Independent producers assume overall financial, technical and artistic responsibility for audiovisual productions. They are legally responsible to the private and public investors, insurers, banks and broadcasters involved and to the administrative, technical and creative personnel hired for the project.
The Regulation respecting the Recognition of Film as Québec Films, administered by SODEC, defines the producer as “the person responsible for decision making throughout production of the film.” This means that the final decision, and thus the legal and financial risks inherent to development and production, rests with the producer.
As cultural entrepreneurs, producers must maintain a permanent place of business, employ administrative and project development teams, and assume much of the risk associated with development and part of the risk associated with the actual production. A producer’s functions are many and varied. The following list provides a partial glimpse of the related tasks:
- Conceive projects or assess submitted proposals and select those to be developed.
- Lead the project development process: select and hire writers, directors and researchers; supervise and coordinate the conception and writing work.
- Persuade one or more Canadian broadcasters of the project’s merits and obtain their commitment to air it; for feature films, also persuade a distributor to commit to the project.
- Secure all of the national, and often international, financing needed for the production.
- Negotiate and secure interim loans from financial institutions to cover the production’s cash needs pending certain payments (tax credits, in particular).
- As needed, identify and negotiate agreements with reliable coproduction partners appropriate to the project.
- Contract all insurance and completion guarantees needed to satisfy the investors and other financing partners.
- Develop and manage complex, binding production budgets.
- Hire and negotiate contracts with the administrative, technical and creative team personnel.
- Coordinate and supervise their work and the overall production.
- Identify and negotiate exploitation contracts with appropriate distributors and exporters.
- Develop ancillary products (website, CD, DVD, video, book, multimedia) with various partners.
- Follow up on the production’s exploitation throughout its career (returns to investors, payments to copyright holders, etc.) and renegotiate the rights after each distribution deal expires.
Further details on the producer’s job can be found in these recent publications:
- Development and Other Production Challenges: A Producer’s Handbook. Published by Telefilm Canada
- Produire? D’une idée à l’écran — Un guide (in French). Published by SODEC and INIS, distributed by Qui fait Quoi
The EXECUTIVE PRODUCER is often defined as the person who heads the overall project when other producers are involved. In some circumstances, a producer involved in financing a production or coproduction is given this title.
The LINE PRODUCER acts as team leader during the production and ensures that all team members respect the established creative and technical parameters, staying on time and on budget. The line producer reports to the producer, providing progress updates that allow the producer to make decisions. More often than not, the line producer is a freelance professional, rather than a production company employee, but is nonetheless subject to the producer’s authority.
The PRODUCTION MANAGER hires the technical personnel, staying with the budgeted parameters indicated by the line producer or the producer, and regularly reports on spending for the budget items under his or her supervision.