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The Job of the Producer


Written by: Maia Peters
Published: Feb 11, 2009

The entertainment industry is full of easily definable jobs, such as actor, director, writer, etc. It's much more difficult to define what a producer does, which may make it hard for writers to understand the point of view of the producer in relation to the script and writer. This is a brief overview of a producer's job.

The producer is the one who supervises and controls the finances, creation, and public presentation of a play, film, program, or similar work. The Producers Guild of America says, "A Producer initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls, either on his own authority, or subject to the authority of an employer, all aspects of the motion-picture and/or television production process, including creative, financial, technological and administrative. A Producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion, including coordination, supervision and control of all other talents and crafts, subject to the provisions of their collective bargaining agreements and personal service contracts." So, what does that mean?

Acquiring the Script

Generally, the first thing the producer has to do is find a property he/she wants to produce (if the producer is using InkTip, this is certainly not a problem!). Then all of the legalities of the option or sale of the rights have to be settled to all parties' satisfaction. This could involve working with entertainment attorneys, agents or managers, executive producers, the producer's bosses, and the writer.

Shopping the Script

The producer then has to find other people who like the script. Before he/she is able to do this, it is vital that the script is as good as it can be. The producer is taking a risk (putting his/her reputation on the line) every time someone sees the script. If it isn't up to industry expectations, it reflects poorly on the producer (which is why writers are so often asked to tweak their scripts).

The script must be shopped in order to raise enough support to greenlight it. This generally means that the producer must send out the script to numerous name actors, agencies, management companies, directors, financiers, distributors, other producers, studios, etc., follow up with everyone, and deal with each of their personal artistic or marketing concerns about the story, etc. A script can easily be submitted to a hundred people in the industry before it gets enough support to be given a go.

If a producer submits a script that might be a little below par and does this too many times (sometimes all it takes is once) with his/her contacts in the industry, the producer quickly loses credibility. When a producer gives a writer notes, it isn't just the producer's point of view of the story, or that the producer thinks the story could be improved or not. The producer knows what his associates will and will not go for. And the producer has to meet those needs regardless of artistic sensibilities in order to get the film made. Hence, lots of notes to the writer.

Preproduction

When a script is a go, the producer must then work to find all of the personnel for the shoot, from the line producers and production assistants to accounting, legal and insurance. All of the crew must fit in the budget and the producer must be sure that he/she can be confident in the crew, that they will all be part of the team of the film. This can be a harrowing process, particularly if the budget is low.

The producer must be sure that all the equipment needed for the shoot is set. All of the locations and sets must be approved by the director and any other producers or powers-that-be (the money guys). Do the actors have special needs (some have power to change the script, request a driver, or anything else that may come up)? What if the weather doesn't cooperate? And all of these must fit within the budget.

The Shoot

The shoot is actually the producer's least busy time of the process. Though he/she must be in crisis management mode (they may be needed on set, in the office, on the phone with the distributor, the script may need changing, a location may fall through, and the complaints from the neighbors are all things with which the producer must deal), it is the producer's hope that all of the elements he/she has painstakingly put into place are running smoothly, and more importantly, on schedule. Adding any more days of shooting will mean more money. Anything that goes wrong (and it always does) is the responsibility of the producer.

Postproduction

After everyone else gets to go home, the producer must see the film through to the end. This means wrapping up all loose ends, making sure everyone has been paid, the film is getting edited, the credits are complete and correct, the equipment has been returned… It is the producer's job to be sure the film is ready to be sent to its distributors.

There are a number of different kinds of producers, all of which may be employed on one film. The list below is from the Producers' Guild of America FAQ.

What does an Executive Producer do?
An Executive Producer supervises, either on his own authority (entrepreneur executive producer) or subject to the authority of an employer (employee executive producer) one or more producers in the performance of all of his/her/their producer functions on single or multiple productions. In television, an Executive Producer may also be the Creator/Writer of a series.

What does an Associate Producer do?
An Associate Producer performs one or more producer functions delegated to him/her by a producer, under the supervision of such producer.

What does a Co-Producer do?
Co-Producers are two or more functioning producers who perform jointly or cumulatively all of the producer functions as a team or group.

What does a Supervising Producer do?
A Supervising Producer supervises one or more producers in the performance of some or all of his/her/their producer functions, on single or multiple productions, either in place of, or subject to the overriding authority of an Executive Producer.

What does a Segment Producer do?
A Segment Producer produces one or more individual segments of a multi-segment production, also containing individual segments produced by others.

What does a Coordinating Producer do?
A Coordinating Producer coordinates the work of two or more individual producers working separately on single or multiple productions in order to achieve a unified end result.

What does a Line Producer do?
A Line Producer performs the Producer functions involved in supervising the physical aspects of the making of a motion picture or television production where the creative decision-making process is reserved to others, except to such extent as the Line Producer is permitted to participate. Unit Production Managers, who perform no more than the customary services of a Unit Production Manager should be credited only as such.

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