How To Be Thankful In A Thankless Job

By Rebecca Green

You’ve heard it time and time again, being an independent producer is a thankless job. When something goes wrong, you’re the first to be blamed and when everything goes right, you’re the last to be recognized.

As an indie producer, why should you be thankful when you can’t remember the last time someone thanked you? What is there to be thankful for when the financing on your next project fell through or you’ve been in delivery hell all year? How can you give thanks when you’re struggling to pay the bills or just found out your film didn’t get into Sundance (they really need to change their notification timeline)?

Perhaps this Thanksgiving you want to skip the festivities and instead, curl up on the couch to watch Hallmark Christmas movies. And like the women in those movies, perhaps you will feel the urge to give up on your ambitions when you find a sensible man out in the country (with a child and wife who is ‘in heaven’) to settle down with. And, yes, perhaps you will also want to throw in the producing towel in favor of organizing the holiday razzle dazzle benefit gala.

As I lose myself in the latest Candace Cameron Christmas flick – because let’s be honest, I started watching them last week – I’m reminded of how every year for Christmas my mom would give my sisters and I a pack of thank you notes and insist we each send a handwritten thank you to everyone who gave us a present. She even wrapped them up and put them under the tree, as if having to write dozens of thank you notes was a gift (I have a lot of aunts and uncles). It became a competition between my sisters and I to see who could get their thank you notes written and in the mail first.

My younger self always bemoaned the thank you note ‘gift.’ It became obvious which present under the tree was the pack of notes, the gift we always left to unwrapped last (or sometimes first just to get it over with). But a little over five years ago, like the young girls in the Hallmark movies, my mom also went to heaven and the first year her annual thank you note gift wasn’t under the tree was when I truly appreciated and understood the gift of being thankful.

Oprah once said, “The more thankful I became, the more my bounty increased. That’s because – for sure – what you focus on expands. When you focus on the goodness in life, you create more of it.”

And while it’s totally cheesy to quote Oprah, I do believe this to be true.

A thank you note I wrote to my mom in 1996 as I was preparing to transfer from Northern Michigan University (a sensible college) to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (not so sensible) to pursue filmmaking.

So what am I thankful for this year? So many things, but for this moment, I want to focus on thanking those who helped me get Dear Producer off the ground because I did not do it alone. First, a thank you to the group of producers who I wrangled at SXSW 2017 behind closed doors to ask how they were feeling about the state of producing: Steven Berger, Jonathan Duffy, Jordana Mollick, Gabrielle Nadig, Sev Ohanian, Chris Ohlson, Laura Wagner and Kelly Williams. Thank you for being honest about your struggles and for sharing your ideas on how we can create a more sustainable path for producers.

The ideas from that gathering would not have evolved into Dear Producer had it not been for the guidance and knowledge of one of my dearest friends, Stephanie Ariganello, who I met at Northern Michigan University before I even knew I wanted to be a producer. Stephanie’s marketing and communications expertise helped me organize my thoughts into a cohesive website. She taught me about SEO (though I still don’t fully grasp it), she has helped me become a better writer and is a constant sounding board for my big ideas.

A thank you to Film Independent for being the first organization to officially support my efforts and in doing so, showed that you are invested in and committed to the well-being of producers.

To Barbara Twist who despite being in graduate school at Columbia, finds the time to interview producers and compose amazing stories for the site.

And to Luke Rivett who lets me know that it’s ok to take a break and enjoy a few Hallmark movies, but that eventually I need to turn them off, get away from my computer and seek the things that inspire me. And who always pushes me to keep going.

Most especially, I want to thank the many producers who contributed to Dear Producer this year. Thank you for sharing your experiences, your knowledge and your time and for being vulnerable in order to help others succeed. Your mentorship has left a mark on so many filmmakers and I greatly admire and appreciate your dedication to our community.

I asked a few of these producers to tell me what they are most thankful this year…

“I’m thankful for knowing as an indie producer, I’m always a phone call, email or text away from my fellow indie producers for advice, support, and sometimes just pure venting.”
Sev Ohanian

“The past few years of my producing life has been full of taking risks and making changes so I am thankful for the few constants I have had in my life – family and friends. When riding the producer life’s roller coaster, it is nice to have all kinds of friends – the one that will make sure you are buckled in correctly and send you off as they know you can handle the twist and turns, the one that will ride beside you soaking in every thrilling moment with hands waving in the air…. and of course never forgot those cheering you on from the ground ready to embrace you when exit the ride a bit wobbly and need some help rebalancing.”
Summer Shelton

“Empathetic Spouses!”
Adam Hendricks

“I am thankful to be able to collaborate on stories that link us to each other and make us feel less alone.”
Jessie Creel

“I’m thankful I was able to connect on a deep level this past year with a handful of female producers I’ve been fortunate to meet through labs and film festivals. These amazing women have become my good friends, allies and collaborators, and I look forward to continuing to nurture, support and encourage one another both professionally and personally in the year ahead. And it’s nothing against my male counterparts, I love them, too! It just seems like I’ve always produced with men so it’s been nice to form these meaningful relationships with some badass female producers, as well!”
Liz Cardenas

“I’m thankful for my wife, dog, family, and friends. I’m also thankful that I’m able to live outside NY or LA and still build projects as producer.”
Andrew Corkin

“There are many things to be grateful for in my life, like adventure, love and finding new stories. But what I’m most thankful for is the genuine connection I make with so many artists every day, and the collaboration that comes from meeting each other. The relationships I’ve formed with these people are a sure sign of friendship and inspiration for years to come.”
Lauren Henderson

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving. I hope you take a break from your to-do lists, get off your email and spend time with those you cherish. And perhaps you’ll be inspired to send someone a thank you note.

Keep going,