What a TV Producer Does
Being a television producer can be rewarding and exciting, but the career is all too often unsung and misunderstood. Generally speaking, TV producers fall into one of two categories; those who work on daily programming, such as news shows, talk shows, entertainment programs, and sports, and those who work on other TV projects, such as a sitcom or mini-series. The former is more common and arguably easier to break into, so this page will focus on those who want careers in daily programming.
TV producers oversee the entire program; not just what happens while the camera rolls, but also before and after too. Some of the duties are creative, such as determining what stories should be told and how to visually present the story. Other duties are more related to management, which might include overseeing the production team, writers, editors, and talent. There are business duties as well, such as coordinating filming locations, negotiating and communicating with networks, securing financing, and budgeting. The producer is typically the only one involved in a project from its inception to completion and has his or her hands in everything throughout. This is why, when awards are given to a program, it’s usually handed directly to the producer, even though there may be many people on stage who are recognizable celebrities.
Who would enjoy a career in TV Production?
The field is a good fit for those who have great passion for storytelling and the presentation of a story. Even something that seems simple, like a sporting event, is kept engaging by the hosts, behind-the-scenes coverage, unique angles, and more. In this respect, creativity is a must as well. However, an equal amount of business-mindedness is essential too. Producers should be adept communications, problem solvers, be detail oriented, good with money management, highly organized, and natural leaders.
Who mightn't like the career?
People do not typically start out as producers. More often than not, they get a degree first, then start out as a production assistant, learn the ropes, and work their way up. Because of this, people who expect to jump in and start making programs right away will likely become disenchanted with the career quickly. It’s also important for producers to have passion for their projects. Most programs do not become mega hits and producers often receive very little recognition for their work. Without internal motivation and genuine enjoyment of the job, it may become tedious and boring to some.
There are no set qualifications to become a TV producer. In theory, anyone can do it. However, the barriers to entry are great, since breaking in often depends on having a proven track record or networking. Because of this, most start out with at least a bachelor’s degree related to the industry and then work their way into a producer role.
Interviewing techniques vary based upon the network and program. Some will focus on creative thinking skills and management, while others will be related to experience and accomplishments in the industry. It’s important to research the network, program, and people involved in the project before the interview in order to demonstrate competence.
- Associate Producer Interview Questions
- Television Producer Interview Questions
- What Will They Ask at My Interview for a TV Job?
Moving into TV Production from another career
Technically, no special background is required to get into a career as a TV producer. A person with the right knowledge can create his or her own projects, oversee their creation, and pitch them to networks without being ever formally hired. However, most producers do get hired on by networks, and in these cases, they typically work their way up by working in a support role first. The most common path is to start as a production assistant, but sometimes talent (those in front of the camera) make the switch too. Someone with a passion for writing or editing may be able to start in that area and gain experience, whereas a cameraman or lighting technician may also be able to use those skills to get a foot in the industry door and work up.
Role: The associate producer is the assistant to the producer. This is someone with background in the industry who may well work up to being a producer one day and works in a support role. While the duties of an associate producer will vary based on the network and the needs of the producer, he or she may be editing content, coordinating live shots, fact-checking and verifying information, and/ or coordinating the work of various departments.
Role: The line producer is generally thought of simply as “the producer.” This person is an all-out manager of the program and people involved. The line producer decides which stories to tell, how to tell them, how to keep the audience engaged, and so forth. He or she creates the timeline for the program, ensures the show stays on the timeline, addresses creative aspects, like visual presentation of the story, organizes the production team, oversees the talent, writers, editors, and more.
Role: The executive producer is the main person in charge and has the final say in all aspects of the program. At this level, the producer may not be as involved during the filming of the program, but will work more like a conductor, coordinating what happens between the studio operations and remote locations, handling the schedules, dealing with the network, and overseeing the budget.
The amount of travel required varies based on the program, but it is quite common for producers to travel locally, nationally, and internationally for work.
Associate Producer: According to PayScale, associate producers earn an average of USD$49,000 per year in the United States. In the United Kingdom, the average is £31,000, whereas salaries are CAD$52,000 and AU$50,000 in Canada and Australia, respectively.
Line Producer: USD$67,792, £35,298, CAD$58,120, AU$64,862
Executive Producer: USD$92,215, £57,456, CAD$95,507, AU$111,942
Bonuses and profit sharing may add a few thousand dollars onto a salary for an associate producer and more than ten thousand dollars for a line producer. At the executive level, producers tend to bring in roughly three-times this in bonuses, profit sharing, and commission.
Why a TV Producer moves on
Producers often move from one project to the next depending on what interests them, the public, and the networks. This means that there are natural breaking points in which producers are either looking for their next project or deciding whether to move to another passion, but in these cases, it is almost always a decision of preference and the choice is clear. When producers have stable work and are in-demand, few things pull them away from it. Sometimes, it’s a matter of politics and who a person knows which makes it difficult to find work. Other times, it comes down to the stress and travel demands. Work/ life balance can sometimes become problematic, which may be even more difficult in this career because the producer is not only the leader or manager, but also does not receive as many accolades for his or her work as those in front of the camera despite immense contributions. Again, this is not does not impact all producers, particularly those who choose to work on projects they love, but it can be problematic for some. The good news is, those leaving TV have a wealth of experience. They can move on to other TV producer roles, film, or theater. Plus, the management and leadership experience readily transfers outside the entertainment industry too.