A television producer is a person who oversees one or more aspects of video production on a television programme.
Some producers take more of an executive role, in that they conceive new programs and pitch them to the television networks, but upon acceptance they focus on business matters, such as budgets and contracts. Other producers are more involved with the day-to-day workings, participating in activities such as screenwriting, set design, casting, and directing.
There are a variety of different producers on a television show. A traditional producer is one who manages a show’s budget and maintains a schedule, but this is no longer the case in modern television.
Types of Television Producers
Different types of producers in the industry today include (in order of seniority):
- The showrunner is the “chief executive” in charge of everything related to the production of the show.
- It is the highest-ranking individual who is responsible for the production and daily management of the show.
- In fictional television, they supervise the writing room as well.
- Executive producer:
- Established show creators with prior writing credits are often given the title of executive producer, even after they depart the show.
- Executive producers can be showrunners, head writers, the head of a production company, or a long-time writer for the show.
- Co-executive producer:
- Near seniority to the executive producers, these producers serve as “chief operating officers” by managing above and below-the-line staff.
- In fictional shows, they have also contributed significantly in the writing room through table reads, discussions, and/or revisions.
- The co-executive producer may pen scripts as well.
- Supervising producer:
- In fictional shows, these producers assist in the creative process by engaging in table discussions, aiding in script rewrites, and also guiding new writers.
- In reality shows, they are often series directors who supervise other directors.
- In fictional shows, a producer may not have written the episode, but contributed significantly through table reads, discussions, and/or revisions.
- They may also be a former executive producer who still writes for the show, but has since relinquished his/her duties as an executive producer.
- Producers responsible for production logistics are given the credit of “produced by.”
- In fictional shows, a co-producer may not have written the episode, but contributed significantly through table reads, discussions, and/or revisions.
- Coordinating producer:
- The term is only used when the staff are working simultaneously on multiple shows.
- In such scenario, this producer coordinates their various tasks for them and places them into teams.
- Consulting producer, executive consultant, or production consultant:
- They consult certain aspects for the series.
- These producers are sometimes former executive producers or directors, who no longer work on the show, but are hired to consult for the production, nonetheless.
- They are usually called upon to assist the writers.
- Many television series that have a large in-house writing staff will usually have a few writers given the title of consulting producer, despite their day-to-day presence being no different from that of any other writer on staff.
- In these cases, the deal made with that writer does not meet the rules required to give them one of the titles from co-producer to executive producer.
- Examples include the writer not being required to be in-office five days a week, the writer’s services being non-exclusive, or the writer’s pay quote being too high for the responsibilities a more defined producer title might entail.
- Consulting producers like these are still assigned script drafts to write along with the rest of the series writing staff.
- Associate producer:
- Performs various tasks and duties; Serves any of the producer job functions at the request of the showrunner.
- Assistant producer:
- Sources contributors and stories for the reality programme.
- Chase producer:
- For news and talk show production, locates and schedules (or “chases”) guests for interviews.
- Segment producer:
- Writes one segment of a reality programme.
- Line producer:
- In charge of the unit production manager, these producers find staff to employ and manage their pay checks.
- Most line producers receive the “produced by” title, as they tend to also be responsible for production logistics.
- Field producer:
- In reality shows only.
- Selects areas to film (outside of a television studio) and coordinates stories for a production in the field.
- They also form a trusting relationship with the cast/participants in order to get interviews while in the field.
- They may fill a number of different roles, including production manager/coordinator, videographer, and also production assistant.
- Edit producer:
- Helps co-ordinate the edit by working with the editor and relaying information from other producers.
- Involved in creating stories and writing the script if necessary.
- Post-production producer or post-production coordinator:
- Responsible for the overall post-production process, including editing, dubbing, and grading, and are managed by the post-production supervisor.
In live television or “as-live”, an executive producer seldom has any operational control of the show, as their job is to stand back from the operational aspects and judge the show as an ordinary viewer might.
In film or video productions, the executive producer is almost always given an opportunity to comment on a rough cut, but the amount of attention paid to their comments is highly dependent on the overall personnel structure of the production.
Writer as “Producer”
Because of the restrictions the Writers Guild of America screenwriting credit system places on writing credits, many script writers in television are credited as “producers” instead, even though they may not engage in the responsibilities generally associated with that title. On-screen, a “producer” credit for a TV series will generally be given to each member of the writing staff who made a demonstrable contribution to the final script. The actual producer of the show (in the traditional sense) is listed under the credit “produced by”.
Bill Lawrence, a television screenwriter, producer, director and series creator (Scrubs, Cougar Town and Spin City) explained during an interview on Off Camera that:
… the end credits of a TV show, it will say Staff Writer, Story Editor, Executive Story Editor, Co-Producer, Producer, Supervising Producer, Co-Executive Producer, Executive Producer. (While) (s)omeone else will (also) be Executive Producer because they help to run the room, every other title is just … writer who’s been here one year, writer who’s been here two years, writer who’s been here three years, … and it’s just a pay scale.
Star as “Producer”
Sometimes the star of a successful television series can have a degree of influence over the creative process. For example, besides his leading role as Jack Bauer in 24, Kiefer Sutherland was credited as producer during the show’s second season, then rising to co-executive producer from season 3 to the last few episodes of season 5, from where he was finally promoted to executive producer. Claire Danes, the star of Homeland, also produces the show. Mark Harmon, star of the series NCIS, serves as one of the show’s producers. Similarly, Tom Welling, the star of the CW show Smallville, became co-executive producer for the show in season 9 and executive producer in season 10. House star Hugh Laurie became co-executive producer for the show in its sixth season. Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano, the stars of Charmed, became producers of the show in its fifth season. Ellen Pompeo on Grey’s Anatomy became a producer in season 14.