The Importance of a Line Producer
The line producer is usually one of the first people who will get involved with a film production and ultimately is one of the most important as well. They will typically work as the direct line between the studio executives and department heads on set. They are essentially the line of communication between the two entities.
The line producer’s job can be a tricky one at times. Everybody wants to be part of a good film, television series, or other visual production, but that definition can change depending on who’s being asked. For the studio or film producer, a good movie is one that makes a lot of money, so a line producer needs to be able to manage the budget.
For the director, cast, and crew, a good movie is one that moves their audiences, bringing an artistic vision to life. In that case, a line producer needs to be able to work with a director to get him what he needs. These parameters can be set before pre-production meetings or changed during shooting or even post-production.
Those two sides of the same coin don’t always see eye to eye. In many cases, the line producer needs to be a salesperson, securing more money from the studio when it makes sense to do so. They’ll also need to be a master communicator to reign in a production crew when the vision becomes too grand. A line producer ensures that both sides end up happy with the final production.
A line producer needs to be able to take criticism and complaints from both directions, process them into something that will be useful within a given context, and then utilize the information to help executives and crew members make better decisions. The life of a movie can often depend upon the work of its producers.
This means that more than anything else, the production of a film is about business and the balance between financial concerns and artistic creation. A producer needs to keep in mind the concerns of those who are paying for the movie while ensuring that actors and crew members are happy and providing the work needed to create a movie.
Without effective work by a producer, the movie can easily flounder in any stage of production. Line producers working during the making of a film need to be available 24-7. Even if no filming is taking place, they may get questions about a shooting schedule for the next day or how location scouting is progressing.
Line producers work closely with unit production manager (UPM), the top “below the line” position. Much like the line producer is a conduit for the studio and the production crew, the UPM is the main point of communication between the crew and the line manager. The production size of a feature film may dictate whether a UPM is needed.
Very large productions may need a production coordinator, a position that answers to the line producer or UPM. This coordinator also manages the production assistants on staff. Like a best boy or girl working directly under a key grip or a 1st assistant director under the director, a UPM assists the line producer.
Line producers often need to understand business concepts like people and time management more than the artistic merits of film theory. So while they may have a say in the line costs of a certain location, they don’t really having any input on lighting, camera angles, or the script.
So, who is a line producer beholden to? If they work for a production company or as a freelance line producer, the studio is usually the one writing the check. So it’s their job to make the budget work first. As such, a line producer often has a background in business or the practical side of film production.
Most line producers do not go to film school, and it is fairly common for a producer to have a background in a different field instead, such as a certified public accountant. A good line producer might attend classes at a traditional school, or he or she may learn from a mentor already working in the film industry.
Extern producers may be somewhat uncommon, but the opportunity to learn from a producer on the set of a motion picture is something that just about any future line producer would pursue in an instant. It doesn’t matter if they come from outside in the industry or have been working in movies for a few years.
Being a line producer is more than understanding credits, debits, and staying in the black. As a production assistant (PA), you may have a working idea of how a film is made, but an only cursory understanding of how a budget works. In both cases, an aspiring line producer needs to find someone to learn under, filling in the missing bits of knowledge along the way.
As part of the Film Connection From Producing and Editing Program, you’ll do exactly that. No matter your background, you’ll be placed with a production company working one-on-one with an established mentor. Researching, setting, and balancing a budget is just one of the lessons you’ll learn in this six- to nine-month program.
You’ll also learn different jobs within a production crew, including sound, lighting, and camera operators. Working on a set in a downtown studio or on location, our externs learn by doing in the field. Have a head for numbers and thinking about getting into entertainment? Apply today and we’ll give you the direction. The rest is up to you.