Blog Home

Meet the Producer

From concept to the red carpet, the producer is there to keep the production moving forward
June 15, 2021

Staff Writer

“And the Oscar goes to”…. When a movie wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it’s a producer who often makes the acceptance speech first. That’s because if a production – be it film or television – has something like a military general, it’s the producer. There are few roles that touch every part and stage of a project like a producer. “You are kind of the center of the juggernaut,” says Alexis Alexanian, who has produced independent films like 'Tape', 'Tadpole', 'Pieces of April', and 'Maggie’s Plan'.

Here’s a look at the role and responsibilities of a producer and what paths can be taken to become one.

What Does a Producer Do?

Producers enter “the juggernaut” early. “Traditionally, the producer is [there] at the very beginning trying to put the major pieces together,” says Alexanian. It starts with seeking out promising material for a project, whether it’s an original script or acquiring adaptation rights to books, articles, podcasts, and more. Producers will then draw on existing connections with talent (director, writer, cast) to attach them to the project, then pitch it to studios and/or financiers.

Financing is a key component of the production process, especially for the independent producer. The key financing components a producer needs to draw from consist of equity, debt, pre-sales, and production incentives. Equity is the sale of interests in a film or TV project in exchange for funding for the project. Debt is when a lender gives the Producer(s) money in exchange for a promise to repay the debt over time (in the overall financing formula, you want to keep the debt component as low as possible). Pre-Sales are commitments from distributors to purchase (distribution territories) before a production is completed, and producers use these pre-sales as collateral for loans to finance their projects. Production Incentives are subsidies (e.g., rebates/grants & tax credits) awarded to Producers who film in certain cities, states, and countries (hiring locally, spending locally, and promoting tourism, economic stimulus, and job creation in that location). These incentives not only benefit the Producer(s) but are beneficial to the respective city, state, or country's economy. Similar to pre-sales, producers use production incentives as collateral for loans to finance their projects.

Entertainment Partners also offers the financing of pre-sales and production incentives to producers to meet their budgeting needs. Please refer to EP’s production incentives pages for more information about production incentives offered domestically and internationally.

Once a green light has been given, most subsequent major decisions go through the producer. They weigh in on negotiating contracts, casting and crew, location scouting, budgeting and production incentives (which could subsidize up to 50% of a productions’ budget)as well as script changes and scheduling, Line Producer or Production Coordinator’s vendor and equipment plans, as well as what key creative partners the director wants.

The goal is to get everything in place so above-the-line talent can work freely, with minimal worry about logistics. Then, once production starts, a producer sees that through by helping everything run smoothly – with a special focus on keeping things on time and on budget. During post-production, the producer will share thoughts on edits, advertising, distribution, and public relations.

How Do You Become a Producer?

There are “creative” producers and “financial” producers, and there is no definitive path to becoming a producer, but there are reliable ones. Education is one way, as some producers have pursued literature and business college degrees to enable them to tackle the creative and/or financial aspects of the job. Film programs are another route, offering the benefit of hands-on filmmaking experience, formative creative relationships (which can be carried forward as careers advance) and easier access to internships.

Even without a formal education, an internship with an established producer, agency, or production company is a common entry point (along with other positions like reader or runner). From there, training upwards looks much like Alexanian’s early career trajectory. “I earned my stripes as an assistant production coordinator, took a test to be in the union, and then became a production coordinator,” she says. From there, many find themselves on the path towards becoming a unit production manager or line producer and eventually a producer. In addition to “production coordinator,” many producers learn the process from the bottom up, starting as a Production Accounting Clerk or Production Assistants and advancing to Production Accountants (aka Key Accountant or Production Controller). Entertainment Partners offers many courses as part of the EP Academy, including Production Accounting 101 & 201, SmartAccounting 101 & 201, and more, to help train people in the field of production accounting. If you're interested to learn more about this career path, check out our article Meet the Production Accountant!

There is, however, an alternative way, one Alexanian took after her production coordinator role. Having learned many of the day-to-day logistics of filmmaking, she channeled her entrepreneurial spirit and began producing independent films on her own. That step, in fact, is one some go straight to – leaping past education and paying dues – by producing their own short films or small feature films right out of the gate.

What Makes a Great Producer?

Given how many people producers interact with and manage, the job is made considerably easier (for all involved) if a producer is able to work and communicate well with others. Understanding people – their personalities, needs, work habits – is also critical. “I say I have a Ph.D. in behavior science,” jokes Alexanian.

Psychological know-how compliments a producer’s ability to navigate deals and enable fruitful collaborations. It can also assist producers in hiring those who are best suited to help them, as well as how to delegate to them. “Part of [the job] is hiring the right people and supporting yourself with the right people,” says Alexanian. Once psychological insight has helped the selection of collaborators, it can help determine who should do what. “A lot of it is communication around defining roles and responsibilities.”

A great producer, perhaps above all else, is well suited with a love for storytelling. Not just because a tough job like producing requires a passion to sustain you, but because that love also translates to understanding storytelling. The love of storytelling, in turn, allows producers to identify good material and help bring it to the screen. Which allows producers to, perhaps, one day stand on the stage of Academy Awards, holding a statue with pride..”I’d like to thank the Academy…”

Topic: Spotlight

Related Content

Streamers and the Changing Landscape of Film Distribution

9/14/2021
Director/Producer Daniel Farrands on strategies for success in the time of VOD
More
Anthony De La Rosa EP Residuals

The Beginner's Guide to Film and Television Residuals

7/7/2021
Important details every producer should know as they budget for their next project
Celebrating Pride Month Panel

Celebrating Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Film and Television

6/24/2021
Celebrate Pride month with us as our panel of groundbreaking producers and activists discuss the past,...
Master Series Return to Work Agreement Panel

Understanding the COVID-19 Return-To-Work Labor Agreement

11/12/2020
EP's Legal experts explain the entertainment industry's safety guidelines
Pressing Play in Eastern Canada Panel

Pressing Play in Canada: From Nunavut to Nova Scotia, Production Returns to the Eastern Provinces!

10/29/2020
Producers from across Eastern Canada come together to discuss the exciting work coming out of the...

Meet the Paymasters

9/9/2021
The hard-working payroll professionals behind Hollywood's paychecks

How to solve a compounding problem?

9/8/2021
The perennial shortage of production accountants has been made worse by the competition for resources, but...

Designing for Horror

8/13/2021
How filmmakers create fear through visual techniques
Paul Beyers prop master on set

Meet the Prop Master

7/28/2021
From script to screen, the creative mind behind the props from film and television

5 Things to Know Before Relocating for Your Next Job

7/20/2021
What production workers need to consider before moving to a new state
Equity Financing Panel-thumbnail

Film Financing Explained: Equity Financing

7/15/2021
James Schamus and Michael Helfant join our panel to share expert advice on funding film and television...

The Beginner’s Guide to Equity Financing

7/15/2021
Expert advice to help producers secure funding for their next project

Diversifying Hollywood Through Better Hiring and Training

6/22/2021
How new legislation and production incentives are promoting diversity and inclusion
Sarah Westman-liu and Jennifer Liscio

Canadian Incentives and Legislation News

6/10/2021
The latest updates on incentives, CRA guidance on COVID-19 related costs, and more!

Choosing the Right Production Incentives

6/2/2021
5 questions to ask when selecting your next incentive-based filming location

The Path to Better Diversity and Inclusion in Hollywood

5/25/2021
How production incentives are helping to promote inclusivity

Meet The Costume Designer

5/4/2021
The artist behind a character's signature style
Spotlight on Georgia Production Panel

Spotlight on Georgia: The Producers' Perspective

4/28/2021
A dynamic group of producers, industry experts, and incentive specialists discuss the state of production...

Innovations in Production Incentives

4/27/2021
How emerging local initiatives are driving productions to new jurisdictions

The Beginner's Guide to Production Financing

4/6/2021
What to know before starting your next film or television project
Producing through COVID women producers panel

Producing Through COVID-19: A Discussion with Six Prominent Women Producers

3/25/2021
Stories of navigating the entertainment industry and producing during a pandemic
Pantea Ahmadi and Joe Scudiero

SB 973's Impact on the Entertainment Industry

3/15/2021
How California’s new pay data reporting legislation, SB 973, applys to the entertainment industry
Topic: Legal
Watch

Returning to Production: Hair and Makeup Teams Apply COVID-19 Protocols to Life on Set

2/26/2021
Getting back to work: a look inside set life during COVID-19
Melissa Lintinger NBCU

A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU

1/7/2021
How television crews are getting back to work during COVID-19
Paul Steinke

A Conversation with Paul Steinke, SVP Production Finance at Walt Disney Studios

12/9/2020
Mark Goldstein and Paul Steinke discuss the state of the industry, emerging technology and more!
Christy Guilbault, Annette Martinez-Novo

EP Cares — The Industry's Leading Health Insurance Program

11/24/2020
Learn how to get your production company on the industry’s leading health insurance program for non-union...
Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19 panel

From Domestic TV to Mission Impossible 7: Nordic Countries Lead Production Return from COVID-19

10/15/2020
Lessons learned about producing through a pandemic, and how the Nordic countries got it right
All eyes on Florida panel

All Eyes on Florida: Spotlight on Florida Productions

10/1/2020
Producers and Commissioners from across Florida discuss production, crews, infrastructure and incentives
Identity Security Film Production-sq

Identity Security in Production

10/13/2021
5 Strategies to Manage Risk and Resist Cyberattacks in the Entertainment Industry
5 top payroll tax errors-Becky Harshberger

5 Top Payroll Tax Errors and How to Prevent Them

9/28/2021
Production payroll can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Payroll Tax expert Becky Harshberger...
Christine Davila, Jairo Alvarado, Sonia Gambaro

Authentic Latinx Storytelling Starts with Inclusion

9/22/2021
Christine Dávila, Jairo Alvarado, and Sonia Gambaro work to amplify the talents of underrepresented...

Film Financing Explained: Soft Money Financing

9/2/2021
Vivian Hua joins our panel of financing and incentive experts to discuss funding film and television...
Canadian flag

5 Things to Know Before Working in Canada

8/31/2021
Prepare for your next job in Canada with this checklist of payroll considerations
Topic: Canada
More

New Terms Under Return-To-Work Agreement

8/30/2021
RTW extension includes new two-part delineation, and the role of the vaccine
Topic: Legal
More
 John Hadity-Guide to Soft Money Financing-sq

The Beginner’s Guide to Soft Money Financing

8/25/2021
How filmmakers can capitalize on incentives, film funds, and more to finance their next project
actors on set

Safety on Set Amid Changing COVID-19 Guidelines

6/9/2021
What productions should know as they head back to work

Meet the Production Accountant

5/18/2021
From budgeting, to billing, to payroll, the financial powerhouse behind every production

Editorial Spotlight: Dana Belcastro

3/30/2021
Producer and executive, Dana Belcastro, on how women are changing the way Hollywood does business

Editorial Spotlight: Nancy Savoca

3/23/2021
In celebration of Women's History Month, director and producer, Nancy Savoca, shares her experience in...

Women Impacting Hollywood

3/16/2021
From Storytelling to Set Design, Female Voices are Shaping Entertainment

Diversity and Pay Reporting in California

3/6/2021
Your guide to understanding SB 973 and its application to the entertainment industry

SB 973, California Pay Data Reporting Law FAQs

3/6/2021
The new pay data reporting law and its impact on the entertainment industry

The Beginner's Guide to Production Incentives

2/17/2021
EP helps filmmakers navigate the complex world of film and television incentives
Pantea Ahmadi and Alan Wu

California & New York Employment and Privacy Legislation Changes in 2021

1/27/2021
EP's Legal team breaks down important legislation changes impacting production hubs
Topic: Legal
Watch

How Television Crews Are Getting Back to Work

1/12/2021
A Conversation with Melissa Lintinger, SVP of Production Finance, NBCU
Becky Harshberger and Neddy Alonso

Preparing for 2021 Payroll Tax Changes and the New Form 1099-NEC

12/10/2020
EP's payroll tax experts walk through the 1099-NEC and other important changes

Film Tax Credit Programs Face Uncertain Future

8/31/2020
Tax incentive programs draw high profile productions, cautious optimism for California
Subscribe now

Be an industry insider with EP's
newsletters and alerts

LegalPrivacy NoticeSecurity