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Producer Job Description, Career as a Producer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Producers have financial and administrative control over the making of movies, plays, and television shows. A lot of money goes into productions of this kind, and the producer's job is to raise the money needed and see that it is wisely spent. The producer is responsible for ultimately turning a profit for the investors.

Television producers are usually employed by television stations or networks. A network television series usually has an executive producer who does long-term planning for the show. Some television producers work independently; they may find sponsors and grants to supplement their budgets from the stations.

Movie producers may be employed by film studios or they may work independently. Theatrical producers usually work independently. An independent producer first finds a script that can be turned into a play or movie. Books, especially bestsellers, often become successful plays and motion pictures. The producer may buy the rights to turn a book into a script. Then the producer raises enough money to pay for the project. Some producers use their own money, but many find investors who are willing to risk their money on the project.

The producer usually hires a director who makes most of the artistic and day-today decisions on the project. Nevertheless, it is the producer—the one who controls the money—who makes all the final decisions. The producer makes sure that the director stays within the budget and follows the production schedule closely. Producers must find theaters to house their productions. The play producer rents a theater. The movie producer finds a distributor who persuades movie theaters to show the film.

Together with the director, the producer hires the rest of the staff—actors, designers, and other workers. A large staff often includes several production assistants, associate producers, or assistant producers who are in charge of various parts of the production. Although these job titles may vary from studio to studio or job to job, these assistants help producers perform their tasks. Their jobs often range from traveling in search of a good location, to keeping the project within the budget, to carrying materials to and from the motion picture laboratory. In the theater a similar role is taken by an assistant stage manager, who provides help for the director, the stage manager, and the producer's staff and may serve as the understudy for several actors in case one of them gets sick.

How closely the producer works with the director varies in each case. Some producers have very little contact with their productions, while others go to every audition and rehearsal. Some movie producers watch "rushes," which are the sections of film shot on a given day. Some even direct their own productions. The producer of a low-budget documentary film may also be the director and may even operate the camera.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no standard educational or training requirements for the position of producer. Producers need a good business sense to handle finances and must have excellent administrative skills. Movie and play producers also need enough personal contacts to be able to raise money, hire staff, and find distributors. Most television producers are college graduates. To become a production assistant, it is useful to have some college courses in theater, film, or television.

Getting the Job

Anyone with enough money can produce a play or movie. Producers who work for large film companies usually have experience both in films and in business. The job of producer can be approached from either field. Someone experienced in films, such as a director, may raise enough money to produce a film. A person successful in business who has contacts in the theater may raise the money to produce a play.

Television producers generally rise through the ranks within television stations. Experience is what counts in television work. Stations in small cities usually have more jobs for beginners than the large stations or networks do. For all fields, a good way to start is by taking a job as production assistant. Interested candidates may apply directly to a theater, a broadcasting station, or a film production company.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Producers are already at the top of their field. They may advance to become heads of television stations or program directors. Some producers switch roles and take up directing, but this work requires a different kind of talent.

Employment of producers is expected to grow as fast as the average through the year 2014. However, the number of producers is small. Since theatrical producers usually work from show to show, there is no measurable turnover of the ordinary sort. Few new producers are hired each year by the large television and film companies. Nevertheless, anyone with enough money and the right contacts can produce a film or play.

Working Conditions

Working conditions for a producer vary widely. On the whole, their schedule is not the standard 9-to-5 workday. Producers can set their own hours, although they must be available to handle crises whenever they occur. If a producer works as a director or works closely with the director, the hours can be very long. Although the work is often hectic and demanding, it can also offer a great deal of satisfaction.

Earnings and Benefits

Each production has its own budget and contract. Most producers receive a salary based on a percentage of the production's earnings; the amount varies from contract to contract. In general, the pay for producers is good. A producer can earn a few thousand dollars or a few hundred thousand for a production. Those with larger budgets earn much more than other producers. Television producers who work for the networks, for example, work on productions with very large budgets and generally earn substantial salaries.

Where to Go for More Information

American Film Institute
2021 N. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1657
(323) 856-7600

Association of Independent Commercial Producers
3 W. 18th St., 5th Fl.
New York, NY 10011
(212) 929-3000

Producers Guild of America, Inc.
8530 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 450
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
(310) 358-9020

According to the Occupational Employment Statistics survey of 2004, producers earn a median hourly salary of $25.40, which translates to median annual earnings of $52,832. Some well-known executive producers make hundreds of thousands of dollars per project. Unionized producers generally receive paid vacations and health insurance.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts