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Who is a Line Producer? – Career Guide

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

A line producer is pivotal to any film project. They handle the day-to-day operations and activities right from the pre-production stage. They are in charge of ensuring smooth execution of all the tasks and availability of all the resources required for the project, and their work doesn’t end until the film is ready and distributed.
How to be a Line Producer
A Line Producer's Career Guide

There is almost always a lot of confusion when it comes to the different kinds of producers involved in film production and their respective roles. There are executive producers, creative producers, co-producers, segment producers, supervising producers, etc. and then there are line producers. Today we’ll be talking about the last one - who is a line producer, what do they do, what it requires to be one, and how much can one expect to earn as a line producer. Let’s jump into it.

The term ‘line producer’ gets tossed up a lot when talking filmmaking, but their exact roles and duties remain a big question mark even to film professionals who have been in the industry for long now. The general notion about the involvement of a producer is limited to finance and investment in the film project. Little do people know that there are as many as 19 different types of producers in the film biz. And not each of these necessarily put their money into the project. Yes, those who back a project with finance are called producers, but most often than not, they are not the same as line producers. There are, of course, exceptions like in small indie projects, where one producer hones the roles of all. But in most cases, the demarcation is very clear and the duties are assigned accordingly. So, to say, a line producer isn’t (in most cases) the one who finances the film.

Now that we know who isn’t a line producer, let’s understand who is.

Who is a line producer?

First things first, let’s just say that without a line producer, you can try and try but won’t find success in putting your film project together. While a director heads the creative aspect of filmmaking, a line producer is responsible for everything logistical and hence, holds a managerial as well as an operational position and significance. In other words, a line producer oversees the whole film production process, right from its inception till its end.

Thus, we can define a line producer as someone who helps the directors achieve their vision by heading the logistics of the project – hiring crew, securing locations, allocating the budget, making reservations, handling paperwork, taking care of catering, medical facilities, scheduling, renting equipment – basically all the on-ground operations that not only support the director’s vision but practically bring it to life.

One of the most important responsibilities of a line producer is to manage the budget, which includes knowing the line between above-the-line costs and below-the-line costs. Above-the-line costs generally include payment to writers, directors, actors, etc., and below-the-line costs include everything else – crew payments, equipment rents, location rents, catering, etc. Line producers are at the center of both these lines which is why they are called line producers. The knowledge and skills to alter the below-the-line budget in response to a change in an above-the-line expense are what make a line producer a good as well as an efficient line producer.

Now, let’s understand all the duties and responsibilities of a line producer in detail.

Responsibilities of a Line Producer

Making a film isn’t easy and no one knows it better than a line producer. A line producer’s job is one of the most challenging ones. It’s tiresome, exhausting but equally rewarding. Nothing compares to the satisfaction and sense of achievement that come with finishing a project, seeing it turn out good, and knowing that you played a substantial part in it. On the surface, working as a line producer is a managerial job. But when you dig deep into it, it is so much more. A line producer is brought on board even before the film has found a producer who will fund it. In most cases, line producers help determine the overall budget the film would require, on the basis of which a producer is approached. Without a budget in place, it won’t take long for a project to sink. Hence, line producers are some of the most crucial persons in the filmmaking business. As mentioned, their job starts as soon as a script is finalized and ends after post-production. Let’s comprehend by having a closer look at some of the primary responsibilities of a line producer:

  • Script Breakdown: The job of a line producer starts from the very start. They read the script and break it down scene by scene and shot by shot to determine the budget. Depending on different requirements, they come up with an estimate cost for the project keeping in mind various expenses like crew, locations, rentals, permissions, etc. In cases where a budget is already set, the line producer determines how to handle the costs and expenses in order to stay within that budget.

  • Recruiting Crew and Services: On the basis of the screenplay, they decide how much workforce will be required, what services will be needed, where to avail these services, etc. and begin the process of acquiring them.

  • Renting Gear and Equipment: Then comes the technical aspect – deciding on the number of cameras, types of cameras required, lights and sound gears, rigs, drones – whatever is needed in the shoot is arranged by the line producer. They also need to ensure that nothing breaks during the shoot and everything is returned in its original condition.