Film and Video Producer FAQs
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, career perks, and much more.
What is Video Production?
Essentially it's the process of bringing together all elements of a videography project. And it's important to note that film production and video production can actually be quite different from each other.
Basically, it 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:
Video production is a broad area that can encompass many different specialties. The types of projects associated 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 Producer?
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 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.
What Does the Work Entail?
The responsibilities of 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 into different categories:
Let's 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
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.
Corporate Video Producer
The duties 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
Professionals 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).
Their duties 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 all aspects of video production, including planning, pre-production, production, post-production, editing, and audio
- 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
The professionals 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
How Do I Become a Producer?
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 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 from a college or university. Like diploma and certificate programs, their main focus is specialized skills and knowledge related to the industry. 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 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 the industry. Certification or licensing is not legally required to work as a 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 field 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
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 businesses. By becoming an intern (or even taking entry-level positions such as receptionist or mailroom clerk), you could have the opportunity to learn 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 in 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.
That being said, the most common areas covered in most 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 studio, 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.
How Long is a Typical Training Program?
The length of training varies depending on multiple factors such as the type of school and education level of the program.
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 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 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 Salary?
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 2012, show that: *
- The median annual wage was $71,350.
- The top 10 percent earned more than $187,200.
Despite these average wage statistics, it is important to keep in mind that many different factors can affect 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 estimates of median annual wages, broken down by industry: *
- Performing arts: $49,690
- Television broadcasting: $56,950
- Cable and other subscription programming: $83,220
- Video and motion picture: $94,110
What is the Job Outlook?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of workers in the Producers and Directors category is projected to increase by 3 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
Where Do Producers Work?
Although competition for positions is often intense, 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 people are choosing to either work on a contract-basis for multiple clients or go the entrepreneurship route by starting up their own production companies.
What are the Perks of the Career?
- Prestige—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 producer.
- Monetary potential—This field 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?
Now that you've gained a greater understanding of film and video production careers, check out this list of schools above. It's the perfect time to get started—make your next move and get additional information about the programs that interest you right now!
* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, website last visited on March 11, 2015.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), website last visited on March 11, 2015.
The Producers Guild of America (PGA), website last visited on March 11, 2015.
The American Film Institute (AFI), website last visited March 9, 2015.
The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), website last visited March 11, 2015.
The Association of Independent Video & Filmmakers (AIVF), website last visited April 29, 2014.