The production department is responsible for all of the budgeting and logistical side of a film or TV shows production. While ultimately responsible to the producer, the department is led by a line producer and production manager who have a huge degree of responsibility over the successful running of the production. The department also includes production co-ordinators, assistants, secretaries and runners.
Skills needed to work in film and TV production
- excellent planning skills
- organisation and administrative skills
- excellent communication and negotiation
- familiarity with budgeting and accounting programmes
- familiarity with film scheduling and word processing software
- good contacts with equipment suppliers and personnel recruitment
- knowledge of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
- knowledge of insurance issues
Ways into production
There are no specific qualifications for working in production. Many progress by working their way through a variety of roles, including assistant director, location manager and jobs in the production office. Most start as runners before becoming secretaries or assistants. A degree in film or media studies is not essential, though may be advantageous, as are courses covering health and safety, budgeting and scheduling, IT and first aid. Line producers must attend required health and safety courses.
Attending industry networking events, predominantly organised by the guilds and associations, are informative and can connect you with helpful contacts and opportunities.
Jobs in production
Line producers are in charge of all the business aspects of physical production. They are given a script and must assess the 'below the line' cost (development costs, crew salaries, set design, construction, equipment hire, locations, catering, travel, insurance, etc. ‘Above the line’ costs refer to writers, directors, producers and cast). Line producers oversee pre-production activities including hiring the crew, location scouting, setting up offices and ensuring compliance with insurance and health and safety procedure. On larger productions, the line producer will have a direct relationship with the completion guarantor, sometimes known as the completion bond. This is an insurance that the financiers take out to ensure the film is delivered on time and on budget.
Production managers are in charge of all expenditure below-the-line. They work with the producer, line producer and first assistant director to break down the script page-by-page and prepare a provisional schedule. Once the budget is signed off, they assist producers in selecting crews and suppliers. During production, they ensure bills are paid and tasks are delegated, including setting up financial monitoring systems, controlling production expenditure and the progress of production. At the end of a shoot, the production manager ensures all final invoices are received, checked and passed for payment and location and equipment rentals are signed off and returned.
A production coordinator must perform many clerical duties including drafting correspondence, crew contact lists and daily call sheets. They may type and distribute revised scripts and serve as an administrative assistant to the production manager. They may have a assistant production co-ordinator and several runners working directly under them.
Secretaries provide administrative assistance to the line producer, production manager, and production co-ordinators. They organise travel, accommodation and supplies and assist with production paperwork such as contracts, letters, documents and script changes.
Production runner or production assistant
Runners assist the producer and other production staff. Duties include answering phones, filing paperwork, data entry, arranging lunches and dinners, reservations, photocopying, office admin and distributing paperwork. On-set runners are expected to keep the set clean, act as couriers and distribute call sheets and paperwork. They may also co-ordinate extras and perform crowd control (except where this work is dangerous).
Find out more about working in production
Organisations and websites:
- The Production Guild
- Producers Alliance for Film & Television (PACT)
- Women in Film & Television (WFTV)
- BECTU (the media and entertainment union)
- Shooting People
- Production Base
- Below the Line: Find Film Work
- The Complete Film Production Handbook, by Eve Light Honthaner
- The Insider's Guide to Film Finance, by Philip Alberstat
- The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution, by Stacey Parks
- So You Want to Be a Producer (Screen and Cinema - Professional Media Practice)m by Lawrence Turman
- What a Producer Does: Art of Moviemaking (Not the Business), by Buck Houghton
- Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice), by Elliot Grove
- Film and Video Budgets: 5th Edition (Film + Video Budgets), by Deke Simon
- From Script to Screen – the collaborative art of film making by Linda Seger & Edward Jay Whetmore
- The Insider's Guide to Film Finance by Philip Alberstat
- Film Finance Handbook 2007/2008: How to Fund Your Film by Nicol Wistreich Adam P. Davies
- The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution by Stacey Parks
- Hollywood Economist by Edward Jay Epstein
- Filmmakers and Financing: Business Plan For Independents by Louise Levison
Some other job roles in management and logistics
Health and safety
Film and TV sets and locations can be dangerous places and health and safety advisors, nurses and paramedics need to be ready when things go wrong
First, second, third assistant directors and floor runners all work to help run the set - and for some this is a training ground to directing themselves
Location managers are responsible for finding the perfect place to film a movie or TV show, and are helped by assistants, unit managers and runners