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An Interview With – Producer John Murray

Resources_Prod_133 - John MurrayJohn Murray is managing director of Crossing the Line Films and has produced and directed over 100 documentaries. He has a passion for adventure, exploration and travel docs and recently produced The Yellow Bittern, the Liam Clancy documentary.

How would you define what a producer is and does?

A producer is someone who turns an idea into a film or a programme. That’s the basis of it. In other words, a producer starts with a concept and raises finance, hiring people and eventually realizing that concept. The producer is also the person who has overall responsibility for the film. My own job encompasses everything: I produce, I direct, I shoot and I do sound on a wide variety of documentary projects.

How important is creative control/input for you?

It’s very important for me. Crossing the Line Films is my company and I’m very conscious of the output. It varies from person to person but I’m keenly involved in production and what ends up going out to audiences. In documentary there are less layers between you and the actual filmmaking than in the feature drama world.

How do you approach the financing of projects?

The key thing is relationships with commissioning editors and funders. We get money from all kinds of places – the Irish Film Board, National Geographic, RTÉ, MEDIA funding and we do an awful lot of international co-productions. You have to be creative.

How do you approach promotion in terms of distribution and sales?

It varies a lot. We’d often handle distribution ourselves but then we’d also deal with distributors too. Derry O’Brien at Network Ireland Television handles some stuff, as do RTÉ, and Element Distribution distributed the Liam Clancy doc in cinemas. I do think there are certain projects that the producer can handle and generate money in a way a bigger distributor may not be able to. I also travel to markets. I would always try to go to MIPTV and MIPCOM, entertainment content marketplaces, and every few years I’d go to IDFA, the doc festival and market in Amsterdam. I pitched our Broken Tail project in Toronto at Hot Docs, Sunny Side of the Doc is particularly good and I was at RealScreen Summit recently – that’s another good market.

What has been your proudest achievement as a producer?

I would say it’s a series we made about the last great nomadic journeys. It took a long time to put it together – it was huge in scope. We did four different films and crossed the Sahara and the Himalayas. I had a real passion for that project and the places and the people we were with.
This interview first appeared in Issue 133 of Film Ireland Magazine.