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Production

What Does a Producer Do?

Mackenzie Scott

Jul 2, 2021

If you were to ask a film producer or TV producer what they do on a day-to-day basis, the list would likely go on and on. Given that producers typically wear many hats on and off set, the more straightforward question might be, “What don’t you do?” 

 

Producers are a vital part of any small or large video production, from the moment a project is realized until the moment it wraps and is released to the public. Typically, they either work with a production company or as an independent contractor.

We could give you a by-the-book breakdown of what it means to be a producer and leave it at that. But because we know that so much of this role is learned through experience, we decided to go a step further and bring our in-house Creative Producer Renée Olson into the fold.

In this post, we’ll discuss a producer’s core responsibilities during pre-production and how Renée puts these things into practice to produce our Soundstripe Live and Tips & Tricks content for YouTube. But first, let’s cover some basics.

There isn’t just one type of producer 

While it’s hypothetically possible for one person to handle all of a producer’s responsibilities, it’s certainly not the most doable or sustainable route for production companies and teams to take. (That’s especially true with big-budget productions that require a large cast and crew.) 

From top-level management to day-to-day operations, producers organize and supervise everything that happens on and off set. Because producers have a wide range of responsibilities — and can’t be in two places at once — there are different types of producers to share the workload.

To provide context for the rest of this article, here are seven of the most common types of producers and their main responsibilities on the job. 

1. Executive producer

An executive producer is the person (or people) who makes sure that all of the other producers involved with a project are doing their jobs correctly. Aside from that, their main responsibility is managing the financial side of production — i.e., finding investors to fund the project and/or contributing funds themselves. 

What separates this type of producer from the rest is mainly that the executive producer is the one who actually jumpstarts the project’s creation. Without good leadership at this level, a project can fall apart quickly or not even take off in the first place.

2. Line producer

Compared to an executive producer, a line producer has a much more hands-on role in the day-to-day operations of a production. They are responsible for scheduling, making hiring decisions, and handling the logistical side of the entire process. 

Once the executive producer secures funding for the project, the line producer decides how to allocate the budget. In addition to being financially and logistically minded, this producer is in constant communication with other producers and personnel to make sure production stays on track. 

3. Associate producer

An associate producer (sometimes referred to as AP or assistant producer) assists the line producer, or other high-level producer, with their day-to-day responsibilities. In addition to that, this producer will also pitch story ideas, write scripts, edit material, and help out with the editorial side of production.

Even though this role is seen as “below-the-line” and lower on the producer hierarchy, the associate producer is an active and important presence on any film or TV set.

4. Segment producer

A segment producer is primarily involved in the TV production process (which is to say that you probably won’t find this type of producer on a film or music video set). Like the name suggests, their main responsibility is to produce individual segments of a show. 

Within this role, the producer plans out their segment, books the show’s guests, and creates a complete rundown of what will happen when. From there, the segment producer makes sure that everything goes as planned during the show’s recording or airing.  

5. Creative producer

A creative producer is the producer who ultimately turns a project’s concept and vision into a reality. They are deeply invested in the artistic side of production (not just the financial and operational side), so they work closely with the film crew and writers to develop the story, themes, and visuals. 

It’s very common for creative producers to work in the film industry, but they can (and do) also operate in all other areas of production (i.e., podcasting, corporate video production, social media content production, etc.).  

6. Supervising producer

A supervising producer (sometimes referred to as a development producer) does exactly what you might assume: They guide and then oversee every step of the way from pre-production to post-production. 

The supervising producer is high up on the producer hierarchy, working closely with the executive producer(s) and other producers involved in the day-to-day operations. 

7. Unit production manager

A unit production manager (UPM) is an individual on a production team who typically works under the line producer to help manage the budget, schedule, equipment, and crew. In many ways, the UPM is responsible for executing the plans created by the high-level producers and making sure that the crew has all of the resources they need. 

Every producer's origin story is different

Some producers go to film school, others start in the event planning space, some thought they would be something else on set like a costume designer or a camera operator. For me, I started in the PR & event planning space, which has a similar skill set to being a producer.” — Renée Olson

Even though are different types of producers — i.e., executive producers, line producers, creative producers, etc. — one thing remains true about every person with “producer” in their title: there isn’t one clear-cut career path that put them where they are today.

Oftentimes, it comes down to getting your foot in the door, networking, and gaining on-the-job experience at an apprentice level. And like Renée, you can also use your past industry experience as a director, writer, agent, actor, etc. to make the transition to this role.

Producers are the people who make sure production for a TV show, film, or other project actually happens. The title itself is a blanket term that can really mean project manager, art director, locations manager, talent and casting director, and so on. 

Suffice it to say, it’s a multi-faceted position that can be held by one or more people depending on the size of the production. 

What does a producer actually do?

A producer’s job in no way stops after pre-production, but pre-production is where all of the necessary planning, budgeting, scheduling, and staffing processes are sorted out and finalized. 

During this stage, producers are moving rapidly from one task to the next. And while every production is different, there are a few core steps that every producer must go through before filming can start. 

1. Reading over the script and treatment

 

In the video above, Renée talks about her side of the pre-production process for GLASWING’s “Like Water On A Glass Table” music video. 

One of the most critical first steps in this process for her was reading through the video treatment and letting that inform her financial, logistical, and creative decisions. 

Treatments and scripts are the first iterations of what a film, TV show, or other project will become. In the early stages of pre-production, producers rely on these documents when giving their team the direction they need to create a more streamlined production.  

2. Booking the talent and film location

Producers decide how their project’s funding will be parceled out after reviewing the treatment. And that’s because the treatment breaks down what the storyline is, who the characters are, and where the story is set.   

From the treatment and/or script, the producer knows how many actors need to be hired and how many locations need to be booked. They also have a more concrete idea of what qualities they’re looking for in their talent and locations. 

A producer’s job here is to book the best talent and locations possible while making sure that the production costs stay within budget. 

3. Hiring the crew and choosing gear

There are plenty of times when producers have to make difficult decisions, especially when it comes to the budget.

If you are producing a film and want to prioritize location, for instance, you’ll have to be flexible elsewhere. This means you might have to cut corners when it comes to gear selection, set design, hiring a film crew, etc. 

When producers hire small crews, it’s possible — and very likely — that these crew members will need to take on additional responsibilities that may fall outside their typical job description.

As Renée put it, “Sometimes, I am not only the producer, but the art director, locations manager, 2nd AD, talent and casting director, and so on. The larger your crew gets, the more you’re able to hand this off.”

If hiring more crew members is more important than investing in a dolly setup and other expensive gear, a producer could make the decision in pre-production to downsize the crew’s gear. 

Ultimately, it’s every producer’s job to draw the line and decide what is worth investing in and what isn’t for production.  

How we do it at Soundstripe

Now that we’ve shared some standard practices for producers in pre-production, let’s take a look at how this process unfolds at Soundstripe. 

Our Soundstripe Live YouTube Series

If you’re not familiar with Soundstripe Live, it’s a series on our YouTube channel where we share live music performances by talented artists like Timber Choir, Visitants, and The Night Driver. To give you a better idea of what this looks like, here’s an example of what you’ll find in this series:

 

 

To get the most out of the time our team spends shooting this content, Renée schedules two different musical acts to perform in one day. Each musical act performs three songs, and as the producer, Renée coordinates with the talent about their timing, wardrobe, payment, and more. 

Here’s a breakdown of how we typically staff our crew for these videos:

“We shoot these performances with a lot of staged lighting, which requires a gaffer and grip at minimum, PA’s, and three different camera operators. Additionally, because this is a live audio recording, we have two mix engineers from Soundstripe on set to record. 

“We also normally have an AC to pull focus, a stills photographer, DIT, and our Director (but sometimes a few more depending on the day).”

Our Tips & Tricks YouTube Series

Filmmaker Tips & Tricks is a YouTube series that we launched in 2021 to share some of the production-related advice and expertise that our team has accumulated over the years. In videos like the one below, we take you behind the scenes of shooting a music video, a car commercial, a PSA, and more. 

 

 

Our gear setup and crew are more-or-less the same for these videos as it is for Soundstripe Live videos, but a key difference is that we also use a BTS camera and at least one crew member who is used to working with LAV and BOOM mics to capture good-quality dialogue. 

Like the Soundstripe Live content, our team plans ahead to film 2-3 videos at a time, which takes a lot of coordination and proactive planning on Renée’s part to pull off.   

Advice for aspiring producers

Even with meticulous preparation, flukes are bound to happen on the day of a shoot. That’s why Renée offers this piece of advice to aspiring producers:

“Be as prepared as possible. I have a little kit that I lug around to every set. It has things like scissors, tape, batteries, extra garbage bags, a first aid kit, an extra phone charger, and different colors of electrical tape (probably my most used item).”

All of the work that producers put into pre-production doesn’t go unnoticed. Their efforts oftentimes mean the difference between a smooth, organized production and a chaotic one. 

To that effect, it’s important for producers to manage production as best they can, maintain open communications, and, when necessary, make difficult decisions. 

Further reading

Hopefully this guide has provided helpful insight into what a producer’s day-to-day responsibilities are — whether at the executive producer level, line producer level, unit production manager level, etc.

If you’re interested in more production-related resources, check out these articles on the Soundstripe blog: