Have you ever noticed during the opening credit roll in a movie that for most jobs there is only one or two people listed but often there are four, five or sometimes as many as ten producers and/or executive producers listed! What the heck?! Who are these mysterious producers, and what do they do? We answer those questions in this article called The Producers.
Unlike other fields in the movie industry such as acting, writing or directing, there is no Guild to belong to, and there is no formal training one must undertake to become a producer. Also, unlike those other clearly defined fields, we do not know quite so well what the producers do, or what the difference is between an Executive Producer or an Associate Producer, or why are there so many producers in a movie?
First let's look at who the producer is and what he or she may do.
On its most basic level the producer is the person who, well, produces the movie. Clear as mud ain't it! Actually there are very many jobs throughout the whole film-making process that get tasked to a producer. In the first few decades of the film industry the producer had almost complete creative control of the movie. However with the collapse of the studio system (where the studio controlled all aspects of the movie from inception down to where it even showed upon completion) in the 1950s the creative control moved more towards the hands of the director. Today the analogy could be made that if the director is considered the "head of state" than the producer would be the "chief of staff".
While the producer may not be the person who came up with the idea for a movie, he or she is often one of the very first people who sign on to the collaborative effort to make it. Often this is even before a writer is hired, which is why this is one job a producer takes on; hiring the writer.
Some of the dozens of other jobs the producer can be asked to do include; hiring others in the project such as the director and technical crew, arranging for the signing of the actors, selling the script and/or movie to a studio, as well as making the budget and setting the film schedule. They are also involved in every stage of a film's career. From it's very inception, as noted above, to pre-production, through principle photography, to post-production and even onto marketing and distribution.
Since, as you see, there are so many tasks for a producer, this is one reason there are often so many for any one film: One producer could never do all these things. But why all the different variations in a producer's title? You often see in the credits; Producers, Executive Producers, Associate Producers, and to a lesser extent sometimes even Supervising Producers, Staff Producers, Line Producers or Independent Producers. One could roughly define the differences as these: Producers are often involved to a large extent throughout the movie and have various tasks. Executive Producers often have very limited involvement and could be getting that title for as little as, finding a script or storyline, or being one of the main actors who feels their involvement in the movie went beyond acting their role. Associate Producers are those who are often closely tied to one specific aspect of producing yet are also involved for a good deal of the movie's creation. Supervising Producers are similar to Associate Producers but have a less hands-on role as the associates and as their title suggests, mainly supervise another team. Staff Producers are those who are employed by a particular production company and often specialize in one particular task or type of film. Finally, Line Producers and Independent Producers are fairly similar. Both these types of producers typically have production management skills and are used to run the day to day processes to ensure everything runs smoothly and is finished on time and on budget.
Due to the fact that there are so many producers out there, as well as that often actors are titled as producers, there aren't too many producers that are well known. Most often it is directors who also have produced that many of us will know as producers. Examples of this are Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Some actors who also often take on a role/title of producer during their movies include, Tom Cruise, Adam Sandler and Sandra Bullock. But some of the most famous producers who are mainly just producers, include the likes of; Brian Grazer, Kathleen Kennedy and Jerry Bruckheimer (names you will probably recognize).
As mentioned above, there is no formal training for a producer's job, so are you coming out of university or college right now with perhaps a Business or Arts degree but not sure where to go from there? Interested in the movie industry beyond just watching the films? Then maybe hunt around for production studios that are hiring for entry level producers jobs. Perhaps down the road you could be the next Kathleen Kennedy or Jerry Bruckheimer?