Development Producer

Development Producer

aka: script developer, development executive

The development producer finds the scripts and stories for the screen. They are the first person on a project and only work during the development stage. This role is best for people interested in film business and requires skills such as pitching and research.

If you watch film credits, you will see a handful of producers on one project. These roles require different skills that help make a film. Below, we break down the role of the development producer, including career advice, salary, education, and career progress.

What is a Development Producer in Film?

Development Producers are responsible for finding scripts for TV shows and films. They can work as freelancers or for studios and television stations. In addition, streaming services may hire them to find and commission projects throughout the year.

The development producer has all the roles of a producer but with the added knowledge of what sells to an audience. As such, this is a senior job role that requires extensive knowledge of the film industry. They also work with various people to launch a project, from executive producers to screenwriters and assistants.

Development Producer Job Description

The development producer can find stories by hiring screenwriters, seeking out scripts, or adapting a story. If working for a TV channel, they will conduct audience research and look into data analytics. The project idea needs to be both entertaining and profitable.

Once they have an idea, they might hire a writers team to turn it into a screenplay. Alternatively, they will pitch the idea to screen executives for further investment. Part of their job is to know how to sell an idea and get people excited about their projects.

When they have a complete script, they might hand over the project to a producer who will begin film funding. However, many development producers are also producers and, as such, can cross over into pre-production. 

Development Duties

The development producer is the first person on a project. They start with extensive research to determine what type of story will sell well to a TV station or company. When they have an idea for a show, they pitch it to directors and producers. The pitch might take the form of a verbal presentation or include a demo reel to encourage interest.

The development producer stays with the project until the script is finalized. During this stage, they might work with the producer by hiring screenwriters to complete the concept. Their job ends when the producer starts work on finding the budget and hiring the above-the-line crew.

  • Audience research
  • Find ideas and scripts
  • Pitch and present ideas
  • Finalize the screenplay

Education and Skills

There are no specific education requirements to become a development producer. However, a degree in filmmaking is useful for teaching you the basics of film production. Many people start their careers as production assistants or runners.

The development producer must fully understand the filmmaking process from script to screen. They also need to learn research skills and how to break down a screenplay. Although they don’t budget the film, it’s helpful to understand the costs of making one.

Lastly, they need to pitch the idea to directors, producers, and executives. As freelancers, these producers will only get paid on greenlit projects, so they need to be good salespeople. Many producers juggle more than one project and have several ideas to pitch at once.

Key Development Producer Skills:

  • Screenwriting knowledge
  • Ability to carry out research
  • Organization and planning
  • Pitching and presenting ideas

Career Route

To get a foot into the industry, the development producer can begin in any entry-level role. They can start as office runners, script readers, or assistant producers. You will likely work on low-budget films before moving into higher budgets. Throughout your career, you will need to continue to learn about marketing and film audience trends.

When you have enough experience, you can apply for development roles. Keep in mind this job is a senior position and, as such, the end goal for many people. However, it’s possible to transition into other roles, such as producing or screenwriting, from this position.

Development Producer Salary

The development producer is in an above-the-line job role. If you work for a company, you will have a salary that depends on the scale of the company. For freelance roles, you will claim a percentage of the overall budget, which can be anywhere from 2-5%.

Unless you are working independently, it’s likely you will be part of a film union. If you work in America, being part of a union is integral to getting paid fairly. However, in the UK, producers don’t need to join a union but will need adequate experience to find work.

For reference, to join the Producers Guild of America, you will need a producer or production team credit on a major movie in the past five years. To gain this experience, you will need to have worked up from production assistant to more prominent roles.

Finding Work

At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. Another way to find work is to help out on independent films for work experience. It’s typical to start a producing career as a production assistant or runner. As mentioned, you might also find development roles as a development assistant, production office assistant, or script reader.

Finding work in the film industry relies heavily on networking and making contacts. After a few years of initial experience, you will be able to apply for roles on bigger productions. Once you are sure your goal is to work in development, you can tailor jobs to this area.

When working in development or producing, you will need to build up your knowledge and skills. It will take many years to gain the contacts and skills to start finding and pitching ideas. It’s also likely you will start on lower-budget projects.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, the development producer is the person who finds and pitches projects. They need a lot of knowledge about the industry and how to sell an idea. As such, this role is business oriented and requires knowledge of pitching, organisation, and budgeting.

Keep in mind that it is a senior role, and people spend years working up to this position. To begin your career, you can make your own short films to learn what it takes to make a film. We hope this guide has helped you learn more about this film role and if it is for you.

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