What is the Difference Between a Producer and an Executive Producer?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

For those who work in the entertainment industries, job titles often take on a special significance. A title such as line producer, associate producer or co-producer may not have the same panache as producer or executive producer, although all of these positions are considered vital during the production of a film or television series. The difference between these roles may be a matter of perception, or there may be a measurable difference as far as overall participation in the project is concerned.

A backer who provides financing may be given a credit as executive producer.
A backer who provides financing may be given a credit as executive producer.

In general, a producer is in the business of making films or television shows or theatrical productions. He or she often has his or her own production company, complete with all of the creative, technical and financial crews necessary to complete a project. A producer could also be attached contractually to a major motion picture studio, which means he or she could use in-house talent or hire independent contractors. He or she is usually involved with a specific project from the very first reading of a promising script to the final promotion of a completed film.

A producer is usually involved with a project from start to finish.
A producer is usually involved with a project from start to finish.

An executive producer, on the other hand, may not be quite as involved with every aspect of the project. The creator of a television series may be given the title because of his or her involvement in the writing process or the long-term vision of a continuing project. A private investor in a film may also be rewarded with an executive producer credit, even though his participation may be minimal. Major studios with significant financial interest in a project often assign an experienced producer or studio screenwriter to oversee a production in an executive capacity. While ultimate authority may still rest with the producer, an executive producer could make sure the production is staying within its budget or sticking to its filming schedule.

There is some debate in the entertainment industry over the various titles provided for producers. Under union guidelines, almost anyone who receives a screen credit must be compensated according to his or her union's wage scales. While a producer may receive a generous salary and other financial perks for his or her dedication to a project, a backer who provided financing or a script doctor who supervised revisions could also be given credit as an executive producer. This practice can cause some friction between those who oversee the entire project and favored actors or writers who are given what amounts to honorary credits.

While a number of contributors to a film could be honored with the executive producer credit, only a producer is eligible for industry recognition such as the Golden Globe or Academy awards.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


@NightChef, I think you have a point along with the author about the majority of executive producers being fairly non-involved individuals on a project but you really should not discount all of them.

I worked in the entertainment industry for several years of my early twenties and found that quite a few of the executive producers did indeed have a major hand in finishing a film or television series. Think twice before you generalize.


Hollywood employment titles are in fact a major part of how talent sells. It is amazing to me though that there is such a gray area where people label producers. The author is correct in claiming that executive producers are usually privately invested individuals or groups that simply want a title and profit share from the project.

Often there is a price set as to how much one would need to contribute in order to make the credits with an executive producer title.

I have to solute producers, they have the weaker sounding job name yet they actually are "producing" most of the project. A round of applause for them.

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