I had so much feedback on my last post detailing my life as a producer, that I decided to turn it into a monthly segment. Get ready friends, cause I’m about to spill on the crazy world of television production.
Producing is a steady stream of material – some will make you laugh, some will make you cry, and some will downright shock the hell out of you. At the very least, it’s a career path that keeps life VERY interesting. And I’m never short on stories!
Since the word ‘producer’ is thrown around so often these days, one of the main questions I’m asked is what exactly IS a producer? There are many different types – line producers, field producers, story producers, executive producers – and they each serve a specific function.
Line producers tend to deal specifically with budgets and schedules: They are the logistics gurus. Many moons ago, I was on that path before I realized how little creativity existed in that realm. That part of the team is vital, but the work just wasn’t for me. I quickly transitioned into the story/field space, which is where I work today.
A field producer is one who works primarily (you guessed it!) — in the field. That means that they are the producers who carry out the day to day on set. They are brought on during preproduction (the first stage of television production where the show is prepped before principal photography) to figure out the in’s and out’s of a show before it begins filming.
Production is an unpredictable beast, especially the reality side of the equation, so preproduction involved coming up with your main plan for each day and then being prepared with several contingency plans depending on how things play out. Then field producers carry out their duties on set until a show is finished shooting. Depending on the structure of the team, some field producers will then head to the edit bay during post-production to help the story department sift through footage and piece together the story (which I typically do).
Story producers tend to stay solely in the office, weaving together the intricate web of story points that take place in any show. These producers drill down to the heart of the show and craft the beats (individual story points) and script (if needed) for each episode. After the show is shot, they’re kind of like sculptors. The nuts and bolts version? They make sense out of the hours of footage sent back to them and create a show out of it.
We producers wear many hats. And I mean MANY. We are often the main decision makers. There are many days where I feel like I’ve made 5,000 decisions and answered 10,000 questions. What color should ___ be? Which shirt do you want actor x in? Has the host arrived? Can you rewrite this part of the script on the fly? Where is the host?? Where are the props for the next scene? Who has map print outs for the next location? Where is the host??!?!?!?! You can see how blogging feels like a vacation sometimes!
Now, we can all relate to being a gal on the go these days, whether you’re a mom, are back in school for your Masters, or are fully committed to taking your career to the next level. I am constantly amazed by the juggernaut nature that we ladies seem to have mastered these days.
As my close friends know, television rarely sleeps, and my lifestyle is far from ‘normal,’ at least normalcy defined by a 9 to 5. I often can’t make plans on a work night because I simply don’t know what time I’ll be leaving the office. And if I’m on set? Forget it. My short days are 12 hours. So from a social life standpoint, it’s not a career for everyone.
But it can also be extremely rewarding. I have a very tangible by-product at the end of each day. I can watch an episode of my show and know exactly what I contributed to each scene. It’s a pretty incredible feeling.
If you have any specific question on life in TV, send them my way! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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