Becoming a Cinema Producer: Job Description & Salary Information

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A cinema producer's median annual salary is around $69,000. Is it worth the education and required experience? See real job descriptions and get the truth about this field's career outlook to find out if becoming a cinema producer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Cinema Producer Career

As a cinema producer, you must assume responsibilities at all stages of a movie's creation, which includes handling business and financial dealings. Before you begin climbing the ladder to reach this career, it's important to understand the pros and cons that come along with it.

Pros of a Cinema Producer Career
High average salary (about $90,000 as of May 2014 for all producers and directors)*
Motion picture work is often viewed as glamorous*
Opportunity for self-employment (about 29% of producers and directors were self-employed in 2010)*
May provide the opportunity to travel*
Allows for a great deal of creative control over film production work*

Cons of a Cinema Producer Career
Finding steady production work may be difficult*
High level of responsibility can produce stress*
Work assignments are often short*
Working conditions may be unpleasant (producers might work in inclement weather or at odd hours)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Cinema producers, often called movie or film producers, handle the business and financial aspects of making a movie. They work behind the scenes from a film's inception to the end of production and through its marketing. Job duties include selecting scripts, hiring crew and cast members, raising money for the film and managing budgets. Producers ensure that filming and production is completed on time and that the finished film meets the studio's expectations.

Career Paths and Specializations

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that about 29% of producers and directors were self-employed as of 2010 ( Self-employed producers can choose the types of films they work on. As a cinema producer, you may work on large budget films at well-known studios or focus on small, independent projects. You might specialize in animated films, documentaries or other genres.

There are many different types of cinema production positions. Executive producers oversee the entire production process. They may be aided by assistant producers who share lower-level responsibilities. Line producers make sure that day-to-day operations are running smoothly.

Salary and Job Growth

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for producers and directors in the motion picture industry was about $69,000 as of May 2014. Some producers earn a portion of the film's ticket sales, while others are paid a flat rate. Producer and director positions were projected to increase 3% from 2012-2022, which was a slower-than-average rate of growth. Although a few producers earn high salaries and have regular work, the film production job field is extremely competitive and can result in long periods of unemployment.

What Are the Career Requirements?

Most producers earn a bachelor's degree in a major related to business or management. Associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in cinematic arts and film production are also available. These programs include courses that cover the many stages of production, including screenwriting, editing, entertainment law, lighting and business. You might even have the chance to assume the role of producer on student film productions.

Cinematic producers must also have experience in the field. You may begin working as a business manager, assistant producer or hold another low-level position. To be successful in this field, you need strong communication and management skills, as well as the ability to manage finances and multi-task successfully.

What Employers Are Looking for

Few cinema producer positions are advertised because most producers find job opportunities through networking and experience. However, the responsibilities of cinema producers are often similar to those of video producers. Take a look at the real job postings below from April 2012 to see what skills employers were looking for.

  • A university in Ohio seeks a video producer to work in public affairs and social media. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, 3-5 years of public relations or advertising experience, knowledge of video production and familiarity with a variety of social media platforms.
  • In Fort Worth, Texas, an eye care company seeks a producer to coordinate video shoots and manage production costs. They must work with all parties involved in filming and keep a budget for video projects. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree in film or video studies, at least five years of experience and be comfortable working with a variety of software and hardware.
  • A video marketing company in Pennsylvania is seeking a video and Web content producer to develop internal and external communications. Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree, be able to write compelling scripts and effectively shoot and edit videos.
  • In California, a real estate training company has an opening for a senior-level video producer and editor. Responsibilities include creating original content for training and marketing materials, assisting with storyboard creation and providing technical support. At least three years of experience and a degree in filmmaking or video production are required.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Networking and experience are the keys to finding work in film production. Strong communication skills are vital for this field. Once you've managed to secure a meeting with a potential employer, you'll need to successfully market your services. Developing your own style and compiling a professional portfolio can help convince individuals to hire you.

Develop Your Style

Becoming a film producer can be a competitive process, but you can stand out by cultivating a defined film style. Successful producers often choose particular film projects that illustrate their individuality. You can begin to develop your own style while attending college or working on personal projects. For example, you might choose to produce documentary-style productions based on current events, or you might work on light-hearted comedy productions.

Create a Portfolio

You can also stand out to employers by building a portfolio or blog to showcase your best work. This can allow employers to see what you're capable of and determine whether or not you're right for their project. You'll want to post any of your recent videos or production news online. If you have a loyal fan base bringing in a high viewership, you could have additional appeal to employers.

Other Careers to Consider

Financial Manager

If you're drawn to the financial aspects of a cinema production career, you may want to consider a career as a financial manager. In this position, you can prepare statements and reports, ensure that budgets are adhered to and manage financial decisions. Workers made an annual median salary of about $107,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. Job growth was expected to meet the national average at about nine percent from 2010-2020. Generally, financial managers need a bachelor's degree and five or more years of experience.

Entertainment Lawyer

If you enjoy the process of negotiating contracts and managing talent, you may be interested in becoming an entertainment lawyer. Work in this field requires you to represent clients in the motion picture, television and film industries. Wages for attorneys are high. The BLS reported that as of May 2011, the median annual income for lawyers in all fields was about $113,000. This job field was projected to grow ten percent from 2010-2020. Attorneys generally need about seven years of schooling to complete their bachelor's degree and juris doctorate. To become licensed, you also need to pass your state's bar exam.

Film Editor or Camera Operator

If the pressure of being a cinema producer seems overwhelming, and you'd rather work behind the scenes in the film world, there are positions available as editors and camera operators. The BLS reported that as of May of 2011, the median annual wage for film and video editors was around $53,000. Camera operators earned a median wage of about $40,000. Unfortunately, job growth was expected to be slower than average in these positions, at only four percent from 2010-2020.

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