It's a slow news day and I don't feel like writing about people pissing away money on Charlie Sheen, an idiot claiming that Hangover 2 was based on his life, or the anonymous actress suing IMDB for revealing her age.
So I'm going to do another edition of WHO DOES WHAT? where I attempt to explain the jobs that make Hollywood tick.
Today is a tricky one, it's THE PRODUCER!
Everyone has an image in their head when they hear the words "Movie Producer," and it's the stereotype, left over from Hollywood's Golden Age, of a middle aged, cigar smoking man in a suit who talks fast, works hard, lives high and has to control everything.
Yet not enough people know what it is that Producers do, and the several sub-species of Producers only confuse the matter further.
Well, in a best case, utopia with unicorns world, directors are credited with making the films, however, it is up to the Producer to GET THE FILMS MADE.
Now this world is not a utopia with unicorns, so things get way more complicated, but I have get back to that later. Right now let's take a look at the different kinds of producers for film and TV.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: In the world of feature films movies begin with an executive producer. This is usually the guy who takes a script and either puts together the financing for the production, or sells it to a studio to make, while some do some of the major hiring and casting.
In television there are two types of Executive Producer. The first kind is like the feature film EP, sets up the financing, the major hires, and sells it to the network or cable channel. The second kind of TV Executive Producer is also called "The Showrunner." They act as the day to day top manager, head writer, and handle most hiring and firings after the show goes to air.
PRODUCER: In feature films these are the guys and gals who pick up the package put together by the Executive Producer and runs with it. They do all the hiring that wasn't already done when the Executive Producer put together the initial package sold to the studio. They supervise the rewrites, put together the final budget, work out the schedule, and manage the thousands of piddly details that go into making a feature film through pre-production, production, and post production.
Once the film is complete they then work with the studio/distributor on release and marketing plans.
In television it's a different story. The Producers act mostly as deputies to the TV show's Executive Producer Show- runner. They handle a lot of the management issues that come up. Budgets, schedules and other associated nonsense that come up when you're making the equivalent of half a feature film a week.
ASSOCIATE PRODUCER: In feature films these act as the deputies for the Producers, in the way that TV producers serve as deputies for the showrunner.
In television it's a common practice for the senior staff writers to serve as associated producers, and they handle a lot of the management decisions for specific episodes, usually episodes they either wrote, or contributed to the writing of. This way they can have one associate producer shooting an episode while another does the preparation for the next episode, all under the supervision of the Producer and Showrunner Executive Producer.
LINE PRODUCER: This more of a bureaucratic position in both film and television, and not as glamorous as the other subspecies of producer. It's the job of the Line Producer to handle the most minute details of managing a film or TV show on a day to day basis. They figure out the daily schedule and arrange for all the actors, props, are either on set or on location on time, and manage the day to day payments, making sure that everything stays within budget. They are assisted by Unit Production Managers who break down these tasks even further.
I guess the best way to sum it all up is that making a movie or a TV show is a really big job. The different strata of producers take that really big job, and break it down into smaller, more manageable jobs.
Okay, now that's out of the way, I can get back to the fact that we don't live in a utopia with unicorns.
Not every producer is created equal. The industry is infested with pseudo producers who don't do much but use their clout within the industry, usually through association with a movie star, or someone powerful on the money side to get a credit, and a fee.
It's a sad fact, but true.
And that is my extremely superficial explanation of what producers do.