Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, and other performing arts productions. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.

Duties

Producers and directors typically do the following:

  • Select scripts
  • Audition and select cast members and the film or stage crew
  • Approve the design and financial aspects of a production
  • Oversee the production process, including performances, lighting, and choreography
  • Oversee the post-production process, including editing, special effects, music selection, and a performance’s overall tone
  • Ensure that a project stays on schedule and within budget
  • Approve new developments in the production

Large productions often have associate, assistant, and line producers who share responsibilities. For example, on a large movie set an executive producer is in charge of the entire production, and a line producer runs the day-to-day operations. A TV show may employ several assistant producers to whom the head or executive producer gives certain duties, such as supervising the costume and makeup team.

Similarly, large productions usually employ several assistant directors, who help the director with tasks such as making set changes or notifying the performers when it is their time to go onstage. The specific responsibilities of assistant producers or directors vary with the size and type of production they work on.

Producers make the business and financial decisions for a motion picture, TV show, or stage production. They raise money for the project and hire the director and crew. The crew may include set and costume designers, a musical director, a choreographer, and other workers. Some producers may assist in the selection of cast members. Producers set the budget and approve any major changes to the project. They make sure that the production is completed on time, and they are responsible for the way the finished project turns out.

Directors are responsible for the creative decisions of a production. They select cast members, conduct rehearsals, and direct the work of the cast and crew. During rehearsal, they work with the actors to help them more accurately portray their characters. They also work with cinematographers and other crew members to ensure the final product matches the overall vision.

Directors work with set designers, costume designers, location scouts, and art directors to build a project’s set. During a film’s postproduction phase, they work closely with film editors and music supervisors to make sure that the final product comes out the way the producer and director envisioned. Stage directors, unlike television or film directors who document their product with cameras, make sure the cast and crew give a consistently strong live performance.

Although directors are in charge of the creative aspects of a show, they ultimately answer to the executive producer.

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Work Environment

Producers and directors held about 103,500 jobs in 2012. Producers and directors work under a lot of pressure, and many are under constant stress to finish their work on time. Work assignments are usually short, ranging from 1 day to a few months. They sometimes must work in unpleasant conditions, such as bad weather.

The industries that employed the most producers and directors in 2012 were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries 33%
Television broadcasting 14
Radio broadcasting 5
Performing arts companies 4
Cable and other subscription programming 3

About 15 percent of producers and directors were self-employed in 2012.

Work Schedules

Work hours for producers and directors can be long and irregular. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is common. Many producers and directors do not work a standard workweek because they have variable schedules. Theater directors and producers may travel with a touring show across the country, while those in film and television may work on location (a site away from the studio where all or part of the filming occurs).                                   

Education and Training

Most producers and directors have a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience in an occupation related to motion picture, TV, or theater production, such as an actor, film and video editor, or cinematographer.

Education

Producers and directors usually have a bachelor’s degree. Many students study film or cinema at college and universities. In these programs, students learn about film history, editing, and lighting, and creating their own films. Others major in writing, acting, journalism, or communication. Some producers earn a degree in business, arts management, or nonprofit management.

Many stage directors complete a degree in theater and some go on to receive a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Classes may include directing, playwriting, and set design, as well as some acting classes. The National Association of Schools of Theater accredits more than 150 programs in theater arts.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Producers and directors usually have several years of work experience in an occupation related to motion picture, TV, or theater production. Many directors begin as actors, writers, film or video editors, cinematographers, choreographers, or animators, and over time they learn about directing. For more information, see the profiles on actors, writers and authors, film and video editors and camera operators, dancers and choreographers, and multimedia artists and animators.

Directors may also begin their careers as assistants to successful directors on a film set. In nonprofit theaters, most aspiring directors begin as assistant directors, a position that is usually treated as an unpaid internship.

Producers might start out working in a theatrical management office as a business manager, or as an assistant or another low-profile job in a TV or movie studio. Some were directors or worked in another role behind the scenes of a show or movie.

Advancement

As a producer’s or director’s reputation grows, he or she may work on larger and higher profile projects.

Personality and Interests

Producers and directors typically have an interest in the Creating and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Creating interest area indicates a focus on being original and imaginative, and working with artistic media. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Creating or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a producer and director, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Producers and directors should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Producers and directors must coordinate the work of many different people to finish a production on time and within budget.

Creativity. Because a script can be interpreted in different ways, directors must decide how they want to interpret it and then how to represent the script’s ideas on the screen or stage.

Leadership skills. A director instructs actors and helps them portray their characters in a believable manner. They also supervise the crew, who are responsible for the behind the scenes work.

Management skills. Producers must find and hire the best director and crew for the production and make sure that all involved do their jobs effectively and efficiently.

Pay

The median annual wage for producers and directors was $71,350 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,080, and the top 10 percent earned more than $187,200 in May 2012.

Some producer’s and director’s income is earned as a percentage of ticket sales. A few of the most successful producers and directors have extraordinarily high earnings, but most do not.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for producers and directors in the top five industries in which they worked were as follows:

Motion picture and video industries $94,110
Cable and other subscription programming 83,220
Television broadcasting 56,950
Performing arts companies 49,690
Radio broadcasting 48,110

Work hours for producers and directors can be long and irregular. Evening, weekend, and holiday work is common. Many producers and directors do not work a standard workweek because they have variable schedules. Theater directors and producers may travel with a touring show across the country, while those in film and television may work on location (a site away from the studio where all or part of the filming occurs).

Job Outlook

Employment of producers and directors is projected to grow 3 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations.

Some job growth in the motion picture and video industry is expected to stem from strong demand from the public for more movies and television shows, as well as an increased demand from foreign audiences for U.S.-produced films. In addition, production companies are experimenting with new content delivery methods, such as mobile and online TV, which may lead to more work opportunities for producers and directors in the future. These delivery methods are still in their early stages, however, and their potential for success is not entirely known.

Theater producers and directors who work in small- and medium-sized theaters may see slower job growth because many of those theaters have difficulty finding funding as the number of performances decline. Large theaters in big cities, which usually have more stable sources of funding, should provide more opportunities.                               

Job Prospects

Producers and directors face intense competition for jobs because there are many more people who want to work in this field than there are jobs available. In film, directors who have experience on film sets should have the best job prospects. Producers who have good business skills will likely have the best prospects.

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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I think I have found an error or innacurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at help@truity.com.

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).