We know the tangible skills of most people on set, but what about a producer? What exactly do they do?
Perhaps you're curious about the way the industry works, or you want to get into producing, or you just want some general knowledge. Regardless, you've come to the right place.
Producers are extremely important within film and television, but there's a lot of confusion about what they actually do and at what stage.
I spent my first three years in Los Angeles working for a producer, rising from assistant to Story Editor, executive produced my movie and was a consulting producer and associate producer on several television shows. So, I know a little bit about what we're talking about today.
We're going to go over different kinds of producers, follow their trajectory from film or TV idea to execution, and cover the career path people take to become producers.
What are the producer's responsibilities?
Want to know how movies and TV shows get made? Development. I know that "development hell" is something we all worry about, but your favorite TV shows and movies come from production companies that get scripts submitted to them. Interns or assistants read those scripts, write coverage, and if they're good, they go up the ladder to producers.
Producers then meet with the writers and try to find places to sell those scripts, as well as try to attach other talents like directors and actors to sweeten the deal.
Sometimes producers option intellectual property or get it from the public domain. Then they try to find writers or directors who can help push that project forward.
Once you have a producer on board, and they get the other people, hopefully, the project gets set up at a studio.
Then you're in...
At this moment, a producer tries to keep a film or TV show on or under budget. You don't want anything endangering it going into production, so you'll negotiate with agents, find actors who might work for cheap, and keep the project rolling so that nothing stops it.
Once your property is filming, the producer manages egos and expectations on set. There are lots of stories about tumultuous problems on set, from needing script doctors to directors freaking out, or being fired, the producer has to handle all this and more.
While in post, the producer helps the editors by watching cuts and providing notes. They also speak with the other producers and talents about ideas for reshoots and even new scenes that need to be written. They also try to keep it on budget with VFX and other elements.
A producer's job is never done. Even when the show is on the air or the movie is in theaters, the producer keeps an eye on the numbers. They make sure the marketing team is doing everything correctly and that the talent are happy with the public perception of the film. They also monitor meltdowns and now, with social media, reactions in real-time.
Different Kinds of Producers
Film and television is an expansive industry. Things need to be produced, and we're looking for producers to do it. But there are lots of different kinds of producers based on what each sector needs on the day-to-day. Let's go over some definitions of individual producer titles and see what they do.
The executive producer oversees all the other producers on the production. Many times, people are given an executive producer title on a film or show and are more hands-off. They're often the bigger names like your Spielbergs who are there more in name than anything. They usually help with the budget or just securing the financing for the project. When I was the EP on Shovel Buddies, I was super involved, but I was also the writer. So, I gave notes on which directors and cast I liked and talked about script changes to save budget.
Line producers are unsung heroes. They create the budget for the film or TV show. They also might manage the staff and daily challenges of production on a film or television show - sort of like a unit production manager.
Often called development producer, the supervising producer helps shepherd the project from idea to spec screenplay, through rewrites, to a shooting script. They also often become the executive producer or work in tandem with them to make sure the other producers get the project going.
When people use the general term "Producer," they're talking about the person who oversees every aspect of the filmmaking or television process. This person manages deadlines, egos, network executives, talent, and keeps the ship sailing.
The co-producer is the title for someone on the team of producers that help push the project forward. It can apply generally to anyone in this list.
The coordinating producer helps all the teams of producers on a particular project. For example, they'll wrangle the supervising producers to make sure development and the script are going well.
Associate producers, or AP's as they call us on set, coordinate the producer's life on set. They'll assist in scheduling, table reads, and the delivery and assembly of notes and ideas. When I was the associate producer on According to Chrisley and on Live from Comic-Con, most of what I did was help the consulting producers write the dialogue for the host and aid the segment producers with their tasks.
A consulting producer is basically the writer for a live or reality TV program. They contribute the words the host says in and out of segments, different joke lines, and help with the overall tone and feel of the show.
Segment producers handle the segments of a talk show or reality TV show. They produce things like "Carpool Karaoke" and "Conan Plays Video Games." They specifically work on new segments for each show and make sure they go smoothly.
A field producer leaves the studio and goes on location to help produce the segments or anything that happens outside of the studio or soundstage.
How do I become a producer?
How do you become a producer in film and television? There are many different pathways, but most people start off working as an assistant at an agency, management company, or production company. As an assistant, you get to see how movies and television shows come to life. It's an education in the way Hollywood works.
Eventually, you'd want to rise up the ranks and get yourself at a production company so you can work in development. That's where the ideas come in and where producers start the hard work. They have to pick a slate of projects they want to chase.
As you assist the producer, make your intentions of becoming a producer well-known. That way, hopefully, they'll mentor you and get you your first credits.
Can you become a producer without being an assistant?
The short answer is 'yes.' You can be appointed a producer on a movie or TV show if you pay for it. Or if the idea is yours and you help attached talent to get it made, you're a producer. As you've read, there are so many different kinds of producers that your best way in the door is seeing which kind makes the most sense for you, and trying to get a job working near them or for them to see if it still excites you.
My opinion is that the best way to get your dream job in the film industry is to start off with any job in the film industry. So knock on doors, try to get into the mailroom, and work your way up.
Or be a millionaire with a ton of seed money ready to invest in films or TV shows.
With the Academy limit on having only three producers on stage, should we have different categories for financial producers and creative producers?
Click the link to read the discussion.