Being that it is less romantic than other vital aspects of being a great film producer, some people may not see a background in finance as the typical jumping off point for a successful career based in creative expression. However, Mike Gut understands the value of striking a balance between his two seemingly contrary skill sets. He is comfortable and effective in his dual roles of both storyteller and money manager because he understands how producing successful films absolutely requires merging technical knowledge of the craft with real-life business experience.
When Gut made the decision to leave Canada and his lucrative job in the telecom industry to realize his dream of producing feature films, he began to realize just how much of an advantage his business sector experience actually gave him in his new endeavor.
“My financial background definitely serves me well with my investors,” he explains. “I’m good with people and good with money. Producing is very entrepreneurial in the sense that each film is like setting up a small company every time.”
Armed with his solid background in finance and an inner calling to become a filmmaker, Gut originally left Montreal for Los Angeles when he was accepted to the prestigious Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California, where he earned his MFA. With an acceptance rate of only 13%, the Peter Stark Program is extremely selective, admitting only twenty-five applicants every year.
Gut remembers, “It was really the perfect program for me--- it really set the wheels in motion.”
His Masters in Fine Arts allowed him to continue honing his passion for filmmaking, something he had reserved as a weekend hobby prior to leaving the telecom industry, while also building on his expertise in finance. Finding investors and arranging for his films to have the funding they really need and deserve can be difficult for producers who only have pure love of the cinema and no real knack for the sometimes harsh business realities that require close attention. True, being a great producer is undoubtedly about being able to tell a story artfully and supervising an array of creative counterparts-- but it is also about being able to secure serious investors, managing a feasible budget, and ultimately being able to sell the finished product as profitable in an ever-changing media marketplace.
For Gut, the fact that the producer is the one who gets the last word on everything from the soundtrack to what ends up on the editing room floor is both a blessing and a curse. The producer’s key role in selling the film and arranging subsequent distribution rights means that even the smallest decision can make a world of difference.
Soon after completing his MFA, Gut was thrilled to be working on films alongside the likes of Harvey Weinstein and other heavyweight names in the world of film producers; he even had the pleasure of producing and directing the film Unfair & Imbalanced.
Gut says he loves to produce original features because the discovery stage can be a make-or-break moment for the success of the film. Sifting through the endless material to find a gem that is promising, both artistically and financially, is no small or easy task. Gut explains that when a film isn’t based on an original script, films often begin with just ideas, and no script; once a producer believes they have uncovered a novel idea, they must begin the search for the perfect screenwriter to bring it to life.
Gut’s work as a producer is more than just the supervision of its construction; his role requires him to prepare the finished product to present to various financing entities or film distributors. This final step is undoubtedly one of the most challenging, as it entails deep collaboration with the creative production team as well as the film’s accounting personnel.
As the producer and director of the original feature film Hollywood Hick, which he produced though his production company aptly named GellyGut, his efforts paid off as the film gained national attention being screened across North America. For Gut, the release of the film was a turning point in his career.
Today Mike Gut is a producer with Oracle Film Group, and with several upcoming projects still on the horizon and the release of Timber the Treasure Dog set for this year, he has attained his dream of producing features with worldwide theatrical release.
On Timber the Treasure Dog where Gut worked alongside director Ari Novak, he solidified his commitment to being the kind of producer that can turn out “quality feature films that cater to a specific market while getting a suitable return for the investors involved.” Something that separates the good producers from the really great ones, this kind of thinking is what facilitates the best possible films actually making it to the screen.
Although his keen financial background helps foster investor relationships and responsible decision-making, Gut never forgets his vision for a production, or the joy he gets from being a filmmaker. “Nothing makes me happier than when I’m on set. When I used to make films as a hobby on the weekends, I remember thinking - If I could get paid to do this, it would just be icing on the cake,” Gut recalls.
Gut is clearly dedicated to each project he takes on, as he is responsible for the production of his films from conception to completion. He takes pride in his involvement in the early stages of a script's production all the way until the concluding stages, with special attention given to post-production efforts in order seal in the finishing touches. He is one of those rare producers that truly understands the “big picture” fate of a film, and with all the subpar films that hit the market on a daily basis, audiences can take comfort knowing that he will continue to produce captivating films with engaging for years to come.