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Doing the job

Line producers and production managers are key to the efficient and successful delivery of TV drama productions – and there is a shortage of individuals with sufficient experience to step straight into these roles as the UK TV drama sector grows.

This handbook refers to both roles because the skills shortage acknowledged by employers concerns both – and because there can be a fine line between the two roles and considerable overlap in TV drama, depending on the sources of funding for the production, the scale of the production and the make-up of a particular production management team.

On a large production the line producer will be the senior production management role – in charge of all the business aspects of a production. They may have one or more production managers working to them, depending on the complexity of the production. Essentially the line producer will be responsible for creating the production schedule and budget and overseeing and monitoring their implementation, while the production manager will have the day to day responsibility of setting up and running the production office which is at the centre of a show.

On smaller scale, less complex productions, the line producer may work without a production manager but with one or more experienced production co-ordinators. Alternatively there may not be a line producer, just a production manager who may have a wider brief. In some cases jobs may even be advertised as combining both roles.

Job profiles

Job profiles for both roles can be found on Hiive:

The roles require a broadly similar skill set and this section offers a detailed breakdown of those shared “competencies”.

These include a wide range of specialist professional knowledge and skills that are required for these jobs – but employers and experienced production managers stress that it is excellent people skills that are perhaps the most important if you are going to succeed in these roles and these are captured here too.

In TV production as a whole more than half of the workforce is freelance – and this is reflected in production management in TV drama where freelance contract work is very common. So, the ability to operate successfully as a freelance can also be an important consideration. You can read more about who makes up the TV production workforce in Creative Skillset's Employment Census of the Creative Media Industries 2015.

The purpose of this list of competencies is to help potential new entrants to the industry, interested in production management as a career, to understand what is expected of those in more senior roles – and for those already in the industry to benchmark their existing knowledge and skills and identify gaps they may need to address if wishing to pitch for work as a production manager or line producer.

These competencies are relevant for both production managers and line producers (and even heads of production). The main difference between expectations of the two roles featured in this resource pack will lie in the breadth of experience you offer.

When first undertaking a production management role you will need to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of this wide range of knowledge and skills – and will be expected to have experience of undertaking many of these tasks.

For more senior roles the difference will largely be the amount of experience you have gained in managing productions and leading production teams, the complexity and diversity of those productions and the range of examples you can offer of how you have demonstrated these competencies in a variety of different and challenging circumstances.

Detailed list of competencies

This list is based on the work of the Canadian Cultural Human Resources Council (CHRC) and is informed by their CHRC Job Competency Charts, Competency Profiles and Training Gaps Analyses in Film & Broadcasting, as well as Creative Skillset’s National Occupational Standards for Production (Film & TV).

These competencies offer a greater level of detail for specific production management functions than are to be found in the Production (Film & TV) National Occupational Standards (NOS) dealt with in the Functions section.

The breakdown is different to that in the NOS but it is possible to relate these to the stages of production referred to in the Functions section.

The key below distinguishes between those tasks that are primarily part of the pre-production stage and those relating to the production stage when the actual shooting takes place. The third category of competency relates to IT, communication, management and personal skills and behaviours that are also essential to these roles, but are also more generally transferrable beyond the film and TV drama production process. But industry experts stress the great importance of those general skills – management, communication and personal – if you hope to be successful in these roles.

Professional competencies

A line producer or production manager may be required to:

Assess feasibility of a project based on a script

Pre-production

  1. Assess project requirements
  2. Make recommendations

Prepare and manage schedules

Pre-production

  1. Assess script/storyboard
  2. Identify and confirm the timeline, technical demands and resources need for the project
  3. Determine script days and other continuity needs
  4. Determine location/studio needs
  5. Determine talent needs
  6. Determine special equipment, visual effects and mechanical effects needs
  7. Determine stunt needs
  8. Determine animal, props and special elements needs
  9. Submit schedule proposals to producer (from pre- to post-production)

Production

  1. Communicate approved schedules (to all departments)
  2. Adapt/adjust schedules
  3. Monitor compliance with schedules

Prepare and manage a budget

Pre-production

  1. Identify financial parameters of the project
  2. Draft budget
  3. Present and lock budget
  4. Identify valid tax breaks and financial incentives which may be available to the production company

Production

  1. Communicate budget outline to departments
  2. Ensure cash flow
  3. Track costs
  4. Control costs
  5. Maintain books
  6. Obtain authorisation for overtime/overages

Set up and manage facilities and locations

Pre-production

  1. Secure cast and crew
  2. Set up production office
  3. Organise stage facilities
  4. Secure the most suitable location(s)
  5. Conduct technical surveys
  6. Satisfy unit requirements
  7. Ensure talent and crew accommodations
  8. Set up editing/post facilities
  9. Satisfy transportation requirements
  10. Confirm that Health & Safety of cast and crew has been planned

Production

  1. Ensure security and safety of facilities and locations
  2. Ensure maintenance and integrity of facilities and locations
  3. Wrap locations and facilities
  4. Secure banking arrangements in foreign locations

Secure contractual agreements

Pre-production

  1. Facilitate negotiation of completion bond
  2. Negotiate insurance
  3. Negotiate contractual agreements with unions and affiliates
  4. Secure talent
  5. Secure contractual agreements with vendors
  6. Secure clearances

Hire and manage crew

Pre-production

  1. Confirm size of the crew
  2. Research potential candidates
  3. Apply selection process
  4. Negotiate deal memos with crew

Production

  1. Orient crew with project
  2. Handle payroll
  3. Monitor crew performance
  4. Resolve grievances/conflicts

Perform liaison activities

Production

  1. Facilitate discussion among departments
  2. Establish/maintain relationships with community
  3. Keep producers informed
  4. Control media access to the set
  5. Maintain relationship with unions, guilds and affiliates
  6. Establish and maintain professional networks

Prepare and authorise reports

Production

  1. Ensure dissemination of production documentation
  2. Approve call sheets
  3. Approve daily production reports (DPRs)
  4. Report on cost control
  5. Report to and inform bonders
  6. Archive production documentation

Ensure compliance with laws, regulations, contracts and agreements

Production

  1. Comply with health and safety regulations
  2. Comply with studio rules and regulations
  3. Comply with individual contract requirements
  4. Comply with labour laws and regulations
  5. Comply with government funding regulations
  6. Comply with union/affiliate agreements
  7. Comply with international employment, import-export and immigration laws and regulations
  8. Comply with fiscal laws and regulations
  9. Comply with error and omission obligations

General personal competencies 

And to accomplish all the preceding tasks, a line producer or production manager must be able to:

Use tools and equipment

  1. Use relevant software for budgeting, accounting and scheduling
  2. Use research tools
  3. Use communication tools

Demonstrate management skills

  1. Plan
  2. Organise
  3. Prioritise
  4. Delegate
  5. Exercise leadership
  6. Anticipate and prevent problems
  7. Solve problems
  8. Mediate conflict
  9. Negotiate
  10. Make decisions
  11. Exercise authority
  12. Demonstrate efficiency
  13. Conduct interviews
  14. Conduct meetings
  15. Multitask

Demonstrate communication skills

  1. Give/receive feedback
  2. Actively listen
  3. Give clear directions
  4. Persuade and negotiate
  5. Write correspondence (memos, reports, etc.)
  6. Demonstrate interpersonal skills
  7. Select appropriate media and format of communication
  8. Adapt language/jargon to audience
  9. Use/decode body language

Demonstrate personal skills

  1. Demonstrate thoroughness and attention to details
  2. Exercise judgement
  3. Demonstrate resourcefulness
  4. Demonstrate endurance, flexibility and integrity
  5. Work under pressure and manage stress
  6. Take initiative
  7. Use networks
  8. Be approachable
  9. Demonstrate analytical skills
  10. Maintain knowledge and skills