What is a Producer?Overview Training & Certification Skills, Knowledge & Attributes Career Paths Work Environment Compensation F.A.Q Explore Courses
What is a Producer?
Last updated: January 23, 2023
Michaelangelo Masangkay is a filmmaker, producer and drone pilot with more than 15 years’ experience in the independent film industry. He is Director of Production for the Toronto Film School’s film production program.
Producers in the entertainment industry have complex jobs as they manage almost every aspect of a production – think of them as the general manager of any production project. They make the business and financial decisions for a motion picture, TV show, commercial, or stage production. To be effective, they need to have developed a range of unique skills and attributes.
Perhaps most importantly, producers need to be business savvy and have an entrepreneurial approach to their work. They are often required to raise money for projects, hire the director and crew, which can include set and costume designers, film and video editors, musical directors and other workers. Producers set the budget and approve any major changes to the project. They make sure that the production is completed on time, and they are ultimately responsible for the final product.
With the ever-increasing consumer demands for content from streaming services, film studios and in the advertising industry, there are many more opportunities for those interested in becoming a producer in the entertainment industry. In particular, there is great demand for those in the role of line producer.
What is a line producer?
A line producer oversees all operations and logistics for a film and is often coupled with the title production manager or production supervisor, depending on the project. A line producer is an essential managerial position in the production of a movie, television series or commercial. This role is directly responsible for the financial aspects of a production and requires continuous review of the budget line-by-line. Line producers are involved in the hiring of crew, firming up locations, scheduling and overseeing day-to-day logistics and tracking deadlines.
A line producer is a hired producer who is the day-to-day operations manager who operates like a business owner. In some instances, there are producers who are rights owners to a film – that means they are also the owner of the intellectual property of the film.
A line producer “plugs in and plugs out” of a production – they deal with the pre-production process and come in once development is in place. They are not typically involved in post-production work.
Training & Certification
While there is no one certificate, diploma or degree that will land you a job as a producer, you can be hired to be a line producer if you acquire the necessary skills and experience and develop a good portfolio of work in the film industry. It’s important to gain experience in the industry in order to move up to producer status. Producers and directors typically need a bachelor’s degree or college diploma. They also typically need several years of experience working on set in film, TV, stage, or other productions in positions such as actors, film and video editors, or cinematographers or in related occupations, such as theater managers. Many producers study film or cinema where they learn about film history, editing, screenwriting, cinematography, and the filmmaking process.
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Many producers start as interns and production assistants and work their way up to production coordinators. To get noticed, do your best work and be willing to put in long hours where needed in a production, even if you don’t have a specific interest in that area of production. Stay curious and ask questions of producers on set and find out ways you can expand your portfolio of experience.
A good way to get experience is to seek out independent feature film productions that have multiple roles to get involved with and need eager newcomers to get the job done.
Look for relevant industry training programs that match experienced instructors with those working on productions in the field or organizations who are hiring and setting the standard for today’s film and television companies. For example, the film production program at Toronto Film School has teamed up with Amazon Studios and offers a comprehensive, targeted program. You will work on the kind of projects that Amazon is looking for and the curriculum is based on an Amazon production case study that follows the way the studio wants to see films delivered.
Skills, Knowledge & Attributes
While business management training is important, producers also need to have a keen and entrepreneurial spirit, which means they should be self-starters and possess many of the attributes of a business owner. You will need to consider every aspect of the production, especially if you have an equity stake in it or need to find financing for the film – it’s much like raising capital for, and operating, your own business.
You also need to be able to identify talent and ideally have talent gravitate toward you, and that includes creative talent in front of the camera or behind the camera.
Good producers are gregarious and sociable. The role also requires the attributes of a salesperson – sales skills are definitely a part of the job, whether you are trying to convince someone to dedicate financing to a production or dedicate their energy and their skills.
In a producer role you should be someone who enjoys spontaneity and thrive often in uncertain situations. Having the ability to motivate others and hold people accountable is critical as is having the ability to identify people who can deliver.
You don’t reach success as a producer without surrounding yourself with the right people who bolster your strengths or make up for your weaknesses. It’s important to be self-aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are and to find out how to make up for those weaknesses by working on those skills yourself or hiring people who can augment your own skills.
Try to keep in mind the skills that a producer needs and take positions that develop them. These skills include:
- Time management
- Financial and budget management
- Creative thinking
In a content driven society, now more so than ever before there are a variety of career paths for those in the film production industry. From studio productions to broadcast to commercials (advertising) or producing rich content for companies’ and organizations’ websites and social channels and beyond.
If a movie is a large-scale production, several producers often take responsibility for a specific area, with an executive producer overseeing these roles. On smaller productions, the producer is more likely to take a more hands-on approach.
Some roles that movie producers have on a movie set include:
Executive producer: This role oversees the other producers, collaborates with the movie director on the creative aspects of the producer role and has overall responsibility for the movie’s finances and budgets.
Co-producer: When there is more than one producer, the production team calls them co-producers. They may work as a team or take responsibility for a specific aspect of the movie’s development.
Assistant producer: This type of producer works closely with the executive producer or senior producers, assisting them in their roles.
Line producer: This job involves managing budgets, resource allocation and production staff while coordinating the film’s scheduling.
Supervising producer: These producers oversee the other producing roles and ensure everyone meets their responsibilities.
Coordinating producer: Coordinating the other producers to ensure they are communicating and collaborating effectively.
Segment producer: This type of producer takes responsibility for a specific segment of the movie’s production.
Visual effects producer: This person leads the visual effects team and takes responsibility for creating the movie’s graphics in post-production.
Some other career options include:
- Commercial producer
- Studio producer
- Assistant director
- Associate producer
- Broadcast producer
- Casting director
- Executive producer
- Independent filmmakers
- Music video producers
- Theatre company producers
Producers are often under pressure to finish their work on time. Most producers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week — but schedules vary.
Producing a film can be a demanding and physical job. You may work long hours talking with film executives, directors and editors so that you can create the best film possible, artistically and commercially. Managing a film’s financials and making sure that it keeps within a budget can also be difficult. You can expect to be in constant communication with other producers, industry talent and crew members as the production process continues to establish a critical balance.
Working as a producer can be stressful as you try to keep everything on track and ensure everyone involved is accountable for their piece of the production. But when a production ends successfully there is a great sense of accomplishment. Producer assignments may last from one day to a month or up to six months or a year or more, depending on the size of the production.
Producers usually negotiate compensation on a project basis. Several factors influence how much a producer earns, such as a production’s size, budget, studio involvement and movie location.
According to Talent.com, the national average for a line producer is $95,000 a year in Canada and some jobs go up to $154,000 or more.
A producer’s salary depends on the role and what is negotiated which is often dependent on the budget of the project and your experience.
Of course, salaries (the base amount of money paid for work on a production) and total compensation (what a producer might be entitled to in benefits, royalties and other revenue generated from a film) can soar for top producers. Top-earning Hollywood producers can bring home millions of dollars per film. Upfront fees of 2 million dollars are not unheard of, with the average studio producer earning $750,000 per film. First-time producers, meanwhile, have fetched $250,000 for a flick, according to an oft-cited 2017 report by The Hollywood Reporter.