Understanding What a Film Producer Does in Film & TV
Every time you watch a movie, the end credits roll and you see the names of film producers leading the pack. Over the course of the closing credits, you will see so many different producer credits it can make your head spin. But what does a film or TV producer do exactly? And what are the different kinds of producers?
There are many different types of producers in film and television. Understanding the difference between associate producers or executive producers can help you understand the hierarchy in production. While the different producer roles and their producer job descriptions are not cut and dry, understanding them is critical if you want to work in film or television.
In this guide, we will break down the different types of producer titles, each type of producer duties, and producing jobs entail. By the end of this guide, you should have a good understanding of what producers actually do.
Table of Contents
- What is a film producer, exactly?
- What does a film producer do?
- Types of producers in film production
- What is an executive producer?
- What is a line producer?
- What is a co-producer?
- What is an associate producer?
- Difference between TV and movie producers
- How to become a producer?
What is a film producer, exactly?
A producer's role is centered around making films. In the words of Walt Disney:
We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.
A producer is a person who develops, plans, executes and markets a film. They will supervise and manage a film crew on commercials, feature films, web series, live theater, or television shows.
A producer could work for a production company, a studio, or for themselves. Producers oversee every phase of production, ranging from development and pre-production to post-production. They are in control of a film's finance, talent, and crew. They usually hold the rights and underlying intellectual property to the project.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of producers is projected to rise 5% from 2018 to 2028.
In a single sentence: a film producer is anyone who brings a project to reality.
What does a film producer do?
The role of the producer is to bring the idea to the big screens. A good producer essentially operates like a startup: they raise the project from incubation to fruition.
According to the Producer's Guild of America (PGA):
A Producer initiates, coordinates, supervises, and controls, either on his/her own authority or subject to the authority of an employer, all aspects of the motion picture and/or television production process, including creative, financial, technological and administrative. A Producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion, including coordination, supervision, and control of all other talents and crafts, subject to the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements and personal service contracts.
Producer job description & duties:
- Finding and securing the rights to formats, ideas, and scripts.
- Hiring team members, such as film directors, actors, managers, and heads of department.
- Budgeting and fundraising: A producer may need to raise the money personally, through investors, or from a studio.
- Managing the budget, and fundraising more money if it goes above the budget.
- Creating the shooting schedules.
- Managing post-production, including editing and music composition.
- Working with creative teams and PR firms to generate an audience for the film.
As you can see, a producer is a part of every process of filmmaking. Here is an in-depth look at what a film producer does:
Securing a Script
Producers are in charge of buying a script. When they buy film rights, this is called "optioning". The producer is buying the option to turn the material into a film.
A producer will hire a writer to write the screenplay. This is an important step to birth an idea that is worth shooting.
Bring on Key Talent
The producer is in charge of hiring a director, and attaching stars to the project.
Top-level producers will oversee the budget of the project. They will have close relationships with the film's financing.
The producer will hire all the right talent to staff up the project. At this point, the producer will bring in the heads of the department. At this stage, the budget, the shooting schedule, and script breakdown are solidified.
When the shooting is wrapped, the producer will see the project through post-production.
They will assemble an editorial team. The producer will stay on top of the final cut, VFX, color grading, and audio work.
The producer will need to market the project to the outside world. They can bring in PR firms to market the project. The talent will rejoin the project at this point and help publicize the movie.
Types of producers in film production
There are many types of producers in film and television. Here are some different types that we will take a deep-dive on:
- Executive producer
- Line Producer
- Associate producer
What is an executive producer?
An executive producer (EP) usually finances a project. They may assemble a core team for a project, but typically does not physically produce the project.
An executive producer supervises the other producers in the development of film, commercials, live theaters, or television. They make sure the film is done on time and within the technical standards.
Usually, the executive producer works at a high level. They might be a person who fundraised a good part of the film's funds. They might have secured the rights to a project.
In television, an executive producer may also refer to the creator/writer of a TV series.
In major productions, an executive may be a CEO or representative of a studio.
In indie projects, an executive producer may be the creator. They may also own source material they didn't write.
There may be more than one executive producer on a project who leads in different areas. For example, you may have an executive producer who manages the development, and another one to manage finance and production.
Executive producer job description & duties
- Supervise producers and ensure they are operating within union standards.
- Approve the talent.
- Maintain a budget.
- Approve the shooting schedule.
- Ensure production meets artistic and technical goals.
What is a line producer?
A line producer manages everything below the line. The line refers to the separation between producers, directors, actors, and casting, and the film crew. The majority of a film crew works below the line.
A line producer will supervise the physical aspect of a motion production. A Unit Production Manager (UPM) works hand-in-hand with a line producer to approve time cards, reviewing production reports, and approving call sheets.
Line producer job description & duties
- Helps the executive producer.
- Helps in hiring key talent.
- Keeps the budget and approves the shooting schedule.
- Manage other producers.
What is a co-producer?
A co-producer usually works below the executive producer. They will help with tasks like managing finances, hiring talent, and overseeing post-production. A co-producer will usually work with another producer or production. This title may be given to any key players who were instrumental in the project. These key players may including a department head or talent.
Co-producer job description & duties
- Oversee the project through post-production.
- Give massive value through their attachment, services, etc.
- Casting talent.
What is an associate producer?
An associate producer (AP) is a below-the-line producer that works under another producer. An associate producer may have a hand in the process, but not with physically producing it. This title is usually given to appease a writer, executive, rights holder, or someone that offers a vital favor.
An associate producer will vary largely based on the project. It may including coordinating set construction, supervising lighting, editing script, or operating a teleprompter. An associate producer is usually a part of a negotiation.
Associate producer job description & duties
- Writing or editing scripts for TV.
- Running teleprompters in newscasts.
- Handling bookings for TV.
- Pitching story ideas or helping editorial content on a series.
Difference with TV and movie producers
A television producer is different from a movie producer. Usually, the "executive producer" for TV is the "showrunner". They are the creative power of the series.
TV producers are tasked with developing concepts, raising funds, hiring staff, budgeting, and delivering a high-quality show. A producer on TV is usually less involved in the day-to-day, but more so in the creative process.
A TV producer will:
- Work with the showrunner.
- Introduce concepts and ideas to make the project better.
- Supervise other producers and ensure they work within union specifications.
- Hire key talent.
- Manage budget.
- Approve the shooting schedule.
How to become a producer?
A producer needs to know about every part of the filmmaking process to get started.
Some producers started as production assistants. Some start as secretaries. Some start as script readers.
The fastest way to learn the ropes of production is to immerse in the process. You will need to gain experience in productions, and know the roles and tools on-set. Regardless of where you start, learn as much as possible to add value to the production.
Producer jobs are broadly defined today. If you are a college student, try and shoot a short film with your peers. There is no better lesson than trying to create on a tight budget.
A producer is a leader on set. They are well-prepared. They need to know how to organize all the elements of filmmaking. Practice and develop your skills by spending as much of your time on set as possible. As long as you work hard, you will have the opportunity to produce your dream project.