You’ve probably heard the term “Unit Production Manager” tossed around in film circles, a title that somehow feels both vague and important. But what exactly does a Unit Production Manager do? Why are they crucial to a film set? And how does one become a UPM? In this article, we’ll dive into these questions and more, demystifying the role of the UPM and providing a clear roadmap for those aspiring to this position.

What is a UPM in Film?

Role of the UPM in Film

Often, people assume that the Unit Production Manager (UPM) is just someone who manages... well, some unit of the production. While there's some truth in that, it's akin to saying a director just directs — it oversimplifies a complex and pivotal role in the filmmaking process


What is a unit production manager?

A Unit Production Manager, or UPM, is the orchestrator of a film's logistics. They are responsible for managing the production budget, coordinating schedules, and ensuring everyone and everything is where they need to be when they need to be there. Essentially, they make sure the production runs smoothly and according to plan. 

Unit Production Manager Job Description:

  • Oversee the film's budget and manage expenditures
  • Coordinate schedules and logistical requirements
  • Ensure compliance with union or guild regulations

Unit Production Manager Job Description

What does a UPM do?

The UPM is essentially the bridge between the creative vision and the practical execution. They work closely with the director and producer to understand the creative goals of the film, and then figure out how to make those goals a reality within the constraints of the budget and schedule.

Unit Production Manager Job Description

Managing the Budget

A UPM oversees the film's budget, ensuring that every dollar is accounted for and used wisely. This involves managing expenditures and ensuring that the production doesn't exceed its financial limits.

The UPM has to make tough decisions, often on the fly, about where to allocate resources to get the greatest impact.

Coordinating Schedules

A major part of a UPM's job is to coordinate the shooting schedules. This involves working closely with the director to understand the filming requirements and ensuring that everything is scheduled efficiently. The UPM must manage this complex jigsaw puzzle of schedules, ensuring that actors, crew, and filming locations are all available when needed.

Ensuring Compliance

The UPM is also responsible for ensuring that the production complies with all relevant union or guild regulations. This can cover a wide range of issues, from working hours and overtime to safety standards and hiring practices. The UPM must be well-versed in these regulations to prevent any legal issues that could derail the production.

Bridging the Gap Between Vision and Reality

Perhaps the most essential role of a UPM is to be the conduit between the film's creative vision and its practical execution. This involves working closely with the director and producer to understand their creative aspirations, and then figuring out how to bring those aspirations into reality within the limits of the budget and schedule. The UPM needs to find creative solutions to challenges and ensure the smooth running of the production.

Unit Production Manager Film Path

How to become a UPM

Becoming a Unit Production Manager (UPM) typically involves a mix of on-the-job experience and formal education. Here are some tips to help you navigate this career path.

Gain on-the-job experience

Many UPMs start off in other roles on a film set, such as production assistant or assistant director. This allows you to learn the ropes and gain practical knowledge of the production process. This video interview provides insight into a day in the life of a working UPM from UPM of the television series Blackish.

Unit Production Manager  •  Typical Day

Seek formal education

While not always necessary, formal education in film or production management can provide a solid foundation for a UPM career. Look for film schools or programs that offer courses specifically geared toward production management.

Network and build connections

Networking is key in the film industry. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with other professionals in the field. Building relationships can lead to job opportunities and valuable mentorship.

Develop strong organizational and communication skills

As a UPM, you'll be responsible for managing budgets, schedules, and coordinating various aspects of production. Strong organizational and communication skills are essential to succeed in this role.

Stay updated on industry trends and technology

The film industry is constantly evolving. Keep yourself informed about the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in production management. This will help you stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the changing landscape.

By combining practical experience, formal education, networking, and strong skills, you can pave your way towards a successful career as a UPM.

What is a UPM in Film Paid?

UPM salary

The compensation of a Unit Production Manager (UPM) can vary significantly based on a number of factors. On average, according to PayScale, a UPM earns approximately $75,000 per year. 

However, this figure can fluctuate widely depending upon the production budget, location of the shoot, complexity of the project, and the UPM's previous experience and reputation within the industry.

Size of Production Budget

The production budget of a film is a key determinant of a UPM's salary. Large-scale productions with sizable budgets are typically able to afford higher compensation for the UPM role.


The filming location also impacts the UPM's pay. Filming in costly cities or remote, challenging locations can demand higher compensation due to increased logistical complexity and living costs.

Project Complexity

The complexity of the project is another factor that influences UPM compensation. More complicated projects require a greater level of logistical oversight, which in turn warrants higher pay.

Experience and Reputation

Lastly, the UPM's experience and professional reputation in the industry can significantly impact their earning potential. A UPM with a proven track record of successful projects is likely to command a higher salary than someone just starting out in the role.

Film Unit Production Manager Jobs

Find UPM jobs

There are many resources available for those seeking UPM positions. Websites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Mandy offer job listings specifically for film production roles.

Like any film role, networking and experience on set can also lead to potential job opportunities. Attend film festivals, join professional organizations, and connect with other professionals to build relationships and find job openings.

In a nutshell, the role of a Unit Production Manager (UPM) is crucial for the successful execution of a film project. They act as the bridge between creative aspirations and practical realities. UPMs navigate the ever-changing landscape of the film industry, skillfully managing budgets, schedules, and compliance requirements. 

With their meticulous oversight and innovative problem-solving, UPMs ensure the smooth operation of film productions, bringing the creative vision to life.

Up Next

Discover more filmmaking roles

The role of the Unit Production Manager is just one of many vital roles in the filmmaking process. To continue through our series of the various filmmaking roles and positions, you can explore similar jobs like Director of Photography, Script Supervisor, or Production Designer. Or you can jump over to our Film Crew Index to browse the entire range of filmmaking roles. Understanding what everyone’s role on a film set is will help make you a better overall filmmaker and a more efficient crew member.

Up Next: Explore more crew positions →
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  • Kyle DeGuzman graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Science in Television, Film, & New Media. He currently resides in Denver, Colorado spending his time writing, filmmaking, and traveling.

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