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TV/Film Producer

Almost any film or TV production 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.

Producers may:

  • come up with the idea for a film or production
  • raise money to fund the film or show
  • commission writers and hire a director, editor and other crew members
  • draw up shooting schedules
  • supervise the progress of filming, liaising closely with the director and other team members
  • ensure the project is completed to budget
  • oversee the editing process
  • get involved in promoting the finished product.

Producers often need to work long and unpredictable hours, especially during production. They work in offices, in studios and at filming locations.

Salaries may range from £15,000 to over £75,000 for the top producers.

Producers need:

  • creative vision
  • leadership and communication skills
  • negotiating ability
  • to be exceptionally well organised
  • to be able to work with figures.
  • a passion for film or programme making.

There are around 18,000 producers in the UK. They work for production companies, the major broadcasters and production houses. Most jobs are in London or other major cities such as Manchester and Cardiff. Competition for jobs is fierce.

There are no set qualifications, though many producers have a foundation degree, an honours degree or a Higher National Diploma/Certificate (HND/HNC). They move into producing through a variety of routes. 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. Another 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.

Producers must keep up to date with new developments in the industry. They may attend short courses to maintain and develop their skills.

Successful producers may go on to run their own studios or production companies. They may become executive producers, taking overall responsibility for several projects.

What is the work like?

Almost any film or TV production 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 projects to multi-million pound blockbusters.

Producers initiate a project, assemble the creative team and oversee the entire production, dealing with financial, creative and practical issues.

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.

Hours and environment

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

Producers work in offices, in 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.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

Almost half of all producers work freelance, negotiating rates for each separate contract.

  • Starting salaries may range from around £15,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience, earnings can rise to £30,000.
  • Top producers with a strong track record can earn £75,000 or more.

Skills and personal qualities

A producer must be:

  • creative
  • an excellent communicator
  • driven and determined
  • decisive
  • an inspiring leader
  • a shrewd negotiator
  • well organised
  • able to juggle priorities
  • effective under pressure
  • able to work with figures.

Interests

It is essential to have:

  • a passion for film or programme making
  • an interest in business, creative and technical aspects of the industry.

Getting in

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, that make 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, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff 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.

Entry routes

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 hold a foundation degree, an honours degree or a Higher National Diploma/Certificate (HND/HNC). Subjects such as film production, communications, broadcasting or drama may provide an advantage, but are not essential.

As a guide, minimum requirements for entry on to a foundation degree or HND course are normally one A level and three to four GCSEs (A*-C), or equivalent. For a degree course, the minimum requirements are normally two A levels and five GCSEs (A*-C), usually to include English and maths, or equivalent.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work.

Full-time and part-time courses in producing for film and television are available. The requirements vary, and competition for places can be keen. Candidates should 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.

The BBC, some independent companies and Regional Screen Agencies run training schemes for new entrants.

Training

Producers must make sure they stay up to date with new developments in the industry and may attend short courses in specific skills.

The Media and Screen Academies across the UK offer a range of courses, summer schools, work placements, master classes, online learning resources and a talent scout programme. Skillset has details, as well as listing courses in film- and TV-related subjects, from film financing to post-production techniques.

Getting on

There is no set career structure for producers.

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

Further information

ACE Producers, 8 rue Mayran, 75009 Paris, France. Website: www.ace-producers.com

BBC Recruitment HR Direct, PO Box 1133, Belfast BT1 9GP. Website: www.bbc.co.uk/jobs

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

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

Film and Television Freelance Training (FT2), 3rd Floor, 18-20 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TJ. 020 7407 0344. Website: www.ft2.org.uk

ITV, ITV Network Centre, 200 Gray's Inn Road, London WC1X 8HF. 0844 881 8000. Website: www.itv.com/jobs

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

The Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television, PACT, 3rd Floor, Fitzrovia House, 153-157 Cleveland Street, London W1T 6QW. Website: www.pact.co.uk

The Production Guild, N & P Complex, Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath SL0 0NH. 01753 651767. Website: www.productionguild.com

Shooting People, PO Box 51350, London N1 6XS. Website: www.shootingpeople.org

Skillset, Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB. 020 7713 9800. Careers helpline 080 8030 0900. Website: www.skillset.org

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

UK Media Team, Media Desk UK, c/o UK Film Council, 10 Little Portland Street, London W1W 7JG. 020 7861 7511. Website: www.mediadesk.co.uk

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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