unit production manager

Unit Production Manager

In this article, we break down the role of the unit production manager. The UPM (also known as the film production manager) takes care of the business side of film production. 

Watch the end of any film’s closing credits, and you will see hundreds of job roles. If you want to work in the film industry, you will need to understand these roles and their responsibilities. 

Many people start in this role, working their way up the career ladder to higher job positions. Below is a complete unit production manager job description, with advice on education, skills and career growth. 

What Does A Unit Production Manager Do?

The unit production manager is one of the producer’s key assistants. 

On any film set, the producer has a lot of work to do. Not only do they need to work with the director but also guide a whole crew and get everything ready for filming. Because of this, the producer hires many assistants to help them prep and run the set during filming.

One of their assistants is the unit production manager. The UPM helps the producer organize and set up for production. Without a UPM, the producer would have way too much work. So, if you want a well-organized film set, the role of the UPM is essential. 

The UPM is also a below-the-line job role; this is a term for all people on a film set who do not have a leading creative position. They work in the production office but will also work directly on set.

Production Manager Job Description  

The unit production manager’s job description will vary on every project. However, on most projects, they will start work with a script breakdown and help hire crew members. The UPM will work directly under the producer and line producer.

In addition to this, they will help hire equipment, create the filming plan and make sure that everyone has an updated script. The film production manager works mainly during pre-production because this is when they do most of their organizational work.

Any medium to large film set will have a unit production manager. Such as feature films and high-end TV. Even low-budget films will benefit from hiring one. They take care of the cost during filming and write production reports.

Pre-Production Duties

Firstly, the unit production manager will make a filming plan and help find resources to make the film. For example, one of their jobs is finding locations and organizing a time for filming. Then the UPM will work with a team to hire the crew and manage the cast. Finally, they will arrange travel and housing for the cast and crew before filming.

  • Finding and arranging locations
  • Creating a shooting schedule
  • Making an initial budget plan
  • Helping to hire and organize the crew
  • Setting up cast and crew travel

Production Duties

Secondly, the unit production manager will look over the filming plan and spending. During filming, the UPM will work both in the production office and on set. Furthermore, they will do all they can to make sure the film production schedule goes to plan. To do this, they will work closely with a production team. Lastly, they will create production reports at the end of every filming day.

  • Leading a team of office assistants
  • Manage the production spending
  • Creating film releases and paperwork
  • Overseeing after the film schedule
  • Creating end of day reports

Job Role Education and Skills

The unit production manager needs a variety of skills throughout their career. To begin with, they can get a film or media degree. There are lots of film production courses and online courses that teach the basics of filmmaking. It’s important that the UPM knows the ins and outs of how to make a film.

Another way, to learn the job role is through work experience. Such as starting out as an intern, PA or runner. In this role, it is typical to start at the bottom of the career ladder and work up. By doing this, they can learn by watching others do the job.

To succeed in this role, you will also need to learn new skills. For example, organizational and health and safety skills. This is also a teamwork position, and you will need to work with many people throughout your career.

Like with all roles, the unit production manager will need to network and make contacts in the industry.

  • Full knowledge of filmmaking 
  • Organisation and planning skills
  • Budgeting and project scheduling
  • Team player and leadership skills
  • Networking and building relationships

Unit Production Manager Career Route

The film production manager plays a central role in the film industry. Most people in this role will work up to it from entry-level positions. In particular, this means job roles such as film runner and PA. It’s also a good idea to gain office work training, as you will spend a lot of time in the production office.

After basic training, you can begin working towards the role by first working as a production coordinator. In this role, you will also organize and plan the film shoot. Although, the PC will spend all their time in the office while the UPM works with the producer on and off set.

After this role, you qualify as a unit production manager. You now have enough training to work in the film industry. Furthermore, the UPM can also work in TV and other video content. Finally, there is always the chance to move up into higher job positions.

Career Growth  

The unit production manager can also step into a producer role. In this role, you are in charge of the whole film and work on the project from start to finish. Because of this, the producer is the leading role on any film set. Plus, they are the highest paid of all crew members.

Your training as a UPM will help you move into the assistant producer role. After assisting, you can start to find work as a producer on film and TV projects. Furthermore, trained producers can move up to work as executives and showrunners.

So, as you can see, there are many ways you can use your knowledge to work in higher job roles.

Salary 

The day rate of all film industry crew members depends on the project type and budget. So, you will get less pay for a low-budget indie film than for a high-end TV project. If you look at our crew rates, you can see how the rates change depending on budget and job role. Of course, your pay will also take into account your personal experience. 

The unit production manager position is a medium-level role, which means you will get paid more than a runner but less than a producer. For example, on a TV show, a fully trained film production manager will receive between £200-£300 per day. Whilst on a feature film this rate might increase to £400 per day. You can find updated advice on day rates by BECTU

Wrapping Up

To sum up, we hope this production manager job description and role breakdown are helpful! If you are looking for a way into the film industry, perhaps think about working towards this job role.

This career is perfect for people who enjoy planning and teamwork. Better still, if you succeed in this role, you can start to apply for producer positions.