Becoming a Movie Producer Careers & Salary Outlook

What Is a Movie Producer?


A movie producer is the person who is in charge of planning, business, and budgetary decisions for a movie production. Producers select scripts, gather the capital for the movie, and hire the movie's director and crew. The crew of a movie refers to workers such as cameramen, film editors, video editors, set designers, choreographers, musical directors, and costume designers. Producers also manage the direction and editing of the film.

Producers may manage numerous aspects of a production, and they may actually perform some of the tasks themselves, or they may delegate more of the work. It depends upon the budget of the project. The producer will create the budget and decide upon the timing of the production. The producer is the person who is responsible for delivering a quality movie that is completed on time and within the budget.

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Humanities & Art Career Paths


Steps to Becoming a Movie Producer


Students need to earn their bachelor's degree in film production, film studies, or a related field to get started in movie production. Once you’ve earned your bachelor's degree, you’ll need to gain experience. This can be through acting, film editing, other work in the film industry, or through working in the business office of a theater or movie production company. In order to become a producer, you’ll need several years of experience in the movie industry.

Steps to Take:


  • Step 1: Get Experience in Film or Theater in High School

  • Step 2: Find a School of Filmmaking

  • Step 3: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

  • Step 4: Gain Experience

  • Step 5: (Optional) Complete a Graduate School Program

  • Step 6: (Optional) Apply for Debra Hill Fellowship from Producer's Guild of America

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Step 1: Get Experience in Film or Theater in High School

Experience is key in this field, and producers need to understand every aspect of film production. It is wise to take classes in drama, film, and theater in high school. It is also wise to begin working in film or theater at one's high school or in the community. This is often as an actor or writer, but you may also begin producing your own films.

Step 2: Find a School of Filmmaking

While in high school, you’ll need to begin looking for a bachelor's program in film or cinema. This may be a dedicated school of film or cinematography, or a four-year college or university. The goal is to find a program that teaches film history, film production, cinematography, visual storytelling, screenwriting, and film editing.

The College Board has a listing of all colleges, both community and 4-year programs, that offer a major in film production. In order to help narrow things down a bit, The Hollywood Reporter came up with a list of the top 25 schools of filmmaking through consultations with educators, graduates, and people in the industry.

Once you have narrowed down the universities and colleges, you will need to apply for financial aid if you do not have enough savings to pay for all of your expenses for your 4-year program. You will need to first fill out the FAFSA, which is the federal online form that qualifies students for financial aid. If your state offers grants, you should apply for those as soon as you have submitted your FAFSA.

Step 3: Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

Your bachelor's program in film production or a related field will provide you the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary in order to be able to perform all of the professional functions of filmmaking. You will be using the tools of the job, such as cameras and film editing software, and learning all aspects of film production.

Part and parcel of most film programs is completion of internships or work in the field. Schools that are in close physical proximity to areas where filmmakers are in more demand will be more likely to be able to provide work/internships near their campus. Students in film programs in areas without a concentration of filmmaking opportunities may have to spend their summers in another area pursuing their internship or field experience work.

Step 4: Gain Experience

Stepping out of college with a bachelor's degree in some aspect of filmmaking is highly unlikely to land the producer candidate in an optimal position for a job as a producer. This field is strongly slanted towards favoring those with years of experience. Candidates who understand this and look for niches within the field that allow them to learn a lot of skills and earn good pay will be favored.

One can obtain internships at smaller studios and local television and radio stations in production in order to begin to get hands-on experience. Producers also often get their first paid experience in the field as film editors, actors, cinematographers, production assistants, and camera operators. They may gain their industry experience working in a theater management office. The usual path is for the producer candidate to earn their stripes for several years in these lower-level positions, gaining the industry experience they need in order to competently handle all aspects of film production.

Step 5: (Optional) Complete a Graduate School Program

It is not necessary to get a Master of Fine Arts degree or a graduate certificate in theater or film production, but it can help you gain more insight and experience in the career. A master's degree in film production provides grounding and instruction in both the business and financial as well as the creative aspects of producing films. Other courses you might take in a graduate filmmaking program can include commercial production, advanced script editing for screenwriting, and documentary production.

Step 6: (Optional) Apply for Debra Hill Fellowship from Producer's Guild of America

For those who have completed a graduate program in producing films, there is a fellowship opportunity. The Producer's Guild of America chooses one person per year who has graduated from an accredited program in film production for a fellowship grant. The grantee must have a strong work ethic and vision and must have completed the graduate program in production from USC, UCLA, Columbia University, the American Film Institute, Chapman University, NYU, Columbia College Chicago, the University of Arizona, or the North Carolina School of the Arts.

The grant's yearly funding is totally dependent upon contributions to the fund. The proceeds of the grant must go toward expenses to launch the new producer into their career. This is an excellent opportunity for the fellowship grantee because being a movie producer is a career field that is expensive for most to enter. The reason for this is that the first two phases of production of any film involve securing funding and securing the rights to the intellectual property of the story.

What Does a Movie Producer Do?


A film producer is the person who is the “boss” of the film. When they are not moving between their offices and the studio, they are visiting other offices in order to interact and negotiate with financing and distribution partners.

Producers:

  • Find a suitable script or idea
  • Get the intellectual rights to tell the story
  • Get the funding for the film's budget from investors, institutions, or a studio
  • Hire the director, lower-level producers, and the film's crew
  • Ensure that all members of the production understand and are fulfilling their role in making the production run smoothly in order to produce a high-quality film
  • Ensure the production tells the story that the producer envisioned
  • Manage all scheduling and expenses and all aspects of the production
  • Find distribution for the film
  • Market the film

Throughout the steps of this process, the producer must ensure that every portion flows smoothly and well. The producer is ultimately the person responsible for making sure every aspect of production rolls forward.

For larger, more expensive productions, the producer will be able to delegate many tasks to others, but smaller productions require producers to be able to step in at any part of the production and provide assistance. For example, producers often are involved in modifying scripts. They are also often involved in editing and overseeing the editing of the final version of the movie.

Movie Producer Skills to Acquire


  • Relationship building
    Investors, studios, and institutions will need to finance your films. You will need to bring filmmakers together to help you carry out the production of the video. Distributors will help you market your films. Every part of production involves building strong relationships with the supporting players.

  • A thorough understanding of every aspect of filmmaking
    Producers are responsible for all aspects of the film being completed in a high-quality manner. They must have hands-on experience with all aspects of production, so they can ensure a quality product.

  • Financial, marketing, and budgeting skills
    The producer must keep a tight rein on the budget and must market the film, so they must be well-versed in these business and finance skills.

  • Story-crafting
    A producer must be able to find a script or idea that a story, whether a documentary or fictional story, can be built around. They must have the vision to find a theme that runs through the story and ensure that all parts of the film support that theme and vision.

  • Negotiation skills
    The producer must be able to negotiate financial deals to fund the film as well as negotiate salaries and vendor's fees.

  • Leadership and management skills
    The producer must be able to bridge differences between members of the cast and crew in order to maintain an optimal work environment as well as ultimately create a quality film. A producer must be able to bring members of a team with different opinions together to work out issues of contention.

  • Communication skills

  • Team building skills

Alternative Paths


Not everyone who becomes a film producer graduates with a bachelor's in filmmaking, cinematography, or film production. Some producers graduate with bachelor's degrees in business, management of non-profit organizations, or arts management. Other producers received their bachelor's degree in writing, journalism, acting, or communications.

All of these other bachelor's degrees provide training in some aspects of the purview of a producer. They allow the student to enter the filmmaking profession at a lower rung, using the skills learned in the degree program. Later, the student will need to serve in an internship in production or begin to receive mentorship in production.

The experience earned working and interning in the industry is absolutely essential and cannot be avoided. A skilled producer must know intimately, in a hands-on manner, all aspects of film production in order to be successful. This can only be achieved through experience.

Movie Producer Career & Salary


Where Might You Work?


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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many producers worked in the motion picture and video industry, while some are self-employed. Others, such as documentary producers, worked in the television and radio industry. Producers can also work in the advertising industry creating commercials, or in the theater and performing arts industry.

This occupation is stressful and full of pressure, tight budgets, and tight deadlines. Head producers will see a project through from conception to marketing and distribution. Other producers, such as line producers, will only be added to a team after the rights to the work have been granted and will leave six months after the shooting schedule ends. Some producers are working on multiple projects at once. Others, like line producers, will work on only one project at a time.

Producers frequently have to travel to oversee the shooting on location and to meetings regarding financing, obtaining rights to the story, and marketing and distribution. Producers may be called upon to work more than 40 hours a week, as well as evenings and weekends.

Potential Career Paths


The types of film that can be produced include movies and documentaries. Documentaries are accounts of true events centered around a theme or topic. Movies can include comedies, drama, fantasy, animation, and adventure stories. A commercial is also a type of film production. Producers can also manage theater and live performance events.

There are several different types of movie producers. In a larger production, each producer has their part of the production to manage.

Types of Film Producers:

Head Producer
The “boss” of the production. This is the person who makes the ultimate decisions on a project and is the source of the budget, schedule, and legal information and decisions.

Executive Producer
Performs many of the financial tasks and often is the one who finds the script. They may also serve as the line producer as well.

Associate Producer
An assistant of the executive producer who helps carry out their tasks

Line Producer
A producer who supports the executive and head producers with the budgeting matters and/or the daily routine in the studio. They must ensure that the project stays on budget. They also set up deals with vendors. These producers work with the production daily and are responsible for every line of the budget.

Visual Effects Producer
Manages certain shots and post-production

Co-Producer
A producer that is supporting one specific aspect of production, such as a producer that must coordinate visual effects that may be supplied by multiple vendors

Career Outlook


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median yearly income for a movie producer as of 2017 was $71,600. There is not projected to be an increase or decrease in wages for producers over the next 10 years.

However, there is expected to be a 12% increase in the demand for film producers in the next several years, due to the increased demand for film and video content. The advent of streamed video services and the popularity of reality television shows has also fueled this demand for more producers. Despite the increase in producer positions available, the BLS cautions that there are more candidates for jobs as producers than there are positions available, so candidates with the best business skills and experience will have the best prospects of employment in the field.

The demand for theater producers is down in all markets, except centers of theater, such as Los Angeles and New York, where the need for producers is more stable.

One interesting aspect of the career outlook for movie producers is to realize that there still is an incredible concentration of where the majority of work is available in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the states with the most movie producers are California, New York, Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

Find Movie Producer Jobs Near You


Advancing from Here


Unless one is working on smaller projects, a step up in the career ladder is from the lower rungs of production, like line production, up to executive and head producer positions. Also, producers with minor or independent production companies can move up to working for major studios. Successful producers can become executives of studios, due to their business experience.

  • The American Society of Cinematographers
    This organization is dedicated to bringing together cinematographers to share ideas and advance their profession. One of their activities that is most helpful to students is when they host panel events with experienced cinematographers who field questions from the students. These events are titled “Dialogue with ASC Cinematographers.”
  • International Documentary Association
    The organization for people who work specifically in documentary filmmaking. They provide grants to support documentary films, educational seminars and a free online program to support the skills of budding documentary filmmakers.
  • Producer's Guild of America
    The organization of producers of film, television, and new media.
  • University Film and Video Association
    A group dedicated to allowing students, educators, and professionals in the film and video field to gather in order to further education. They publish a journal titled “Journal of Film and Video.” They provide grants, scholarships, fellowships and mentoring for students of film and video.
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