Film and Video Producer Career Information
Film and video production is an exciting and sought-after field, and it isn't hard to understand why. Not only is it a dynamic career choice offering many different paths—from film and television to corporate and event production—but it also tends to pay well and comes with its own special form of prestige. When someone says, "I'm a producer," he or she is often regarded with a sense of awe and respect. However, film and video production is also an incredibly competitive field and can be one of the hardest to break into. Therefore, it's essential that you understand what it takes to make it in this unique and fascinating career field. Keep reading to learn about educational requirements, salary rates, job outlook, pros and cons, and much more.
What is Video Production?
Film and video production is essentially the process of bringing together all elements of a videography project. Although "film and video production" is a common term, film production and video production can actually be quite different from each other.
So, what is film production?
Basically, film production involves overseeing all aspects of the filmmaking process. It can be considered a specialized type of project management encompassing all facets of moviemaking, from commissioning scriptwriting (or purchasing rights to an existing story) to casting and hiring to shooting and editing. It can also include administrative tasks such as acquiring financial backing, scheduling and booking film sites, and creating and adhering to deadlines.
Typically, film production involves the following phases:
On the other hand, the answer to "What is video production?" can vary greatly. Video production is a broad area that can encompass many different specialties. The types of projects associated with video production can include (but are not limited to):
- Television shows
- Theater and other live entertainment productions
- Corporate and training videos
- Event videos (for sporting events, weddings, concerts, etc.)
- Online and marketing videos
- Real estate videos
In most video production projects, the responsibilities are similar to that of film production (i.e., choosing specific video-related projects to take on, acquiring funding, hiring the cast and/or crew, booking film sites, etc.).
However, when it comes to corporate, event, or real estate projects, the responsibilities can differ quite a bit. While they still involve plenty of project management-type tasks, the focus is typically more on the actual videography and production of a final video product. Plus, duties like casting and crew hiring are usually unnecessary due to the nature of the projects.
What is a Film and Video Producer?
A film and video producer is a professional who is in charge of overseeing all aspects of film or video production. Film producers focus solely on the creation of films, whereas video producers can be responsible for producing a wide range of videography projects, from commercials to wedding videos.
Some film producers may work independently on a contract basis or as entrepreneurs, but the majority of them work for film companies. They generally oversee huge staffs of crew and actors.
Alternatively, since many video production projects are on a smaller scale than films, video producers often handle all aspects of such projects personally or oversee a small-business type of enterprise. Many video producers are entrepreneurs, but plenty work for video production companies as well.
What Does a Film and Video Producer Do?
The responsibilities of film producers and video producers are sometimes identical, sometimes partially the same, and sometimes completely different. It's practically impossible to provide just one list of duties for film and video production as a whole. Therefore, it is more accurate to split the typical job descriptions for film and video production into different categories:
So, what does a film producer do? To answer this question, it is necessary to break the job description down into the following sub-sections:
Planning and Development
- Obtaining the rights to a finished script or hiring a scriptwriter
- Reading over and approving final scripts
- Determining the required number of cast and crew positions to be filled
- Seeking and obtaining financing to cover the filmmaking process
- Creating a budget and allocating funds to all necessary areas of a film project
- Advertising available cast and crew positions
- Hiring, coordinating, and managing associate, assistant, and line producers
- Overseeing the audition and selection of cast and crew (from actors to costume designers to videographers)
- Researching, selecting, and securing film locations
- Coordinating and approving travel arrangements for film locations
- Overseeing the design, preparation, and building of sets
- Setting and managing timelines and deadlines
- Supervising creative and technical decisions
- Overseeing the actual filming on a day-to-day basis
- Ensuring that timelines are followed and deadlines are met
- Ensuring that budgets are adhered to
- Ensuring that sets follow approved plans and are utilized properly
- Approving new developments as they occur
- Applying critical thinking and problem-solving strategies as necessary
- Overseeing the assembly of a full-length film (or television episode)
- Supervising the editing process
- Coordinating, scheduling, and overseeing the composition, performance, and recording of a musical score
- Supervising the design, production, recording, and addition of sound effects
- Coordinating, scheduling, and overseeing the digital addition of computer-related graphic, visual, and special effects
- Liaising with financial backers and investors
- Planning, coordinating, and implementing the marketing of a film or television series
- Organizing and overseeing the distribution of a film or television series
Film and video producers who specialize in commercials often follow a process very similar to film production. But, depending on the type of commercial, their duties can vary. Some commercials contain no actors, utilizing special effects or animation instead. In these cases, little or no actual filming takes place, and the majority of the project involves technical and creative processes.
Another major difference with commercials is that they are created as advertising, marketing, and promotion for a company, service, product, or even a film or television series. Therefore, commercial producers typically need more of a marketing-type background in order to deliver the products and outcomes that their clients seek.
When it comes to video production, there is no standard answer to "What does a video producer do?" Since the types of projects can vary widely, the job responsibilities can as well. Here are the job descriptions for some of the most common areas of video production:
Corporate Video Producer
The duties of a video producer involved in corporate, training, online, or marketing videos can include:
- Choosing projects based on existing offers or preparing and submitting proposals in the hopes of being awarded specific projects
- Meeting with clients to pinpoint the purpose and intended impact of projects
- Managing production budgets
- Planning all aspects of a video project
- Overseeing talent scouting and hiring
- Overseeing location scouting and booking
- Hiring technical and creative staff (from scriptwriters to videographers)
- Identifying and obtaining any necessary resources pertinent to a video
- Creating schedules and ensuring that deadlines are met
- Liaising between clients and video production crew
- Reviewing and approving any proposed changes to a video project
- Managing all stages of production and editing
- Submitting final products to clients
Live Event Video Producer
Video producers who work on live productions typically handle one of two types of event production. Some specialize in creating pre-recorded video and multimedia content to be presented during live presentations (such as award banquets, conferences, and corporate events). Others handle the recording and production of the event itself (such as weddings or sporting events).
The duties of video producers who provide pre-recorded content for events include:
- Meeting with clients to grasp the nature and scope of a live production and its multimedia content needs
- Providing cost estimates to clients for approval
- Overseeing (or personally handling, depending on the size and scope of a project), all aspects of video production, including planning, pre-production, production, post-production, editing, and audio recording and production
- Scoping out the location of an event and planning out the technical, equipment, and manpower requirements
- Handling all of the logistical aspects of preparing for a live production, including travel arrangements and equipment shipping
- Setting up equipment and technologies onsite, including video cameras, large viewing screens, projectors, and sound systems
- Presenting film, video, or other multimedia content to a live audience as per a client's requested schedule
On the other hand, video producers who handle the actual recording of an event are usually in charge of:
- Meeting with clients to obtain a clear picture of an event and determine what the recording and production needs are
- Providing cost estimates to clients for approval
- Determining the scope of a project and the manpower requirements for filming, production, editing, and manufacturing of the final product
- Hiring a film and production crew (or prepping existing staff)
- Liaising between film and production crew and clients to ensure that all parties understand the requirements and expectations
- Creating and adhering to a budget
- Handling the logistics of transporting equipment to a production site and taking care of travel arrangements for the crew
- Scoping out an event location and planning the placement and setup of recording equipment
- Overseeing the actual filming of an event (or handling it personally, depending on the scope of the project)
- Overseeing (or handling) all post-production and editing requirements
- Providing the finished products to clients for approval
- Overseeing the manufacture and distribution of copies if requested by a client
Real Estate Video Producer
Real estate video producers are typically responsible for:
- Meeting with clients (usually real estate agents) to determine video production requirements for showcasing and marketing houses or commercial spaces for sale or lease
- Gathering any pertinent info on the sale space that needs to be included in a video via audio production or digital effects
- Working with clients to hash out the requirements for a video production (e.g., the style, depth of detail, and preferred areas of concentration)
- Determining any creative requirements (such as copywriting, graphic design, audio production, digital or special effects, etc.)
- Creating and providing cost estimates for approval
- Creating and submitting proposed timelines and any pertinent deadlines
- Scoping out houses or commercial spaces in order to plan the filming process
- Overseeing (or performing) the actual filming of a sale space
- Overseeing or performing post-production and editing of a video
- Submitting the first draft of a final product to a client
- Handling or supervising any additions, deletions, corrections, or general changes
- Providing finished products to clients in physical or digital format
- Distributing or marketing a finished product as requested by a client
Can You Tell Me How to Become a Film and Video Producer?
If you are wondering how to become a film and video producer, then you should know that the first step is generally to get a post-secondary education. In the past, it may have been more common to break into the industry without formal training. But with current factors such as technological advances, increased industry competition, and demand for business savvy, securing a position in the film and video industry without some sort of higher education is now a rarity.
When it comes to choosing a program, aspiring film and video producers have a relatively broad range of options. One option is to take a film and video production diploma or certificate program from a vocational school or career college. These types of programs tend to be short-term and career-oriented, meaning that the curriculum focuses solely on skills and knowledge applicable to the job.
Although many programs combine film and video production components, it is also possible to find diploma, certificate, and degree programs that focus on just one or the other. So, depending on which area of the industry you aim to work in, you can choose a program that best matches your future goals.
Another option is an associate's or bachelor's degree program in film and video production from a college or university. Like diploma and certificate programs, their main focus is specialized skills and knowledge related to film and video production. The main difference is that they tend to provide more in-depth theoretical training, and many also include general education components and elective courses in order to provide a well-rounded education.
It is also important to note that you don't necessarily have to take a film and video production-specific program. Some people choose to go a more indirect route by pursuing a more general degree major such as:
- Fine arts
Whether you choose a film and video production-specific program or a more general one, you could eventually be eligible to further your education through a master's or doctorate degree program in film and video production—but only after you have obtained a bachelor's degree (and met any other prerequisites that a specific school or program might have). These types of advanced degree programs can further your theoretical knowledge and practical skills, and they can even prepare you to take on teaching positions.
Once you have obtained a post-secondary education, you may choose to pursue membership with an organization or association related to film and video production. Industry certification or licensing is not legally required to work as a film and video producer in any state, so there are no widely recognized certifying organizations. However, obtaining industry-related membership does bear consideration since it can prove to prospective employers that you are passionate about the industry and committed to staying current through continuing education.
Various organizations offer membership to qualified individuals. The most common and notable one tends to be the Producers Guild of America (PGA). Benefits of becoming a member include:
- Networking opportunities
- Access to job postings and staffing resources
- Eligibility for pensions and employer-paid medical and dental benefits
- Access to free and discounted industry-related seminars
- Opportunity to become involved in a mentoring program
- Access to year-round screenings and pre-releases
- The privilege to vote for the Producers Guild Awards
Aside from education and pertinent memberships, breaking into the film and video production industry takes determination, hard work, patience, and often humility. The industry as a whole is incredibly competitive, especially the film, television, and commercial sectors. Therefore, it is unlikely that you will be able to step right into a high-profile film production position.
Chances are, you will have to work your way up from the bottom of the production food chain. This means setting all ego aside and taking any and all opportunities that come your way, even if that means being an unpaid intern or working within a film studio department in a low-paying position such as production assistant, story editor, or even "runner"—a catch-all title for someone who basically fills in as a producer's personal assistant. Such a job may include unglamorous tasks like making coffee or picking up lunch orders, but it could also provide an amazing opportunity to spend time with (and learn from) an established producer.
Other potential paths to a film and video production career include getting your foot in the door of a movie or television studio, talent agency, or video production company. This can be an especially good route for those interested in becoming an entrepreneur and starting up their own video production businesses. By becoming an intern (or even taking entry-level positions such as receptionist or mailroom clerk), you could have the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of all aspects of the business. You could also benefit from the chance to network with fellow employees. You may even have a higher chance of securing the type of position you desire when one becomes available since many employers prefer to hire from within.
In addition, many producers come into their positions in a more indirect way. Often, actors or writers will take the opportunity to learn from the producers they cross paths and develop relationships with and will gradually work their way into the production sector. If you are interested in multiple areas of the film industry, then it might be worth thinking about pursuing education and experience within areas like acting or writing to use as a stepping-stone toward a future as a producer.
What Can I Expect to Learn at a Film and Video Production School?
When it comes to film and video production programs, there is no standard curriculum. Courses can vary quite widely depending on the specific program and its main areas of focus. Other factors that can affect curricula include the type of school and the education level of the program.
That being said, the most common areas covered in film and video production programs include:
- Theory and analysis of motion pictures
- Fundamentals of motion picture production
- Film culture
- Visual storytelling
- Areas of filmmaking (i.e., silent film, Hollywood cinema, cult classics, documentaries, independent films, film noir, etc.)
- Critical film studies
- Music theory
- History of popular music
- Contracts and negotiation
- Business of film
- Copyright laws
- Business communications
- Public relations
- Film promotion and distribution
- International media distribution
Planning and Pre-Production
- Production planning
- Location planning
- Auditioning and casting
- Sound design
- Fundamentals of producing and directing
- Fundamentals of film and production
- Grip and sound
- Filming techniques
- Set design and building
- Digital production
- Special effects
- Film and video imaging
- New media production
- Musical scoring
- Audio production
Technology and Equipment
- Cameras and camera accessories
- High-definition technologies
- Lighting equipment
- Audio equipment
- Industry-related computer software applications (e.g., Photoshop, Mudbox, After Effects, Premiere, Flash, Illustrator, etc.)
- Business computer applications (e.g., Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, accounting software, etc.)
- Storage area networks
- Critical thinking
- Decision making
- Conflict resolution
Many film and video production programs also include hands-on projects that can involve writing, producing, editing, and submitting a film or video project. In some cases, further practical experience can be obtained through an internship, externship, or practicum within a real-life setting such as a film studio, video production company, or television network. Plus, some programs give students the option of choosing a specialization after the first year of study. Some of the specialization options can include:
- Allows you to focus on the creation and production of motion pictures
- Tends to be the most popular and most competitive specialization
- Allows you to focus on the production of television broadcasting
- Can provide options for further specialization, such as television series, news broadcasts, sports broadcasts, commercials, etc.
- Allows you to focus on video production, which often involves working for a video production company or starting up your own video production business
- Can prepare you to handle a wide range of video production projects, from real estate video production to event video production (from weddings to sporting events)
Corporate and Training
- Allows you to focus on the creation and production of videos for businesses, nonprofit organizations, government associations, etc.
- Can involve different sub-areas of specialization such as training videos, promotional videos, online/SEO (search engine optimization) videos, etc.
What Does Film and Video Production Training Cost?
The cost of film and video production training can vary significantly. Tuition amounts tend to depend on multiple factors, including:
- Type and length of program
- Type and location of school
- Required tools, equipment, and technologies
That being said, a short-term film and video production diploma or certificate program tends to cost in the area of $5,000 or more per year.
Generally, a four-year associate's or bachelor's degree program in film and video production will cost up to $60,000 or more. Most general degree programs like writing or fine arts will be in the same range. Programs from prestigious film schools will likely cost substantially more and can even be in the six-figure range.
Graduate and advanced degree programs usually cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.
Some programs may require that you contribute additional amounts to production projects that are part of the curriculum. These amounts usually range from $2,500-$3,500 per project, with multiple projects taking place per year. Plus, you may be responsible for purchasing your own equipment and/or industry-specific computer software applications prior to starting classes. This can add thousands of dollars to the cost of your education, but it also means that you will have some of the necessary tools and technologies of the job when you graduate.
When investigating the cost of a film and video production program, it is important to ask the school lots of questions to determine exactly what tuition includes, whether any additional fees exist outside of tuition, and what the requirements are for purchasing equipment, technologies, and other supplies. It is also important to find out what types of financial support a school can provide. Most schools are able to offer some form of financial aid to qualified students through federal loan programs, scholarships, grants, work-study programs, extended payment plans, and more.
How Long is a Typical Film and Video Production Program?
The length of film and video production training varies depending on multiple factors such as the type of school and education level of the program.
Film and video production certificate and diploma programs tend to take the least amount of time. They are generally offered by vocational schools and career colleges and are meant to be short-term and career-oriented with the goal of helping you complete your training and enter the workforce quickly. Typically, these types of programs focus solely on the skills and knowledge you need to become employable and do not include extensive theory-based training or general education components. Most programs of this type can be completed in one to three years.
Associate's and bachelor's degree programs related to film and video production tend to be more in-depth. They offer practical training related to career-specific skills and abilities, but they also generally include theoretical components as well as general education courses in order to provide a well-rounded education. Most programs are two to four years in length.
If you choose to go the route of a more general degree, such as filmmaking, writing, or fine arts, then you will also be looking at two to four years for completion.
If you wish to further your education and pursue a more advanced degree such as a master's or doctorate after obtaining a bachelor's degree, then it will likely take an additional one to four years.
What is the Average Video and Film Producer Salary?
When it comes to film production salary rates, most people expect the amount to be extraordinarily high because they are thinking in terms of the most famous blockbuster film producers. In reality, only a tiny percentage of all film and video producers become "rich and famous." However, that's not to say that you can't make an excellent living in this industry. Even some of the lowest-paid film and video producers make a higher annual salary than what is found in many other fields.
Film producer salary rates are included as part of a larger category called "Producers and Directors" in national estimates from the U.S. Department of Labor. These numbers, gathered in 2010, show that film and video production salary rates break down this way: *
- The median annual wage was $68,440.
- The top 10 percent earned more than $166,400.
- The bottom 10 percent earned less than $32,140.
Despite these average wage statistics, it is important to keep in mind that many different factors can affect a film and video producer salary, including level of education and amount of experience in the field. The specific area you choose to work in also has a massive effect, as shown by these additional U.S. Department of Labor estimates of median annual wages, broken down by industry: *
- Motion picture and video industries: $92,820
- Cable and other subscription programming: $81,290
- Radio and television broadcasting: $54,120
- Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries: $51,960
What is the Film and Video Producer Job Outlook?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of workers in the Producers and Directors category is projected to increase by 11 percent between 2010 and 2020. This figure is on par with the estimated average growth of all occupations, which is 14 percent. *
This growth is thought to be due to a few different factors, including:
- The public's continued strong demand for movies and television shows
- An increased demand for U.S.-produced films in foreign countries
- Further experimentation with mobile and online television
Interestingly, when you dig into the job outlook based on individual sectors, you can see that it does tend to fluctuate by industry area. For example, self-employment is projected to grow by 16 percent due to a rise in the popularity of independent films, whereas performing arts production opportunities are expected to decrease due to lack of funding and extreme competition by larger theaters.
Despite the positive job outlook for film and video production as a whole, you will need to keep in mind that competition will be fierce since job candidates are expected to exceed available positions in the field.
Where Do Film and Video Producers Work?
Although competition for film and video production positions is fierce, the industry is, thankfully, made up of many different areas, which means that employment opportunities are varied and dynamic. Plus, as with most creative fields, there is always a demand for fresh talent.
Common sources of employment include:
- Television series
- Specialty channel programming
- Feature films
- Public service and corporate productions
- Music videos
- Marketing and online videos
- Special events and live productions
Plus, more and more film and video producers are choosing to either work on a contract-basis for multiple clients or go the entrepreneurship route by starting up their own production companies.
For a more statistics-based view of the industry, consider this 2010 survey of producers and directors by the U.S. Department of Labor: *
- 23 percent worked in motion pictures and video.
- 16 percent worked in radio and television broadcasting.
- Seven percent worked in performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries.
- Four percent worked in cable and other subscription programming.
What are Useful Qualities for a Film and Video Producer to Have?
Due to the competitiveness of the industries associated with film and video production, it can take more than education and determination to make it as a film and video producer. Some of the inherent qualities that tend to be found in successful producers include:
- Creativity—The written word doesn't have the same constraints as a film or video because it is fed by the imagination of the person reading it rather than the capabilities of computer technology and special effects. That's why people often prefer the book version of a story over a film version. Because of this, producers need to employ extreme creativity when it comes to taking a script from words on paper to actuality on screen. Transforming imagination into a tangible, screen-friendly form isn't possible without strong creative capabilities.
- Social IQ—Also known as "social intelligence," social IQ is the ability to create, maintain, and strengthen complex social relationships in varied environments. Due to the ever-evolving nature of the production industry, you need to be able to form concrete bonds with the people you work with, from the highest-ranking star actor to the nearly invisible intern, because it takes a team attitude and the effort of many individuals to successfully pull off a film or video project. (Change is truly the only constant since trends, fads, and even the popularity of specific people tends to be on a public-driven rollercoaster.) You should also never burn bridges because even someone who appears to be leaving the industry could quite easily make a comeback in the future.
- Backbone—It's no secret that the entertainment industry can be like a shark tank. In order to make it in the film, television, or commercial areas of the industry, you need to have some backbone. Not everyone will enjoy or appreciate every project you are involved in, and negative reviews and criticisms are unavoidable. But, by putting your heart and soul into every project and creating something you can stand behind, you will have a much better chance of moving forward by letting negativity roll right off your back (rather than feeling beaten down and giving up).
- Organizational OCD—Okay, you don't actually have to be obsessive-compulsive about it, but organization is a key element in success as a producer. Since there are so many facets to film and video projects, you need to be able to keep tabs on all areas in order to keep projects moving forward in a productive and timely fashion. Often, when a project goes belly-up, it's because of missed deadlines or overblown budgets due to a lack of organization and proactive leadership.
- Communication skills—Due to the nature of the job, you will be required to coordinate with many different people in order to successfully complete a project. Therefore, effective communication skills are essential. You must be comfortable approaching and conferring with both groups and individuals. And people need to feel that you are open to having them come to you with questions and suggestions.
What are the Pros and Cons of Becoming a Film and Video Producer?
As with any other job, there are both pros and cons to becoming a film and video producer. Before traveling down this career path, it's important to be aware of both and see how the positives and the negatives stack up for you. It's also important to note that most people who have longevity in this career achieve it due to a strong passion for what they do. Typically, to last in this field, you must truly love the job itself and not just be in it for the payout.
Here are some of the most common pros and cons to consider:
- Hard work—Many people tend to think that working on movies or television shows would feel like "all fun and no work." But the truth is that film and video producers must work incredibly hard. (Not all of it is fun, and most of it isn't easy.)
- Stress—It can be quite a stressful job at times, especially since producers are often responsible for acquiring financial backing for a project and adhering to deadlines and budget constraints.
- Long hours—Film and video producers are often required to work incredibly long hours. Often, those hours include evenings and weekends and, sometimes, even holidays.
- Fluctuations—It tends to be a bit of an "all or nothing" type of field since the work often isn't steady. A film and video producer may put in well over 40 hours a week for a few months working on a project and then end up not working at all for a few months until the next project is lined up.
- Competition—Since film and video production is an intensely competitive field, you may end up feeling like you are fighting fiercely for every project and each new client.
- Geographic limitations—Depending on what area of the industry you choose to work in, you may have to relocate in order to secure work. And your options may be extremely limited. For example, film and television work is typically only abundant in very few cities across the country.
- Creative restrictions—Some areas of the industry don't lend themselves to creativity and may require that you set aside your own vision in order to please a client. For example, corporate or training videos tend to require following a client's exact specifications with little or no room for creative freedom.
- Cachet—As a film and video producer, you get to work in what is often thought of as one of the most exciting and sought-after industries in existence.
- Fame potential—While it may be quite rare statistically, there is always the chance of achieving that great American dream of "fame and fortune" as a film or television producer.
- Monetary potential—Film and video production has an extremely high salary potential. Even the low end of the pay scale is much higher than many jobs in other industries.
- Interesting relationships—You can have the opportunity to meet and interact with lots of different people, many of whom share your passion for the industry. You may even have the chance to work closely with celebrities.
- Travel—If you are involved with filming on location, you could have the opportunity to travel and see many beautiful and exciting places around the world.
- Pride and satisfaction—If you are involved in event production, you could have the honor of providing clients with a permanent live recording of some of their most cherished moments, such as a wedding.
What's the Next Step?
If you are ready to take the next step toward a future in this field now that you've gained a greater understanding of film and video production careers, then this list of film and video production schools is a great place to start. Browse through the available options and request more information about the ones that catch your eye today!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, website last visited on January 10, 2013.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), website last visited on January 10, 2013.
The Producers Guild of America (PGA), website last visited on February 6, 2013.
The American Film Institute (AFI), website last visited January 11, 2013.
The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), website last visited January 11, 2013.
The Association of Independent Video & Filmmakers (AIVF), website last visited January 10, 2013.