What Does a Movie Producer Do?

For people outside of the biz, movie producers hold a vague and mysterious title. “What do you do exactly?” I’m sure many producers have heard that on more than one occasion. I know I have.

Let’s take a moment to review the MANY tasks that fall under the producer’s job description.

It is important to note that the title is somewhat FLEXIBLE, although the Producers Guild of America is working hard to create a distinction between the many producers listed in the credits of a film and those who do the lion’s share of the hard work.

For more info about the producer’s mark, click here.

Executive Producer

Let’s start by talking about the role of the Executive Producer. Typically, this person is close to the origin of a project. Their title is earned in any number of ways, including but not limited to…

1) They work for the studio and are overseeing the film’s creative.

2) They found the money or played an important role in the project’s financial deal structure.

This title doesn’t exactly have a job description per se. It just means the person was somehow important during the formation of a project, and held a supervisory role over a major portion of development, the deal making process, financial structure, casting, or anything else of critical importance that led to the film getting green-lit.

This person also sometimes holds sway over the release strategies for a film, either working closely with a studio distributor, driving deals with sales agents or independent distributors, or sometimes even selling territories directly. They have a large stake in the project’s success, one way or another, and so top-line business decisions will likely fall into their world of tasks.

Producer (NO MARK)

Now, let’s talk about what I’ll refer to as an UNMARKED Producer. This means this person received a Producer credit on the film, but was not awarded the (p.g.a.) distinguishing mark. This type of Producer typically has an existing relationship with the film’s production company, the studio, and/or the director.
1) They might contribute to the creative.
2) They might help broker sales of the film.
3) They might pull together key components of physical production. 
4) They might be part owner of the production company producing the film, so they are automatically attached as a Producer.
Similar to the Executive Producer, this person’s tasks are loosely defined, but they add significant value to a project. The difference between this person and an Executive Producer is that they may not be as closely linked to the film’s release/distribution strategy.

Producer, p.g.a.

Now, let’s talk about a MARKED Producer. This means the person applied for and was ultimately awarded the mark of p.g.a. in the credits next to their name by the Producers Guild of America. If you see p.g.a. after someone’s name, you know they did the vast majority of the producing work and played a significant role in the origination of the project.

1) They might have developed the project themselves from scratch or working with a writer.

2) They might have packaged it with all the key people (director, cast, writers, etc).

3) They might have found indie equity financing or pushed the project into production with a studio.

4) They might have been the first to acquire the IP.

This person controls the lifespan of a film with oversight from the film’s buyers (studio and/or financiers).  They control all spending and the operations of physical production/post production, and negotiate all of the key deals related to the picture.

Usually, all of the production deals run through this person and they hold control over how the back-end points are distributed in the “Producer’s Pool” (for more on the topic of points, click here).

In a nutshell, the movie is this person’s baby. They develop it, own it, decide who becomes a part of it, build it from the ground up and then sell it. They may not play a significant role in how the film is ultimately released, but they decide which distributor will be releasing it in the first place.

Line Producer

How much is it going to cost? What are we getting back on the tax incentive? What are the scale rates for this particular union local? Can we get a good deal on the camera packages?

These are the types of questions a Line Producer will field. They work with the marked Producer in building the budget and then they control spending with oversight from the Producer throughout prep / physical production. They manage the budget “lines” and production operations, ensuring the film doesn’t go over budget or over schedule. They break down the script, build an initial draft of the stripboard, build a cash-flow, oversee the various departments to make sure they are working in harmony, and are “boots on the ground” in managing the entire production.


This is another loose title. Sometimes, a Line Producer will opt for a Co-Producer credit instead of Line Producer, especially if they cross into post-production supervision. This role may also have some influence over the film’s creative in a consulting capacity. This credit is usually awarded at the Producer’s discretion and for a variety of reasons.

Associate Producer

This title is similar to Co-Producer, except this person is not usually an acting Line Producer at any point. It is awarded at the Producer’s discretion and in response to a person adding value to a project without necessarily being totally involved or serving any one particular function.

Let me know if I missed anything in the comments!

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