I build the course around each student conceiving of a pitch for a movie or tv series, writing a short summary or synopsis, mapping out a development plan and schedule, formulating a financing plan and structure, creating a development budget, designing a one sheet, packaging all the materials, and then pitching it to a panel of local producers/network/funding agency people on the last day of class. I do try to focus on navigating the Canadian system, but tend to keep it more about the general 'process' of trying to produce something...anything...highlighting the important things you should always be thinking about as you go through the steps.
And now reading a new book I ordered for a text this semester, and boy...what a winner. It's called 'So You Want To Be A Producer' by Lawrence Turman (The Graduate, Short Citcuit, American History X). It's perfect for this kind of class. Other books I've used focused more on the legal and dealmaking and financing and, quite frankly, all that can be a real turn-off for film students in their early 20's. Not to mention totally overwhelming. So far, Turman's book steers clear of most of that stuff (though not short-changing its importance) and focuses on what producing is and what you need to do and be in order to produce movies and tv well. His model is the Peter Stark Producing Program course at USC - a Master's course he revamped and has run for the past dozen years or so.
Rather than review the book, I'm just going to post excerpts I find interesting or enlightening as I continue to read through it.
Other than that being a really big 'if', seems pretty simple, right?
Here's the good news: you already are a producer. Yes, really. Because producing is simply thinking ahead, planning, and getting a series of things done to accomplish a goal for yourself. You have to work backward: start by figuring out everything you're going to need for a specific time in the future, and then making sure it's ready when you need it to be ready. Much like inviting your friends to come to your place for a dinner party, you have to 'produce' it.
A film/tv producer is the person who decides an idea, a character, or a story is worth telling. He's the 'starter' and the 'finisher', and therefore involved in every aspect and most details of production. In all cases I arrange the financing, without which a project can't get off the ground. And as the producer, I put together all the necessary crative talent and then act as a guide and sounding board, hopefully enhancing their work and coalescing all into a unified whole.
So would you like a job where you're the one who decides what movie (or tv series) to make, and how it should be made? That's a producer. It's one of those rare professions where you can start at the top, if you control a super, terrific, dynamite script.