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A line producer is a critical part of most film and television production. As a member of the production team, this professional is in charge of budgeting out each element of the production and ensuring that the budget is maintained during the pre-production and principal photography. This job requires an ability to think creatively about budget issues and the frequent emergency situations in the film and TV world, as well as a scrupulous ability to understand costs in the industry.
When a script is being prepared for possible production, a line producer is often brought on board the project to help set the budget of the film. He or she can tell the executive producers what to reasonably expect in terms of price for the project, taking into account the salaries of the cast and crew, price for building sets and using locations, renting equipment, running the set, and paying for insurance. Everything is included in a film's budget, from the costumes to the trailers to the grapes on the craft table.
If a budget has already been allocated for production, the line producer helps the rest of the production team determine how the money should be split. This requires a lot of creative thinking, as there are many departments on a film or TV set that need money to operate to the best of their ability. A line producer must excel at weighing the different options for each project, for instance, if it is more important that money go to costumes or set decorating, or if there is room to hire a back-up camera should the primary one fail.
Once production begins, a line producer's job is no less important. A set costs money each day to run; a line producer is meant to keep it from going over budget. In certain cases, if a project is extended beyond its initial filming dates, a line producer generally draws up a second budget for additional filming. Working with the executive producer and the rest of the producing team, the studio or financiers may be approached to add additional money to the production based on this secondary budget.
Although it may seem like a dull job of accountancy and adding up figures, line producing requires a great deal of creativity, industry knowledge, and communication skills. Being able to allocate and refuse money without angering people is a vital part of the work; a good line producer will be just as good at talking to people as dealing with monetary issues. In addition, a critical ability needed in the job is the capability to read and understand the importance and style of the script in order to know where the money is most needed.
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