Production Managers run productions on behalf of the Producer. They help to determine the most efficient and economic way to schedule shoots, negotiate business deals for crews, locations and technical equipment, and make day-to-day production decisions to ensure that productions proceed smoothly. Production Managers are dynamic and highly self-motivated individuals. They should be excellent communicators, prepared to work very long hours, and able to react calmly under intense pressure. The role is challenging but well paid, usually on a freelance basis.
Production Managers are in charge of the expenditure of the ‘below-the-line’ budget.
In pre-production, Production Managers work closely with the Producer to break down the shoot requirements frame by frame, and to prepare a provisional schedule. Production Managers then consult with the various departments and suppliers to estimate the materials needed, and to assist in the preparation of draft budgets. Once the overall budget has been signed off, Production Managers assist Producers in interviewing and selecting crews and suppliers to meet production requirements. They help to negotiate rates of pay, and conditions of employment, ensuring compliance with regulations and codes of practice. They negotiate, approve and arrange the rental and purchase of all production materials, equipment and supplies. Production Managers oversee the search for locations, sign location releases, and liaise with local authorities and the Police regarding permits and other permissions. On smaller productions they may also negotiate contracts with casting agencies.
During production, Production Managers ensure that all bills are paid, that tasks are delegated properly, and that people work well together. Their responsibilities include:
setting up and implementing financial monitoring systems;
controlling production expenditure;
monitoring and controlling the progress of productions;
overseeing production paperwork such as call sheets and daily progress reports;
and liaising with the set, to ensure that the production schedule and departmental budgets are on target.
Production Managers sign and authorise all purchase orders, and help the Production Accountant to prepare weekly cost reports. They make changes to the schedule and to the budget as required, and ensure that these changes are brought to the attention of all relevant personnel. Production Managers deal with any personnel problems or issues that may arise, and ensure that all Health and Safety regulations are adhered to.
At the end of the shoot, the Production Manager ‘wraps’ the production. This involves ensuring that all final invoices for services provided are received, checked and passed for payment, overseeing that locations are signed off in accordance with agreements, and that all rental agreements are terminated, and equipment returned on time. On larger productions involving more than one Production Unit, these responsibilities may be delegated to Assistant Production Managers, who are referred to as Second Unit Production Managers, or Assistant Production Managers. In such situations, Production Managers are likely to work permanently in the main production office.
This role is very business oriented, and requires a thorough knowledge of production. Production Managers must be hard working, with superb planning, organisational and administrative skills. They spend a great deal of their time on the telephone, and must therefore have excellent communication and negotiation skills in order to win the confidence and respect of suppliers and production personnel.
Production Managers must be familiar with budgeting and accounting programmes, shoot scheduling and word processing software. They also need to understand the creative and business challenges faced by the Producer and the Photographer on each specific shoot.
They must have good contacts with local equipment suppliers, and know where to recruit reliable production personnel, from Location Managers and Art Directors, to Carpenters and Production Assistants. Production Managers need to be familiar with Health & Safety legislation, and must know how to carry our risk assessments according to regulatory requirements. They must also be familiar with all insurance issues.
Production Managers play a pivotal role on any production. To qualify for this position, they must be highly experienced in the industry. The typical career entry point for Production Manager is as Runner / Production Assistant. A degree in Media Studies is not essential, although a degree in some disciplines is an advantage. Attendance on industry courses covering areas such as Health & Safety, Budgeting and Scheduling, IT, and First Aid, is advantageous. Prospective employers often stipulate that Production Managers should have a full clean driving license.
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