What does it take to be a Film Producer By Will Smyth


This is my research file for my third year studying Film production (B.A Hons) at UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire). It details the ins and out of what a producer is, what disciplines and strengths they just have, what roles they undertake and the different journeys from the accounts of different film producers in the industry, both high and low, and how they themselves entered the industry. It also explores their differentiating opinions on what a producer is and what it takes to be a successful producer. As well as contacting various producers, i am also using secondary research sources too assist in my research, including videos, articles and books. This blog will also feature my personal experiences working in a production role, and what challenges i faced when working in such a demanding and crucial role and why i have decided to pursue a career working as a film producer. This blog will also feature my personal experiences working in a production role, and what challenges i faced when working in such a demanding and crucial role and why i have decided to pursue a career working as a film producer.


  1. What does a producer do?
  2. What traits should a producer have?

What does a Producer do?

A film Producer is a highly logistical and very demanding job role to go for the in the film industry and can be the backbone or the downfall of any production and it is therefor crucial to always ensure that any team has a good producer with plenty of experience and motivation to the project. A good producer should be able to work around the problems and find solutions to any logistical issue that may arise towards the pre-production stages, and throughout the production into the post and edit. A film producers roles are ten fold right the way through the production. These responsibilities include:

  1. Managing budget + expenses- Controlling how much budget is dedicated to which department and making sure the production does not fall over budget which is the killing blow for a film. A good producer should secure enough funding and have a suitable expenses plan in place for the shoot.
  2. Working closely with directors and crew-Being able to effectively and clearly liaison with your crew is crucial. Bouncing ideas off one another, learning from each others strengths and being able to work effectively regardless of you personal relationships is important. Obviously, maintaining a healthy professional working relationship shows the ability to act and work professionally even if you do not necessarily like those you're working with as a person. It also keeps crew and others in a loop so that no detail is missed and clarity is gained. This is important between the producers, directors, camera light and sound departments as they will need to ensure they communicate everything clearly to one another.
  3. Handling recruitment- Employing the right crew is critical. The recruitment process needs to be focused on and not rushed into as hiring the right crew for the right roles will also make or break a film. Primarily the central roles like Directors, DP's (Directors of Photography), Editors and so forth have to be recruited based on their merits, and their experience with film. There is no room for dead weight on a set where your professional image and the success of your film are dependent on its effective running.
  4. Scheduling and general time management- Obviously scheduling and time organisation should be a primary focus. A good producers has schedules done for actors and crew in the form of call sheets which should be thoroughly detailed with a step by step breakdown of each shooting day that includes, times, location, duration of each scene, transport details and so forth. It needs to be water tight.
  5. Resource organisation-ensuring that each department has what they need. Props and Production design have their props, cars have their fuel, crew have their necessaries. Typically, depending on the size of the shoot, most departments will source their resources accordingly but the producer needs to keep a tab on it and ensure that their jobs are being done and they have the appropriate budgeting for this.
  6. Rights securing for content ( audio, stock footage etc)-another big thing in the media industry in particular, is securing rights to content. Whether it be audio, soundtracks, book to screen adaptations etc, the producer needs to ensure that they have full rights to whatever they want to source that is not theirs. If they do not, the run into issues with copyright and it can lead to court, fines or heavier consequences. A producer can secure rights through contacting the source of the content directly and ensuring they have written consent in a release form or contract that states they have full use of the content. according to "www.wipo.int" these process's are often time staking and complex as there is a lot of red tape to cut through.
  7. Securing Locations-most productions have location managers to handle the heavier details of location securing but the producer should play a big part in the actual communication with locations and the managers in charge of securing them. Location release forms need to be sent out to the property owners and a full crew address of the do's and do nots are a must. You are under the property owners roofs and you are liable for any damage or destruction done to their property. Ensuring that the crew are fully proper on the fire exits, "wet area" (Food and drink and general lounge area) is identified. Also producers should ensure that health and safety assessments are filled out and given to the unit managers and location managers. In order to show the sincerity, professionalism and dedication of the shoot the occupant or the lease owner should have full details about whats being shot, what rooms or areas required, the duration of the shoot and an agreed fee. All this can be covered in a single form and is shown via this template:
Example of a good location release form (Taken from "Producers guide to securing locations")

However, these responsibilities can be often shifted if its a high end production with a large budget as the Producer can hire extra hands to take over these responsibilities like line producers, co producers, exec. producers, and they will in turn assemble their own team. if its a low end production it means that the producer will often have an extra bite of work to be handling as the budget wont allow for extra bodies. That being said, a lower budget production means less hoops a producer would have to jump through, as well as a lot of the more high end requirements, like advertising, recruitment, catering, location securing and all the work that comes with those not being required as importantly or even at all. Student projects, indie films and shorts ar good examples of these. Never the less, its imperative that before production starts all bases are covered and that a structure is in place.

On the flip side of this, according to "AMC theaters" recent podcast in recent online chat they held a viewer sent in what does the producer do? and they answered with either they can be at the fore front of a film and handle every aspect of it, or they could do the bare minimum and have very little to do with the film at all. This is rare though and most producers tend to have full hands on in projects as they often have personal stakes in them as also shown in the "AMC" show as some producers tend to personally finance a film for the upstart until they can acquire more funding through external bodies.

So what are the other types of producers? why are there so many variations of producer?

Well there are the main types of producers that have a crucial role on set and without these it would make the production a total nightmare. These are the key roles for a successful film set in the ways of producers.

  • Executive Producer- Effectively a reward credit for contributors or benefactors of the film
  • Producer- The big dog of the set. Handles all logistical issues and controls the work force of the set.
  • Line Producer- Hired by the producer, line producers are the on set hands who typically manage budget. They work with the cost of the film as opposed to the creation aspect
  • Assistant Producer-Effectively Assistant Producers handle the work load with the Producer and share the responsibility of everything the Producer does

There are the other supporting producing roles such as

  • Co-ordinating Producer- They liaison between multiple sets or units to make sure the work is being done. Two units are setup by productions to speed up the production, so a co-ordinating producer is able to achieve "a unified end result"
  • Supervising Producer-

Characteristics of an effective producer

A good producer should be filled with the driving, motivating and authoritative qualities that are needed in order to steer a production towards success. According to "filmschools.com" theses are the top ten necessary skills and traits a producer must have.

  1. Authority- I agree completely with this. A producer must be able to keep their crew and team in check and have them understand that they are in charge. However, being diplomatically authoritative is crucial as you do not want a full scale mutiny on your hands because you were a little too hard headed and began a personal power trip. Being authoritative is necessary so that discipline is installed and people do not waste time or try to take the reigns of a production. It keeps the structure of power clear and understandable.
  2. Communication- Obviously a huge importance, the ability to communicate is vital for a producer. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is vital for the smooth production of a shoot and so people understand whats happening in every department and that no stone is un-turned in ways of preparation and the creative understanding between departments. Communication also falls under the ability to work well with others and be a team player. If a Producer is unable to do this then they will encounter issue after issue that will complicate or even destroy the project.

A good producer should always be on the lookout for a good story and a script that is worth while putting into production. A lot of people think that the ultimate driving force behind a script and behind a good story begins with the director which is not always the case. Understanding that any pre-production process can take a long time, sometimes even years to produce.

What Problems does a Producer face?

Popular Producers in the Industry

The route into the industry

Stigma behind education, did it help the journey?

My Personal Experience

Final thoughts

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