Perhaps no other position on a film production is more important than that of a line producer. Charged with controlling the budget, a line producer is very often the final word on everything from who gets hired to what is done on set for a production. For Dianne Ashford, it’s a responsibility she takes very seriously and does very well. With credits including The Gospel and Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming, Ashford has built a superlative reputation for her attention to detail and the bottom line. EBONY.com recently spoke with her to learn the secrets for getting a production done… on budget!
EBONY: How do you contribute to the overall process of making a film?
Dianne Ashford: A line producer allocates the money and is responsible for making sure the film comes in on budget and on time. Some of my responsibilities include budgeting, scheduling and hiring key production personnel, as well as overseeing the day-to-day activities on set.
EBONY: Why did you pick line producing as a career?
DA: I chose producing as a career because I was interested in all aspects of the filmmaking process from pitching to distribution.
EBONY: What distinctive quality do you bring to your craft?
DA: Natural leadership and problem-solving skills, infused with an ability to provide creative insight to the process.
EBONY: Are there any obstacles that you’ve had to overcome to achieve success in your career?
DA: Not really. Having come from the corporate world, the transition was fairly easy for me because being a producer is much like being a project manager. But I will say that because this was not my field of major in college, I used to question whether or not I was qualified to be a producer. But every time I complete a project on time and under budget, I realize that I’ve got this!
EBONY: Please share some advice for others who look to follow in your path.
DA: If you are truly passionate about producing, be vigilant and never give up. There will be many obstacles and many nos, but the more nos you hear, the better, because if you’re serious, it should fuel the fire within you. Lastly, if you’re just starting out, try to be a production assistant in the production office or the accounting department. If you keep your head down and just listen, you will learn so much about the business. At least, that’s how I did it.
EBONY: What’s next for you?
DA: I’m excited about an independent film I produced called Echo at 11 Oak Drive. We raised funds through a crowd-funding campaign and it’s an artistic gem. We are currently seeking a distribution deal, and we just returned from the Cannes International Film Festival in France, which was a first for me and an eye-opening experience. In addition to that, I created a two-day film production workshop that I currently teach in Atlanta but have plans to expand to other cities starting in the fourth quarter of this year moving forward. Nashville, Charlotte, New Orleans, Chicago. I’m coming soon.
Gil Robertson IV is a noted A&E and Black lifestyle journalist, author and producer. President and co-founder of the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), he resides in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Follow the AAFCA on Twitter @theaafca.