What Does a Movie Producer Do?
There’s a lot that goes into making a film. From script development to post-production, it’s a team effort and one member of this team is the producer.
Producers are the key decision-makers on any film set. They work with the director and crew to manage the film from start to finish.
Developing a Story
Story development is the process of creating a screenplay for a movie. It can start with a story idea from a writer, or it can begin with an existing story that a producer finds and thinks is worth turning into a film.
Producers are generally the overall decision makers for a project and they will often choose and secure rights to a script, in a process known as optioning. They will also decide on the scale and budget for the film.
The producer is a bit of a Jack-of-all-Trades and they have their hands in everything during the production process, including staff coordination, managing finances, and even sourcing and hand-picking stunt coordinators, stunt riggers and stunt doubles for safety reasons on set. This is a task that sometimes falls to a co-producer who works alongside the producer.
Buying the Script
The producer is the financial, practical and driving force behind a movie production. They’re often the first to notice both the creative opportunity and commercial viability of a screenplay, acquiring it through a process called optioning.
If they love your script and want to buy it they’ll offer you a deal such as a flat amount or percentage of the final approved budget with floor and ceiling amounts (Guild guidelines dictate that signatory companies must give the original writer a first rewrite). A flat fee may also be offered, depending on how established you are.
Pitch your script to producers through your agent or manager. You can also approach them at film festivals or in person. It helps to have a well-rehearsed pitch. Many producers have a long list of contacts full of talented writers they’ve built up over the years, sometimes decades.
Managing the Budget
Managing the budget is a huge part of a producer’s job. They’re responsible for constructing film budgets from an initial non-detailed, estimated preliminary budget to a more detailed one once they’ve hired key members of the crew.
They’ll also make sure all costs remain within the projected total cost of production. This may involve negotiating with suppliers, hiring the best Directors of Photography to maximize efficiency, or even influencing big-name stars to promote their film on chat shows.
They’re also responsible for raising the money that will get the project rolling in the first place. This is a difficult task that requires all of the Producer’s business experience and connections.
Managing the Crew
Production is a highly collaborative process. The Producer, and often a team of producers, manages the overall project and works with lower-level producers and department heads to help implement their creative ideas.
They also deal with raising money and are the ultimate legal stewards of the film. They work with an entertainment attorney to secure contracts for all members of the crew.
They are active in preproduction, working with the Writer and Director to break down a script for budgeting purposes. They then hire the crew for day-to-day set operations. This includes the Line Producer who serves as the primary financial contributor for a movie and handles all requests for more money during filming. The Production Manager oversees daily production decisions. The 1st Assistant Director, or AD, creates a shooting schedule and is the general diplomat, safety advocate and go-between for the Director and crew. The Art Director, or DP, and the Production Designer are responsible for creating the visual style of the film.
Managing the Post-Production
Producers – or at least, those that get credited with the title of “Producer” – are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the movie making process. They must be able to secure financing, hire the right crew and ensure that the final film meets the vision of the director.
As you can see, Producers are a bit of jack-of-all-trades. They have their hands in every aspect of the movie production – from staff coordination to creating budgets and even working with editors! Without them, a project would never get off the ground. That’s why it’s important to understand their role and be well-prepared for it. If you want to become a Producer, it’s best to start by getting familiar with the basics of the job.