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What Does an Executive Producer Do?

The world of filmmaking is an exciting one for many people. A film shoot is a well-oiled machine, and being on set is an important milestone for any filmmaker. To show up confidently, it is crucial to understand the different mechanics of production, including who’s who on set, what they do, and why it matters. So, let’s start at the top. One of the biggest players in the filmmaking process is the executive producer. But what is an executive producer? Executive producers, much like the Concierge Team here on Peerspace, are there to help ease the creation process and make planning your next project less stressful.

What is an executive producer?

An executive producer is in charge of sourcing funding from either an independent film financing company, a film studio such as Warner Brothers, or from their own pocket. Because of this, an executive producer must be well connected with investors and savvy about what the film marketplace wants.

Does this apply to TV executive producers too?

No, in fact, TV executive producers are very different from the executive producers in film. TV executive producers aren’t in charge of financing but serve as the creative foundation for television shows. In other words, they are the idea people. As the show’s creator, head writer, and showrunner, these executive producers wear many hats and oversee the overall development of the story. During production, they take care of the day-to-day personnel management and make sure that everyone involved feels valued. In contrast, executive producers for film stick to the logistical, financial issues.

What does an executive producer do?

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Most of an executive producer’s involvement is during the development process of a film. During this time, a film is in its infancy and might not have a crew or even a finished script. The executive producer works with a line producer on a budget to submit for approval if studio funding is involved. Even the most independent of productions, however, needs a thoughtful budget to support creative decisions and assemble a dedicated crew.

Another critical part of the executive producer’s role in development is to help secure the talent. Seeking out “marquee talent” (well-known actors) can attract financiers who recognize the benefits of an actor’s popularity. Audiences will pack the theater to watch their favorite actors on screen. When trying to secure as much funding as possible, landing marquee talent in the development stage is pivotal.

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An executive producer’s direct involvement in the production process varies, but they typically supervise from a distance. Executive producers within a studio hierarchy, however, may serve as the production company’s representative on set. These executives are present to make sure the film stays in line with the studio’s brand and vision. Either way, executive producers are always available to consult on financial questions and major creative decisions that might shift the course of the film or impact the budget.

By the time post-production comes around—editing, coloring, sound mixing—the executive producer might already have moved on to other projects. While their involvement from this point may be minimal, they will still provide notes on the first cut of the film along with their other fellow producers.

Executive producers supervise the business part of filmmaking exclusively. This includes making sure that the rest of the producers have what they need to get started.

What are the other types of producers?

Source: Unsplash / Adi Goldstein

There are many different producers involved in a film production, but the major ones include the producer, associate producer, supervising producer, coordinating producer, and line producer.

The producer is part of the process from the beginning, sometimes even before the executive producer. Every film has a different genesis, but producers are always on the lookout for ideas they want to pursue. Once they find an exciting one, they will start looking for the right people to help bring it to life. Producers are also often the people to pitch to financiers because they are the most familiar with the story’s purpose.

Once production begins, producers are the director’s right hand when it comes to supporting the artistic vision. By managing workflow and coordinating between different departments, they allow the director to focus fully on their creative process. A great producer should hire a crew that doesn’t need supervision and is on board with the film’s creative goals.

An associate producer’s job is to support the producer and handle any assignments they may delegate. This title can also be used as a courtesy for anyone who supported the film’s development but isn’t quite at the level of an executive or producer.

Supervising producers typically oversee at least one other producer. On set, they fill the role of the executive producer by answering budget questions and keeping the creative mission on track.

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When there are multiple projects with multiple producers, a coordinating producer is the person who keeps everyone in sync. Marvel films are a perfect example since several movies with multiple producers are usually in production at once. Because each film is part of a larger narrative, the coordinating producer must ensure that all films fit into the established universe.

The job of a line producer is to quickly and efficiently deal with any crisis that arises on set. They also help oversee day-to-day spending, while the executive producers are more focused on the big picture budget.

So, what is an executive producer?

Filmmaking is, at its core, a collaborative effort. A talented team is vital to the production of any movie worth watching. However, it is also important to credit the people who put in that extra hustle to inspire movie magic. By securing the financing that first gets a film off the ground and working tirelessly to keep the production afloat, executive producers are ultimately the ones who turn an idea into a reality. Therefore, to answer the question, “What is an executive producer?” more simply: they are the fairy godmothers of cinema.

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