What Does a Film Producer Do?

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A movie begins and ends with the producer. A producer’s job involves planning, coordination and management around a movie’s script and writing, casting, directing, and editing as well as finances, marketing, release and distribution.

A film producer can work for a production company or independently to oversee film production. Hollywood producers can work on a film project from inception to the celebration at the Oscars, but what does the actual production process entail? In the following post, we’ll look at production day operations in the film industry and the producer’s responsibilities. We’ll go over different types of producers, tell you how to become one and list a few famous ones.

What is a Producer in the Movie Industry?

The job title producer sounds very much like someone in charge, yet the fact that many producer titles such as producer, executive producer, co-producer and associate producer exist confuse those on the outside of the motion picture industry and lead to vague ideas about what a producer is and does, and how important they and their work are.

Producers tend to be jack-of-all-trade types, with no clear distinction between titles

It’s true that producers tend to be jack-of-all-trade types with often no clear distinction between different titles. Problem-solver is probably the most basic job description: a film producer is involved in initiating, coordinating, supervising, and managing the production, which can be a television show, a movie, an online series, or commercial video.

A producer is involved in creative decisions and might even be the one to start the whole creative process, but they’re only in touch and not part of the creative team. They’re also apart from the film crew, as crew members are hired and have no claim to the intellectual property as the production company or the producer has.

A good producer takes responsibility for providing the necessary resources, logistics, and infrastructure so that everyone else involved in the project, creative process and production can do their job in turn. The producer handles a little bit of everything and is therefore indispensable. Thanks to them, ideas ripen, scripts get written and perfected, money flows, talent gets attracted to the project’s vision, contracts are signed, personnel shows up, and production schedules are drawn up.

Especially the title executive producer sounds powerful and almost dictatorial, yet the day-to-day tasks are far less glamorous and producers get far less recognition than famous directors or actors apart from the often overlooked producer-credit.

Yet on the inside, the film industry values producers who work tirelessly with a movie from beginning to end, providing support and forging the needed connections. The best producers create structure out of chaos and turn an idea into the best picture it can be. Their realism makes artistic dreams come true with a smooth and efficient production process.

Interested in a career in production? Check out our Filmmaking Templates

A Producer’s Responsibilities During the Filmmaking Process

While we have established that a producer can wear many hats, their role is to bring vision and leadership to a project and exert authority and control during production. While producers are with a project from beginning to end, their responsibilities shift according to the four following phases:

Development

  • Develop and maintain influential industry contacts
  • Work on source material
  • Hire creative team and director
  • Raise money
  • Move from idea to film

A prolific producer is often involved in more than one project’s development stage because it is the longest phase, and a producer is involved from the beginning. They come up with an idea or select a screenplay and possibly writer, secure rights and choose a team, then move on to finances and supervision of the process.

As the project moves from idea to film or show, the producer keeps everyone aligned and often mediates between departments at odds with each other.

After the involvement with the source material, a producer will hire a director, who might influence the shooting script further. The producer can put together a creative team, then attach high-profile personnel and stars to win financiers and raise money and minimize the risk of the production. As the project moves from idea to film or show, the producer keeps everyone aligned and often mediates between departments at odds with each other.

Finding the next project can precede the development phase, and producers have to rely on their connections and relationships; keeping in touch with what other production companies and producers, but also directors, writers, and creatives are up to. Influential producers also keep ties with investors, stars, agents, cinematographers, and costume designers.

Pre-production

  • Hiring the creative team
  • Principal casting
  • Pitch package
  • Planning of production

During this stage, the producer extends the creative team through further hires, attaching a cinematographer, designers, choreographers, animators, musicians, and principal cast members to the project. The casting responsibilities include salary and contract negotiations, as well as putting together a pitch package to secure further financing from investors.

The producer selects heads of departments and production personnel during pre-production, approves locations, studio time, shooting script and schedule, and budgets. A smooth organization during pre-production will reduce the waste of time and money during production.

Production

  • Point of contact for day-to-day operations
  • Assisting the director and creative team
  • Business, financial and logistical decisions
  • Approving changes and troubleshooting

An efficient producer has planned the production phase with a meticulous schedule and a detailed budget which the director and film crew can follow, so their involvement in the day-to-day operations isn’t necessary per se. However, a producer is of course there for the production team and partners as the point of contact.

On and off set, producers work closely with creatives during production, facilitating or making decisions. Their main responsibilities are of a business, financial, or logistical nature and giving approval to script or budget changes.

Post-production

  • Editing, visual effects, soundtrack
  • Additional funding
  • Marketing and promotion

The post-production stage is a liaison between producer, director, and post-production team where the work consists of editing, applying visual effects, as well as composing a score and mixing the soundtrack.

The producer secures additional funding if the post-production requires it and otherwise prepares the release, which includes arranging test and preview screenings, planning marketing, promotion and distribution, and generating hype and buzz through media contacts.

Release

  • Selling the finished product
  • Marketing, cast appearances, festivals and competitions
  • National and international distribution
  • Release schedule

After a movie is finished, a film producer still has a lot of work to do, which in summary consists of selling the final product. This involves developing a marketing strategy, most likely together with a marketing team or department. A release schedule or plan sketches out the national or international tour of the movie, including festivals and submissions to competitions.

Based on interest and buzz generated by the marketing and possible pre-screenings, the producer is involved in negotiating the distribution rights. Original investors and stakeholders will seek a return on their investment, and it falls to a good producer to satisfy the needs and wishes of everyone as best as possible.

Learn how to storyboard a film in our guide to practical storyboaring

Different Types of Producers

Let’s get into further details: if you look closely at film credits or a movie poster, you’ll notice more than one producer credit. From a big studio production in L.A. to a TV sitcom in New York, there are different producer roles.


Executive Producer

You could call the executive producer the head producer or the producer of producers, as their role involves high-level supervision of other producers on the project, from TV show to indie film or big studio production. The executive producer’s job is to ensure completion on time, within budget, and to agreed-upon specifications or standards.

The EP’s contribution can be securing the rights or finances or being a financier themselves. Working for a smaller production company, the executive producer’s role can also be that of a creator, writer, or owner of the source material. They may have a say in major creative decisions, but are generally involved on a more global level and could be working on more than one production simultaneously.

Executive producer job description:

  • Supervise other producers
  • Align concepts and goals of the project
  • Oversee hiring of talent
  • Maintain budget, schedule, standards

Line Producer

An imaginary line separates the high-level, above-the-line management of a production from the physical, below-the-line process. The domain of the line producer is everything below the line: it’s a managerial position overseeing the physical aspects, often creating a budget, then tracking and logging expenses.

On a smaller production, these tasks may be folded into the general producer’s responsibilities, whereas a large production likely adds a unit production manager, who is also responsible for all physical aspects of the process. The difference between the line producer and unit production is that the UPM is not involved in creative decisions but is executing on the logistics as passed down from the line producer.

Line producer job description:

  • Assist the executive producer
  • Supervise unit production manager and physical production process
  • Work on creation and tracking of budget and schedules
  • Assist EP with hiring of talent

Supervising Producer

Also going by the producer title development producer, this type of producer specifically supervises the creative gestation of the project. The supervising producer is heavily involved in turning the first idea into a spec script, then writing and re-writing the screenplay into a shooting script with which everyone can work.

These responsibilities might fall to the executive producer, or the supervising producer might assist the EP and take over the creative process of screenplay development, or take over the role of supervising other producers.

Supervising producer job description:

  • Development from idea to screenplay to script
  • Supervision of creative process
  • Assist the executive producer
  • Supervise other producers

Producer

Producer is the general term for a person overseeing the production process in filmmaking, television, or other commercial productions. This involves arranging, managing and supervising every single stage and aspect, including talent, creative team, deadlines, executives, and finances.

For TV, a producer’s job changes somewhat. A television producer can also be a writer, or a head writer in case of the executive producer. Another term for a TV producer is showrunner, which involves responsibilities of director, producer, as well as writer.

Television producer job description:

  • Concept development, scripting, final quality control
  • Raising funds and budgeting
  • Recruiting talent and making casting decisions
  • Guiding and supervising crew members or other producers

Co-producer

A co-producer fulfils the same role as another producer or team of producers, typically to ease the load on the executive producer. The producer title of co-producer can also denote someone involved in the project who has contributed to funding or realizing the project.

Co-producers perform jointly with the other producer or team of producers to supervise all stages from development to production. They’re commonly “above the line” and therefore not involved in the physical production process (see line producer), whereas the film crew is “below the line.”

Co-producer job description:

  • Assist the executive producer
  • Oversee project stages
  • Supervise production or other producers
  • Provide value to the project through finances, attachment, equipment, services, or other benefits

Coordinating Producer

If you know what a manager of managers does, you basically know the role of the coordinating producer: they make sure two or more individual producers working separately on a project are aligned. They keep their eyes on the end goal and keep things in check so everyone is pulling in the same direction.

Coordinating producer job description:

  • Coordinate the work of other producers
  • Assist all producers or production teams
  • Manage the production process
  • Ensure a unified result of the production

Associate Producer

An associate producer, or AP, is often understood to be an assistant producer, either to the executive producer or other producers. Their work tends to be below the line and therefore directly involved in the production through various tasks such as organizing personnel, coordinating location scouting or set construction or supervising script work.

Associate producer can be a producer credit given in exchange for a contribution to the production. The exact responsibilities and day-to-day tasks are often up for negotiation.

Associate producer job description:

  • Typically below-the-line production and assistance
  • Television producer: the AP might assist with shot selections, preparing the shooting script, and guiding the content
  • Contributing to the production
  • Various duties

Consulting Producer

The job title is telling: the consulting producer offers advice on a production and contributes in the form of experience. On a TV show, consulting producers can be former co-producers or executives now assisting TV producers and writers according to their past work experience.

A consulting producer credit can be a fancy writer credit since they contribute to the shooting script or live TV program with lines for the host and segments. Quality control, alignment checks and consistency can be part of their tasks.

Consulting producer job description:

  • Contribute to the production according to experience
  • Writing and shooting script contributions
  • Assisting in TV production
  • Ensuring the right tone and feel of a television show or production

Segment Producer

Segment producers typically belong to the group of TV producers where a reality show, talk show or late-night show includes several segments produced regularly. The segment producer oversees the entire production of one or more individual segments.

Segment producer job description:

  • Supervision of production for one or more segments of a multi-segment production
  • Oversee or assist other producers
  • Quality control and consistency
  • Ensure segments fit smoothly together

Field Producer

Field producer is another telling job title: field producers work outside the studio or soundstage, overseeing production on location in the field. This work can include outside scenes for a film or segments for a TV show.

Field producer job description:

  • Supervising field production
  • Assist the executive producer in the field / on location
  • Oversee segments outside the studio
  • Quality control

How Do I Become a Producer?

Since a producer needs to know a little bit of everything, many roads can lead to the job, from being a script reader, production assistant, or even intern. A producer needs to know every stage of the production process, and any job teaching you some of that is worthwhile on the way to becoming a producer. It's common for people to start out in an assisting function at a production company, agency, or management company. You can also become a producer as an auteur if you have an idea or secure a source material and manage to attach talent and creatives to it.

Successful producers are entrepreneurs with ambition, enthusiasm, and confidence. You need to be adventurous, assertive, favor extroversion, and be able to spread optimism. A good producer knows how to dominate, persuade, and motivate people. Artistic, creative, and expressive qualities certainly help also.

Expect high levels of stress and pressure, with short and long assignments, long hours, phases of self-employment, and tasks outside of the workplace.

Skills required of a producer

  • Leadership, management and organizational skills
  • Presentation, persuasion and negotiation skills
  • Financial and budgeting skills
  • Creativity and creative vision
  • Mediating and motivational skills

Producers Guild of America

You don't have to join the Producers Guild to be employed as a producer - the PGA is not a union, but a professional association "represent, protect and promote the interests of all members of the producing team" through health benefits, enforcement of labor laws, sustainable practises and fair standards, and opportunities for new and established producers.

Learn more about the PGA on producersguild.org

Five Famous Movie Producers

Spike Lee

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee (born March 20, 1957) is an award-winning film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. After his 1986 directorial debut, Lee founded his own production company, 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks. His work continues to explore political issues, race relations, and urban life.

Five Famous Films as a Producer:

  • She's Gotta Have It (1986)
  • Do The Right Thing (1989)
  • Malcom X (1992)
  • Bamboozled (2000)
  • BlacKkKlansman (2018)

Steven Spielberg

Steven Allan Spielberg (born December 18, 1946) is arguably among the most famous directors and also works as a producer and screenwriter. His claim to fame came with the 1975 summer blockbuster Jaws. Spielberg represents New Hollywood, a film-making process where the director takes a key role. His versatile work spans blockbusters and serious movies and won awards as well as high earnings.

Five Famous Films as a Producer:

  • Indiana Jones franchise
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • The Color Purple (1985)
  • Schindler's List (1993)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy (born June 5, 1953) is a film producer, co-founder of the production company Amblin Entertainment, and president of Lucasfilm since 2012. Her work is closely tied to Steven Spielberg and she's been producing since E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. As one of Hollywood's leading producers, she's worked on more than 60 films, which include Academy Award nominations and three of the highest-grossing films.

Five Famous Films as a Producer:

  • Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Back To The Future trilogy
  • The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008)
  • Lincoln (2012)
  • The Rise Of Skywalker (2019) and other titles of the Star Wars franchise

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Jerome Tarantino (born March 27, 1963) is a director, producer and screenwriter known to also act in his own movies. Many of his films have become pop culture icons, garnering commercial success and cult-followings alike. Tarantino's indie filmmaker career kicked off with Reservoir Dogs and True Romance, while Pulp Fiction saw commercial success and established his style of non-linear storytelling, dialogue, and ensemble casts. Other critical successes include Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.

Five Famous Films as a Producer:

  • Killing Zoe (1993)
  • Four Rooms (1995)
  • From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
  • Grindhouse (2007)
  • Once Upon A Time... In Hollywood (2019)

James Cameron

James Francis Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a filmmaker of renowned science fiction and epic Hollywood tales. Early hits include Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss and True Lies. Though known for big budget productions, Academy Awards and high-grossing films, Cameron is also committed to deep sea exploration and environmentalism.

Five Famous Films as a Producer:

  • Point Break (1991)
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and other titles of the franchise
  • Titanic (1997)
  • Avatar (2009)
  • Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Jack of all trades

Producers are involved throughout the filmmaking process. They plan, coordinate, and manage everything which happens during a film. From scripts, to directing, to marketing, producers have a hand in it all.

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