Film and Theatre Producer

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Film and Theatre Producer


"And the winner for best picture is . . ."

On Oscar night, it is the producer that accepts the award for Best Picture. Producers coordinate the entire process of filmmaking and theatrical performances from the initial concept to the final production and distribution. They are the money and management people of the industry and without them; a film would be lacking in its basic necessity -- funding. Producers work closely with directors and production managers to hire actors and crew members. They deal with contract negotiations over salary and conditions of employment, and must be familiar with minimum wages and working conditions established by actors' and crew members' unions. Every purchase made on a film set from a prop, to lunch for the cast and crew to travel budgets must be approved by the producer.

During the pre-production phase, producers are in charge of writing budgets, consulting with writers, hiring a director, cast and production crew. Those with experience will generally know how much it costs to make a film or play happen. Producers are sometimes regarded as the "bad guys" by artistic members of a production because they have to decline some creative ideas that do not fit into the budget. Some may see this as hindering artistic freedom but the producers are just making sure that a film or theatrical production does not go bankrupt before it is released. Therefore time and money are two very stressful worries for a producer. They try and set deadlines, but it is not always possible to follow or enforce them. Without a doubt, things go wrong; cameras and lighting machines break down, weather is bad, amongst other problems and unfortunately this costs the production money. The producers have to look at the larger picture and know that each person's job is valuable to the cause.

In post-production, many producers oversee the editing process. They also start marketing the product and make distribution and promotion deals. A producer often has the final word, but must still consult with the executive producer who is in control of the money and tries to find extra money to make projects happen. Producers are also concerned with a film or play's distribution. They are in charge of advertising and releasing advanced press materials. Often a short promotional version or clip is sent out for preview. Producers must then do follow-up calls, and sometimes participate in promotional tours and media interviews.

Once a show or film has been released, producers wrap up all of the elements related to the project, pay back any investors, distribute residual payments to artists, and administer the business concerns of the project. Most producers specialize in a certain area of film or theater such as feature films, documentaries or Broadway musicals. Sometimes film producers write and submit proposals to bid on certain projects to win a contract. When it comes to theatrical producers, they are in charge of coordinating the production of live plays and musicals. The producer's office must book venues for the play, sometimes in more than one city.
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  Interests and Skills  
Producers should have strong leadership and communication skills and use good judgment when hiring people. They should be able to work with a wide variety of people, and be able to deal with stress, because stressful situations will arise. They should be passionate about their work with a willingness to be held accountable for all decisions made. Successful producers enjoy finding innovative solutions to problems, coordinating productions, and negotiating with people. They also enjoy the variety, decision making and the excitement and recognition gained for their work.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Initiate the idea for a film or theater production
  • Obtain the rights to a script, screenplay or story idea, if necessary
  • Find financial backing for the venture
  • Hire key senior staff including directors, writers and production crew
  • Oversee budgets, schedules and plans
  • Coordinate the day-to-day production off and on the set or stage
  • See that all post-production is completed
  • Negotiate with distributors and broadcasters
  • Promote the film, production or program
  • Producers work long and extremely irregular hours. Large projects may take two or more years to complete, and involve considerable travel. In fact, some producers do much of their post-production work overseas or in sound studios outside of their home city. Producers are very driven by nature therefore; a 12-hour work day is not unusual, as producers are usually the first to arrive at work and the last to leave.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Producers are usually independent workers who own and run their own production companies. Others work for established production companies, film studios or theater companies. In fact, some theaters may hire a resident producer who oversees the production of all plays that are performed in one particular venue.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement for producers within the film or theater industry is quite difficult, as the producer is the one in charge of the production. They run the show, so unless a career change is what one has in mind, their job movement could be to other positions in film or theater, such as directing or acting.

Also, since it costs so much to produce a film, unless one is independently wealthy, people do not immediately become producers. They must make the "right" connections in order to build trust with potential investors. The most successful producers have spent years in various jobs in film and theater.

  Educational Paths  
There is no standard educational path for becoming a producer. Most have university degrees or college diplomas in broadcasting or communications studies and some also attend film school, which offers specific training. Many executive producers are often lawyers or business people.

Formal training is definitely helpful when looking for work. Therefore, prospective producers should obtain hands-on experience in as many areas of production as possible and make as many contacts as possible in their field. In the film or theater industry, most producers come from within the ranks and work their way up the artistic and technical ladder.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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