To create a great film, a director and producer both perform different, but crucial tasks. In this article, we’ll examine some of the differences between a producer’s role vs a director’s role.
It’s commonly accepted that movie stars are one of the key drivers for people to watch a certain film. That’s why their names are always prominently displayed. In recent years, it has also become common for people to watch films because of the directors. Famous directors like Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino have all garnered their own cults of fans.
Today, even the producers (who traditionally remained behind the scenes) are increasingly recognized.
Take the latest action offering from Netflix: Extraction. The headlines not only include the star (Chris Hemsworth), the director (Sam Hargrave) but also the producers- Joe and Anthony Russo who had previously produced the Avengers movies.
But what is a director, and what is a producer? Are they interchangeable, and can both roles be performed by the same person? Who is the boss, and who earns more? This article investigates the difference between a producer vs director when filming a movie or a tv series.
Who is the boss?
You may wonder – between the two roles, who is actually the boss? It may seem like; because there are typically many producers on set for one director, the director is the one calling all the shots.
Actually, both the producer and the director are the bosses. As a rule of thumb, the Director handles all the major creative decisions, while the Producer handles the business of side of creating the film. Let’s go more in-depth.
What is a producer?
A producer is the person who is tasked with overseeing the production from inception to completion. They supervise every stage of the movie business, from securing funding in the beginning, hiring the crew (including the director), controlling the budget, talent, and timeline, and marketing the finished product. They may be self-employed or hired by a production company, studio or agency. There are many producers on a movie film set (a big project will have more producers, while a small video may have just the one); ranging from an executive producer who runs the show to the line producer who carries out the minute day-to-day tasks.
Some of a producer’s responsibilities include:
Finding the Right Material
It could be a newspaper article. A script that’s already written. A book series. A producer’s first task is to find interesting material to develop into a film. Once they find a good prospect, they might buy the rights to make a film. Then they will work with a writer to develop a script and get it ready for production.
After the script is done, the producer will then put together a budget. To do this, they will break down the script to see how much they will need. Things that need to be taken into account include: cast and crew, costume, make-up, equipment, post-production, visual effects, props, location, and many many more, down to the tiniest details.
Then with the budget in hand, funds need to be secured. Whether a project is big or small, it will require money to bring to life. It is the producer’s job to lead efforts to secure this funding. Sometimes, a producer may even initially pay out of their own pocket. This is when they will put together materials to pitch the project and sell it to interested parties.
How many days will it take to shoot the film? What order will the scenes be shot in? Where should these scenes be shot? Will a talent be available on the selected shoot days? Creating a workable schedule is the producer’s job.
This schedule must be made in accordance with the budget. If certain requirements of the script are too expensive, then the producer has to make plans for alternatives. For example, it may not be feasible to fly a large cast and crew out into the Moroccan desert. If cheaper alternatives cannot be found then tweaks may need to be made to the script.
While a director will have some say in scheduling, the producer will typically make the final call, as in all decisions where money is a central factor.
Hiring the Cast and Crew
The producer hires all the department heads. Even the director. But that does not mean that the producer is in charge of the director.
That’s because the director is hired for their vision. The producer would have chosen a particular director because they are a good creative match to bring the script to life. Therefore, a producer’s job is to then support this director’s vision in any way possible.
Part of this is working together with the director to hire the cast and the crew.
Managing Pre-Production and Production
Pre-production is when preparations are made for the camera to roll. This involves securing locations and permits, getting all the equipment and material, hiring local crew, getting call sheets out and all the other mechanical aspects of production. Here is when budgetary concerns may be addressed by producer and director.
When the cameras finally roll, the producer will be on set supervising the team, ensuring the director’s vision is supported and managing costs reports.
Once the film is in the can, it needs to be edited. The producer may have already sent earlier footage on to editors before the production wraps.
It is in this part of the production that the final film product that audiences see, finally start to come together in a coherent way.
A producer helps this process along by providing resources like an editor, a composer for music, audio engineers for sound correction, VFX specialists for special effects, a colorist for color grading, and so on. The director will then oversee all involved to create a film their final vision.
If needed, a producer will also manage test screenings and feedback for a director. If a studio is involved, the producer will act as the liaison between the studio and the director.
The producer oversees the film from beginning to the end of shooting and beyond. After the finished product is ready, it must find an audience. The producer is the one who puts together a distribution plan for the targeted market. They will then supervise the creation of marketing materials to promote the film. These can include, but are not limited to the trailer, movie posters, marketing merchandise and full-blown advertising campaigns.
What does a Director do?
The director is the creative leader of the project who makes all the dramatic and artistic decisions. They will always be on set. They will be there for every scene, and oversee the performances of the actors and the actions of the crew. The job involves a lot more than just shouting “Action!”. They must be available from pre-production to post-production and oft-times their decisions will make or break a film. It is a tough job indeed, with strict schedules, long hours, and lots of stress!
To break down further, here are some of a director’s job responsibilities:
From script to screen
It’s the director’s job to look at the script and figure out how to create a film in accordance with that vision. They must decide how it will be shot, who will be cast, how the story will develop, and what themes should be highlighted. They must work with the writers to create a final shooting script.
Deciding the look and feel
A director will establish the mood of the film. This means deciding how it should look, sound and feel. To make sure everyone is on the same page, directors will often use mood and storyboards as well as shot lists to plan out their ideas. During the shoot, these shots will be ticked off one by one, to make sure they have everything they need.
Scheduling and Hiring
The director will work with the producer to hire department heads like the Production Designer, Director of Photography, Editor, Costume Designer, and so on. They will also scout for location and have a say in the construction of sets.
The two will also work closely to confirm scheduling and budgeting details. The director is the one creating each shot so they must consult with the producer to see what’s possible to shoot in what amount of time. A director may contribute value ways to stretch money to make a shot feasible or reschedule to save time or revise the script or shots if it’s not possible.
Taking care of the little details
To truly bring a film to life, every little detail counts. The director will work with the director of photography, production designer, and costume designer closely to evoke the desired look and feel.
Elements like color palettes, costumes, makeup, locations, set details are all of paramount importance to get a truly authentic film.
Another aspect that’s important is how a film is shot. The director will work with the director of photography to decide what kind of camera and lens to use and what aspect ratio to shoot in. They may visit locations to mark down certain angles and to study weather and lighting conditions.
The cast is one of the most important aspects of the film. Directors and producers will work together to hire actors and actresses who best suit the characters. A casting director may also be hired to aid in the process.
Getting the Best Performance from the Actors
Once the cameras start to roll, the director takes center stage. Everyone will be looking to the director to tell them what to do. Some actors like to be directed, while others don’t. It’s up to the director to find out how to get the best performance from the actors.
Polishing the film in post-production
The director will work with the editor to complete the film. They will be entitled to a “Director’s Cut” of the film.
After they get this, they will work with the producer and studio to produce the final cut, which is what the audience gets to see. In this part of the process, the director will work with the colorist, the composer, the audio team, the VFX team, and so forth to see the film to completion.
Producer vs Director: Who gets paid more?
There is no easy answer to this question. It’s a different sum for all producers and directors. On average, producers and directors earn about $90,000 each year. However, there are many factors at play. A big name will command a big paycheque. Directors and producers in California earn more than directors and producers in Connecticut. They may earn more through profit points (which are a percentage of a film’s box office take). If the film is an independent venture, the producer stands to gain (or lose) the most, based on how successful the film is.
The making of a film is a tremendously challenging undertaking, one that may take up many years. That’s why it is integral for a producer and director to work together, from the moment the director signs on, to pre-production to post-production to ensure the greatest chance of success.