written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/1/2011
A line producer may be the answer to keeping your digital film or video project on track.
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On the Breakdown
On large as well as small digital video productions, it may be hard to translate all the specifics of the script onto the screen. There are a variety of characters, locations, and events in the script that may be hard to breakdown. How long is the movie running according to the script? How many locations will you need? How much will everything end up costing? To analyze the script and keep an eye on some of the practical aspects of script-to-screen translation you may want to get a line producer.
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A line producer involves themselves creatively in the pre-production and production processes as a way of keeping the film on track in relation to its budget and time frame. The main function of the line producer, who often acts similar to a unit production manager, is to keep costs in mind. At the beginning they will take the script and break it down into practical elements. They will figure out how long the film is written to be, the costs of locations and costumes, and exactly how long it will take to complete. Then on set they keep these costs in mind, altering the shooting schedules and practicum to fit into the budget that has been approved. It is up to them to help make sure that the script is maintained while the correct kind of sacrifices are made for financial reasons. They will be in charge of hiring a number of the crew, but mostly only “below the line" workers such as electricians, grips, and sound and lighting technicians.They will also be charged with going over salaries and expenditures, looking at schedules and story boards, and essentially making sure the entire project fits within their financial framework.
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Positions in film and video are never absolute; so many line producers may do less than others. The creative involvement of the producers and executive producers may further limit the involvement on the line producer. Commonly the line producer is also involved in negotiations with external companies that must be relied on for production, such as real estate companies for locations or costume houses for character attire. At the end of production they may also be involved with distribution negotiations, especially keeping in mind with the cost of production and the need for further funding. If an independent project is completed but may need more post-production work before distribution, such as soundtrack or special effect work, then a line producer is a good person to keep in negotiations. Some filmmakers will consider the line producer the main production influence when actually in production, where the producer is in charge of the over-view of the project and the director is in charge of creative developments.
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A great line producer will make sure your film stays on track, which is more important when you begin having larger productions with outside financing. Try to find someone that can inhabit the role fully, has managerial and accounting experience, and will act with great authority. They need to be on set all the time, so make sure they are able to commit. The most important thing to find is someone that believes in the project as much as you do, because then they will do what it takes to bring it to life.