A Central Pivot: Production Manager for Feature Films, Imagefilms or Video Productions

PM Production Manager Production Management Film Video
Job description: Production manager | © Photo: cstpdx.com

The production manager is an integral part of every film production. Together with the rest of the crew, he controls the production process. He is, so to speak, the pilot who flies the plane to its destination on behalf of the producer. This job description is correspondingly demanding and interesting.

There is only one taboo for a production manager. To say: I am not responsible for this organisationally. Because the responsibility of this role includes all logistical, planning and financial aspects of a film or video production.

You have to know that:

  • Being a production manager is not for beginners in the film business. It requires too much knowledge and experience.
  • The responsibilities of this position include the entire production process. This means that at the end of the day, the
  • production manager is also responsible for ensuring that financial guidelines are met.
  • Because the allocation of funds has a direct influence on all creative aspects of a film or video, in-depth knowledge of directing, cinematography, set design and many other aspects of film production is also necessary.

Production manager for film and video

The production manager (also abbreviated PM) is usually hired on a film or video production as a freelancer and as the first person after the key creative functions. Only larger film productions employ permanent production managers as employees.

The supervisor of the PM is either the producer or the line producer.

The producer primarily takes care of four key elements:

  • Funding
  • Screenplay
  • director
  • Actors

These decisions of the producer define the production of his great measure. However, the production manager alone is responsible for the concrete implementation.

1The tasks of the production management

On behalf of the producer (or the line producer), the production manager puts their fundamental decisions into practice.

The production manager only has no decision-making authority when it comes to questions for which the director is responsible. In other words: the production manager is something like the opposite pole of the director. Keeping this balance between two usually very strong personalities and their demands requires a lot of skill and experience and is demanding.

Conflicts of objectives are not the exception, due to the different tasks and perspectives. They are the rule in this profession. It’s the same here as with the question whether the river determines the river bed? or whether the riverbed determines the river’s path…

ACooperation with the 1st AD (first assistant director)

In order to facilitate the balancing of the different interests of director and production manager, an assistant director works on larger productions. This extremely important function is not what the name implies! The assistant director is not an assistant to the director. It is a link between creation and production. She is looking for the best possible compromise between what the director needs to realize his vision and what the production management can offer.

The PM is one of the few functions that work from the beginning to the end of a production. The work begins with the fully financed script. It ends either after shooting and dismantling the sets with a post production costing. Or, if no post-production manager supervises the image editing and sound recording, with the completion of the film or video.

BWhat does the production management do in a video production or film production?

First of all, the production manager prepares a production budget. Possibly this calculation is based on a previously created standard cost estimate. To create the budget, the production manager usually receives three key figures from the producer:

  1. the amount of the budget that can be spent on the film,
  2. a time frame in which the film must be realised (often this is also due to limited availability of creative staff and actors)
  3. and thirdly, what production values are expected by the producer or the funding agencies.

Once the budget is approved, the production management assembles the technical crew. It obliges them to work on the project with work contracts and exact specifications. Even at this stage it is therefore important to negotiate viable contracts. For this purpose, the budget values are constantly updated in the form of site assessments.

CPM during the preparations for shooting

Under the direction of the producer, the production manager is responsible during pre-production for

  • facilitating, coordinating planning and coordinating all preparatory work,
  • the associated cost control,
  • and ensuring the greatest possible efficiency in production preparations.

At the same time, the production management controls the preparation of script extracts and manages the planning of the shooting sequence. This is because scenes in both film and video productions are only exceptionally shot in chronological order.

Here, too, the first assistant director plays a key role: he/she can only do this if he/she receives all useful information from the production manager. Thus, the sequence of the film scenes to be shot is usually suggested directly to the director by the assistant director.

If the production manager gives the 1st AD insight into actor contracts, for example, a lot of money can be saved by skilful selection of the shooting sequence. This is because the actors are often compensated according to the number of shooting days required for a film project.

DInfrastructure and logistics

The production manager is also responsible for the production office. At the same time, he and his team are also responsible for the entire logistics. This not only on location, but also outside of it. The area of responsibility of the production manager therefore includes not only the daily decisions on location, costing, shooting sequence and the film crew.

Formally, the production manager is the responsible person who is in charge of the organization of all important shooting locations (so-called motives), the location manager, and concludes the necessary contracts.  Communication with authorities and offices that need to be informed about shooting is part of the job description of PL. Insurance is also the responsibility of the production management.

Legally, the production manager is the body responsible for safety and working conditions in production. He is personally liable before the law for their compliance.

ECoordination of the actors by the production management

The production manager is responsible for ensuring that all actors and supporting actors know their daily schedule. That sounds easier than it is.

Time and again, there are situations, not only in big productions, where the planning has to be changed. For example, because the weather forecasts change. It can happen that already distributed versions of a call sheet have to be replaced by a revised, new version. It is also the responsibility of production management to ensure that these are delivered and taken note of in good time.

2Differentiation from the film accountant

The film accountant is subordinate to the production manager, or if necessary directly to the producer. He thus moves one functional level below the production manager. His or her duties include the commercial processing and accounting of the processes required for production.

A good production manager looks ahead, symbolically speaking, to the road ahead. He designs, plans and acts. The film accountant, on the other hand, only sees the production through the rear-view mirror. What he sees has already happened. He can therefore only react.

3Professional requirements

A completed commercial apprenticeship helps in the performance of the job of production manager. Furthermore, proven practical experience as a reception manager or production assistant is indispensable.

The training as production manager is carried out in practice. Major film productions and TV stations occasionally offer training positions for this purpose. However, most production managers learn their job from their function as production coordinator, production assistants, in the production secretariat or while working on the set as production managers.

4Personal demands on the production manager

If you want to earn your money as a production manager, you need artistic-technical understanding and economic knowledge. What is indispensable is a far above-average talent for organization, solid knowledge of human nature and the ability to deal constructively with artistically active people such as the director, cameraman and actors.

Also indispensable is the ability to motivate and, as a leader, to lead in a team-oriented manner. Nobody can realize a feature film or an elaborate video on their own. A confident handling of high workloads, long working hours and logical thinking even in extreme stress situations, these are the elements that distinguish a successful production manager. Team spirit, a high level of commitment, precise work and absolute reliability round off the skills needed to successfully carry out this profession.

Conclusion on the job description

A production manager who combines an extraordinarily wide range of prerequisites in his personal and professional profile is able to carry out a film production as economically as possible and at the same time guarantee maximum production values. This means that nothing stands in the way of a successful career in film.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

Carlo P. Olsson
About Carlo P. Olsson 139 Articles
Carlo P. Olsson begleitet die Herstellung von Filmen, Videos und TV-Serien im Auftrag von Unternehmen, Agenturen und Produktionsfirmen. In seiner Freizeit spielt er Eishockey und beschäftigt sich mit barocker Klangdramatik.

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