unit production manager

Unit Production Manager

aka: film production manager, production manager

The unit production manager takes care of the business side of film production. They are responsible for the budget, shooting schedule and oversee the below-the-line crew. 

It takes hundreds of people to make a film. So, every job role is essential in ensuring the film day runs smoothly and stays on schedule. One of these important roles is the unit production manager, who assists the producer as the chief admin in the production office. 

On this page, you can find a complete unit production manager job description. We’ll also discuss the job role skills, education, pay, and work route options. 

What is a Unit Production Manager?

The unit production manager (or UPM) is in charge of managing the film set. Their responsibilities include budgeting, scheduling, organizing, and general project maintenance. They also look after the below-the-line crew, which includes all none creative job roles on a film set.

They work directly under the line producer and producer. During production, you can find them in both the office and on set. Working as a unit production manager is often a stepping stone to the producer role. 

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. They help the producer organize and set up for production. Without one, the producer would have way too much work. So, if you want a well-organized film set, the role of the unit production manager is essential. 

The unit production manager 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.

Unit 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. They 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 UPM 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, including feature films and high end TV. Even low-budget films will benefit from hiring one. 

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 they 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 film budget
  • 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 shooting 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

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 they know 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 
  • Organization and planning skills
  • Budgeting and project scheduling
  • Team player and leadership skills
  • Networking and building relationships

Unit Production Manager Career Route

The unit 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 production coordinator 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. Also, you can also work in TV and other video content. Finally, there is always the chance to move up into higher job positions.

  • Runner
  • Production coordinator
  • Unit production manager
  • Line producer
  • Producer

Unit Production Manager 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, a day rate for a feature film of $1 million is $430. So, for the average 6-day work week a UPM will make $2580. However, you can still ask for more based on the job and your experience.

Finding Work

At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film sets. For example, the entry-level roles for unit production managers are PA or runner. It would also help to find work specifically in a production office.

You can find work on film job sites and by networking in the film industry. Producers will likely ask you back to join them on future projects if you do a good job.

The good thing about the role is that it’s easy to navigate. After you have enough experience as a PA, you can work up to more responsibility in the production office. In addition, you can progress from unit production manager to producer.

US 🇺🇸UK 🇬🇧
Entertainment CareersPMF Jobs
Entertainment Careers advertises jobs in the film and TV industry across the US. It specializes in work for production companies in the Los Angeles region. Their website makes it easy to narrow down your search by job type, experience level, media sector, and location.The production manager forum is a website for theatre and event PMs. They primarily advertise work for theatre and shows but also some small film projects. Still, they can offer advice and are a great resource for those interested in this job.

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. 

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