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What Does a Unit Production Manager Do?

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  • Written By: Meghan Perry
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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A unit production manager, sometimes referred to as a UPM, is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the production of movie, television, or theater projects. The UPM basically oversees the production from beginning to end, with an emphasis on making sure that the project remains within its budget and on schedule. In addition to these two major responsibilities, there are a multitude of other responsibilities the unit production manager must undertake.

Once a production is given the go-ahead to start, the unit production manager's job begins. Breaking down the script and estimating costs in order to create a budget for the production is one of the early responsibilities of the UPM. Once a budget has been established, it is the responsibility of the production manager to ensure that the production doesn't go over budget. Creating a production schedule is another responsibility of the unit production manager, and it is connected to the budget; if the production gets behind schedule, the costs often increase. For this reason, it is the UPM's job to ensure that the schedule is being followed.

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Another responsibility of the unit production manager is to find locations for the production. This is more for film and television productions than for theater productions. Once locations have been established, it is up to the UPM to secure permits and permission to use the locations. This may involve being in contact with local authorities, especially in the case of big productions. For location shooting, it is also part of the UPM's responsibility to arrange for housing and transportation for the cast and crew.

In addition to arranging for the logistics of a production, hiring personnel is often another aspect of the job. The most common types of personnel the UPM hires is crew members, such as camera and lighting personnel. Getting contracts secured with the crew is another job duty. It is helpful if the UPM knows the basics of the technical aspects of production, such as lighting, editing, and camera work as this will help with the hiring decisions as well as allow the UPM to offer technical assistance if needed during production.

Arranging for the proper equipment to be on set is something else the production manager does. Making sure that there is insurance coverage for all those who require it during production is another aspect of the job. In addition, this position must make sure that all people involved comply with the various regulations for production, including safety regulations, union regulations, and guild regulations.

It's important for the unit production manager to know what is going on with the production at all times. Writing daily reports of decisions, expenses, and activities is generally another duty of the UPM. While the UPM is not involved in the creative side of production, he or she is responsible for all of the other daily decisions and must delegate tasks to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

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