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How Executive Producers Work

Television Executive Producer
"The X-Files" executive producer Chris Carter poses on the show's studio set.
"The X-Files" executive producer Chris Carter poses on the show's studio set.
© Acey Harper/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

An executive producer in the television industry is someone who has to work quickly and make snap decisions in a fast-paced industry. While a motion picture producer or music producer may have months to complete a film or an album, a television producer working on a series has to complete a show every week or approximately 22 shows for a season.

Perhaps even more than in other entertainment industries, executive producer can have different meanings in television. The Producers Guild of America, the professional association for film and television producers, differentiates between executive producers for long-form television (TV movies) and television series. But individual networks and TV stations also have executive producers to handle news and other types of programming.

The responsibilities of an executive producer for long-form television are similar to those for a feature film:

  • Preproduction -- Conceive of the underlying premise or select material; select the writer; secure rights and financing; select the creative team and principal cast; and approve the shooting script, schedule, locations and budget.
  • Production -- Supervise production operations, consult with the director, approve weekly cost reports and serve as liaison to the studio and financial backers.
  • Postproduction -- Work with the director and crew to prepare a first cut for the network or other financiers and then complete the final cut; work with the studio, network and any foreign distributor on marketing and distribution of the film.

Television series are often writer driven, but the executive producer has final responsibility for the creative and business aspects of producing the series and is responsible to the network or companies financing the series. The executive producer may also be the writer but with added duties, such as:

  • Preproduction -- Creating the concept, format and characters; supervising and participating in story and script meetings, approving all story lines; hiring series directors and casting series regulars; selecting key members of the production team; and supervising the budget and production schedule.
  • Production -- Monitoring budgets and schedules and working as liaison with the network and financial backers.
  • Postproduction -- Working with the network or production company on requirements such as final cuts, air dates and standards and practices; selecting or approving postproduction facilities and editors; viewing dailies and approving final cuts of each show; planning or approving publicity and promotional campaigns.

[source: Producers Guild of America]

Does executive producer sound like the right career for you? Keep reading to find out the training and experience you'll need for different entertainment industries.