TV/Film Producer

The Job and What's Involved

Almost any film or TV show has a producer at its centre. The producer leads the process of turning ideas or scripts into finished work with the potential for commercial success.

In television, producers are involved in all kinds of programmes - from dramas and documentaries to reality shows. In film, their projects can range from low budget movies to multimillion pound blockbusters.

It is a complex role. Producers initiate a project, assemble the creative team and oversee the entire production. Along the way, they may have to deal with a variety of issues - financial, creative and practical.

Before a production starts, a producer may:

  • Come up with the idea for a programme or film, or select a promising script.
  • Discuss projects with financial backers, to raise money for the production.
  • Commission a writer.
  • Secure the rights to a novel, play or screenplay.
  • Hire key members of the team, including a director and editor.
  • Seek out the right locations for filming.
  • Draw up shooting schedules.
  • Approve the final script and budget.

During production, the producer will:

  • Supervise the progress of filming, liaising closely with the director and other team members.
  • Approve script changes.
  • Monitor the budget.
  • Oversee health and safety in accordance with regulations.
  • Resolve problems as they arise.

Increasingly, some producers are also expected to take on directing duties.

The producer's job continues after production is complete. This may involve:

  • Supervising post-production work such as editing the footage.
  • Helping to plan the marketing and distribution of the finished product.

The producer acts as the key point of contact for external partners, such as investors, as well as for the project team. Producers may delegate work to assistants, such as co-producers, line producers or associate producers. They report to an executive producer or a production company.

Producers need to work flexibly. Long and unpredictable hours are common, especially during production times.

Producers work in offices, studios and on location. They travel frequently to attend meetings, to assess venues for filming and to oversee production. They may need to stay away overnight.

Starting salaries may range from around £15,000 to £25,000. Around 44 per cent of producers work freelance, negotiating rates for each separate contract.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 18,000 people work in producer roles in UK television and film.

The main employers are:

  • TV and film production companies.
  • Major broadcasters, such as the BBC and the ITV regional companies, which make some shows as well as commissioning from independent producers.
  • Production and facilities houses.

Jobs with terrestrial television companies have been in decline recently. The cable and satellite sector is smaller, but opportunities there are growing.

Most jobs are based in London and in other major cities, including Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Competition is fierce. Many jobs are never advertised. Producers are often selected on the basis of their track records and contacts made in the industry.

Some vacancies can be found in national and trade press, such as Broadcast and The Guardian (Mondays), and on employers' websites. Freelance staff can advertise their services through specialist websites such as www.film-tv.co.uk.

Education and Training

There is no set route into this work. Before taking on a production role, all producers have gained significant experience in the industry. For example:

  • TV drama producers may start off working in the theatre and progress via script-reading to production.
  • Some current affairs producers start as journalists or TV researchers.
  • A common route into the TV or film industry is to start as a runner, which offers the chance to make contacts and experience all aspects of the business.

There are no specified qualifications. In practice, many producers have a degree or HNC/HND.

Degrees and diplomas may be in any subject. Subjects such as film production, communications, broadcasting or drama may provide an advantage, but are not essential.

For a degree, the minimum requirements are usually two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. For an HNC/HND, candidates usually need one A level/two H grades and four GCSE's/three S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications.

Several training providers offer film production courses. The requirements vary, and competition for places can be keen. It is a good idea to check that courses offer opportunities for using the most advanced equipment, and for gaining work experience and making contacts in the industry. Skillset and the British Film Institute (BFI) both list courses on their websites, and they are listed in the Media Courses Directory.

The BBC and some independent companies run training schemes for new starters. The following companies run schemes supported by Skillset:

- FT2
- Cyfle
- Production Guild
- Scottish Screen
- Screen Yorkshire

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Producers will already have gained most of the skills they need before taking on the production role. They must make sure they stay up to date with new developments in the industry and may attend short courses in specific skills.

Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries, has set up a network of screen academies, based in Bournemouth, Edinburgh, London and Wales. Each offers a range of courses, summer schools, work placements, master classes, online learning resources and a talent scout programme.

Skillset also lists a comprehensive range of courses in film and TV-related subjects, from film financing to post-production techniques.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A producer must be:

  • Creative, driven and determined.
  • An excellent communicator.
  • Decisive.
  • An inspiring leader.
  • A shrewd negotiator.
  • Well organised.
  • Able to juggle priorities.
  • Effective under pressure.
  • Confident with figures.
  • Knowledgeable on all aspects of the industry - business, creative and technical.
  • Aware of health and safety issues.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no set career structure for producers.

After establishing themselves, producers may go on to run their own studios. Some become executive producers, taking overall responsibility for several projects.

Get Further Information

British Film Institute (BFI),
21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN
Tel: 020 7255 1444
Website: www.bfi.org.uk

BBC Recruitment,
PO Box 48305, London W12 6YE
Tel: 0870 333 1330
Website: www.bbc.co.uk/jobs

Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematographic
and Theatre Union (BECTU),
373-377 Clapham Road,
London SW9 9BT
Tel: 020 7346 0900
Website: www.bectu.org.uk

FT2 - Film and Television Freelance Training,
3rd Floor, 18-20 Southwark Street,
London SE1 1TJ
Tel: 020 7404 0344
Website: www.ft2.org.uk

ITV, ITV Network Centre,
200 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8HF
Tel: 084488 18000
Website: www.itv.com

New Producers Alliance (NPA),
NPA Film Centre, 703 Tea Building,
56 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ
Tel: 020 7613 0440
Website: www.npa.org.uk

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Tel: 020 7713 9800
Website: www.skillset.org

UK Film Council,
10 Little Portland Street,
London W1W 7JG
Tel: 020 7861 7861
Website: www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk

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