The Many Faces of a Producer

I know, I know. I started this chapter by implying that I was going to introduce you to career options other than producing, directing, writing and acting, and now here I am bringing up the topic of producers. The thing is, few people really understand what producers do or that there are many different types of producers, so I thought the topic deserved some attention. This next section might be a bit confusing, but believe me, it's not easy to explain either.

On a feature film, there will customarily be at least one Executive Producer; a Producer; possibly a Co-producer and/or a Line Producer and at least one Associate Producer. On a one-hour episodic television show, you might see as many as a dozen producers listed in the credits.

Years ago, everyone understood what a producer did, and there weren't so many of them. More recently, however, producer credits have been confusing and nebulous, often handed out like candy at a kid's party. Producing credits of one kind or another have been afforded to key performers, the performer's manager or business partner, to financiers or the middlemen who bring financiers into a specific project. Producer duties often overlap, and the credit has at times been afforded to individuals who have never set foot on a movie set. If you happened to see the movie Narc, you might have noticed the multiple producers listed in the credits: nine executive producers, five co-executive producers, four producers, one line producer, two associate producers and one consulting producer— 22 in all. I can't imagine what they all did, but it's unlikely that all 22 were instrumental in the day-to-day running of the production.

In response to this unacceptable and confusing trend, the PGA has been actively lobbying to standardize producing credits and to limit them to the individuals who actually perform the duties of a producer. They have, in fact, just recently made a tremendous breakthrough in this endeavor by announcing their plan for correcting these flaws with their new Truth in Credits campaign. They have clearly defined producer job duties, can accurately determine credit eligibility and have an arbitration system in place to back up those determinations. Their goal is to establish a fair and equitable approach to regulating producing credits and to restore fairness and accuracy to the credit and title of "producer."

Producer and Producers Guild member Marshall Herskovitz sums it up well by saying,

"For almost a hundred years, producers have played an essential role in the creation of motion pictures. Who are the people who engender projects? Producers. Writers have original ideas, of course, but then they look for a producer to help develop them. Directors engender stories, of course, but usually at that moment they are acting as their own producers. It is producers who engage every day in the creation of intellectual capital. They are the mavericks, the gamblers, the people who spend five and ten years nurturing a project until it can get made. In a business once dominated by entrepreneurs, they are the only ones left who risk their own livelihood in the mad belief that a story can be great. They create, they develop, they secure financing, they put teams together, they subsume their own egos in order to keep disparate artistic visions on the same path, they stay with a project from the moment of inception until long after the picture leaves the theatre. Producers are necessary to the creation of motion pictures and television. Yet now, after a generation of the erosion of producing credits, the role of the producer is becoming so muddled and confused that we must take action to preserve the very meaning of the term."

You can go to the Producers Guild's website at www.producers to access their producer definitions and job descriptions, which cover the development stage of a (theatrical motion picture or television) project through post production, marketing and delivery.

Although I expect to see the PGA's Truth In Credits program effect a positive change and simplify the way in which credits are granted, the following has been the confusing norm for a very long time now and what you're still witnessing on many shows:

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