The writer writes the movie, the director directs it. So, what does a producer do, and why are they such a big deal?
In reality, producers can wear many hats, but are ultimately responsible for the logistics of a film production. From securing financing and hiring crew, to overseeing the entire film production process, the producer’s work is never complete. They are the problem-solvers, a jack-of-all-trades.
Once a film has wrapped, the producer will then move onto marketing the movie, plus coordinate its release and distribution to its audiences.
Some productions will have multiple producers who all have differing responsibilities. One producer may oversee the financial elements of the production, or merely be an investor. Another producer may work closely with the creative team, such as the director and writer, to bring the film vision to life.
Most of the time, you will find a producer on a film set, actively involved in the day-to-day running. In short, without them, there would be no production in the first place.
What is the Role of the Producer?
Responsibilities During Pre Production
Producers can either have an idea of their own, in which they may decide to hire a screenwriter to pen the script. Or they’ll option a pre-existing script/idea from a writer. If they are a writer-producer, they’ll write the movie or television show themselves. Either way, they are at the birth of the idea and the project.
At these early stages of development, the producer’s job is to collect investment and cultivate a solid creative team around them. Usually the writer will come first, before a director is attached (yes, a director is very different to a producer). From there, actors are sought for the various roles, as well as a cinematographer.
Some producers will be attached to a production company or studio, and some will be independent freelancers. So, either the investment will be available through the studio, or will need to be sought individually.
In order to peak the attention of investors, producers will need to compile a pitch document from which to convey their vision. This can be done in conjunction with the writer and director, who will also have a key creative role.
Heads of department will be recruited. The art department, special and visual effects (if applicable), costume, hair and make-up, production. From there, these heads of department will hire for their own teams.
During pre-production, the producer should be meticulously planning the production period. This not only includes the crew, but also signing off on design, the script itself, the schedule, budgets and approving locations, cast and props.
So, if they’re in charge of the budget, how does a producer get paid? Unlike the crew members they hire, producers receive set fees throughout the production: a development fee for their participation in pitching and developing a project.
Secondly, they’ll receive a production fee, which will only be paid if the project moves forward. The amount depends on the producer’s experience and their track record with past projects. The production payment isn’t paid all at once, but is split into percentages throughout the duration.
Finally, producers are eligible for a cut of the film’s profits (after payments to movie theaters, creditors and production costs have been settled). Again, this depends on how successful the film is and the reputation of the producer.
Responsibilities During Production
Once investment and the crew have been secured, and all pre-production is complete, the producer’s responsibilities shift. They remain the point of contact for all departments, but are mainly working alongside the creative team to bring the vision of the project to life. This includes the production designers and casting agents.
In terms of over-seeing budgets and schedules, these would be the responsibility of a line-producer who wouldn’t have the same level of contact with the creative team.
As we mentioned in our introduction, producers are problem-solvers, and so will be the go-to during production. Hopefully most issues will be foreseen and solved prior to the camera rolling, but something will always go wrong, however big or small the problem.
Responsibilities During Post Production
Once the camera stops rolling, the producer will liaise with the director and post-production team to edit, add visual effects, embed the score and mix the sound.
Sometimes further funding is required for these final steps in the project’s production, so the producer will go back and raise further investment. During which time, they also prepare for the film or show’s release. As the over-seer of the entire project, the producer has the final say on the finished product.
Preparation for release consists of arranging preview screenings for key players within the industry, coordinating with distributers and organizing the project’s marketing. Throughout production, they will have been in touch with their key contacts within the industry – this is a great opportunity to update them and hype them up for the movie’s release.
After all, the film industry is business. Anyone who has invested their money in the project will be expecting to make a return on their investment.
What are the Different Types of Producers?
Multiple producers, you say? Often when we watch movie credits, there are many names under the producer umbrella. Some producers are given specific titles.
Let’s take the record-breaking multiple 2023 Oscar winner Everything, Everywhere All at Once (2022)and the equally stunning Elvis (2022) as we break down the different types of producers that can collaborate on a film production.
Executive producers are usually one of the top credited and have often made a notable monetary investment into a production. Alongside their own investment, they’ll be securing additional speculation and will oversee accounting and legal concerns.
The difference between an executive producer and other producers is that the exec normally supervises the others. They could be independent or work for a film studio, the financiers of the producers or the distributor, depending on the project. In smaller productions, the executive producer could also be the writer or creator who owns the source material.
In the case of Everything, Everywhere All at Once, lead actress Michelle Yeoh is also credited as executive producer alongside Team Headington, Todd Makurath, Theresa Steele Page, and Josh Rudnik.
Executive producers don’t tend to be involved in the day-to-day activities on set. To find out even more about the role of an executive producer, click here!
Creative producers are the artistic partner of the director. They are heavily involved in hiring cast and crew, advising on script changes, and communication between artistic departments.
Line producers focus on logistics, keeping a close eye on schedules and budgets throughout the entire production. They usually liaise between other producers and ensure that the overall production is working within union regulations.
Co-producers work with other producers, usually with raising money or in conjunction with another producer’s responsibilities.
Usually, co-producers will bring something crucial to the production, such as equipment, a unique service, access to a specific location, etc. We would refer to the co-producer position as being ‘above the line’, meaning they are able to make high-level decisions or are significant in the talent standing within the crew.
The credited co-producers for Everything, Everywhere, All at Once were Allison Rose Carter, Sarah Halley Finn and Jon Read. It’s also important to note that Sarah Halley Finn is also listed as the casting director, so is a perfect example of a co-producer having a vital role in an element of production. In this case, it’s casting.
An associate producer will normally be hired ad-hoc to complete outstanding tasks for the production. It’s normally a negotiated credit, reserved for people who offer something small but vital to the filmmaking process, usually a writer, production executive or a rights holder.
Associate producers don’t necessarily have a specific role, but can participate in anything from pitching, revising and shot selections to handling promotions and bookings. They are what we would refer to as ‘below-the-line’ with extremely limited access to high-level decisions.
For example, Elliott Wheeler is credited as associate producer for Elvis, but also oversaw music for the film.
What Qualifications Do You Need to be a Producer?
Producers often start out in other roles within the industry, such as actors, writers, directors, or another member of the production crew. Experience and knowledge, as well as an awesome reputation, will set you off on the right foot.
If you’re just starting out and have your sights on becoming a producer, trainee or assistant positions are a great place to begin. Many producers start as runners and production assistants. The key is building your experience on a film set and to fully understand how it works.
Producers also need to know the whole of the production process from start to finish, and who, most of all, are enthusiastic about it. As the figurehead of the whole project, the producer is assertive, optimistic, and creative. They inspire the entire production: cast and crew.
With all the responsibility comes an equal measure of stress. With tight deadlines, long working hours, and a never-ending to-do list, being a producer requires a large amount of organization and self-motivation. They must be confident in compiling budgets, discussing and negotiating finance, as well as have a clear creative vision.
As you collaborate, make sure to network and build up a list of contacts on whom you can call and work with in the future. You can do this in person and also online through LinkedIn, social media, or through filmmaking groups.
Of course, you could embark on a filmmaking degree, however, this is not for everyone. Check out our post on film schools and whether they’re right for you, here.
Aside from this, build a portfolio from your own projects or those you’ve worked on. You can then easily and effectively showcase your best work to financiers or studios.
What Challenges Do Producers Face?
Self-motivation for a producer is a must-have, as well as the motivation of a cast and crew who may not always see eye-to-eye. This is where the producer has to step in and resolve any lapses in communication.
A clear and diplomatic communication style is vital for a producer, despite any challenges they may face. They aren’t afraid to say no when they have to.
Funding is also becoming more of a problem in modern-day Hollywood. With less money available within the public sector halting public-funded projects plus the reduction in development funding, it’s becoming harder for producers to get their projects off the ground.
Social media has become a fantastic strategy in combating the funding problem. A strong social media strategy is not to be sneered at in raising attention and money for a film. For example, Paranormal Activity (2007) cost only $15m to make due to producer Orin Pelli’s online strategy in the lead up to its release.
At the top of the film production pyramid sits the producer. They oversee, plan, and manage every aspect of the filmmaking journey, from inception to release. This wealth of responsibility means they must be personable, organized, and motivational both in themselves and for the cast and crew around them.
Most producers start their journey as a production assistant or runner, learning the ropes of a film set and what is involved in the process of making a film. It’s a job that relies on several years’ worth of knowledge and experience.
Such knowledge and experience are still in demand with the rise of streaming services and the thousands of hours of content available. The hunger for new films, shows, games, and web content is ever-growing, so it’s an exciting time for those already working in the industry, and those eager to and who are working towards breaking in.
If you are looking to become a producer, start to build a portfolio of smaller projects now, network as much as you can, and gain experience on a film set. Whether you’re a writer and produce something of your own, or you work with a peer on their project, there’s always a place to start.