What does a Motion Picture Producer do?

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What is a Motion Picture Producer?

The job of Motion Picture Producer may seem like a very glamorous one, but although it allows for a great deal of artistic and creative freedom, it is a job that requires hard work and perseverance. Producers are responsible for taking a writer's script and using it to create movies, television shows, live theater, and other artistic productions. The Motion Picture Producer takes full responsibility for the project from beginning to end, makes all the final decisions, and is accountable for how the end product turns out.

Producers need to be creative and practical at the same time. The director will make an artistic interpretation of the script and the producer needs to put it into financial terms. Producers usually have a good understanding of the industry as a whole, whether it be film, television, radio, theater or other art production area. They need to understand the competition and know how to best market their creative product.

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What does a Motion Picture Producer do?

The producer works closely with the director in developing an artistic production. The director makes creative decisions, while the producer makes the business and financial decisions. This begins with selection of a script, or hiring a scriptwriter to interpret a book or literary work. Auditions must then be held to select cast members. Producers manage financial aspects and make sure production remains on budget and on time.

Some of the duties of a Motion Picture Producer:

  • marketing the idea for a theater production, film, or television or radio program
  • acquiring rights to the script
  • obtaining financial backing and develop a budget
  • hiring all staff, including directors, writers, production crew, musicians, choreographers, costume and set designers
  • overseeing daily production both on set and off
  • finalizing all post-production aspects
  • negotiating distribution rights and promoting the production

Each of the above responsibilities can be expanded. For example, the producer not only hires staff but must do salary and contract negotiations, and must be familiar with relevant workplace legislation and union or association agreements. Budget must be closely monitored, from the smallest piece of lighting or film equipment to location travel expenses and overtime wages.

A key aspect of a producer's job is distribution and promotion. This includes advance press, promotional clips and other types of promotional material, media interviews and promo tours.

How to become a Motion Picture Producer

There are few formal training programs for Motion Picture Producers, but most have at minimum a bachelor degree, and many hold a Master of Fine Arts degree. Majors are often in writing, journalism, acting, communication, or theatre arts, but many producers earn degrees in arts management or business. In the U.S. there are more than 150 accredited programs in theater arts that include training in playwriting, set design, directing, and film editing. In Canada there are a number of post-secondary film, television and theatre production programs. Most of these offer two-year diplomas or a post-diploma bachelor degree.

Most often, television and movie producers work their way up and learn the job through experience. Many begin as set assistants, or as actors, writers, choreographers, and film editors. Over the years they learn the profession of directing and producing. Producers also come from a range of backgrounds. Many have a legal or business background, and documentary producers often come from a political science or social justice environment. Some theater producers are business people who recognize a potential commercial venture.

Some of the personal characteristics useful in a Motion Picture Producer:

  • a strong business sense and understanding of finances
  • good communication and ability to write effective proposals
  • understanding of technology
  • excellent leadership and management abilities

There is intense competition for jobs, with many more potential workers than open positions. Experience and good business skills will improve prospects. Producers who have a good understanding of the marketplace, networks and programming, and who know how to establish a reputation are more likely to succeed.

What is the workplace of a Motion Picture Producer like?

The work environment is high-stress with a great deal of pressure. Assignments may be short, ranging from commercials to training videos to radio shorts; or they may be longer, ranging from documentaries to music videos to feature films. Many producers are self-employed, while others are employed directly by the motion picture or video industry or in radio and television broadcasting. Some producers work in performing arts and sporting industries, cable television, or radio. Hours are irregular and often very long, with weekend, evening, and holidays forming part of the regular work day.

The work location may be a theater or soundstage, a television studio or radio station. Much of the producer's work is done outside of the workplace. The job may also be mobile when filming on location or traveling with a touring company. Weather conditions may sometimes be a factor.

Although producers in the U.S. and Canada can find work in different production fields almost anywhere, much of the work is concentrated in several large centers that serve as the hub of the motion picture industry. Many producers work on contract and move from one location to another, often learning the trade in other countries with major film industry centers, such as Bollywood or Teluga cinema, France, or Hong Kong. Films are also sometimes produced in these other centers as a way to manage costs.