Of all the jobs in film that we’ve covered so far, there’s one in particular that seems to cause a lot of confusion. Namely, we’re talking about film producers.
And it’s not hard to see why the job title causes so much confusion. Such is vagueness of the term ‘producer’ that we’ve even met film producers who have struggled themselves to describe the job in a few concise sentences.
So as much as trying to define the term ‘film producer’ is akin to successfully nailing jelly to a wall, today we’re going to do just that and definitively explore:
What Exactly IS a Producer?
From the off, we can state that a producer wears many different hats during the course of a movie’s completion (and it’s for that reason that it’s tricky to sum up in just a few words.) That said, there are two hugely essential parts of the process that the producer nearly always takes sole care of:
Development: Long before pre-production can start, there naturally needs to be something to produce! It’s up to the producer to find and discover a story worth committing to celluloid—a property that they own—whether it comes in the form of an original screenplay, a novel that’s ripe for adaptation, or even the life story or personal tale from an interesting subject.
Of course, it’s not as easy as just reading a book, thinking “that’d make a good film,” then assembling the crew. A producer must initiate and enter into negotiations with whoever’s responsible for the source material, with the ultimate aim being to acquire the rights on their terms.
Financing: Once the film rights have been bought, the monetary fun doesn’t stop there. Producers are the ones who pitch the movie to studios (or their employer) in the hopes of securing financing, and thereafter managing said finances throughout the life of the production to make sure everything is delivered on time and on budget.
Even once the movie is in the can, the financing duties still aren’t over. Distribution of the final product also needs to be sorted out, and that’s squarely in the remit of the producer.
So A Producer Handles the Cash, Basically?
Not quite! It’s a large part of the job of being a film producer, but depending on personal style, he or she may get personally involved with a number of tasks.
The hiring of the director and screenwriting staff is nearly always handled by the producer, but from here things depart from the conventional. Depending on the scale of the project, the producer may wish to get involved with hand-selecting any or all members of team.
Sometimes, however, that is left in the care of the director. On multi-million dollar productions, practicality may dictate that a hierarchy of producers are required that the executive producer can delegate to. From top to bottom, the chain of command runs:
- Executive Producer
- Co-executive Producer
- Line Producer
- Supervising Producer
- Coordinating Producer
- Consulting Producer
- Associate Producer
- Segment Producer
- Field Producer
- Edit Producer
- Post Producer
How much the executive producer passes down the chain varies from movie to movie, but to make matters more complicated, the individual producer titles listed above also come with separate duties—for instance, a coordinating producer will organize scheduling and the division of labor, while a supervising producer may have a big hand in script rewrites and the edit producer will oversee post-production.
So Production Staff are Like Management?
It’s not quite as simple as that. While producers generally have the final say on anything they decide to get involved in, more often than not a good producer will hire professionals that can do their respective jobs without supervision so that they can focus on the bigger picture.
But as we all know, the creation process behind filmmaking is a very fluid one and subject to change at any given moment.
Sometimes, you’ve got to put the finance book down, roll your sleeves up, and get your hands dirty.