic entertainment. Like all stereotypes, this caricature is built on a reductive understanding of traits which Klinger certainly exemplified. He was Jewish, his parents moving to Soho in 1913 from Poland. He was a showman, outgoing, ‘pushy’ in that supercilious English sense of the parvenu, certainly loud, maybe a bit vulgar. He smoked big cigars. However, and this is the major theme of my paper, he was anything but a philistine.

This image partly explains why there are so few books about producers. There are studies of the luminaries - from Hollywood:
Sam Goldwyn, David O. Selznick, Irving Thalberg, Hal Wallis, Darryl F. Zanuck; in Britain: Alexander Korda, Michael Balcon and David Puttnam, and, in Europe, Dino De Laurentis. But these tend to be biographical rather than critical. There are populist interviews/overviews: Tim Adler’s The Producers: Money, Movies and Who Calls the Shots and Helen De Winter’s “What I Really Want To Do Is Produce”: Top Producers Talk Money and Movies, both 2006. There are a few scholarly studies notably Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wanger: Hollywood’s Independent (2000); George F. Custen, 20th Century’s Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Culture of Hollywood (1998); and my own monograph on Sydney Box (2006), still the only study of a producer in MUP’s ‘British Film Makers’ series. So: very little. Why?

Critical Neglect
The first reason is the long shadow of the auteur theory and the historical privileging of the director’s ‘vision’ as the central creative force in filmmaking. For reasons of time, I don’t want to justify that contention, though I’m happy to in the Q&A.

The second reason merits some pause: what do producers do? On a basic level, as recognised within the film industry itself, a producer needs to be distinguished from an associate or line producer (or production manager) whose job is to control the logistics of an actual production. Alvarado and Stewart in their study of Euston Films make a useful distinction between those who have allocative rather than operational control, the difference between those who decide who does what and those whose role is to implement those strategic decisions. Another distinction is between what
Mervyn LeRoy called the ‘creative producer’ and the ‘business administrator producer’, the former dealing with the artistic aspects of a production (including scripting, casting and direction) and the ones who are primarily responsible for obtaining production finance and handling business matters, sometimes referred to as executive producers. I’m going to return to the issue of creativity at the end.

That’s a start, but really not that helpful because most producers combine the two roles and many actually see that combination as the key aspect of the role, which I’ll come back to.

The next point is another contention that I haven’t time to document. I’ll just quote
Richard Maltby who argues in his essay in Contemporary Hollywood that as a discipline Film Studies has been weakened by a disabling split between studies of economic film history that have ‘largely avoided confronting the movies as formal objects’ and practices of textual analysis that have ignored production contexts (25-6). I think that’s true. Eric Smoodin in ‘The History of Film History’ argues that it obscures an earlier tradition of film scholarship that ‘stressed issues of industry and consumption’ until these were displaced by the auteur-director and the decontextualised analysis of films from the mid-1950s onwards. Scholars are now rediscovering earlier ethnographical/anthropological studies of the ‘Hollywood colony’ by Leo Rosten (1941) and Hortense Powdermaker (1950) - as shown in the recent collection Production Studies (2009) edited by Mayer, Banks and Caldwell - who have much to say about industry workers and the role of the film producer. John Thornton Caldwell’s monograph Production Culture (2008) has been influential, exploring the discourses of the media themselves, the ways in which film and television workers construct their own cultural and interpretative frameworks, and thus the need to analyse their own self-representations and ‘cultural self-performances’ that are often neither logical nor systematic (5, 18). Caldwell’s focus encourages an attention to the multifaceted nature of production practices and to their embedded nature within industry cultures, including networking. So there are hopeful signs that the producer is back on the agenda.

My final general point is that this focus on production/the producer is an reorientation, a different emphasis not a reinvention of the discipline. It’s not part of a plot to end discussion of directors ... or films! Hence my evocation of
Alexander Walker’s deft phrase: ‘an industry that can sometimes create art’, rather than an art form that gets contaminated by commerce.

The other major premise of the project is that to understand what a producer does we need evidence; not gossip, journalistic speculation, self-serving interviews and general discussions about industry funding or cultural policy. We need detailed empirical studies. And that’s partly why it’s so difficult to talk about producers because you can’t get this ‘evidence’, as I’m calling it, from the text, from watching the film. You have to use - of course critically - the trade press, oral history, autobiographies and memoirs, and archival documentation. That was the basis of the Klinger project and its a real privilege and quite rare. Without that documentation it’s very difficult to conduct a study with confidence. But my wider point is that although the object of study includes the final film, it is not delimited by that; it’s not text-based in the conventional sense but the study of a process - and I’m understanding production here to include everything from conception through to marketing and exhibition. Both Box and Klinger, like all producers, tried to make far more films than they actually succeeded in realising and often the ‘ones that got away’ in Box’s phrase are more revealing because they throw into sharp relief all the difficulties that surround a production - problems of raising finance, casting, distribution, censorship, audience appeal and so on.

I want to come back to the implications of studying producers at the end so I’ll develop briefly why I think the producer’s role is significant as well as complex and what kinds of qualities might make a good producer.

The creative organiser
I’m returning to Rosten - the first analyst to cut through the myths surrounding film production and to amass a wealth of empirical data, conceiving Hollywood as a dynamic social and cultural entity that was geared to a mass market but which needed to treat each film as an individual product. Rosten was keenly aware of the different labour hierarchies within the ‘colony’ and that cultural production was firmly situated within wider social and economic networks. He understood the key role played by the producer in the organisation of both the tangible and intangible elements in film production: attempting to control properties (studios, sets, and equipment), finance and diverse, often volatile, artistic temperaments. It’s a useful compendium and stresses the ability to deploy people effectively. You use, creatively, what others’ possess.

Michael Balcon
But to be an effective producer, I think, means having an idea, a conception, a vision if you like, of the whole shooting match which Balcon’s formulation captures. Balcon stresses the need to combine commerce and art, a ‘dual capacity’ that can understand and appreciate both. The contemporary British producer
Eric Fellner argued that a producer needs ‘creative insight to make the right choices’ and ‘business acumen to set out the whole [project] properly’. In his autobiography In the Arena, Charlton Heston, who worked with many different producers, considered that a ‘real producer’ was ‘a special combination, neither bird nor beast (or maybe both). He must have sound creative instincts about script, casting, design … about film. At the same time he must have an iron-clad grasp of logistics, scheduling, marketing, and costs … above all costs.’ This desired combination of apparently contradictory talents allows producers to perform what Bourdieu, in ‘The Field of Cultural Production’, sees as an essentially intermediary role, mediating between the creative world of writers, directors, stars and cinematographers and the world of finance and business deals.

It is this combination of art and commerce that allows the producer, usually, to take overall charge of a production.
Michael Relph, who had a longstanding relationship with the director Basil Dearden - I’m drawing here on the recent study by Alan Burton and Tim O’Sullivan - makes a useful distinction between the more circumscribed role of the director - ‘the tactical commander in control of the army in the field - the actors and technicians on the studio floor’) - and the more capacious role of the producer whom he saw as ‘the strategical commander in control of the conception as a whole’. Although, Relph averred, it is the producer’s responsibility to ensure that the director is ‘serviced with the money, personnel and equipment he needs’, it is the producer who is in ‘strategical command of the film from an artistic viewpoint’ because the director may lose sense of the ‘artistic proportions of the film as a whole. / These will have been previously determined by the producer, director and writer, and the producer must see that the director brings their joint conception to the screen.’ For David Puttnam, the producer’s overall control is essential because experience led him to understand that the key personnel involved in a film’s production may have divergent conceptions; thus the producer’s prime role is to ensure ‘that we’re all making exactly the same movie’. Once Puttnam was convinced of that shared vision, his role was ‘to protect the director and give him everything he needs’.

Producers Michael Balcon, Sydney Box, Michael Relph, James Carreras and David Puttnam

Vincent Porter
I think the best overall formulation of the producer’s role is in
Vincent Porter’s essay ‘The Context of Creativity’ which contrasts Michael Balcon at Ealing with James Carreras at Hammer. Porter argues that the producer’s skill lies his or her ability to manipulate the complex and interlocking relationship between four key factors: an understanding of public taste - of what subjects and genres could attract a broad audience; the ability to obtain adequate production finance; the understanding of who to use in the key creative roles and on what terms; and the effectiveness of her or his overall control of the production process.

Sydney Box
This ability to gauge public taste could be proactive as
Sydney Box suggested, whereby the producer becomes a cultural leader and opinion-former.

What I’d add, something I’ve learned from my Research Associate who wrote his PhD on
Joseph E. Levine, is the importance of showmanship, a quality recognised by Powdermaker, who noted that this entailed a strong reliance on instinct and a confident engagement with popular culture. At its extreme, this showmanship becomes a producer’s defining quality: as was the case with Levine, with whom Klinger worked on Baby Love (1968). More recently, Jerry Bruckheimer has successfully promoted himself as a brand that has a public presence and market value. This showmanship need not always be outright self-promotion but includes an ability to promote and hence sell the ‘package’. Klinger was selling Linda Hayden, the new starlet in Baby Love - at 15 too young to see the picture she’s starring in. Nor should it be necessarily associated with exploitation cinema or the lower end of the marketplace, but can include promoting a film’s artistic credibility and cultural respectability, its symbolic capital. In a subtle study of Jeremy Thomas, Christopher Meir identifies Thomas’s principal skill as salesmanship, the promotion and marketing of his films - which might include the reputation of the auteur director working on the project - in order to sell them to potential financiers and distributors and so be able to remain in business in the new global marketplace. A producer’s showmanship often depends on building a ‘reputation network’, creating ‘highly visible associations which give stature and publicity potential by providing opportunities for features and stories in the trade and popular press including announcing new “discoveries”, highlighting awards and accolades and capitalising on established or strongly emerging reputations. In this way the promotion of the film becomes integral to the process of its production, with the producer operating as what McKenna calls an ‘industrial tactician’.

I want to add two things before turning to Klinger. The first is that although I have tried to identify some of the main qualities a producer needs to possess, I’m not moving towards some skillset, indentikit, normative conception of the role. Rosten, although he adumbrated that handy conspectus, argued that if you really want to know what producers do and how they do it: study individual producers. You can’t get very far with generalisations. However, before we get to the case study, there are important general contextual levels to which any case study needs to refer.

The first is the notion of independence. In the masthead to
Klinger News, Klinger always stressed the importance being an independent rather than a studio producer, so without a direct tie to a large corporation. De Laurentiis, for many years the leading European independent, contrasted his time at Columbia where he was ‘half employee, half slave’, with the ‘creative and entrepreneurial freedom’ he enjoyed as an independent. However, while successful independents such as De Laurentiis and Klinger had the resources to finance preproduction and thus escape ‘interference’ at the formative stage of a project, they have to obtain the bulk of production finance, and a distribution deal, from others. A succinct if negative definition of the compromised nature of a producer’s independence was provided by Walter Wanger: ‘An independent producer is a man who is dependent on the exhibitors, the studios and the banks.’ The independent producer’s dream may be one of total autonomy but it is an impossible one given the huge financial investment that making a feature film involves. Indeed, raising finance and ensuring a distribution deal tend to dominate the lives of independent producers, often displacing their wish to concentrate on production.

Independent production is also, historically, more associated with European cinemas than Hollywood leading to a somewhat different conception of the producer’s role in Europe, one which is more personalised and singularised, revolving round particular individuals.
Anne Jackël argues in European Film Industries, European producers characteristically insist that their role is not simply to raise finance but is primarily creative. They are partly encouraged to do this through the subsidy system employed by national governments to support film production (quotas, levies, tax breaks, state funding, subsidies and co-production agreements) which offer different kinds of opportunities for the astute entrepreneur. However, although European governments can influence production practices, and occasionally intervene in exhibition, they are far less able to alter patterns of distribution which are structured at an international level controlled by American corporations.

British Cinema Now (1985) Nick Roddick argued that British cinema has fallen disastrously between the two stools of the Hollywood-style studio system and the European state-subsidised model. It has, he asserts, ‘staggered from crisis to crisis (with occasional very brief periods of health), because the British market is not large enough to support a film industry built on the classic laissez-faire model, and because government policy has never been sufficiently convinced of either the economic or the cultural need for films to do anything which might genuinely rectify the situation.’ This we need to situate Klinger in this particular national cinema of Britain marooned uneasily between Europe and America.

But in addition to situating the producer within broad social, cultural and economic formations, we need to contextualise the role historically. Janet Staiger has shown how the producer’s role shifts in American cinema in
The Classical Hollywood Cinema; and Vincent Porter, in ‘Making and Meaning: The Role of the Producer in British Films’, which is coming out in January in a special issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television on ‘The Producer’, demonstrates that the same is true of British cinema. He shows that the role of the producer does not emerge clearly until the mid-1920s and never attains the same stability it enjoyed in Hollywood in the absence of a robust studio system and that the real power lay with the exhibition circuits and American renters which provided the finance. However, although the history of British cinema is one of an almost uninterrupted series of crises as Roddick argues, that very volatility has afforded, at certain moments, particularly when the grip of established organisations within the film industry was weakened, significant opportunities for the nimble-footed producers, which bring us to the lad himself, Michael Klinger.

Michael Klinger: Overview
Early Career
Klinger was the product of multiple intersecting histories that created, in Bourdieu’s terms, a particular habitus that disposed him to act in particular ways. What qualities did Klinger bring to the role of the producer? First, he looked the part. Cigar-smoking, rotund and ebullient, Klinger ‘resembles nothing so much as a flamboyant character actor doing impressions of Louis B. Meyer’, as
Sheridan Morley described him in 1975. This lineage from the great tradition of Hollywood showmen is important - Peter Noble emphasised a British pedigree: ‘Klinger is an impresario on the lines of the late Alexander Korda on whom his mantle appears to have fallen’– because Klinger was proud to belong to that tradition. ‘One thing that’s missing in this town today is showmanship. The oldtimers knew about showmanship - how to bang the drum - and a lot of that’s gone now and more’s the pity. We have to find something that triggers the public into wanting to see the film.’ He was acutely conscious that in an era of increasing corporate power, that tradition was in danger of being lost and the producer’s role undermined: ‘Even the title has become diluted … where not denigrated. And the producer’s “personal touch” is largely missing in films of late.’

That belief in showmanship, the brashness, was partly attributable to his origins as a second generation working-class West London Jewish socialist. In his study of British Jewry,
Geoffrey Alderman observes that the Jewish workers’ outlook ‘differed fundamentally from the British craft tradition; they saw themselves … as potentially upwardly mobile, not as perpetual members of the proletariat’. As in America, it was the characteristics of the film industry - ‘rapid change, high-risk, the leverage attendant with the rewards’ - that attracted bright working-class Jews. As his son Tony Klinger emphasised, his father had no ambitions to be a director; he always wanted to be ‘the guy who signed the cheques’. Klinger seized the opportunities offered by the Soho sex industry of the 1960s, using his ownership of two Soho strip clubs the Nell Gwynne and the Gargoyle to lever his way into the film industry. In October 1960 Klinger went into partnership with fellow Jewish entrepreneur Tony Tenser who worked for a distribution company Miracle Films. Together they set up Compton Films which owned the Compton Cinema Club - that showed, to anyone over twenty-one, nudist and other uncertificated, often foreign, films - and a production-distribution company, Compton-Tekli, making a series of low-budget ‘sexploitation’ films beginning with Naked as Nature Intended (1961), ‘shockumentaries’: London in the Raw (1964) and Primitive London (1965) and more ambitious films - That Kind of Girl (1963), The Yellow Teddybears (1963) and The Pleasure Girls (1965) - which combined salaciousness with an attempt at examining serious sexual issues. They engage with a rapidly changing British society as both fascinating and dangerous.

Klinger enjoyed showmanship but was neither vulgarian nor Philistine businessman. When approached by
Roman Polanski, desperate to obtain production finance having failed elsewhere, Klinger had seen Polanski’s first feature Knife in the Water (1962) at the Cannes festival and was therefore willing to give him the opportunity, and the creative freedom - if on a tight budget - to make Repulsion (1965). Klinger appreciated Polanski as an outré talent capable of making challenging films and also as a means through which to increase his own and the company’s cultural capital. He therefore promoted Repulsion assiduously and its award at the Berlin Film Festival, represented a symbiosis of directorial creativity and astute showmanship. By contrast, Tenser, always happier to stay with proven box-office material, sex films and period horror, saw Polanski as at best a distraction and at worse a liability. These creative and cultural differences led to the break-up of the partnership in October 1966.

Klinger’s espousal of talented but unproven directors continued in his subsequent career as an individual producer. He produced the first feature of
Peter Collinson, the challenging and controversial absurdist thriller The Penthouse (1967), followed by Alastair Reid’s Baby Love (1968), another film that focused on a sexually precocious young female, but with an ambitious narrative style including flashbacks and nightmare sequences.

Such opportunities as the British cinema afforded in the 1960s became rarer in the 1970s when conditions for aspiring producers were about as difficult as could be imagined.

Klinger in the 1970s
I want to concentrate first on Klinger’s international ambitions which may seems suicidal given these conditions. However, Klinger’s conviction, in the context of a declining domestic market, was that international productions which could hope for worldwide sales were the route to survival for the British film industry. Indeed, he repeatedly attacked the insularity, parochialism and timorousness of the British film industry in the trade press. Klinger also saw an opportunity, with the withdrawal of large companies (notably
Rank) from production, for ambitious independent producers to fill a production vacuum. His selection of the action-adventure film was based on a shrewd estimation of public taste - particularly the popularity of the Bond films - and his two action-adventure films: Gold (1974) and Shout at the Devil (1976) were based on Wilbur Smith’s middle-brow novels. However, if we look at the origins of Shout, it does right back to 1967 when the novel appeared and before Smith’s world-wide best-seller status thus showing Klinger’s astuteness and ability to look ahead. When he came to make Gold and Shout in the mid-1970s, these were Hollywood style blockbusters, produced and marketed as such.

In these productions, Klinger became the fulcrum of a highly complex film-making process involving lengthy negotiations with possible financiers - Klinger used South African money in the absence of finance from American majors - and reluctant distributors in Britain (Hemdale) and internationally (Allied Artists) in the which the key agent was the producer himself allied to commodity fiction (Smith’s increasing popularity) and the box-office clout of his stars (in particular
Roger Moore) rather than the director.

Klinger’s ambitions, drive and internationalist orientation aligned him with American producers - in the mid-1970s he was actually invited to take over control of production at Columbia - and to a conception of cinema as entertainment that needed to appeal to a broad public. On the other hand, as
Mike Hodges recalled, Klinger was ‘very European … He had some instinct to actually move towards art cinema in many ways, but still concentrate on good storytelling.’ Tony Klinger remembers his father’s admiration for ‘café society’, enjoying the company of talented, cosmopolitan directors and the buzz of film festivals. Thus he was prepared to make ‘unusual films’, Polanski’s Cul-de-sac (1966), Something to Hide (1972) and the Biblical love story filmed in Israel, Rachel’s Man (1976) as well as Chabrol’s Les liens de sang (Blood Relatives,1978).

But Klinger also remained true to his origins. He continued to make low-budget sexploitation films with the
“Confessions” series (Window Cleaner/Pop Performer/Driving Instructor/Holiday Camp, 1974-78) for which he acted as executive producer. Their modest costs could be recouped (in fact they made substantial profits) even from a rapidly shrinking domestic market and they were bankrolled by Columbia which saw them as making a tidy sum.

The final category of 1970s films is the crime thrillers.
Get Carter, along with Repulsion, is Klinger’s most famous film - well, not really, because nobody associates Get Carter with Klinger, but with Mike Hodges. It’s Hodges who tours the circuits and appears at the retrospectives. Of course, he’s alive and Klinger’s dead, but there is scant mention of the producer in the fansites, 40th anniversary celebrations etc. And yet it was Kligner who raised the finance - from MGM just before it withdrew from British production - chose the novel while it was still in galley proofs, sought out Michael Caine as the star and then hired Hodges as an up-and-coming television director whose thriller - Suspect - Klinger admired. According to Caine, Klinger phoned him the evening it was screened on LWT saying ‘we’ve found our man’.

I could say far more about Klinger - for instance he never succeeded in raising any British finance for his films nor in accessing state subsidy through the NFFC - but want now to draw out some of what I consider to be the implications of the Klinger project.

Klinger’s importance
In summary, Klinger’s career can be characterized as the continuous struggle between commerce (what would sell), cultural aspiration (making innovative, challenging films that would showcase new and exciting creative talent), and entrepreneurial ambition (to make big-budget films that would rival American productions in the international marketplace). Klinger’s independence afforded him control, not simply over the production process, but over a film’s whole progress from conception to exhibition. As shown, he was usually extensively involved in pre-production, not only in securing a films’ finance, but in working with the writer (or writer-director) on the screenplay. The scripts preserved in his papers testify to his abilities in maintaining the ‘balance’ of a script, in making judicious cuts, removing superfluous scenes and focusing on the key elements of a screenplay that would make it possible to realise the project adequately. Klinger was also very active in post-production, not in editing, which he left to others, but in the promotion and marketing of his films, frequently doing battle with distributors’ publicity departments if he felt that they were either not energetic enough, or unable, or unwilling, to give his films the care and attention, the sensitive handling, he felt they deserved. On occasions - Polanski’s
Cul-de-sac or Hodges’ Pulp (1972) - the conception of the project was that of the auteur writer-director, but often the overall image, the dream, was usually Klinger’s. However, this is not to try to impose an auteurist coherence over what is, by any estimation, a heterogeneous range of films. Rather, what we argue is that Klinger’s ‘genius’ lay in his ability to create, in very difficult circumstances, a varied portfolio of work. His films straddled modes of production - exploitation, middle-brow and art-house - that are normally regarded as mutually exclusive, and, in the process, demonstrated the porous boundaries between them. Like Levine, Klinger demonstrated a ‘peculiar talent’ in catering for different levels of taste, in packaging culture and capitalising on emerging trends.

We can say too, I hope, that because of his intimate involvement in production processes, he offers, as studying a director would not or not as clearly, a window onto important social and cultural issues: the British film industry for sure, but also the Soho sex industry and the impact of the Jewish entrepreneur on the British film and television industries.

What of the wider conceptual implications?
I hope the study will make a compelling case for Klinger’s importance and inform wider histories as is already the case with Sue Harper’s and Justin Smith’s forthcoming study of the 1970s The Boundaries of Pleasure (2012) which refers to my work. I hope it will suggest that we should re-examine the profound importance of the Jewish entrepreneur - think of
Alexander Korda, Michael Balcon, Sidney Bernstein, Nat Cohen, Lew Grade, the Ostrer Brothers, Yoram Globus and Menahen Golan (Cannon), James and John Woolf and Klinger’s erstwhile partner Tony Tenser - in the British entertainment industry. I’m going to take that forward in a forthcoming essay for a special issue of Studies in European Cinema. Studying producers also has implications as to how we write film history - as I argued in the New Review of Film and Television Studies. It will, I hope, encourage scholars and students to consider seriously the critical potential of looking at producers.

Part of this significance is the challenge it poses to existing conceptions of creativity, often, as noted, taken as the marker of the genuine producer as opposed to the business administrator. De Laurentiis claimed he was creative because he had the requisite ‘artistic feeling inside’ that cannot be taught or learned’, as opposed to his rival
Carlo Ponti who was a ‘gifted lawyer with a nose for business, for deals’. Thus for producers, being creative is an important form of cultural capital.

But in what ways is producer creative? Are they, as
David Hesmondhalgh suggests in his recent study Creative Labour, ‘creative managers’, Bourdieu’s cultural intermediaries, in a different category from ‘primary creative personnel’ (writers, actors, directors, musicians and craft and technical workers who include cinematographers, editors and sound engineers)? Similarly, Martin Dale in his book about the film industry The Movie Game (1997) distinguishes between ‘true creators’ (writers and directors) who are originators creating ex nihilo, and the producer who is an ‘enabling mechanism’, practising ‘secondary creation’ by working on pre-existing material rather than originating it. However, others see the process differently. Sam Spiegel thought a producer should be able to ‘conceive a picture, to dream it up, to have the first concept of what the film is going to be like when finished, before a word is written or the director cast’. Hal Wallis opined: ‘When you find a property, acquire it, work on it from the beginning to the end and deliver the finished product as you conceived it, then you’re producing. A producer, to be worthy of the name, must be a creator.’

I suggest that this wrestling over primary and secondary creation comes back to the issues around art and commerce. Art is creative, commerce isn’t. But my work on producers suggest that this isn’t a workable distinction. We can see creativity in another sense, as the ability, so necessary for independent producers, in securing funds for a project by manipulating markets, negotiating deals, pre-selling and all the other elements of a complex financial package without which a film would not be made. I argued in my study of
Sydney Box that actually his most creative work was in putting together the extraordinarily complex and ambitious bids for British Lion and London Weekend Television in 1964. I think showmanship, skilfully deployed, is a highly creative activity and often how a film is promoted and positioned is crucial to its eventual success. To perceive a producer’s role better, we need to develop a new discourse that understands ‘creativity’ in a more capacious and flexible way. I think that’s important because, especially in the last 15 years or so, a tremendous premium has been placed on creativity - ‘creative industries’, ‘creative cities’, the ‘creative economy’, the ‘creative class’ - by commentators, governments and institutional policy makers. Hence the need for producers to assert their creativity as a form of recognition. Particularly because, in contradistinction to other creative personnel in the film industry - actors, set designers, screenwriters, directors, cinematographers - the producer does not possess a set of specific craft skills.

However, in another sense I think the debate over creativity is a chimera. I suggest that rather than try to define creativity in any absolute sense, we should understand it as context dependent and that the crucial issue is the struggle for creative control and, how that is exercised in the production process. Really, this is what the forthcoming book on Klinger is all about as we attempt to make sense of his career. And that context is not simply within the specifics of any production, but, as I tried to suggest in relation to Klinger, its relationship to wider economic and cultural forces.
John Caughie identifies the ‘desire for independence’ as formative in the development of British cinema. In the absence of stable production conditions, he argues, there was a imperative need for that independence to be organised, hence protected and safeguarded. He suggests that the history of British cinema should be conceived as the history of its producers: ‘Outside of a studio system or a national corporation, art is too precarious a business to be left to artists: it needs organisers. The importance of the producer-artists seems to be a specific feature of British cinema, an effect of the need continually to start again in the organisation of independence.’ (in Barr: 200) One could qualify that statement - as indicated it is a characteristic of several European cinemas rather than simply Britain - but nevertheless, Caughie provides a very productive way of thinking about the producer’s role in an unstable film industry such as Britain’s. The ‘producer-artist’ is not, of course, the same entity as the auteur director whose artistry may be recognized through a signature visual style or consistent thematic preoccupations that can be elucidated through the detailed textual interpretation of his or her films. Rather it can only be grasped through studying the production process - from conception to exhibition.

My final point is that this has important pedagogical implications abut how we teach film and what the object of study is. As
Eric Smoodin notes in ‘The History of Film History’, most film classes are 3 hours in duration and wrapped around a film screening that invites the film-as-text-for-interpretation approach. It trains film students to think in that way. No wonder they love directors! The trouble with locating and discussing a producer’s ‘art’, is that, unlike the director’s that can be discussed using textual sources, it is elusive because it is, for the most part, invisible. The critical challenge, as I’ve suggested, is to render that art visible by providing the resources to do that. However, as Ed Buscombe argued in ‘Notes on Columbia Pictures Corporation’ published in Screen 36 years ago, many of the basic materials needed to facilitate this kind of scholarship are not available. For currently active producers, these materials may be acutely sensitive. I’m not saying this is a purely archival issue. Students need to look at sources that take them beyond the film text: to newspapers, the trade press, fan magazines, studio publications, press books, industry records, government papers.

We’re trying to address this issue through placing as much material as we can from the Klinger archive online and the
Sally Potter archive - SP-ARK - indicates a way forward: the attempt to make a visually imaginative, interactive website that students could enjoy using. When I first conceived the project it was all about articles and the book, but now I see that perhaps it’s the website that’s ultimately more significant and not the slightly apologetic afterthought it was in the bid. Hence I’m going to apply for the AHRC’s ‘Follow-On’ funding scheme to develop it and to enable me - if I get it! - to consult with people within academia and the industry about how we can take the study of producers forward. But books too - I’ve placed a proposal with Continuum for an edited collection: Beyond the Bottom Line: The Producer and Screen Studies.

And that’s where I’d like to leave it today - to invite your comments, suggestions and ideas as well as try to answer any questions about Klinger and the role of the producer.

Thank you.

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