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Arts & Entertainment

What Is the Difference Between a Producer and Director?

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 5, 2020 • 4 min read

Filmmaking is a complex process with many moving parts and dozens of roles to fill. The director and producer roles are the most pivotal positions on set. Strong coordination and teamwork between these positions are necessary to successfully create a motion picture film.

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What Is a Film Producer?

A movie producer is the person responsible for finding and launching a project; arranging the film’s financing; hiring screenwriters, a director, and key members of the creative team; and overseeing all elements of pre-production, production, and post-production, right up to the film’s release.

Most producers actively work on the film set, overseeing production logistics from start to finish, in close collaboration with the director. However, some producers hold the title in name only, in exchange for ceding rights to the story, for example, or contributing financing to the film. Learn more about the responsibilities of a movie producer in our comprehensive guide here.

What Does a Film Producer Do?

A film producer serves multiple functions during the pre-production, production, and post-production process:

  • Gathers financing for the film. During pre-production, the producer works to gather funding for the film. The producer will assemble a small creative team to help package the film’s pitch to production companies and studios. 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.
  • Helps recruit key crew. The producer works to find a director (if one isn’t already attached to the project), and may reach out to a few big-name actors for the leading roles. The producer will work with the director to bring on key creative partners such as a cinematographer (director of photography), a production designer, casting agents, and other crew members. The producer will also hire a line producer to put together a budget and schedule.
  • Manages logistics. The producer manages logistics and business operations on a film set, supervises all aspects of physical production through the production staff, and keeps production on schedule and under budget.
  • Establishes marketing plans. The producer makes the key decisions on marketing plans, including public relations, advertising, distribution, and release.
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What Is a Film Director?

A movie director is a person who determines the creative vision of a feature film, television show, play, short film, or other production. The director must have complete artistic control of a project. In addition to having a strong grasp of technical knowledge taught in directing classes, they should also have a personal or emotional connection to the material. Learn more about the role of a film director in our guide here.

What Does a Film Director Do?

A film director has a variety of responsibilities before, during, and after film production:

  • Assembles a production team. A director will partner with the producer to assemble a core production crew featuring a line producer, production designer, location manager, cinematographer, and assistant director. Once the main staples of the film crew come together, the rest of the departments gradually fill in as production develops.
  • Creates a vision for the film and communicates it to the crew. A director establishes a visual language for their film, and shares it with the crew members in charge of making it a reality. The director meets with the camera, electrical, and music departments to discuss specific components of production like lens choice, lighting, and music. It is important for directors to speak the language of every on-set department so they can successfully communicate their needs for the film.
  • Makes casting choices. A director can decide which actors are right for the roles in their film. Before choosing the cast, a director usually makes sure the actors understand the story, and helps them possess the techniques, or talents, to embody the character.
  • Guides the actors through scenes. During filming, a director helps inform and shape the actor’s performances. The actors should always be on the same page as the director about who the characters are and what the characters want in each scene.
  • Ensures every department is doing its job. A director is often most familiar with every part of the production. Directors should routinely check in with the heads of every department to communicate their needs, and ensure that their creative vision properly translates to the big screen.
  • Gives notes to the editor. After filming the shooting script, the editor will cut and assemble the raw footage shot by a director into a cohesive story. The director will then break down the footage to find the shots, angles, and takes that add the most meaning to the story to create the final product.
  • Check-in with post-production teams. A director works with the sound design team, the music supervisor, and the visual effects team to ensure every post-production decision is in line with their overall vision. When all the pieces are in the right place, the director is in charge of giving the final signoff. A director usually has complete creative control that allows them to determine when a project is finished.

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What Is the Difference Between a Producer and Director?

The main difference between a producer and a director is that a producer will handle the business components of filmmaking, while the director is mostly concerned with the creative aspects of the entire production. The producer can provide feedback or pitch creative elements, but their role is usually more concerned with logistics. Similarly, a director may also have a hand in deciding certain logistical aspects, like scheduling shoot days, and creatively stretching the budget. Their roles can sometimes overlap, but ultimately, a producer’s job is to provide support and accessibility, so a director can execute the vision of the film.

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