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What is a Producer?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/15/2010

Learn about what a Producer does, and the tasks that are their responsibility.

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    Movie God

    A producer is the omnipotent figure of film and digital video production. They are intended to be the overlord in control of all technical aspects, and their importance is intended to outweigh even that of the Director. Keeping this in mind, there are a number of standard things that are expected from a Producer.

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    The Person in Charge

    A Producer is in charge of coordinating all of the “conditions” that need to be met in film and video production. This means gathering all of the components of the film prior to production and hiring all the required people. They will be in charge of estimating the budget and scheduling for the project, as well as working on distribution and financing. In post-production it is their job to work on marketing and advertising campaigns, as well as getting the complete film the correct kind of press coverage. The position of the producer is supposed to be similar to other hierarchical organizations, such as the general in a militaristic chain of command. They make all the final decisions, but really are not in charge of creative construction. In documentary and news production the Producer takes more of a creative role because coordination is directly correlated to creative decisions, such as choosing what types of images and interviews to include.

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    Loose Limitations

    A Producer, unlike a Director, tends to have a looser definition of responsibilities. Some Producers have a very “hands off” approach, which usually just includes budgeting and hiring. In more recent years many Producers have opted to take some creative control and are involving themselves in tasks that used to be regulated only to the Director.

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    Producers often maintain their control by acting as the primary financier of the film itself. Producers often run production companies that can green-light films, and therefore have aspects of their position that would be similar to studio executives. In this way they extend their control by setting rules and standards for how much money the film will get, what has to be included for the film to actually get produced, and in what markets the film will be distributed. If a Producer does not like any of the decisions a Director, or anyone else, has made, they have the ability to veto the decision. They have even more creative control in post-production because digital effects and copyrighted material costs money. Since they are the manger of finances, and possibly the financier themselves, they can decide against expensive editing effects and materials that would require royalty payments.

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    Taking the Hit

    Since they have so much control they are also the person that has to take the blame for negative professional responsibilities if the film has serious production mistakes or is a financial failure. On a smaller digital video project they need to make themselves responsible for any damage to equipment or any disagreements with production staff. They need to be able to manage all film and digital video productions like the business that it is.

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    Where Do You Want to Be?

    The power of a Producer comes with advantages and serious disadvantages. If you are looking to be purely creative this may not be the position for you, but if you want to take the helm over an entire production then you may have what it takes to produce.