How to become a film producer
How to become a film producer

What is a Film Producer? Essential Career Guide

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A film producer is a job role everyone has heard of but most people don’t understand what a producer does. In simple terms a producer is the head of the production team – they oversee the making of the entire film.

Often it’s the producer who finds the story, hires the director and secures a film’s budget. They are the highest-paid crew member and can work for many years on a single project.

This article breaks down how to become a film producer, including details on education, training and salary expectations.

What Does a Film Producer Do?

1. Pre-production

The film producer finds the film’s story. They either find the screenplay or adapt a story for the screen (for example, a film based on a novel). The producer then hires the key crew members, including the director and lead actors. However, the producer’s most difficult job is to find the production budget.

They might do this through film council schemes such as Creative England’s iFeatures, approaching production companies or finding private investors.

2. Production

When the film reaches production the film producer will make sure that the film stays on schedule and within budget. Often they spend their days in the production office, holding meetings and making occasional trips to set. All major changes will go through the producer first, this includes any costly purchases or changes to the script.

3. Post-production

During post-production, the film producer watches over the edit and works alongside the marketing team to get the film ready for release. They may also organise test screenings to make sure that the film connects well with its audience. Changes may be made to the film based on these initial test screenings.

4. Distribution

The film producer will also be present throughout the distribution process, mainly keeping a close eye on the box office numbers. A film should ideally make its money back for investors and hopefully make a profit too.

Film Producer Responsibilities

A producer has a wide role that includes many different duties. For example::

  • Securing funding for the production and keeping it within the allocated budget
  • Reviewing initial ideas and finished scripts
  • Hiring key staff, including the director and crew
  • Securing rights to novels, plays or screenplays
  • Overseeing the production by organising shoots, fixing problems and holding regular meetings
  • Pitching to broadcasting companies
  • Working with marketing companies and film distributors
  • Ensuring correct health and safety and production insurance
  • Ensuring that the final project is delivered on deadline

A producer’s duties will depend on the scale of the project, with some being tasked to other crew like supervisors or line producers.

What Kinds Of Producers Are There?

If you watch the credits of any television show or film, you’ll notice that there are many different jobs that have ‘producer’ in their title. In order of importance, here are some of the different roles and what they include:

  • Executive Producer – oversees all the other producers working on the project. Alternatively, this can be a financier or key member of the production (e.g an actor).
  • Co-executive Producer – almost as senior as the executive producer. They manage staff and are also involved with the scriptwriting process.
  • Supervising Producer – assists in the creative process of the production. Includes table discussions and scriptwriters
  • Producer – oversees and manages the production process at every stage (a co-producer carries out the same roles in larger productions where more than one producer is required)
  • Production Coordinator – They coordinate the tasks of separate producers working on the same project
  • Assistant Producer – carries out tasks at the request of the producer. They can be involved in coordinating the jobs of others on the team.

Education and Training

Firstly, if you’re interested in pursuing the producer job role you will need to build up a lot of experience first. Many film producers start out as runners and then work up the production team going from production coordinator to manager. 

The line producer is the producer’s chief assistant helping them complete the many tasks during production. Training within a production office allows you to watch professional film producers in action.

Alternatively, you can start out producing your own films straight away learning through hands on practice. Making your own low budget film will teach you the complete filmmaking process from script and screen.

Formal education is not necessary to become a film producer but many successful producers have studied film. Film schools such as the NFTS have short workshops for specific film crew roles. Gaining some on-set experience as a runner or production assistant would also be helpful.

Finding Paid Work 

Once you have some initial work experience as a film producer you can begin to search for paid work. Your first paid job might be as a production assistant or production secretary.

You could also try working as a film producer for independent films producing low budget projects such as short films or music videos. Film producing work will be self-employed but you might find full-time jobs in TV or commercial production.

Like all film crew jobs, finding work is often down to who you know and from recommendations. Build up your reputation by gaining plenty of experience and networking with others in the industry. You can find your first film job through sites such as Shooting People, Stage 32 and on our own film jobs page.

Salary Expectations 

The film producer is often the first person on a project and the last to leave. As such a producer is typically the highest-paid crew member receiving 5% of the overall production budget.

At the start of a producer’s career, they might only make minimum wage as a production assistant. Their wage will increase the more responsibility they are given in the production office.

It’s only when a film producer secures funding and a project is ‘greenlit’ that they get their first paycheck. It will take many years of training to be trusted to produce major budget feature films.

Film Producer – Wrapping Up

In short, the job of a film producer is especially tough and requires a lot of time and commitment to the film industry. The role is both business and creative, for the right person it could prove to be an interesting and profitable career.

Amy Clarke
Amy Clarke
I blog about Careers in the Film Industry. Former Script Supervisor.

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