- Viknesh Silvalingam
What is a Line Producer?
In one of my earlier blogs, I had mentioned the importance of building your producing team as soon as possible. So who makes up a producing team? A typical team will consist of an Executive Producer, Supervising Producer, Producer, Co-Producer, Coordinating Producer (most commonly known as the Production Coordinator. Each of them has its own set of responsibilities and authority; depending on their experience, credentials, and financial backings. Nevertheless, the one person that you would need to get onboard your project ASAP is the Line Producer. What is a Line Producer?
Imagine you are going on a European vacation with a bunch of your buddies and all of you decided to cap the spending at a certain amount. Naturally, you want to have a whole lot more fun than what the money can buy. You would want someone within your group to make sure the entire trip's budget doesn't get blown with one visit to the nightclub. A line producer is that person in the producing team. He (or She) is a strategic, money-savvy, and multitasking wizard that manages the daily operations of the production. If a Director is responsible for creating the creative vision of the production, the Line Producer is at the core of that vision. If you are someone who has invested money into the project, you would want a responsible and savvy Line Producer onboard.
The Line Producer's responsibilities may vary from project to project, depending on how much control the other producers want to cede to the Line Producer but usually, the Line Producer will have a strong say in all phases of the project:
During the Development phase, the Line Producer reads through the screenplay and provides an initial budget. This is a rough estimate depending on the number of pages, locations, kinds of actions, actors etc. They proceed to break down the screenplay page by page, which allows the Line Producer to create a shooting schedule and the cost of shoot per day. Afterwards they estimate a below the line cost (crew salaries, equipment costs, accommodations, food budgets, location cost etc.)
Calculating the initial budget sheet is crucial for the project because this is the document the Executive Producers will refer to when raising money. If the budget is derived from a reliable source (like an acclaimed Line Producer) or great data to back each line item's cost, the investor will be more willing to pour their money into it.
During Pre Production is where Line Producers earn their chops. First, breaking down the script again as a considerable amount of time will have passed between the first draft and the final draft resulting in a number of changes (The director may have demanded an A list actor to play the lead or added a building explosion scene). However this time it is done in collaboration with the assistant director. The Line Producer and Assistant Director comb through every page in order to create an exact and meticulous shooting schedule, detailed daily schedules, and call times. Afterwards again the finalizing of the budget comes around. Sometimes the budget may rise and the Executive Producer will have to raise more money (rarely would the cost come down) The Line Producer will oversee the cost for location rentals, equipment purchasing or rentals, vendor management, hiring of principle cast and key crew.
If the Line Producer has done a good job, by the time the project is in Production, it will be a well-oiled machine. The Line Producer will step back and let the Production Manager and Production Coordinator run the day-to-day physical aspects of production. The daily expenditure report will be sent to the Line Producer to make sure the spending is on track. The last thing anyone would want is for the production to run out of money towards the end, which is very common.
The Line Producer ensures that the post production supervisor is aware of the requirements once the principal photography has wrapped. Now with the end of the project insight, it will be time to wrap up the budget, looking for ways to come in under budget, if possible. Handling any insurance claims if any (because things do get broken or lost). Continue working with all necessary department heads to oversee the delivery of assets such as a cut of the film for the distributor or still photos for the marketing department. Finally the Line Producer hands over “wrap books,” which are an account of schedules, contracts, vendor agreements, etc. since pre-production commenced, to the Executive Producer for recordings.
Yes, this is a load of responsibility for one person to handle but it's the 21st century and there are many software solutions to help alleviate the pressure. Unfortunately, most are standalone apps and don't allow for much cohesiveness amongst the various departments. When that happens, an increased likelihood of human error and some tasks may fall between the cracks. What's lacking is the ability to automate some of the Line Producers' responsibilities, which would help their productivity by a great margin. There is no denying that productivity will increase with automation and this will benefit not only Line Producers but the entire production company. It will give the crew more time for higher-value tasks such as problem-solving, finding solutions, and developing new ideas.
The Martini wants to be the software solution that will increase your production's productivity and thus save you money. If you like this blog, please do subscribe to my newsletter and my social media accounts, Twitter, and Instagram.