Middlemen exist in every industry, and that’s nowhere more true than the arts. For the purposes of this piece, I’ll be using middlemen even though they can just as often be women.
In the area of filmmaking alone, I can think of a few middlemen off the top of my head:
- Script Readers stand between a screenwriter and studio producers
- Casting Directors stand between an actor and a director, and possibly a film role
- Distributors stand between a finished film and the audience that wants to watch it
This could go on and on and on.
If that list above sounds pretty grim, it’s because more often than not, it IS pretty grim. Because a middleman can be either a facilitator or a barrier, and unfortunately in today’s film world, and in every artistic world, the middlemen have taken on the role of barrier rather than facilitator. This is when we start to call them “gatekeepers.”
BUT, it’s worth noting, THEY DO NOT HAVE TO BE GATEKEEPERS. That’s why I said WHEN to eliminate middlemen, not HOW to eliminate middlemen. They’re valuable when you and they assume the right viewpoint.
As a producer or a director, you should be aware of the middlemen that work for you. Some of them are incredibly valuable. Some of them will help you create the best film you possibly can create. Producers, for example, can be a middleman between what the director wants and what the budget can afford. But without that buffer, the director could blow the whole film budget on one or two scenes, and have nothing left over to film the vital pieces that link the film together and make it a cohesive whole.
But middlemen who assign themselves the role of gatekeeper can be problematic. Casting directors, especially ones who are failed actors, can stand between a director and good actors for his film. Script Readers, if they are obsessed with fixed ideas about what constitutes a “good” script, can stand between a Producer and an award-winning screenplay. And distributors can stand between you and an international audience that, to them, “isn’t worth it,” but which may actually form the majority of your film’s potential audience.
The point is, constantly be aware of what your middlemen are doing, and make sure it’s forwarding the quality of the film, not hurting it. If a middleman is too much of a gatekeeper, don’t work with them any more. And if you find a gatekeeper who knows his or her shit, keep them around forever and never let them go, because they’re solid gold.