Becoming a Producer – Tried and Tested Career Paths

June 12, 2015

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the nature of what a movie production—specifically, how to become a movie producer, which continues to be a difficult role to surmise in just a few lines.

Having explored the job in greater depth, today we’re going to move onto a natural follow-on question:

What’s The Best Career Path to Become a Film Producer?

As with many jobs in film, there’s a degree of interchangeability within the industry—training in one field can often be carried over into different roles, and freelancers who have built up a network of contacts can sometimes find themselves filling in for other members of a production team.

That said, there are some very definite career paths that are well-trodden for those who are looking to become producers (despite the job itself being a mish-mash of responsibilities.) Here’s a break down of some of the best starting points:

Have Money

Okay, this is admittedly a little flippant, but there is a real message here: producing movies is all about cold, hard cash. If you’ve got a lot of it yourself, you can instantly become a film producer the second you commit some of it to your first project.

But this leads onto the main point about producing; assuming you’re not a multi-millionaire with some spare cash lying around, you’ll instead need to convince others that they should give you money and that it’ll be safe in your hands.

For that, you’ll want the most direct career path into film producing, which would be:

Producing School

Formal training at a top producing school is the most efficient way of letting potential investors know that you’re not a rookie, and not as much of a big gamble when it comes to laying down money.

When you come out of producing school, you’ll be able to hit the ground running with intimate knowledge of the business side of filmmaking (as well as key skills such as how to construct and manage a budget, putting together a crew, and negotiating contacts.) It’ll also give you a broader understanding of the industry as a whole—meaning you’re equally as adept at doing work on a TV documentary series as a big feature film—being able to prove you’ve got the chops for it is usually the deciding factor when it comes to landing your first producing job and snowballing your career.

Business School

There’s a reason why movie producers are often referred to as “suits.”

Since film production is remarkably similar to running a business, a slightly less direct career path—but one that is no less effective—is to get a degree in business management or similar before networking your way into the film industry from the outside. A minor in marketing or PR can also help in this regard, both in terms of being able to market your own skills and also to successfully promote any movie you’re in charge of.

Junior Production Positions

Between formal education and on-the-job training, one of the most tried and tested methods of making it in film production is to start off in a junior role and work up.

Seek out work as either an associate or segment producer to get yourself started; the former involves handling day-to-day duties during principal photography, while the latter has a great degree of autonomy over a single part of the script. Both are fairly junior roles and the job market is reasonably open to beginners who have qualifications under their belt, so it’s a good place to start climbing the career ladder and working your way up to more senior positions within a production team.

Jumping From Sideline Post-Production Jobs

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, a lot of skills you’ll learn in the film industry are interchangeable; as such, there are plenty of opportunities to jump across professions.

One career path that can lead you quickly to the lower rungs of the production ladder can be found in post-production. For instance, associate and executive producers are always on the lookout for those who have strong video editing skills or the ability to coordinate a team of sound mixers, so it always pays to network well, develop numerous skills, and think outside the box as to how you can apply them in a production role.

If you’re interested in exploring the producing school route, our 1-Year Conservatory Producing program will provide you with the necessary skills and experiences to develop a successful career in the production industry.