Film & TV

Film 101: What Does a Line Producer Do?

Written by MasterClass

Apr 29, 2019 • 6 min read

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Jodie Foster Teaches Filmmaking

There are many producers involved in the making of a feature film, who all have different responsibilities. The line producer runs the actual nuts and bolts of a successful film shoot. The line producer is hired early on, they handle the budget, they hire all the other department heads, and they make sure everything runs smoothly during production.

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What Is a Line Producer?

The line producer is the film producer responsible for managing the budget and overseeing all operations and logistics for a film from pre-production to post-production.

The line producer is hired early in the pre-production process by the executive producer (a producer who generally assists in financing the production) and the producer (a producer who manages the production and who is involved in major creative decisions). The line producer reports directly to the producer and all other department heads report to the line producer.

The line producer acts as the liaison between the above-the-line talent (actors, writers, and directors) and the below-the-line positions (location scouts, makeup artists, and sound editors, for example).

The Responsibilities of a Line Producer

A line producer has a big job description, since they oversee every aspect of a film production. The bulk of a line producer’s job happens during the development and pre-production phases, but a line producer’s job is not done until the film is completely wrapped and sent for distribution.

Key Responsibilities of a Line Producer During Development

Development is the first phase of the filmmaking process, during which screenwriters finish the script and the producers explore financing the film. A line producer’s job begins toward the end of the development process.

  • Budget: Before a film goes into pre-production, a line producer assesses the script and develops a preliminary budget:
    • Break down the screenplay: A line producer goes through the script page-by-page to create a rough shooting schedule. The number of days, locations, and characters all affect how much the film will cost.
    • Assess below the line costs. After breaking down the screenplay, the line producer estimates other costs like crew salaries, equipment costs, and food budgets.

The producers and executive producers take this preliminary budget to raise the required funding for the movie. Once the funding is secured, the film moves into the pre-production phase.

Key Responsibilities of a Line Producer During Pre-Production

The line producer does the majority of their job during pre-production.

  • Set up the company: A line producer’s first task during pre-production is to set up a production company by filing the paperwork to create an LLC or S-Corp, as well as getting a bank account, a physical office, a phone line, and email addresses.
  • Script breakdown: The line producer breaks the script down again, this time with the 1st assistant director. The line producer and assistant director comb through every page in order to create an exact and meticulous shooting schedule, detailed daily schedules, and call times.
  • Finalize the budget: The line producer finalizes the budget to assign an exact number to each aspect of the production.
  • Hire the team: The line producer is responsible for hiring a number of key crew roles, all of whom will report to the line producer.
    • Production team:
      • The production manager (PM), also called a Unit Production Manager, has similar duties as the line producer, and on smaller budget projects they are often the same person. A line producer creates the budget and schedule while the production manager executes it.
      • The production coordinator primarily works out of the production office and coordinates all logistics involved with the cast, crew, and equipment. They also manage the production assistants.
      • Production assistants are hired by the production coordinator and do the bidding of anyone on the production team, which is usually paperwork, running errands, or picking up props and coffee.
    • The casting director is a person or team responsible for finding and casting talent. They consult with the line producer to hire enough talent and to keep talent pay within budget.
    • The 1st Assistant Director (AD) works with the Line Producer to break down the script and create the schedule.
    • Heads of Departments: The line producer also hires and oversees every department head, which includes:
  • Find locations: The line producer scouts with the location manager. On a location scout, the line producer considers questions like: Is there enough room for parking at the location? How will the entire crew fit in this location? Is there enough power and drinking water or does that need to be brought in?
  • Get equipment: The line producer gets equipment for the film based on requests from each department head. It is the line producer’s job to keep costs down with equipment vendors and rental agencies through negotiation.

Key Responsibilities of a Line Producer During Production

The line producer keeps the production running on schedule and on budget.

  • Checks in with every department head: The line producer meets with all department heads every day, putting out any fires, if necessary.
  • Ensure payroll is on time: The line producer liaises with the production accountant to make sure everyone is paid on time. Film unions, like SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors, will shut down a production if talent or crew are not paid in a timely manner.
  • Prep for post-production: During production, the line producer is thinking ahead to post-production by hiring film editors, composers, and by finding a post-production facility.

Key Responsibilities of a Line Producer During Post-Production

During post-production, the line producer hands many of their responsibilities off to a post-production supervisor, but that does not mean the job of a line producer is done.

  • Set up the post production supervisor: The line producer ensures that the post production supervisor is set up for their job. The line producer also hands over “wrap books,” which are an account of schedules, contracts, vendor agreements, etc. since pre-production commenced.
  • Wrap the budget: The line producer will wrap up the budget, looking for ways to come in under budget (like returning equipment early), if possible.
  • Deliver assets: Line producers work with all necessary department heads to oversee the delivery of assets such as a cut of the film for the distributor, or still photos for the marketing department.

4 Essential Skills Needed to Become a Line Producer

  1. Leadership: Be comfortable delegating and executing ideas and command the respect of the rest of the crew
  2. Budgeting: Have in-depth knowledge of budgeting with the negotiating skills and business acumen to remain on or under budget.
  3. Networking: Have industry contacts so that crew and heads of departments can be hired quickly or swapped out, if needed.
  4. Diplomacy: Create and maintain relationships with all crew and talent to maintain a harmonious production.

How Do You Become a Line Producer?

The job of a line producer does not require a film school degree or any sort of formal education. The best education for a line producer is to work on a lot of film sets. Most line producers have worked their way up the production ladder (i.e. production assistant to production coordinator to production manager). Once you become a PM, you should begin applying to line producing jobs for your next gig.

Learn more about film crew roles and responsibilities with Jodie Foster.