You may have noticed while watching the credits for your favorite film the title “Line Producer” and wondered what it meant before realizing your needed to clean a large popcorn butter stain from your shirt.
The Line Producer is a vital member of the Production team but many people, including filmmakers just starting out, aren’t entirely sure what that job entails. To put it simply the Line Producer is the member of the Production team whose primary job is to ensure that the film or television series you’re watching is completed on time and on budget.
How is a Line Producer Different Than a Producer?
The Producer of a film or television series is responsible for assembling many of the creative aspects of the project including hiring the writer(s) and/or the director(s). The Producer also hires the Production Team, including the Line Producer, and serves as the primary contact between the Production and the entity funding the project. The Line Producer liaisons between the Producer and the Production, often managing the day-to-day work of the Production as well as supervising things like creating the budget, setting the shoot schedule, managing locations, crew hiring, and more.
The Line in Line Producer: Above-the-line vs. Below-the-line
The “Line” in the job title “Line Producer” refers to the budget terms “above-the-line” and “below-the-line.” You may have heard those terms tossed around before but not been entirely clear on what they were referring to. “Above-the-line” costs refer to fixed, often negotiated costs in making the production. “Below-the-line” costs refer to the costs that are estimated and have to be budgeted for.
Above-the-line costs include costs like story rights and negotiated salaries for members of the production team. These salaries are typically negotiated for writers, directors, producers, and actors. This is a part of the film’s or series’ production budget and are typically set before principal photography on the project begins.
Below-the-line costs refer to costs that may vary during the production of a project including locations, scheduling, construction, props, wardrobe, equipment rental and crew costs. While above-the-line costs are not expected to vary changes in production needs are likely to impact the below-the-line costs. For example, the salary for the director won’t change if a day is cut from the schedule, but crew is unlikely to be hired and paid for that day. Thus, reducing those budget line items.
Producing the Line in Line Producer
The line between the above-the-line and the below-the-line budget elements is the line referred to in the title Line Producer. The Line Producer is responsible for managing the production to ensure that the budget doesn’t exceed the funds available for the project. All department heads report to them about their needs and the Line Producer revises the schedule and controls expenses to keep the project on time and on budget.
Line Producing During Pre-Production
The responsibilities of the Line Producer can be divided broadly into their work pre-production and their work during production.
The first major responsibility of the Line Producer during pre-production is to review the script and create a script breakdown, or to work with another member of the production team to do this. The script breakdown identifies what is needed to shoot every scene and provides the initial guidelines for crafting the budget.
After the script breakdown has been created the Line Producer works with the Director, Producers, and heads of each Department to prepare the final budget, set the shooting schedule, and determine production dates. In addition to setting budget and dates the Line Producer will also coordinate to ensure all needed gear is being rented for the shoot days, necessary crew is hired, and locations are secured.
- How to Break Down a Script (with FREE Script Breakdown Sheet) on StudioBinder
- How to Avoid the Top 5 Budgeting Mistakes on No Film School
- 12 Indispensable Tips for Budgeting Your Indie Feature on No Film School
Line Producing During Production
Once the budget is set, the crew is hired, and everything is scheduled the Line Producer works with the Director, Producers, First Assistant Director, and all other Department Heads to ensure that everything is available for their teams.
During Production the Line Producer may work with or act as a Unit Production Manager for the Production. In that regard the Line Producer is checking in with all Heads of Department daily to ensure they are prepared for the day’s scenes. They are also planning with those Heads for the needs or concerns about future shoot days.
The Line Producer is also responsible for making sure the cast and crew are paid on time according to the agreed upon rates. They are also responsible for ensuring health and safety procedures are followed and for handling any insurance claims. They may not be managing these elements personally and using a production accountant or other staff instead, but it remains, ultimately, the responsibility of the Line Producer to ensure that proper procedure is followed.
Finally, the Line Producer is responsible for the wrap of production. They ensure sets that were built are struck, equipment is returned, and any further outstanding business, like managing tax incentives or overages, of the production is settled.
The Line Producer is like a Project Manager for the whole of the Production. They interface with various members of the production team, heads of department, the director, and the producer to determine how a project can be accomplished within the restrictions on time and budget.
- Studio Binder goes into great detail on everything a Line Producer does in their Ultimate Guide
- Budgets, Shotlists, and More: Free Templates for Freelance Production Jobs on Fstoppers
- Every FIlmmaking Form You’ll Ever Need in 99 Free Templates on No Film School
- How to Become a Line Producer on ProductionBeast