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What Is a Producer?
A producer is the person responsible for finding and launching a project; arranging financing financing; hiring writers, a director, and key members of the creative team; and overseeing all elements of pre-production, production and post-production, right up to release.
It is not uncommon for a film production or TV show to have several producers. Some producers hold the title in name only, in exchange for ceding rights to the story, for example, or contributing financing to the film. But most producers actively work on set, overseeing production logistics from start to finish, in close collaboration with the director.
The Producers Guild of America is the principal professional organization of producers in Hollywood.
Responsibilities of a Producer During Preproduction
The producer is one of the first people to start working on a film. During pre-production, the producer works to gather investment and financing in the film.
In trying to sell the project, the producer assembles a small creative team to help package the pitch to production companies and studios. Along with a team of writers, the producer works to find a director (if one hasn’t been attached to the project already) and may reach out to a few big-name actors for the leading roles.
A successful producer will get the green light from a production company or studio, or manage to arrange financing from investors to launch the film or TV show.
Responsibilities of a Producer During Production
As production gets under way, a producer’s responsibilities shift to include the following:
- Work with the director to bring on key creative partners such as a cinematographer (director of photography), a production designer, casting agents.
- Hire a line producer to put together a budget and schedule.
- Offer advice and sign off on all major creative decisions.
- Manage all logistics and business operations.
- Supervise all aspects of physical production through the production staff.
- Make sure a production is on schedule and under budget.
The Different Types of Producers
Movie credits often list a number of different producers, but rarely is it clear what exactly each contributed to the film. Producing encompasses a range of roles, and in some cases, one person wears all the hats. In most cases, however, the roles are divided and shared amongst different people, each with a different title. Among the most common are:
- Executive producers typically contribute a considerable sum of their own money to a project, and thus earn a top credit in the film. They may also secure additional financing and handle accounting and legal issues.
- Producers actively work on set, overseeing production logistics from start to finish, in close collaboration with the director.
- Line producers are the task-masters of a film, making sure it stays on time and budget. They are responsible for breaking down the script to create line items in a budget, planning a production timeline, coordinating the schedules and activities of various departments, and handling human resources.
- Creative producers partner closely with the director on artistic matters. They facilitate the hiring of talent, supervise script revisions, communicate director notes, and coordinate a unified style and approach between departments.
- Showrunners are television producers who have an overall creative vision for a series, and who have authority and management responsibility over the various directors who have been hired for specific episodes.
- Co-producers and associate producers often help with fundraising, oversee a specific area of production, or share duties with a lead producer.
- Impact producers, also known as an engagement strategists, are producers of marketing and distribution (PMDs). They focus on getting the word out, attracting press and media coverage, and finding a distributor to get a film in front of as many audiences as possible.
- Field producer. In film, a person who assists the producer in production that takes place in a non-studio location. In TV, a video producer who works remotely to assist in the production of a piece of an overall production.
Skills and Experience Needed to Become a Producer
Producers often have experience from across the entertainment industry. Some producers started as actors, while others have experience as writers, directors, agents, or as studio executives.
Most producers have a some type of secondary education, either in film school or business school.The best education for a producer, however, comes from experience in film productions.
Key characteristics needed for the job of a producer:
- A desire and passion to make films or TV
- Strong project management and organizational skills
- Creative thinking and problem-solving ability
- Business experience
- Management experience
- Film production experience
- Great contacts
- Drive, persistence, and assertiveness
- Calm under pressure
Learn more about film crew roles in Jodie Foster’s MasterClass on filmmaking.