December 22, 2015

Independent Producing with Amanda Verhagen


#BITCHPLEASE  I met Amanda Verhagen on the balcony of the palais des festival during the Producer's Workshop at Cannes. She was everything I love: ambitious, dark humoured, and Canadian. She rocked the Cannes Film Festival like she owned it and her credentials, impressive. 

In any networking situation, your heart is scanning the room and reading the vibes, much more than you're conscious of. When you walk away from a conversation with business card in hand, you'll only remember how that person made you feel and you can't make people feel good without being good. This is the quality of a good producer, leaving someone with the impression that you're the real deal, willing to help, willing to battle in the trenches side by side. That can't be manufactured. That's what Amanda Verhagen made me feel. 

Amanda's advice on being an independent producer is killer. She is a refreshingly clear voice in an industry full of change and uncertainty. This is an absolute MUST READ for anyone serious about working in film and television and I'm so grateful to be hosting her here! ENJOY xoxo.

Independent Producing 

Guest post by Amanda Verhagen

Amanda Verhagen walking the red carpet in South Korea for THE DEVOUT première. 

I write this on the eve of my 26th birthday while looking back on the incredible year I've had. This past year alone, I was lucky enough to work alongside the infectiously positive Daniel Hogg while producing the feature film 'The Devout'. I've had the privilege of traveling the world while backpacking Europe and Japan. I've been to galas, red carpets and awards shows. I've attended major film festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival in France, Busan Film Festival in South Korea and of course the Vancouver Film Festival in my hometown. This, all while working for the increasingly popular Warner Brother's television series The Flash as a day job. There are more than enough things in my life to be grateful for.

My journey has not been an easy one. Becoming a producer is particularly challenging when you’re young and a woman. The only real benefit is that people seem to underestimate me, and that gives my accomplishments more weight.

I had been working in the film industry for a few years, after graduating with a degree in Theatre Production from the University of Victoria and worked my way up the ranks quite quickly from film production assistant to production coordinator. During season 1, I was in the office kitchen when I received a call from my now producing partner, Daniel Hogg, "You still want to run a studio by 30?" he said. This phone call changed my life. Through producing my first feature film with him, I have learned more in the last year than my entire education combined. And what was once a career became a complete and overwhelming passion.

I believe that passion is infectious. People crave it, they want to be inspired by it and hold it for their own. Because of this, I've had many people come out of the woodwork to ask my advice. They usually offer to buy me a coffee and come with a list of the same few questions. I love this practice. I think it's so important to help each other. There are many people in my life I've called from time to time to ask questions. There is no formal education that can prepare you for producing like this.

"The only real benefit is that people seem to underestimate me, and that gives my accomplishments more weight."

The standard questions people ask are: How do I break into the industry, what does a union do, what should my resume look like and who's the most famous person you've met? I give them the usual speech, become a production assistant, observe the different jobs, and decide what you want to do, be nice to everyone and eventually you'll be in your department of choice. It's a little different for producing, as there is no set path. That job requires you to find a script, source the financing and make your movie.

The advice I have to budding producers is to research the hell out of your craft. Read everything you can, and learn everything you can. Whether it's about accounting, marketing, funding sources, producers labs, festivals, the trades, it's all-important. Producing is a self-motivated job, and it's up to you to drive your career forward. The amount of work you put in is what comes out it. But as with everything, success comes at a price.

I've spent many nights in my apartment working away, while my incredibly understanding friends go out. My 20s haven't exactly been the most typical of the lot. While my friends from back home are getting married, finding new 'friends' on Tinder or finishing school, I'm in my apartment pouring over reports on audience trends from Eastern Europe, negotiating with foreign distributors and going through media training with my publicist. All in the hopes that some day, all of my hard work will pay off and I'll become the next Kathleen Kennedy, Joss Whedon or even better, something I create myself.

During these coffee classes I like to remind filmmakers about the lifestyle they are about to embark on. It's important to know you'll be working long days, nights and weekends. The divorce rate is incredibly high and the failure rate even higher. After I start diving into the depths of all this, people can become discouraged and ask me why I still do this and what keeps me going.

They say for every yes, there are at least 100 no's, which wrong, It's more like 1000. The one thing that has always gotten me through all the disappointment and heartache that goes along with this industry is one phrase that I repeat to myself ad nauseam: "It may not be ideal, but it's always for the best".

Whether it’s a contract that fell through, an actor I couldn't get or a festival rejection, I always tell myself that phrase and know that something better will come along. And guess what. It always does. If I continue through my life always being disappointment by the roadblocks in my way, I'll never have the drive to continue. And trust me, those yes moments are what make it all worthwhile.

I often think back to that day in The Flash kitchen when Daniel called, and changed everything. Everyday is the day that could change your life, you just have to be able to recognize it, put in the work and have faith that everything is for the best.


BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS for Film:

  • Women in Film Producer's Workbook 4 by Women in Film and Television Vancouver
  • Film and Video Budgets 6 by Maureen A Ryan
  • Film Production Management 101 by Deborah Patz

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS for Life:


  • You've Never Weird on The Internet - Felicia Day
  • The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
  • Yes Please - Amy Poehler

  

 AMANDA JUST DROPPED THE MIC

Amanda Verhagen is known for her organization talents and coordinating prowess. After graduating from The University of Victoria's Phoenix Theatre Production & Management Bachelors program, she moved to Vancouver to jump feet first into her life long passion of film production. At a young age, Amanda began excelling in her field and has had the privilege to work as a Production Coordinator for television series such as CBC's Artic Air and Warner Brother's The Flash and feature films such as Hector & The Search for Happiness and Poker Night. 
With a bright smile and full force determination Amanda is thrilled to make the move into the producing world with her recent feature The Devout and upcoming features soon to be announced.
Check out The Devout:
thedevoutmovie.com or facebook.com/thedevoutmovie

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