Unscripted TV

Line producer

Also known as: LP, Production manager

Line producer

What does a line producer do?

Line producers oversee large-scale unscripted TV productions from a business perspective.

They work collaboratively with the heads of department on an unscripted TV production to identify the most creative, efficient and effective way to allocate the money and resources available to deliver the best production. This means they need to understand the editorial, technical and craft needs of a production and be able to think laterally when offering up solutions to balance production, financial and editorial challenges.

Line producers are responsible for the contractual management of staff, talent and contributors. They negotiate deals with external companies, such as post-production houses, implement health and safety regulations, make sure all necessary insurance is in place and ensure any compliance and legal requirements are adhered to.

They create the overall schedule that covers the three stages of a programme’s production, allocating time and staff to planning and pre-production, filming and through to the final stages of post-production and delivery.

Line producers work on larger-scale TV productions and tend to work on a series for the duration of its run. They might appoint more than one production manager to look after different aspects of the production, such as the filming or the edit. On smaller productions, the production manager covers the line producer’s role.

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What's a line producer good at?

  • Business: create, forecast and manage a programme budget, balance editorial ambition with financial constraints and available resources
  • Negotiation: have keen business acumen and established contacts with suppliers to secure the best solutions for the production company
  • Legal knowledge: manage and implement health and safety, insurance and data protection legislation, contractual rights, compliance and copyright requirements
  • Organisation: plan, monitor and control systems and schedules, ensure your team is clear about their roles and duties and all work is logged and filed
  • Recruiting and leading: have a large contacts book, recruit and manage the best production management team and crew for the job

Who does a line producer work with?

Line producers report to a production executive or head of production and are responsible for the line management of production management teams. They work collaboratively with the executive producer and the series producer and closely with heads of other departments.

How do I become a line producer?

Line producer is a senior role in the unscripted TV industry, so you need a lot of experience before you can become one. There is no set route, but the career path is generally to start as a runner, receptionist or personal assistant and then gradually progress through the roles of production secretary, production coordinator, production manager and then line producer. The role is ideal for those who have business or project management experience within other industries. Accountancy skills, for example, can be easily transferred to this department.

At school or college:
Any subjects you enjoy can form a good basis for this role, but A-levels or Highers in English, media studies, maths and business studies are particularly relevant.

If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:

  • OCR Technical Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Business
  • AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • Diploma in Production Accounting for Film and Television
  • IAO Diploma in Accounting
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
  • Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media 
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
  • BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Production
  • BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production 
  • UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology

Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. Some of the major broadcasters offer apprenticeships. Check out the schemes with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.

If you can’t get an apprenticeship with a broadcaster, it might be worth trying to find one outside the TV industry, where you can develop your skills and your craft. You can then move into TV at a later point.

These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:

You might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following standards and frameworks:

Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will give you the skills you want. Go to where can I find an apprenticeship? to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region, or approach companies directly.

Get a degree:
It is not essential to get a degree to become a line producer, but if you’d like one, you might want to take look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in film and television production. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the unscripted TV industry. Courses in accounting, business or finance may also be helpful with a view to being able to manage budgets.

Get work experience:
Try to get work experience by writing to local production companies and asking if they offer any. Keep an eye out for work experience opportunities at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and the PACT Indie Diversity Training Scheme.

Look outside the industry:
Get project management, business or accountancy experience in a different industry. This kind of work will provide you with skills that you can transfer to the role of line producer, such as budgeting, planning and organising.

Take a short course:
Hone your skills in accountancy and budgeting by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills to see if there is one. Also, get qualifications in health and safety. Filter ScreenSkills’ list of training courses by ‘health and safety’ as listed under ‘skills’.

Network:
Get to know people in the unscripted TV industry by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest in and knowledge of the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.

Network online:
Create a LinkedIn profile. See if there are Facebook pages or other social media groups for people making unscripted TV in your area. There might even be groups for runners and trainees. Join them. Create a ScreenSkills profile. There are a lot of crewing agencies that will charge you to be on their books. Sign up to the free ones initially. Wales ScreenNorthern Ireland Screen and other areas offer free crew databases. Find a film office near you and get connected. If you do sign up to paid sites, make sure they specialise in the areas in which you’re interested.

Search for jobs:
Research unscripted TV production companies that you’d like to work for and watch the programmes that they make. Regularly check their websites and job listings websites to see if they are advertising for roles. Register your CV on websites like The Talent Manager, which is used by most broadcasters and independent production companies when looking for staff. StartinTV offers tips on creating your CV and attending interviews, as well as some advice for your first day working in TV.

You might also be interested in...

Being a line producer or producer in the film and TV drama industries, or being a VFX producer, games producer or a producer in the animation industry.

Further resources