Inside The Producer's Brain with David Kaufmann

by ScreenCraft - updated on February 26, 2019

Meet David Kaufmann. He's the guy behind our From a Producer's Perspective series. He also wrote our recently published ebook,  The Producer's Brain, which you can purchase on Amazon for only $2.99. For it's first week of sales it was Amazon's bestselling kindle ebook in all three of its categories! 

We picked his brain further, learning more about him and why he wants to share the process and craft of being a producer. His answers are below.

Congrats on publishing your new book, The Producer's Brain, with ScreenCraft! What's it about? 

Thanks! It is exciting to see it out in the world. The book is a streamlined analysis of what it takes to develop and sell a creative idea. My goal with it is to help aspiring creative professionals understand the ins and outs of what producers do and the various elements that need to come together in order for an idea to become a reality. 

The truth about selling a film or a TV show is that the process is going to look a little different every time. The most important thing you’ll need for your journey is the right mindset. My hope is that the ideas that I present in the book will help people to find their own voice and the confidence to keep pressing their projects forward to the finish line. The book is really born from my own personal experiences and learnings from a lot of the bumps and bruises I’ve gathered along the way. It’s the type of resource that I wish I had when I was first starting out and I’m grateful that ScreenCraft gave me the opportunity to put it together. 

When you began your career as an NBC Page for Saturday Night Live in New York, did you ever imagine yourself as an independent producer in Los Angeles? Tell us a little bit about your journey from then to now.

It’s unbelievable what can happen over the course of a decade. It feels like it was just yesterday that I was wearing my peacock tie and blue blazer answering the phones outside of studio 8H. I knew I wanted to be involved in creating content but I wasn’t sure what my ultimate role would be. SNL was a magical place to begin my career and the Page Program, in general, was an eye-opening experience that helped me to understand the various moving parts of the business. I have many close friends from my Page days and they are all doing amazing things. 

I never imagined that the next place I would wind up was Major League Baseball but when the opportunity arose to represent MLB’s intellectual property in the entertainment industry, I jumped at it. It was an incredible run there and I got to be involved in a lot of great projects from the ESPN 30 for 30 Series and Moneyball to episodes of The Big Bang Theory, American Idol, and a promo with The Simpsons. I also can’t complain about the various World Series and All-Star Games I got to attend. 

After working on behalf of baseball on some really big films alongside top producers and finishing a media-focused MBA at NYU, I felt like I was ready to take the next step and test my creative chops outside of a large brand. I’m a big believer in living without regrets so my wife and I left our life in New York and moved out to Los Angeles where I’ve been building an independent business ever since.

I’ve had some of the most rewarding experiences of my career since becoming independent and I absolutely love Los Angeles and the creative community here (I also get to surf in December!). 

It’s been such a fun ride so far and I’ve got some really exciting things on tap for 2019. 

You've contributed quite a few pieces From a Producer's Perspective for ScreenCraft's blog, over the past few months, and recently just wrapped up the book. What inspired those pieces and what more can our audience expect from you? 

I spend a lot of time meeting with writers and directors who don’t necessarily think about the business side of getting content produced. I’d find myself answering a lot of the same questions over and over again and felt that by sharing my strategic thoughts through ScreenCraft I could help a wider audience to understand what producers do and how the business of Hollywood works. The more blogs I put together, the more ideas I had for additional content, which eventually led to the book. 

As I continue through my own journey, the audience at ScreenCraft should expect more authentic thoughts from me as my perspective evolves and the business shifts further towards digital. It’s a tremendous time of upheaval as old models continue to break down and new ones arise, so I imagine I’ll have lots to talk about in 2019. 

Spending practically a decade at Major League Baseball, you helped create critically acclaimed films like Moneyball and 42. Are you passionate about continuing to make sports-driven films? Or what other kinds of projects are you working on? 

I love baseball and am incredibly grateful for my time there. The opportunity to work on films like Moneyball and 42 was life-changing and I look back fondly when I think about helping to put those projects together. Since leaving, I’ve helped a number of people to move their sports-driven projects forward. I am always open to lending my expertise in that regard but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to broaden my horizons and tackle content that isn’t directly related to America’s National Pastime.

I write in the book about the importance of acquiring strong intellectual property and most of my upcoming slate is based on IP that I have uncovered and optioned over the past year. I’ve found myself to be particularly inspired by true stories and have spent most of 2018 developing and packaging films in that space. 

You recently produced a short film called Blinders that has won several awards, including the Gold Award at LA Shorts Fest. What was your process from conception to celebration?

I absolutely love making short films and have been involved with a couple over the past year. It’s easy to become mired in the development process on your larger projects and shorts give you the opportunity to get into physical production and make something quickly. It’s always great to get your hands dirty on set. I learn something new every time. 

On Blinders, my good friend Edward Klau approached me and asked if I’d be interested in helping him make a stylized Hitchcock short. He had a good idea for a story that could be told in ten pages in one location and we thought it would be interesting to see if we could re-create Hitchcock’s style on a short film budget. 

My approach to shorts is to set a date and just make them happen and that’s exactly what we did. We found an amazing location in a historic mansion near Hancock Park and managed to get access to film. We held a casting session and completed the basic SAG paperwork. We then brought on Beth Napoli, a fantastic young DP, who nailed the cinematography. The shoot was two full days. As far as post, Maxton Waller agreed to write us an original score that really captured the tone and we got it professionally color corrected as a favor. 

It was a really fun project and a great learning experience, especially after working on so many large films in more of an executive oversight role. I think we succeeded in achieving a high level of production quality on a low budget and it was cool to be recognized at a number of festivals.

What's one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting out in the entertainment industry? 

Not to wait for anyone’s permission to be creative. If you want to make something happen, make it happen! 

Where can people buy your book? 

It’s available now on Amazon and you can pick it up for your Kindle using the following link: The Producer's Brain 

David is an independent film and television producer living in Los Angeles. He began his career as an NBC Page at Saturday Night Live. He spent over nine years handling film and television licensing and development at Major League Baseball where he helped create critically acclaimed films like Moneyball and 42. He has an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Richmond and holds an MBA from NYU Stern with a focus on the media business and creative producing. He is an active member of the Producers Guild of America. He has been featured in the Produced By Magazine and is the author of the book The Producer's Brain. You can read more about David on his IMDB and LinkedIn pages and follow him on Twitter.

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