The question often comes up amongst those interested in the film business about what is the difference between an executive producer, producer, co-producer, line producer, etc. There is a misunderstanding and certain assumptions about what these different roles entail and the responsibilities as such for each job description. Filmbudget.com decided to shed some light on the topic.
The executive producer is generally regarded as the top of the food chain of producers. While some think of this title as the person who brings the money and they wouldn’t be incorrect in that assumption. Quite often the executive producer or EP as it is commonly referred to, brings the financing for the film budget of a production.
Likewise an EP may bring the top cast or other talent to the motion picture or television program they are involved with. A growing tradition over the last two decades has been to grant an executive producer credit to the star’s manager. While this is frowned about by some, the clout these managers generally have who get this can be deemed advantageous for the production, if not critical for obtaining the desired film star.
An executive producer may have optioned the material the movie or tv show is based upon. Obtaining the underlying rights to content which films are made from is a fundamental method for securing a producer credit and often this is granted as an executive producer position. For example if they bring the rights to a novel that the film is created upon this would be the “underlying rights” of the production without which it could not get made.
There are many permutations of the executive producer credit and to whom it is granted. Often matters of oversight, financial responsibility, access to distribution, talent and foreign sales can impact who receives the credit.
The producer of the film is the ultimate film credit that is sought after by filmmakers (or should be.) The Produced by credit is the most desirable and most often goes to the producer with the most control or importance on the film. This could be due to the fact that he or she created the story or initiated the project, either by taking an option on a literary property, an outright purchase or by arranging a studio deal for the writer.
The producer credit has long be regarded as being earned by the person who brings the project to ether in its entirety, not merely one element (ie. the script, the financing, etc.) The producer also has the experience to manage the entire production from inception to delivery to distributors of a final project.
Likewise, attending to the film budget and ensuring the the production does not go over budget or over schedule is the responsibility of the producer as well. Dealing with the day to day problems and situations on the movie set is overseen by the producer working in tandem with the line producer to adequately execute the production.
The line producer is the hands on expert charged with delivering the film into the “can”, or what we call today capturing the data. Line producers are seasoned unit production managers who have been working on film productions for many years and have moved up the ladder of the production tower.
This producer oversees all physical production elements from wardrobe to lighting and transportation to catering. The line producer is generally the most overall knowledgable person on the team who knows how to put together a film production and prepare it for shooting. They are trained by experience, learning and the hard lessons of production over many years and films.
Creating the film budget is the responsibility of the line producer. In preparation for film financing, production and distribution the movie budget must be generated by a professional line producer with extensive experience in producing films.
Unit Production Manager
The unit production manager, or UPM, is a Director’s Guild of America (DGA) category designation for those members who are skilled at producing film and television productions from a management point of view.
Also known as production managers, the upm’s work with the line producer in managing the motion picture crew, the film budget and the shooting schedule. By working with heads of departments (HODs) to determine their fiscal requirements and limits the upm ascertains from each the state of their budgets in comparison to the overall movie budget for a production.
The unit production manager must also be a liaison between the production and the studio, financiers or production company with regard to physical production.
While certainly not the most profound and detailed explanation for the roles of the producer on a film production, hopefully this article provides a bit of clarity on these critical elements of the production team.