What Does a Line Producer Do?
The line producer is the unsung hero of the movie business. They are in charge of all business aspects of production (below the line costs) and are the ones responsible for the film being completed on-time and on-budget. Their work on a film can begin as early as the late stages of development and continues through the release and distribution of the film. For this reason, the line producer is likely one of the first hires of the producer and executive producers.
The line producer’s first role is to break down a screenplay into a schedule from which they assess the likely below the line costs of production. This provisional budget is used to estimate the total amount of funding necessary to make the movie. While it is the job of the producer and executive producer to find the required funding, the line producer’s provisional budget can help inspire investors to fund the project. Once the necessary funding is in place, the pre-production phase begins.
The first step in the line producer’s pre-production responsibilities is to set up the production company for the project. This is done to limit the investor’s liability to the project itself. Once the production company is set up, pre-production starts in earnest. The line producer, subject to producer and executive producer approval, hires department heads and then works with the director, first assistant director, production manager, art director and other department heads to set the final budget and shooting schedule. It is standard practice to set aside 10% of the total budget for contingencies—to cover reshoots, weather delays and other unplanned for expenses.
From there, the line producer hires the crew, oversees location scouting, secures permits, keeps compliant with rules and regulations including health and safety concerns, purchases necessary insurance and completion bonds, sources equipment, props and supplies, hires supporting actors, liaisons with the unions, monitors the progress of all production departments and otherwise ensures that the production is ready to start as scheduled and on budget.
Once production starts, the line producer moves into more of an overseer role. They delegate the day-to-day budget to the production accountant and the day-to-day production operations to the production manager and production coordinator. At the end of the day, it’s the line producer who is responsible for keeping things on-schedule and on-budget, so it’s imperitive that they put financial monitoring systems in place to control all production expenditures and scheduling.
During post production, the line producer works with the post-production supervisor and manages the budget for editors, composers, sound designers and the visual effects department to ensure the project keeps on-budget and on-schedule. (Read: Film Connection student David Nance has Line Producing Career in Sight.)
Once post production is completed, and the final approved version for theatrical release is completed, the line producer is in charge of making sure the deliverables go out on-time and to the proper parties. These include picture items (original picture and soundtrack, the same without superimposed titles, answer print, M&E track, trailer materials, etc.) and documentation (continuity script, title sheets, music cue sheets, copyright information, chain of title, screen credit obligations, music license and composer agreements, publicity and advertising materials, etc.) The line producer is the one responsible for ensuring that distribution gets everything they need to promote and present the movie at the venues it has booked.
The line producer has A LOT of responsibility and needs to be an expert at the costs and timetables of film production. Line producers are created, not born. They usually work their way up to line producer with stints as assistant directors, location managers production coordinators after “graduating” from being runners or production assistants.