Producer (Unscripted TV)

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What does a producer do?

Producers are storytellers. They use their experience and skills to tell stories in the programmes they make. Some producers make an entire programme. Others make parts of shows, like a short film or a live insert in a news programme. Whether working on a sporting event, like a marathon, or an entertainment show featuring celebrities, their role is to take the viewer on a journey with a beginning, middle and end.

Whatever genre they work in, producers need to be full of ideas, skilled at creating content and ensuring that whatever information they feature is factually correct. They attend all filming and often produce the edits.

Producers do all the pre-production in the office and usually manage a team of assistant producers and researchers. The producer leads the search for the material they need, such as factual information, locations, props, archive material and people. When there are a lot of people to find to take part in a show, a production often employs a casting producer. If there are lots of celebrities, they may bring in a celebrity producer. Producers need to be good communicators to ensure everyone is working towards the same end and are responsible for creating a good working environment and smooth production.

During filming, producers work closely with the directors and oversee the final filming, either in a studio or on location. Depending on the type and size of the production, they may be the only producer working with a director. If a producer is making an entire show, they create a running order detailing the structure of the final programme and work with the director to create a schedule. Producers write the scripts. If there are presenters, they work with them on their delivery when filming. On the day of recording or live transmission, producers work closely with the multi-camera director in the gallery, being on hand to deal with urgent content issues, such as correcting a mistake made by a presenter.

On a documentary, if there are no presenters, producers may interview people themselves (cutting out their questions in the edit). A producer is responsible for making sure that any contributor is clear about their involvement in a programme.

Some producers go into an edit to edit their material, while others specialise and become edit producers, working solely in an edit suite. Other producers may specialise in certain areas, working as an archive, edit, or a casting, celebrity, games or question (quiz) producer. Producers are almost always freelance, unless working for a very long-term production.

What’s a producer good at?

  • Storytelling: recognise a good story and find the best way to tell it, look for new and original angles, think laterally and be ambitious
  • Communication: express ideas and give instructions clearly, convey what you need from the people you are working with, know how to bring out the best in them
  • Writing: write clear, compelling and factually correct scripts for filming and edits, consider the intended audience and the person who will be delivering it on screen
  • Adaptability: work well in challenging and changeable environments, problem solve on the go, make quick effective decisions and be able to prioritise
  • Caring: take responsibility for the wellbeing of those involved, consider health and safety, be aware of factors that may impact on any part of the production

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