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Television Producer


"And the winner for best television series is . . ."

On Emmy night, it is the producer who accepts the award for Best Television Series. Television producers coordinate the entire process of television production from the initial concept to the final production and distribution. They are the money and management people of the industry and without them a television production 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 television set from a prop, to lunch for the cast and crew to travel budgets for a broadcast journalist, must be approved by the producer.

Television producers are behind the scenes leaders of television, news and other television entertainment shows. In the news world, they ultimately decide how and who will cover a story. They will consider if they want to be live on the scene, what position they will take (if any) and how to convey the story logically to viewers.

During the pre-production phase of a series of television movie, 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 television show 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 the 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 television series' 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 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 television such as news, sitcoms, documentaries or commercials. Sometimes television producers write and submit proposals to bid on certain projects to win a contract. It is the television producer's ideas that shape what the viewer sees.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Television 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 television production
  • Obtain the rights to a television script 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 location
  • See that all post-production is completed
  • Negotiate with distributors and broadcasters
  • Promote the television program
  • Television producers work long and extremely irregular hours. Hours will often depend on what is being produced. For example, those who work on the news will work when the program airs. Large projects or historical ventures may 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  
  • Television producers are often hired on contract for specific shows. However, larger television stations may have several producers on staff as well. It is possible to start as news reporter or production assistant or in entry-level positions in sales or operations and work your way up to a producer's job.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement for producers within the television industry is quite difficult, as the producer is the one in charge of the production (the position which most people strive for). They run the show, so unless a career change is what one has in mind, the movement could be to other positions in television, such as directing or acting.

Also, since it costs so much to produce a television production, 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 television.

  Educational Paths  
There is no standard educational path for becoming a television producer. Most have university degrees or college diplomas in broadcast journalism, business, law or film studies. Many executive producers are often lawyers of business people.

Formal training is definitely helpful when looking for work. Therefore, prospective television 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 this competitive industry, most television producers come from within the organziational ranks and work their way up the artistic ladder.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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