What Does a Producer Do

By
Barbara Bean-Mellinger
- March 13, 2018

Guiding a Creative Project From Start to Finish

Job Description

A producer is the “Head Honcho.” “The Big Cheese.” She’s the one who steps breathlessly up to the podium to receive accolades for the total project... and the one whose neck is on the chopping block when things don’t go as planned.

In a film or commercial, the producer works with the writer to develop and fine-tune a script, then hires a director, who will hold auditions and select performers. The producer hires a crew who are responsible for everything from lighting and choreography to making set changes. In making an album, the producer oversees recording, mixing, mastering, editing, sound and all the other details involved in creating the album. She oversees the entire production from start to finish, making sure everyone follows procedures, is aware of the looming deadlines, stays within the budget and finishes the project on time.

Advertising agencies, which produce television and radio commercials, often use the terms “producer” and “project manager” interchangeably. A subtle difference, though, is that producers are involved with, understand and enjoy the creative aspect of the production, while project managers oversee it from the outside with more of a business perspective.

In postproduction, the producer supervises and approves any editing, special effects and music. When the project is finished, the producer helps promote it in the media or arrange for the actors or recording artists to make the publicity rounds of talk shows, news programs and phone interviews.

Larger projects may have numerous producers with different titles whose responsibilities vary, depending on the project. Executive producers may own the rights to the script and have a 25 percent or similar investment in the project. Co-executive producers may be studio executives with some financial stake in the project. They aren’t involved in the day-to-day decisions and have similar responsibilities for several projects. Assistant producers are usually given one task, such as overseeing costumes, while line producers handle day-to-day decisions. “Associate producer” sometimes is a “thank you” title given to people who helped in some way, or an honorary title given in lieu of a raise.

Education Requirements

Experience as a mom will help you in your role as producer, but you’ll need related education to get your foot in the door. Most producers have a bachelor’s degree in film, writing, business or arts/nonprofit management. It’s important that producers have solid organizational and time-management skills since they are tasked with keeping projects on time and within budget. A creative eye helps in talking with cast and crew, while a business sense is valuable in budgeting.

Some producers, especially those on motion pictures with big budgets, make hefty salaries. But most producers are involved in regional or local productions that have much smaller budgets. In May 2016, a producer earned a median salary of $70, 950. The median is a midpoint in a list of salaries; half earned more, and half earned less.

Producers in advertising earned the highest median salaries, at $93,450. Median producer salaries were $58,260 for radio and television; $60,820 in the performing arts; and $83,760 in the movie and video industries.

Types of Industries

Producers work in the film industry, in broadcast, in local performing arts and sports organizations, and in advertising or public relations. About 8 percent were self-employed in May 2016. Working hours can be long and include evenings, weekends and holidays. Producers with touring shows usually go on the road with the show, while those in advertising often work on location, which could be local or require overnight travel.

Years of Experience

Becoming a producer isn’t just a matter of “paying your dues”; it’s also about gaining the experience needed to do the job. Typically, you’ll start as an assistant on-site, such as a camera operator, runner or film/video editor, or in the studio as an assistant responsible for helping with one aspect of the production or doing a variety of tasks. Jobs are competitive, so your best chance at advancing to a producer position is to approach each job with enthusiasm, learn all you can in it, and offer to take on more tasks. As your experience grows, your reputation grows with it, good or bad, so make yours stellar.

Job Growth Trend

The need for producers is expected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the growth predicted for jobs overall. A large portion of the growth will be in film, as the public continues to demand more movies. Another area that is expected to see growth is television. Reality shows will continue to be popular, and new networks will continue to produce their own shows. Theater in large cities should continue to prosper and offer jobs, but local theaters that struggle to find financing will offer fewer opportunities for producers.

About the Author

Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer with two children. She has written about education and careers for Careertrend.com, work.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area.