- Jul 2, 2021
- BY: Mackenzie Scott
What Does a Producer Do?
If you were to ask a 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 production, from the moment a project is realized until the moment it wraps and is released to the public.
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.
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
There are different types of producers — i.e., executive producers, line producers, creative producers, etc. — but 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 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 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
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
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.
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