If you have ever watched a film until the credits roll, you would have likely seen the massive list of creative talent that goes into bringing a film to the big screen. Moviegoers will instantly recognize the names of a film’s leading acting performers, such as Tom Hanks and Zendaya, or a prominent director, such as Steven Spielberg.
But when it comes to names such as Louis D’Esposito, or Victoria Alonso – two top-grossing executive producers in the film and TV industry – they don’t have the same star power.
Executive producers deserve more recognition! But maybe part of the reason they don’t get the recognition they deserve is that their roles and responsibilities are often unknown to the average person.
So what does an executive producer do?
As a general rule, executive producers are tasked with securing screenplays for development purposes. They present proposals to television commissioners and manage the television series’ legal, financial, and promotional aspects. Acting as the face of the production, they have ultimate decision-making authority.
So as you can see, from figuring out what makes a good story, to securing financing and putting together a creative team to post-production and their involvement in marketing activities to promote the film, the executive producer’s contribution is immense.
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For the remainder of this article, we will spotlight the executive producer’s role, function and how it differs from other vital roles in video production, such as the producer.
What Does an Executive Producer Do?
The true meaning and purpose of the executive producer is typically to be the head honcho of a tv production, guiding it from inception to completion. Nonetheless, the extent of their responsibilities may vary depending on several factors. On occasion, the title of executive producer may be an honorary one.
Generally, it is rare for an executive producer to take an active role in more than one of these aspects in a single project. To further explain the role, we look to the Producers Guild of America, which states that an executive producer is someone who has either:
Secured an essential and proportionally significant part (no less than 25%) of the financing for the motion picture/project, or has made a significant contribution to the development of the literary property, typically including the securement of the underlying rights to the material on which the motion picture/project is based.
In most cases, it is not unusual for a project to have multiple executive producers. To reference previous examples, Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso have collaborated on countless high-profile Marvel Stuido projects as executive producers.
In instances where more than one executive producer is listed, it is likely that they handled separate phases of the project (i.e. one contributed to financing, while another took an active role in the production stages of the project).
Being an executive producer is a demanding job and requires a great deal of commitment either financially or in time spent on the project. As a result, it is a role that requires considerable thought before pursuing it as a career choice.
What’s the Difference Between a Producer and an Executive Producer?
The role of the executive producer is often conflated with that of the producer, but they’re different. A producer is an individual who oversees the production of a project whether it’s film, TV, theater, or radio. Producers are instrumental in getting projects into development, either by developing an original concept of their own or by acquiring already existing material to develop into a final product (i.e. a book, play, or screenplay). But what about the executive producer?
What Skills Do You Need to be an Executive Producer?
A frequently asked question is, do you need a college or university degree to become an executive producer? The short answer is no. Although a degree linked to film, TV, or theater can be helpful, it certainly isn’t the only way to obtain the necessary skills to become an executive producer.
Brian Minchin, an executive producer who has worked on British programs such as Doctor Who and Torchwood, stated in a 2015 interview that being an executive producer “…isn’t about aiming for a particular path, but is about learning what you really want to make and what you really love.”
Both a passion and knowledge of the industry you are working in are key. However, this knowledge goes beyond the confines of what a standard educational course can teach you. Every forum or industry outlet provides information on or deals with the recruitment of executive producers, and lists the prerequisite industry experience. Many websites go as far as to say that to become an executive producer you must first be a ‘seasoned professional.’
The term experience can be a frustrating one, as it raises the question of how can someone get experience if they can’t even get their first production credit? The answer can be found in the IMDb pages of some of the industry’s top executive producers.
Brian Minchin worked as a production assistant on various independent short films at the start of his career, while Louis D’Esposito worked as an assistant director in a variety of feature films and Victoria Alonso specialized in visual effects. The most successful executive producers are those who have worked their way up through the industry, holding many jobs along the way.
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Alongside this passion, knowledge, and experience, an executive producer must also have the more practical skills of budgeting and negotiation. In some cases, the money an executive producer brings to a production comes from external sources. It is the executive producer’s job to not only secure the desired amount of money from investors, but also to ensure that it is distributed in the most cost-effective way.
Knowledge of marketing, the ability to organize and delegate others, as well as ensuring that deadlines and budgets are met, are all indicators of success for an executive producer.
Alright. So, it’s clear that an executive producer must work tirelessly through the ranks, have substantial film experience and soft skills, and adopt substantial responsibility in financing a film. But what about the benefits? What does the executive producer receive in return?
How Much Do Executive Producers Get Paid?
Like any job in video production, the salary of an executive producer can vary. Since executive producers are often responsible for securing a large portion of the project’s budget, an executive normally gets paid a percentage of the project’s profits. If the executive producer has self-funded the project, there is even a chance that they could lose money in the event of a project underperforming.
According to Indeed.com, as of 2022, the average executive producer salary is $69,773 USD. However, this number is influenced heavily by the number of projects an executive producer is involved in, the success of a film project, and profit sharing. Throughout their careers, Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso, for example, have amassed fortunes of over worth millions of dollars through their successful work with Marvel Studios.
An executive producer is an experienced role in a production project. Being responsible for a large percentage of the project’s budget or taking a leading role in a key aspect of video production, means adopting a great deal of responsibility. From negotiating and budgeting to marketing and management, the job is demanding but can nevertheless lead to working with top creative talent, and offer great financial rewards.
For all that the executive director does to make a film production a success, even if the audience doesn’t recognize their name when the credits roll, the cast and crew most certainly will!