What Does a Film Production Manager Do?

Luke Leighfield
Luke Leighfield, Content Writer

When you think of roles in film production and TV shows, it’s usually actors, writers, and directors that come to mind. But underneath all of that is a production team that’s a crucial part of making it all happen. One of the most important people in that team is the production manager.

In this post, we’ll answer some of the most common questions about becoming a film production manager, and tell you everything you need to know as you consider your next steps.

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What is a film production manager?

A production manager, also known as a unit production manager, is the person responsible for managing anyone with a below-the-line* job on film productions. They’re in charge of sticking to the production schedule, handling budgeting, transportation, and scheduling.

While the production manager job title might not seem that sexy, it’s an integral role that requires leadership skills, communication skills, and a host of other soft skills that keep the entire crew happy in the work environment. Production managers are an essential part of the team from pre-production to post-production.

*Below-the-line jobs include: assistant directors, line producer, director of photography / cinematographer, production designers, production managers, production coordinators, art directors, art department, camera crew, lighting crew, hair and makeup crew, special effects crew, sound mixers, editors, composers, and visual effects crew.

Film production manager job description

The film production process is complex, and sticking to a production schedule can be challenging. That’s why many people choose to employ a production manager (if the film’s budget allows for it), helping the production process along with smart workflows and exceptional project management.

Being a good production manager involves a range of job duties, including problem-solving, quality control, time management, human resources, and adhering to safety regulations. All of these skills help the production team complete a film on time and on budget.

Below, we’ll take a look at the specific aspects of the production manager job description in more detail.

Budgeting

While it might seem like a skill that belongs more in business management than film production, budgeting is an essential part of production planning. It can be the success or death of a project.

Depending on the size of the production, there could be a whole host of team members involved with budgeting – including the financiers, producers, directors, writers, as well as the production managers.

While the production manager might not be responsible for setting the budget for a new production, they’ll act in a supervisory role to make sure the production process sticks to the budget that’s been agreed.

Transportation

Making movies takes a huge amount of logistical wizardry. Sometimes, it involves transporting the entire production crew between two locations in a studio lot. But on other occasions, you may need to ferry the entire production to another country. And that takes some serious problem-solving skills.

Scheduling

It’s far from the most thrilling part of a production manager’s job duties, but scheduling is when your project management chops will truly be put to the test. You’ll be handling call sheets, shooting schedules, production calendars, and managing a film crew. It’s no mean feat.

Thankfully, Boords has some guides and templates that’ll set you up for success:

Examples of famous production managers

While production managers don’t often find themselves in the limelight, you might recognise a few of these names that have been involved with acclaimed productions in recent years.

  • sparkle
    Tim Lewis is a film production manager with credits on many of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films.
  • sparkle
    Michael Fottrell has a specialism in action films, including production manager credits on the Fast & Furious movies as well as Die Hard 4.0.
  • sparkle
    Patricia Whitcher has a host of production manager credits, including Spider-Man: Homecoming, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Thor.

How can I become a production manager?

Many production manager job seekers start out by gaining work experience in related jobs. Any opportunities you can pick up in a production department, like working as a production coordinator, production supervisor, or creating production reports, will be useful in your job search – even if it’s not in a super related field.

Outside of the film industry, you could also gain the raw materials needed by taking a role in any manufacturing process, like an operations manager. Although the industry is different, many of the skills are transferable to the film world: production planning, upholding quality standards, money management, adhering to safety regulations and company policies, and much more.

Lots of job postings will require you to show proficiency in Microsoft Office or the Google equivalent. So it might be worth brushing up on your Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets skills, checking you’re comfortable with anything you might need to do on the job.

You may also find you need decent high school grades and a bachelor’s degree to even be considered for production manager job openings. The exact type of degree doesn’t necessarily matter, but a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree could benefit you due to its links to the art and film industries.

Finally, you’ll need to be a member of the Director’s Guild of America (DGA) to work on union film sets in the USA. When you’re on a union set, the official job title used is Unit Production Manager. If the production is non-DGA, production managers don’t need to be in the union.

What does a production manager’s career path look like?

If you’re successful as a production manager, you could consider opening your own production studio. Lots of production managers also go on to work as executive producers, where you're responsible for multiple productions at once.

Aside from working in a production capacity, some production managers broaden the scope of their role in the film industry. You might want to try your hand at directing or producing films, or even acting! All the experience you pick up as a production manager will be a huge help to other roles in Hollywood and beyond.

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Average production manager job salary

The average salary for a production manager depends on your exact industry and where you live.

Average USA production manager salary

In the USA, Comparably puts the average base film production manager salary at £106,504. However, there’s a huge range of salaries in the sector, with figures ranging from $20,409 to $549,665, and a median salary of $98,755.

According to Comparably, ‘the middle 57% of film production managers makes between $98,755 and $248,512, with the top 86% making $549,665.’

Average UK production manager salary

If you’re in the UK, then SalaryExpert says the average film production manager salary in London is £93,119, which is 22% higher than the rest of the UK.

According to SalaryExpert, ‘an entry-level film production manager (1-3 years of experience) earns an average salary of £60,439. On the other end, a senior level film production manager (8+ years of experience) earns an average salary of £145,793.’

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