How Line Producers Work

Responsibilities of a Line Producer

Line producers oversee all the financial details of a film's shooting script.
Line producers oversee all the financial details of a film's shooting script.
© William Howard/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The line itself is probably the place to start in thinking about the responsibilities of a line producer. The line in a film's production budget separates above the line expenses that are mostly fixed -- like story rights and negotiated salaries and per diems for writers, producers, directors and cast -- from below the line expenses -- location, scheduling and sets -- that need to be estimated, budgeted and kept reined in.

Line producers enter the filmmaking process during development and stay through the production process. The line producer is given the script and asked to estimate the below the line production expenses for the film. These can include everything from crew salaries and equipment rental to insurance to wardrobe to set design to location costs. The line producer also creates a filming schedule determining how long each scene will take to shoot to estimate each day's cost.

Based on those estimates, the line producer prepares a budget for the producers to show how much funding they will need. Once money is raised and a final budget prepared, the studio or other backers look to the line producer to keep production costs in line as the film moves through its shooting schedule [source:].

During pre-production, the line producer:

  • works with the director, production manager and department heads to prepare the final budget, shooting schedule and production dates
  • oversees hiring crew, finding equipment and suppliers, scouting locations and activities of various departments
  • provides vision to the director

While the film is in production, the line producer:

  • monitors the budget and production schedule, revising the schedule and controlling expenses to keep the film on time and within budget
  • answers to the studio and acts as a liaison between the crew and the producer
  • approves or denies additional expenses
  • may hire and fire crew
  • helps the director reach his artistic vision for the film
  • deals with on-location crises
  • oversees the wrap when shooting ends, sets are struck, and rental equipment is returned

[sources: Honthaner, Skillset]

The line producer's job is similar to that of the unit production manager, and sometimes that title is used instead for someone with basically the same responsibilities. But no matter what title a line producer uses, he usually is looking to move up to the opening title credit that comes with a job as assistant producer or producer.

That often happens. Frank Marshall, producer of the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1982) and its three sequels, the "Back to the Future" trilogy, and the Bourne trilogy, started as an assistant to director Peter Bogdanovich before moving up to location manager, associate producer, line manager, producer and executive producer [source: Willamette Week].

If you'd like to know more about becoming a line producer, go to the next page to learn about the skills you'll need to succeed.