How to become a film producer

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How to become a film producer

To become a film producer, you should possess a passion for movies, business savvy, a college degree, and at least a small amount of experience working in the film industry. Film producers are the cornerstone of any movie. Typically the first person involved in a project, he or she spearheads all major aspects of the film’s production, from contract negotiations and funding acquisition to selecting directors, actors, and scripts. While the movie industry does not have a structured set of requirements for how to become a film producer, there are some tried-and-true avenues you can pursue to get your foothold in Hollywood or any other film industry.

The foundation of all film producer requirements is a love of movies. If you don’t have this, then the other steps to becoming a film producer will be that much harder, if not downright impossible. You need to have an enthusiasm for all aspects of movies and a natural eye for the processes that come together to create a film. Directing styles, acting techniques, editing methods, music selection, and cinematography are examples of these processes.

A film producer spends the bulk of his or her time negotiating contracts, striking deals, and drumming up financing for the film’s budget. This facet of the job demands a strong degree of business skill, encompassing everything from basic accounting knowledge to an understanding of how entertainment law operates. When setting out to become a film producer, this sort of insider knowledge might be best obtained by landing an internship with a film production company, offering you a front row seat to the inner workings of the industry.

There is no definitive educational requirement for film producers. However, given the knowledge of film and the business acumen necessary to becoming a producer, you will definitely want to consider a college education. A degree in either film or business is an ideal starting point and can build the framework for future success in the field. At this starting point on your journey to become a film producer, you may also want to consider either a double major in both subjects or a major in one with a concentration or minor in the other.

Attaining work in the movie industry is one of the most beneficial steps you can take when looking to become a film producer. Be it an internship or a paid gig, you will be given access to the entire movie-making process. You will also be exposed to the business side of the profession, as well as the power structures, hierarchies, and rules unique to the industry. This exposure will serve you well while navigating the tumultuous waters of filmdom.

How to become a film producer

There’s no denying the shift towards how people consume media. Where before movies were king, nowadays the popularity of streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu have boosted the popularity of television shows and documentaries at an all-time high. With the influx of so many different programmes, there is now an opportunity for a new generation of producers to come in and take centre stage.

But what exactly does a producer do, and how can you tell if it’s the right career path for you?

To know if you have what it takes to be next Shonda Rhimes, read on to find out everything you need to know about how to become a producer.

1. Research the Profession

Prior to considering any job, it’s always best to know the ins and outs of the industry before committing your entire professional career to it. Check if it identifies with your future goals by scrolling through our in-depth guide below.

Job Description

Contrary to popular belief, producers don’t just finance a programme; their work also covers a wide array of responsibilities necessary to ensure a smooth production process.

But it’s not uncommon to mix up these titles because the title, producer, can refer to a multitude of roles across various industries. For example, there is a difference between a news and a sports producer or a TV and film producer. For the purpose of this article, however, we will focus on a producer’s general functions.

Depending on the industry and role you are in, a producer’s responsibilities will almost always include the following:

  • proofreading and fact-checking scripts
  • working with the graphics department to create the visuals of a programme
  • managing content development, production and execution of engaging content
  • monitoring and analysing the success of programmes through ratings
  • overseeing shooting, production, editing and ingestion of final material
  • developing an editorial calendar while ensuring that the sales, creative and editorial teams are all on board
  • arranging and conducting meetings with writers and producers
  • staying up-to-date with industry developments and generating new ideas.

Essential Skills and Qualities

To excel in this profession, you must demonstrate the following traits:

  • a passion for storytelling
  • an innate sense of curiosity
  • a strong sense of creativity
  • the ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines
  • the ability to collaborate and work well with others
  • excellent writing and communication skills
  • great organisational skills
  • the ability to thrive in a challenging and dynamic environment
  • flexible and adaptive to change
  • basic video editing skills
  • a good grasp of the media and entertainment industry.

Working Hours and Conditions

Due to the dynamic nature of the profession, it’s not unusual for producers to work more than eight hours a day. This is especially true for those who want to be in the news industry, as breaking news can happen at any time.

Meanwhile, those aiming to work in the television or film industry should know that it’s not all glitz and glamour. Producers will often have to adjust to a team of writers, directors, and actors. They must adapt in a moment’s notice to other unpredictable elements as well, such as changing weather conditions, an actor’s fickle temperament or a sudden revision in the script.

While these may sound like impossible working circumstances, it can also be very exciting and fulfilling to anyone who can’t imagine being in a corporate setup or a 9-to-5 office. There is also some travel involved in any kind of production work and, depending on the industry, can be a big part of your day-to-day routine.

Salary Prospects

The media and entertainment industries are always on the lookout for new talent who can bring in fresh ideas. It can also be a very lucrative position if you are patient enough to work your way up.

According to PayScale, a TV/film producer can earn an average of £35,400 ($47,300) per year and, in some instances, this number can go as high as £67,500 ($90,200), depending on work experience.

2. Get the Qualifications

There are a lot of ways to break into the production industry, but having a solid background in media and broadcast communications can give you a head start.

Consider applying for an internship so you experience what it’s like to work on an actual show or programme. A lot of schools today also offer short courses on the many different elements of production. For those with a limited budget, alternative online classes can be helpful tools as well.

3. Land Your First Job

A word of caution to those who think that they will become producers right after graduation: most actually start their careers as production assistants and then eventually work their way up. The easiest way to get a foot in the door is to ask a former mentor or professor for available internship opportunities. If a director or an executive producer sees potential in you, you will most likely be asked to become a regular in the team.

To further help you stand out, make sure that you have a creative portfolio or, better yet a website where you can upload and showcase your work. Make it a point to reach out and volunteer as much as you can so you can build connections.

Lastly, get the most out of social media by keeping your eyes peeled for available opportunities on Facebook or LinkedIn as production companies also use these platforms to post openings.

4. Develop Your Career

The production industry is highly competitive, especially with new technologies constantly popping up. To make sure you don’t get left behind, keep up to date with industry practices and attend workshops to sharpen your skills.

The best part about starting out as a production assistant is that it exposes you to other possible career opportunities available in the field. Some move to scriptwriting, others end up as executive producers, while others choose to direct.

Producers are given a wide set of skills and it’s up to you which one you wish to hone. If you want to get that extra edge but you’re short on time and lack the budget, consider enrolling in an online course. It can give you a bird’s eye view of what to expect and help you prepare should you choose to specialise in a specific course.

Producers are also most likely to take on managerial roles when they move up the ladder. While this is a great career opportunity, some have a difficult time adjusting when they’re put in a position of power. Don’t get caught unprepared and read up on ways to advance your management skills.

While you won’t become an executive overnight, remember that knowing how to manage people is especially useful when dealing with creative people who are infamous for their unpredictable mood swings – a trait you will see in directors, anchors and basically anyone working in the industry.

Over the years, the production industry has also become more inclusive and diverse, which opens up a lot of doors for more people to work in the business. And while this career path is definitely not for the faint of heart, it can especially be fulfilling for those who wish to work in a creative environment that takes pride in creating stories.

Do you also work in a creative but challenging industry? What tips do you have to get ahead? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

by Liya Swift · May 19, 2020

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How to become a film producer

Film Connection graduate David Nance line producing on Last Seen in Idaho

“I do not need a producer. I need only a good production manager. I need only a man who will give me money.”
-Federico Fellini

Film and TV producers take a concept and find the money to turn that concept into reality. These are two diverse abilities: the first is being able to recognize a good story idea, or show concept, when they see it; the second is the business acumen to secure the intellectual rights to this story idea, or concept and then find the necessary funding to turn the idea into a finished film or TV show pilot.

Recognizing a good story line—defined as a movie or TV show pilot that resonates with the audience and scores big at the box office or in the Nielsen ratings—requires talent and luck. One reason action movie sequels are so prevalent these days is they reduce the amount of luck required to be successful. After all, if the audience has invested in the first episodes of a movie franchise, the odds are good that they will attend subsequent episodes. They are the closest thing to a “sure thing” that exists in the movie industry. This makes them easier to secure financing for as well.

High concept, novel and original story ideas are harder to get off the ground. In many cases, the producer will need to get a major star or director on board to secure the financing. This requires that the producer has a relationship with actors and directors. Federico Fellini was both director and writer for his films which is why he defined the role of a producer as a production manager and money source.

The time between securing the story idea or concept, and the finished movie or TV show pilot is where the producer makes their mark. They’re involved with, or are in charge of, hiring the writer, the director, the cast and crew. They make sure the production sticks to the schedule and budget, and once the project is wrapped and edited, they’re working on its distribution. As you can see, the producer must have a wide range of skills. Often overlooked, but probably the most important skill or personality trait is patience. From finding the right idea to finished films is a process that can take an average of five to seven years. That’s a lot of time to spend on a project that you are not passionate about which is why finding and securing the intellectual rights to the right story idea or show concept is so important.

Another skill producers must have is the ability to multitask. Most producers have multiple projects they are working on simultaneously. Usually, each of these projects is in a different state of the production process—you could be budgeting out a script in the morning, pitching a new idea to investors at lunch, and hiring cast and crew in the afternoon, and all the while keeping the projects clear but separated in your mind.

So, how does one become a producer? While there is no made-in-stone path to becoming a producer, the tried and true method is to start at the bottom and work your way up. One such approach is to start as a production assistant, then move up to line producing or production manager before trying to make the leap to producer. A similar approach would be to offer your services to a producer you admire as a reader, production assistant or runner. These ladder-climbing approaches also help you build industry relationships while you work.

Additionally, producers need to be good “people persons.” You need to be respected for a director to sign on with you, you need to motivate and inspire the writers, you need to be able to talk the talk with directors of photography and you need to charm investors into giving you money. You need to be constantly building your network which means not only do you have to gain new connections as often as possible, but you have to avoid losing any connections because they didn’t like working with you.

When it comes to becoming a producer, there is no substitute for experience—which leaves you with the Catch 22 of how do I gain experience (take this to mean on-screen credits) if they won’t hire me unless I already have experience. That’s where film school comes into play. A program like Film Connection’s Film Production & Editing can be invaluable in helping you get started on your journey. It places you inside a production company so you can experience all phases of the film and TV production process. Its extern-based model of education ensures that you spend time inside a production company while they work on project(s). If you can “show your stuff” during this program, the production company could very well hire you (for a bottom of the ladder position) and even give you an on-screen credit for your contributions to the project(s) while you were taking the program.

A Practical Guide to the Film Production Process

Famous Movie Producers You Know And Those You Don’t

How to become a film producer

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the nature of what a movie production—specifically, how to become a movie producer, which continues to be a difficult role to surmise in just a few lines.

Having explored the job in greater depth, today we’re going to move onto a natural follow-on question:

What’s The Best Career Path to Become a Film Producer?

As with many jobs in film, there’s a degree of interchangeability within the industry—training in one field can often be carried over into different roles, and freelancers who have built up a network of contacts can sometimes find themselves filling in for other members of a production team.

That said, there are some very definite career paths that are well-trodden for those who are looking to become producers (despite the job itself being a mish-mash of responsibilities.) Here’s a break down of some of the best starting points:

Have Money

Okay, this is admittedly a little flippant, but there is a real message here: producing movies is all about cold, hard cash. If you’ve got a lot of it yourself, you can instantly become a film producer the second you commit some of it to your first project.

But this leads onto the main point about producing; assuming you’re not a multi-millionaire with some spare cash lying around, you’ll instead need to convince others that they should give you money and that it’ll be safe in your hands.

For that, you’ll want the most direct career path into film producing, which would be:

Producing School

Formal training at a top producing school is the most efficient way of letting potential investors know that you’re not a rookie, and not as much of a big gamble when it comes to laying down money.

When you come out of producing school, you’ll be able to hit the ground running with intimate knowledge of the business side of filmmaking (as well as key skills such as how to construct and manage a budget, putting together a crew, and negotiating contacts.) It’ll also give you a broader understanding of the industry as a whole—meaning you’re equally as adept at doing work on a TV documentary series as a big feature film—being able to prove you’ve got the chops for it is usually the deciding factor when it comes to landing your first producing job and snowballing your career.

Business School

There’s a reason why movie producers are often referred to as “suits.”

Since film production is remarkably similar to running a business, a slightly less direct career path—but one that is no less effective—is to get a degree in business management or similar before networking your way into the film industry from the outside. A minor in marketing or PR can also help in this regard, both in terms of being able to market your own skills and also to successfully promote any movie you’re in charge of.

Junior Production Positions

Between formal education and on-the-job training, one of the most tried and tested methods of making it in film production is to start off in a junior role and work up.

Seek out work as either an associate or segment producer to get yourself started; the former involves handling day-to-day duties during principal photography, while the latter has a great degree of autonomy over a single part of the script. Both are fairly junior roles and the job market is reasonably open to beginners who have qualifications under their belt, so it’s a good place to start climbing the career ladder and working your way up to more senior positions within a production team.

Jumping From Sideline Post-Production Jobs

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, a lot of skills you’ll learn in the film industry are interchangeable; as such, there are plenty of opportunities to jump across professions.

One career path that can lead you quickly to the lower rungs of the production ladder can be found in post-production. For instance, associate and executive producers are always on the lookout for those who have strong video editing skills or the ability to coordinate a team of sound mixers, so it always pays to network well, develop numerous skills, and think outside the box as to how you can apply them in a production role.

While there are always multiple ways to skin a cat when it comes to advancing in Hollywood, the above should give you some idea of how fluid career progression—particularly in film production—can be. However you achieve your success, we here at the NYFA producing school wish you the very best of luck in what is a tremendously rewarding (in all senses of the word) job in the film industry.

Join the Community

How to become a film producer

To become a film producer, you should possess a passion for movies, business savvy, a college degree, and at least a small amount of experience working in the film industry. Film producers are the cornerstone of any movie. Typically the first person involved in a project, he or she spearheads all major aspects of the film’s production, from contract negotiations and funding acquisition to selecting directors, actors, and scripts. While the movie industry does not have a structured set of requirements for how to become a film producer, there are some tried-and-true avenues you can pursue to get your foothold in Hollywood or any other film industry.

The foundation of all film producer requirements is a love of movies. If you don’t have this, then the other steps to becoming a film producer will be that much harder, if not downright impossible. You need to have an enthusiasm for all aspects of movies and a natural eye for the processes that come together to create a film. Directing styles, acting techniques, editing methods, music selection, and cinematography are examples of these processes.

A film producer spends the bulk of his or her time negotiating contracts, striking deals, and drumming up financing for the film’s budget. This facet of the job demands a strong degree of business skill, encompassing everything from basic accounting knowledge to an understanding of how entertainment law operates. When setting out to become a film producer, this sort of insider knowledge might be best obtained by landing an internship with a film production company, offering you a front row seat to the inner workings of the industry.

There is no definitive educational requirement for film producers. However, given the knowledge of film and the business acumen necessary to becoming a producer, you will definitely want to consider a college education. A degree in either film or business is an ideal starting point and can build the framework for future success in the field. At this starting point on your journey to become a film producer, you may also want to consider either a double major in both subjects or a major in one with a concentration or minor in the other.

Attaining work in the movie industry is one of the most beneficial steps you can take when looking to become a film producer. Be it an internship or a paid gig, you will be given access to the entire movie-making process. You will also be exposed to the business side of the profession, as well as the power structures, hierarchies, and rules unique to the industry. This exposure will serve you well while navigating the tumultuous waters of filmdom.

How to become a film producer

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A film producer plays a highly comprehensive role in both the television and motion picture industries. Film producers preside not only over the writing and special effects of a studio project; but also the funding, talent, location and technical aspects involved in creating a film. Directors also consult with film producers before calling final decisions. You can become certified as a film producer by obtaining the appropriate degrees, certifications, experience, internships and creative initiatives.

Search for opportunities to gain early film production-related experience. You can begin by writing your own plays, stories or movie scripts. Audition for a role as an extra for a movie, if feasible. Find internships, paid or unpaid, on movie or TV studios to gain a clearer perspective on what film production involves.

Complete a film production certificate. Some universities offer film production certificate programs that you can complete in just a few semesters, as opposed to a full bachelor’s degree.

Obtain a bachelor’s degree in a film related field. Degrees such as a Bachelor of Fine Arts, or BFA, in Cinema Production or Audio Production are highly recommended. Bachelor’s degrees in English, journalism, acting or arts management also provide a good credential foundation for film production.

Seek entry-level positions commensurate with your credentials and experience. Entry-level opportunities in the film industry include production assistant, story or video editor and camera operator, among others. These opportunities provide a clearer perspective on the film industry as well as the chance to directly observe producers and directors in action. You will need at least several years of active studio experience to become eligible for film producer or director positions.

  • New York University: Certificate in Producing
  • State University: Producer Job Description, Career as a Producer, Salary, Employment–Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job
  • Continue to take courses in industry-specific aspects of film production even after beginning work. Changes in technology, as well as market competition, make continuing education a necessity for success in film production.
  • Network with those already involved in the film production industry to gain leads to new opportunities. A good network includes professors, instructors, colleagues, friends and relatives with connections in the film industry.
  • A certificate program is suggested for those who are considering a film career as simply an option or are already working in the film industry and lack the time and resources for obtaining a bachelor’s degree. However, a bachelor’s degree is still recommended for those who seek to become full-fledged film producers.

Chiara Sakuwa has been a writer since 2005. Her work has appeared in publications such as the “Liberty Champion” newspaper and “The New World Encyclopedia” project. She is also the author of the novel “The Lady Leathernecks.” She holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences from Campbell University and a Master of Criminal Justice from Boston University.

by Liya Swift · February 18, 2020

  • Author
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How to become a film producer

Film Connection mentor Daniel Lir on film set in the Philippines

The most successful movie producers in the industry are able to bring almost any script to life and turn it into an award-winning blockbuster. It’s not just a matter of finding a diamond in the rough – although that helps. It means being able to turn a “meh” movie into a summer blockbuster or turning a surefire hit into a beloved film franchise.

Most producers didn’t start out producing movies. They were directors, writers, cinematographers, and even secretaries. Steve Spielberg didn’t produce his first big-budget film (E.T.) until after establishing himself as a director with several TV credits and the films Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

James Cameron was a production assistant, set dresser assistant, miniature designer, and matte artist before his first feature-length film director credit – Piranha II: The Spawning. He went on to produce Titanic and Avatar, movies that combined to gross nearly five billion dollars at the box office.

Kathleen Kennedy has produced the last five Star Wars movies but started as a camera operator at a San Diego TV station. Her “break” came when she was hired as a Spielberg assistant that couldn’t type. Kevin Feige had to apply six times before getting accepted to film school and he’s produced more than 40 Marvel movies.

What we’re trying to say is big-time movie producers aren’t born, they’re made. In many cases, they had entry-level jobs and worked their way up the ladder, learning all the way. Feige may be the outlier here – an encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel Universe got him hired as an associate producer at age 27. At 34 he was named President of Production at Marvel Studios.

So you can spend time brushing up on comic books and wait for lightning in a bottle, or you can roll up your sleeves and put in the work, learning everything you can about what goes into making TV shows or feature films. Because as a producer, you’ll be responsible for it all.

What Does a Producer Do?

Being a film producer is an interesting position. You are responsible for almost everything that happens during filming, even though you never act, operate a camera, apply makeup, or any of the hundreds of other things that happen on and off the set. As the producer, you’re the one in charge of hiring all of those people.

In smaller films, you may even be the writer, director, cinematographer, gaffer, and so on. Robert Rodriguez is famous for producing El Mariachi all by himself for just a little more than $7,000. He handled the filming from start to finish, secured funding, took care of post-production, and found cast members.

For El Mariachi, all of the pre-production took place in Rodriguez’s head. On a major motion picture, however, that becomes a much bigger job. Pre-production includes securing the rights to an existing work, locking down the script, getting the storyboards presented to the director, and getting the locations established.

From there, the cast is chosen, crews are hired, and even wardrobe decisions are made. Other creative choices, such as the amount of CGI needed or technical aspects of shooting the film are discussed. It’s up to the producer to bring everyone together and set the parameters.

This is where having a little bit of history in the industry is a good thing. You meet a lot of people moving from job to job, company to company. Is there a key grip you especially liked working with? Or a wardrobe professional who effortlessly made those last-minute alterations? Conversely, was there a chief lighting technician or gaffer who refused any and all input?

These relationships will serve you well as you begin your producing career. Successful producers are the ones who have a phone bursting with contacts for each and every job on the set. Whether it’s getting the best hair and makeup person in the film industry or having several camera equipment, wardrobe houses, and other rental companies on speed dial, you’ll need to be able to take care of all of it.

The bigger the picture, the bigger the bankroll. In today’s marketplace, it takes a lot of money to make a film – marketing alone can cost millions. As a movie producer, establishing a good relationship with those bank accounts – we mean investors – is a must. In some cases, that means working with an executive producer.

Executive Producers

As the link between the studios and the film production, executive producers oversee the financials of the movie being made as well as the creative end of the film. This means keeping the production on-schedule to prevent costly overtime costs as well as making sure creative standards are being adhered to.

Executive producers won’t usually get into the weeds of a film, such as how sets are built or if a bank of lights is sitting at the proper angles. But they will make sure the budget won’t get busted. All it takes is one humongous flop to sink a smaller movie studio.

While the major studios all have their own production companies and have the money to spend, independent companies will need to seek out financial backing from others. Once again, the relationships you’ve made in the past will play a part.

Showing you understand what the movie is about, how it will be made, and what the expectations are can put a financier at ease and willing to open the bank vault. A good producer then makes good on those claims. Even if they need an executive producer to keep them on target.

As we’ve talked about becoming a producer, there was one common thread: relationships. These are made spending time in the industry, not burning bridges, and keeping the promises you make. And while you could get a degree in film at a 4-year university and then start networking, Film Connection introduces you to industry professionals from day one.

Lights, Camera, Action!

With the Film Connection Film Producing and Editing Program, you can start building those relationships from the start. We place you inside a working studio where your mentor will start showing you the tricks of the trade. Where to set up the lights for the best effect, how to operate a boom mic, or laying down cables so they don’t interfere with filming.

One day you could be operating the camera during a morning TV show, the next you may be on location a hundred miles away for a 12-hour shift. Each day you’ll learn something new – it’s a good idea to make those relationships wherever you can.

Because everybody knows somebody in this industry, if they call your mentor looking for a production assistant, is your mentor going to feel good about giving them your name? Have you been responsible, gone above and beyond, and always handled yourself professionally? If the answer is yes, then you might be on your way.

First things first, however – apply to Film Connection today and get going on building a future you’ll love.

Is becoming an executive producer right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

Still unsure if becoming an executive producer is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer career test to find out if this career is in your top matches. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an executive producer or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

How to become an Executive Producer

There are no specific educational requirements for an executive producer. Many executive producers advance into the position after working within the industry.

Executive producers in the film industry typically start out by focusing on a particular skill, such as directing, writing, acting, cinematography, or editing. They may start by producing and directing short films while in college, and progress from there by working on low level jobs in the industry and working their way up.

Executive producers in the television industry may start out by getting a university degree in media or communications, and slowly move up by working in television or radio and gaining experience along the way.

Executive producers in the music industry usually have a background as a performer or a songwriter, and usually play an instrument or two. Knowing the business side of the music industry is imperative to doing this job, so a university degree in music business, music production, or sound engineering is recommended. As with any other executive producer position, it’s just a matter of starting at the bottom and slowly working one’s way up the experience ladder.