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What Does a Film Producer Do?

Jourdan Aldredge

We see their names roll by in the credits. We’re familiar with some of the bigger producers in Hollywood. But what does a film producer actually do? (It’s much more than you’d think!)

Top image: Hail, Caesar! via Universal Pictures

A film begins and ends with the producer. The producer is the catalyst for a project coming together, its complete production cycle and its eventual release, marketing and distribution. A good producer will cultivate a kernel of an idea into something big, tangible and bright on screen.

In an interview with Time, Oscar-winning producer Saul Zaentz breaks down the cycle as follows:

What Does a Film Producer Do —  Producer On Set

Zaentz on set with Harrison Ford on The Mosquito Coast via Warner Bros.

Find the Literary Property

A producer is often the person who begins the project by looking for a story to help tell. Whether it’s a true story, popular book or topical event, a good producer is always looking for something fresh and interesting to develop.

Shape Idea Into a Viable Film

Once an idea is grabbed, the producer will work to develop it from an idea into a concept for a film. A producer will work with a writer (or writers) to hammer out a treatment and then a script for production — as well as oversee any rewrites.

Raise the Money

What Does a Film Producer Do —  Budget

Probably the most important part of the process, a producer will shop a script or treatment around to investors and/or studios to raise funds to actually make it into a film.

Hire the Director

If not working with one already (or also writing), a producer will vet, find and hire a director for the film. It’s at this point where the producer will (ideally) hand over the wheel and take more of a backseat for the rest of production.

Choose the Cast

What Does a Film Producer Do —  Casting

Unless the producer has already attached a big name actor to the project, casting is led by a casting director and the director with the producer taking an intermediately sized role depending on knowledge and need. Since the producer is usually the money person, casting decisions often come down to his or her call.

Oversee Production

Production is lined up with the producer’s oversight, but hopefully by the time the rigs are brought out and cameras and lights set up, a careful and detailed production schedule and budget has been laid out for the director and crew to follow. A producer isn’t necessarily needed for the day-to-day, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility to stop in now and again.

Oversee Post

Depending on the director’s workflow, a producer will find an editor to put the film together after or toward the end of production. Some directors will stay very involved, while some will fall out and let the editor make changes as needed. A producer will oversee in the same way as production, really only checking in on schedule, budget and major plot concerns.

Mastermind the Marketing

What Does a Film Producer Do —  Marketing

Once the film is finished, the producer takes over again. If he or she negotiated and supplied the money, it is more or less his or her product to now sell. A good producer will work with a marketing person or team to develop a strategy to build an audience and hype, as well as submitting for festivals and possibly a tour.

Negotiate the Worldwide Rights

After the product is marketed, buzz has been generated, and its potential has been displayed for distributors, the producer will negotiate its distribution rights, percentage points, and release plan. The producer will then work with the original investors, director and/or stars who have stakes to choose the best path for the film that will reward the investment to its highest potential.

Here’s a great breakdown by AMC Movie Talk that goes a little more in-depth between the lines.

Have any other thoughts on what a producer does? Let us know in the comments below!