Ever since childhood, I have always been fond of movies and TV award shows. It might sound strange, but seeing actors and actresses out of their roles and cheering for each other is like a crossover among every character I have adored.
However, being someone who left the cinema as soon as the credits started rolling, I had absolutely no idea about those behind the scenes. I never understood why the ceremonial segment of the “Best Director” gained that much kudos, and why the “Executive Producer” received the “Best Movie” award instead of the main cast. I even wondered ‘What is the difference between producer and director?’
Perhaps it was because of my neverending fascination with the cinema, or those lingering questions that have been bugging me all those years, I now ended up in film school. And at last, I discover who these two are, as well as their roles in movies.
Table of Contents
Firstly, What Is A Producer?
A movie begins and ends with the producer. While high-powered Hollywood producers seem glamorous as they walk on the stage to accept the Oscar, the job is not that flashy. Their primary tasks are to ensure that production goes smoothly and that the movie is completed on schedule and on budget. That’s a lot of works and requires a diverse set of skills.
To fully grasp the responsibilities of producers, we have to take a look at three stages of filmmaking: Pre-production, production, and post-production.
In pre-production, producers choose and buy potential ideas from screenwriters, directors, or even the unfamous writer. Then, they are responsible for gathering investment and financing to turn those ideas into movies. The producer assembles a small creative team to help present the pitch to production companies and studios. They hire writers, directors, and might go through a few stars suitable for the leading roles.
As they receive approval from a studio or manage to arrange funding from investors, the production will take place.
Producers now sign off on all major creative decisions and are in charge of the following:
- Discuss with the director to hire major creative talents, such as a cinematographer, a production designer, etc.
- Put together a budget and timeline.
- Oversee all logistic and commercial operations.
- Make sure the production is on time and does not exceed the budget.
Finally, during post-production, producers determine marketing plans. This includes public relations, advertising, distribution, and release.
Since there are many tasks, most film crews have various producer roles to spread the load. On movie credits, you can see executive producers (in charge of finances or are financiers themselves), line producers (those who layout spending plans and timelines), and so on.
Producer Vs Project Manager: What’s The Difference? – Source: Unsplash
The role of producer is usually mistaken with a project manager. At the most basic level, their tasks are the same. Both take charge of planning, building tracking, monitoring, and delivering a project. The difference lies in the purposes of the two roles, not the responsibilities: Project managers make sure that everything is on time, and their goal is to push and gain results. Meanwhile, producers supervise how things are done, and their purpose is to guide. In a film crew, producer and project manager are equivalent.
And What About Directors?
Directors do much more than shouting “action” and “cut” behind the scene. They are in total artistic control of a movie project. Aside from a firm grasp of technical knowledge, directors must have a personal or emotional connection to the material.
Directors are creative leads of a film – Source: Cinema Friends
Generally, directors will take part in all stages of filmmaking. However, their responsibilities lie heavily in production and post-production.
After being hired, directors will establish the vision for the film and explain it to the crew during pre-production. They do it by creating a lookbook with examples of preferred color palettes, settings, and framing. After deciding on the vision, directors are responsible for casting.
In the production process, directors are in total control of creative decisions. Their responsibilities now include:
- Instruct actors and actresses through scenes. The director’s job is to shape their performances and make sure that the portrayals match the characters.
- Ensure that other departments, such as sound, cinematography, lighting, or costume are doing their jobs. To bring the script to life, the director must make sure everyone is fulfilling their roles. It requires a lot of communication with every team.
- Stick to the artistic vision. The director will constantly check with every department and communicate their need to translate their creative vision to the screen.
In the last stage of filmmaking, post-production, directors must work closely with editors. They check out the draft cuts and analyze footage to figure the shots, angles, and takes that add the most meaning. Additionally, directors ensure that every post-production choice follows their overall vision by supervising the sound design team, music supervisor, and visual effects team.
Can You Tell The Difference Between Producer And Director Now?
With all that being said, we should be able to pinpoint the difference between producer and director: Producers are often responsible for the business aspects of filmmaking, while directors handle the creative and artistic aspects.
The producer might comment on creative elements, but their tasks are more associated with financing the movie. Likewise, the director can decide some logistical problems, such as when to shoot and how to stretch the budget to benefit the creative process. Their roles might overlap sometimes, but in the end, a producer’s duty is to offer assistance and means to the director so that he or she can carry out the film’s artistic and dramatic elements.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see movies in which the director is also the producer. Christopher Nolan played both roles in the 2017’s historical drama Dunkirk. The same is true with Martin Scorsese for The Irishman (2018), Steven Spielberg for Ready Player One (2018), and Ridley Scott for The Martian (2015).
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You might wonder, between producers and directors, who get paid more. As seen on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income of these two is similar. Both of them make roughly $113,860 a year, according to 2020’s statistics.
However, it is important to note that a producer’s income depends largely on profit points, a percentage of the film’s box office. In short, their earnings all come down to the success of the project. On the other hand, directors are brought in under contracts, so their income for each project is secured. If the movie becomes a hit, they may negotiate back-end points of the box office take.
Other Film Crew Positions
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So you have got yourself an insight into the two roles, as well as the differences between producer and director. While they are indeed the two most crucial positions in the process, it takes more people to make a film happens. In case you are going to work in the film industry, you need to familiarize yourself with each of them. Even if you are just a movieholic, it’s still intriguing to learn about those behind your favorite flicks, isn’t it?
(Fun fact: Many folks make it through film school without recognizing all of these roles, so don’t be surprised if you never heard of some!)
A film crew is divided into two categories: Above the line and below the line.
“Above The Line” Roles
Both producer and director belong to the “above the line” division. These crew members are in charge of the most creative or financial aspects of a movie-making process, and they often work from pre-production to post-production. These individuals are responsible for making key decisions.
Aside from those we just discussed, “above the line” roles include:
- Screenwriters: Screenwriters write and develop scripts for movies.
- Principal Cast: Simply put, the principal cast consists of the actors and actresses featured in all of the promotional material published by studios. It is worth noting that the supporting cast and extras are categorized ‘below the line’.
“Below The Line” Roles
“Below the line” refers to the positions in a film crew that is technical in nature and do not involve in the creative aspect of a movie. Non-key cast members are also a part of this category.
There can be countless positions below the line, but we will just go through the major ones:
- Assistant Director (AD): While the director has the vision, the AD is the one who takes care of all the elements required in each scene.
- Cinematographer: Sometimes referred to as the director of photography (DoP), the cinematographer is accountable for the movie’s overall look from the camera’s point of view.
- Production Designer: The production designer involves in emphasizing the visual pleasure and narrative of the movie. They decide the overall aesthetic through color schemes, locations, compositions, lighting, and so on.
- Costume Designer: They work closely with the product designer to decide what characters wear in each shot.
- Production Sound Mixer: Also known as the sound engineer, they are in charge of recording all the production sound in a movie.
- Editor: Responsibilities of an editor include watching the footage, selecting the best takes, and using editing software to piece the visual story together.
Other “below the line” roles include hair and makeup, composer, visual effect supervisor, and so on. Even though the term indicates something lowly, a movie cannot be completed without these talents.
As you see, it takes a village to make the movie you love. Turning a vision into reality requires all of these positions to collaborate like a well-oiled machine. The better you cooperate, the greater your chance for success. The aim here is to work unitedly as a unit to condense all the floating ideas, viewpoints, and possibilities into one central message.
Like Michael Keaton once put it fittingly, “Filmmaking is the ultimate team sport.”
Let The Credits Roll!
If you think of filmmaking as a war (it pretty much is, think about all the chaos), and film crew as an army, who is your general? Well, the producer is back in the capital city, networking and playing a diplomatic game of chess with the logistical enemies. On the other hand, the Commander-in-Chief director is steering the overall campaign, waging battle against the invisible forces of time, actor egos, and creativity.
Still, keep in mind that a good director or producer alone won’t lead you to victory. What matters is the cooperation between them, as well as between other positions. It’s all about listening, learning, improving, and sharing. Only when you master the art of teamwork can you become a better filmmaker.