What does a Producer do, exactly? More to the point, why are there so many different types of producers in film, TV and video production? Do you know the differences between a producer versus an executive producer? How about a co-producer, an associate producer, or TV producer? Some of the differences may not be as cut and dry as you may think. Let’s get started.


What is a producer in a film?

Without a producer, a film doesn’t get made. It’s as simple as that. Let’s look at what the pivotal job entails.

Producer Definition 

What is a producer?

A producer guides a film from its beginning to its completion. They have a hand in organizing and scheduling, budgeting and hiring, creative problem-solving and overseeing, and marketing and distributing. A producer may be a self-employed contractor, or subject to the authority of an employer such as a production company or studio. They are involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion.

Bottom line: A producer is anyone who brings the project to fruition and is often the person that holds the rights to the underlying property.

Producer job description and duties:

  • Purchase and develop projects. If applicable, producers secure the rights to projects.
  • Hire and manage key team members, including writers, directors, managers, talent, heads of department, key crew, staff, and other personnel.
  • Set a budget, and secure funds for the project, often through investors, personal funds or a studio.
  • After funding, producers oversee the project to ensure it stays within budget.
  • Build a schedule using production management software to set the production schedule.
  • Oversee post-production from editing, through music composition and picture lock.
  • Market the project and generate buzz for the project by working with a PR team.

A good producer is with the project from before the cradle to long after the grave. You may have thought this would be a director. Sure, on an indie passion project, it may be. In a more traditional production like in television or commercial shoots, directors are less of a permanent part of the project's lifespan than the producer(s).

What does producer mean to the Producer’s Guild of America (PGA)? The guild defines the various rules that define the role of a producer, and even provide some wordy breakdowns in their FAQ of the different types of producers.


Producer responsibilities

What does a producer do? The short answer: a little bit of everything. Now for the longer answer.


The key role of the producer early on is to "develop" the material. Getting it ready for production.

It could start with a news article. A book. A logline. A spec script. Another movie. When inspiration sparks, the producer is the one holding the flint to the kindling.

We know the producer isn’t usually a writer. Once a producer has the rights to some IP, or has an idea, the next step is to hire a writer. They’ll work closely with them to create a script that honors their vision and, ideally, the writer’s as well.

Producers can also purchase a script. This is referred to as "optioning" because the buyer is purchasing the "option" to turn the material into a movie. Here is a little more info on how to option a book.

For more on the producer’s role in development, check out our interview with producer Alex Saks.

Alex Saks on producing  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Hire key creatives

A producer will then hire a director, and attach stars. This is one of the most important steps, and requires creativity along with business prowess and social skills. A producer needs to think about who would work together well on a project, as well as who would be able to excel within the vision the producer has.

These roles are referred to as “above the line” positions.

Obviously, a producer needs to have an extensive Rolodex of contacts.

And since nobody really keeps a Rolodex anymore, modern producers tend to organize contacts in the cloud with all-in-one production management software:

Building the call sheet

Keeping contacts in your production hub makes for an easier process at every phase. You can divvy up people by department, project, and other custom considerations. Get in touch via messages within the software itself, or use cast and crew info to call and email.

Plus, when you move into production and generate call sheets, all you'll have to do is select your contacts to send and confirm receipt via your built-in tools.

Secure funding

Making a movie requires finding money — another task that falls to the producer. A producer will often use the names of their stars and key creatives to gin up interest in investors. The more recognizable the name, the safer the investment. Take a look at our video on the film financing process:

Film financing explained  •  Subscribe on YouTube

With funding in place, a producer will make or oversee the budget. For more on that check out this guide for crafting film budgets.

High-level producers have the closest relationship to the film’s financing. Understanding how to manage the film's budget and cash flow is critical to being a producer at any level.

Hire the crew and shoot

What does a producer do next? Crew up, and then manage all that arises during the shoot.

Somewhere around this point, essential Heads of Department join the project such as the Director of Photography and 1st Assistant Director. The budget, script breakdown and shooting schedules are firmed up.

Additional staff and crew are hired.

Call sheets at the ready, the producer and everyone heads into production.

Filming begins.

Oversee post-production

After wrapping a shoot, a lot of the key talent moves on to new projects. The cast and crew will likely have other jobs to jump right into. The director may also start prepping his or her next film.

What does a producer do when everyone starts to disperse? He sticks with this project and sees it through post-production.

Editorial teams assemble a rough cut, with the director around as much as he or she wishes to be (or is allowed to be...).

Then there is a final cut, final VFX, color grading, the film score, and audio work.

The role of a producer will then turn towards test screenings and even make changes at this late date if necessary.

Market the project

It's one thing to make a movie. It's another thing to get people to see it.

With a film is finished, the producer(s) initiate marketing campaigns. Talent will come back into the fold now. Often times public relations firms get involved as well. Promotional tie-ins. Etc.

Producer George Lucas made a galaxy-altering decision during this phase. He negotiated to retain merchandising rights to his then unheard of space opera Star Wars. At the time, film merchandising was not seen as a moneymaker.

This is where George Lucas donned his producer cap. He used the idea of manufacturing toys based on his film to build up anticipation for the film's release and beyond.

The studio executive producers scoffed at the hubris and granted the rights. The rest, as they say, is history.

Speaking of executive producers– this leads us to our next point.


Types of producers

We've covered some broad strokes. But we've left something critical out.

There are many different kinds of Producers. You've noticed on your movie poster that there are two to three different types of Producers. You've probably seen that film credits order hierarchy features many types of producer roles.

Executive producer

An executive producer is the head producer who supervises other producers in the creation of a film or TV show. An executive producer may work independently or on behalf of the studio, financiers or the distributors. They will ensure the film is completed on time, within budget, and to agreed artistic and technical standards. In television, an Executive Producer may also be the Creator / Writer of the series.

An executive producer is usually a financier of the project. Typically, this person may assemble the core team, but will not physically produce the project. A quick run down of their tasks:

  • Introduce new concepts and ideas that may align with brand initiatives of the project 

  • Ensure production meets competitive goals and projects the intended brand image

  • Supervise other producers and ensure they, and the production, work within union regulations

  • Oversee and approve the hiring of marquee talent

  • Maintain the budget and approve schedules


A co-producer is a producer who performs jointly with another producer on a production. A co-producer title may also be awarded to any key player (such as a DP, department chief, or talent) who does not have a direct hand in producing the project, but is instrumental in funding the project through their involvement, equipment, or services rendered.

Some of a co-producer’s tasks:

  • Work jointly with another producer to oversee the project from development through post-production (see producer responsibilities in the previous section).

  • Provide notable value to the project through their attachment, services rendered, essential equipment, locations, etc.

Associate producer

An associate producer, often referred to as the 'AP," is a below-the-line producer that performs under the supervision of another producer. An Associate Producer job duties and responsibilities will vary from project to project and may include organizing production personnel, coordinating set construction, operating a teleprompter, supervising lighting or sound plans, editing scripts, or writing news items.

An associate producer may not be part of the Producer's Guild (PGA) and is often hired only to do tasks that other union positions don't have to do. Some roles they may fill:

  • On a tv series, associate producer duties may include pitching story ideas, revising copy, and helping guide the editorial content of the series

  • Writing, editing, organizing scripts for TV, running the teleprompter in newscasts, or assisting the editor by making beat calls (shot selections)

  • Assist with promotions and handle bookings for TV

  • On a film production, an associate producer's duties are varied and difficult to pin down.

Line producer

A line producer performs the producer functions involved in supervising the physical aspects of the making of a motion picture or television production where the creative decision-making process is reserved to others, except to such extent as the line producer is permitted to participate. Check out our video on the position for more:

What is a line producer?  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Line producers stay busy– here are only a handful of their many tasks:

  • Assist the executive producer(s)

  • Introduce new concepts and ideas that may align with brand initiatives of the project

  • Supervise other producers and ensure they, and the production, work within union regulations

  • Assist with the hiring of marquee talent

  • Supervise the post-production process and liaise with the executive producer

  • Maintain the budget and approve schedules

TV producer

TV producers are responsible for a variety of operations on network shows. Typically, a tv producer is tasked with concept development, raising funds, recruiting staff, budgeting, guiding crew members, making casting decisions, and evaluating final product quality. Some of their roles:

  • A television producer assists the executive producer(s)

  • Introduce new concepts and ideas that may align with brand initiatives of the project

  • Supervise other producers and ensure they, and the production, work within union regulations

  • Assist with the hiring of marquee talent

  • Supervise the post-production process and liaise with the executive producer

  • Maintain the budget and approve schedules

Do any of these positions sound of interest to you? Let’s look at how you, too, can become a producer.


How to become a producer

Now that we understand the film producer job description, how do we get started? Many producers come from humble beginnings. And for a good reason. A producer needs to know a little bit of everything happening in the filmmaking process.

Some start in the mailroom. Some begin as production assistants. Irving Thalberg was a secretary who became Head of Production at MGM. Walt Disney started with an entry-level job “inking” at an art studio. Mogul David O. Selznick started as a script reader.

By learning the craft from the ground up, a producer learns every inch of the process. And as we've seen, that'll be critical to success. Many producers go to film school. We outline the pro’s and con’s to that approach in our video on the subject:

How to become a producer  •  Subscribe on YouTube

We're a little biased, but a really good way is to familiarize yourself with production management software like StudioBinder, which is made for producers. StudioBinder walks you through the pre-production and production worklow, step-by-step by providing tools to create and collaborate around the critical documents that productions need. 

From shooting scripts, sides, breakdowns, shooting schedules, shot lists, calendars, call sheets and more. 

Learn StudioBinder, and you've basically mastered the producer's workflow. Make a free shooting schedule in StudioBinder. Put together a stripboard. Even try creating a free call sheet for that feature you want to develop.

Practicing and developing these skills will make you more hirable. Nothing will make you better at being a producer than starting to produce. Create a free career profile on a film & TV production job board like ProductionBeast, and submit your services.

For more information on how to become a producer, you can check out the Producers Guild of America, which also outlines how to become eligible to enter their union.

Being a producer can be difficult, but becoming one isn’t as hard as you might think. After all, if you just pick up a camera and shoot your own project by yourself, you’ve acted as your own producer.

Up Next

Becoming a great producer

To put it in simple terms, a producer always helps facilitate the creation of the project. At one stage, or many stages, the producer ushers the vision along from a set of artists arms into another’s. The job of a movie producer is to bring the elements of the process of filmmaking together. We look at how you can do that.

UP NEXT: 8 Keys to Becoming a Great Producer → 

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  1. For years I have wondered what all the different producers actually do. Now I know. Thanks!!

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