Line Producers are in charge of all the business aspects of the physical production of films. They are called Line Producers because they cannot start work until they know what the 'line' is between the 'above-the-line' costs, which relate to writers, producers, directors and cast, and the 'below-the-line' costs which include everything else, e.g., crew salaries, equipment rentals, development costs, locations, set design and construction, insurance, etc. Line Producers are usually recruited onto the production team during the later stages of development. They are given the script and asked to assess the likely 'below the line' cost of the production which involves breaking down the screenplay into a schedule - a timetable for the film shoot that shows how long it will take to shoot each scene. From this schedule the Line Producer can accurately estimate the cost of each day's shooting, and produce a provisional budget estimating the total amount of funding required. Once the Producer and Executive Producers have raised the required finance, the film can go into pre-production.
During pre-production, Line Producers work closely with the Director, Production Manager, First Assistant Director, Art Director and other Heads of Department to prepare the production schedule and budget, and to set the shoot date. Line Producers oversee all other pre-production activities, including hiring the production team, setting up the production office, location scouting, ensuring compliance with regulations and codes of practice, sourcing equipment and suppliers, selecting crew, engaging supporting artistes and contributors, and monitoring the progress of the art department and other production departments.
During production, Line Producers hand over control of the final budget to the Production Accountant, and delegate the day-to-day operation of the production office to the Production Manager and Production Co-ordinator. However, Line Producers are ultimately responsible for overseeing all activities, and for ensuring that the production is completed on time and within budget. This requires setting up and implementing financial monitoring systems, controlling production expenditure, controlling production materials, and monitoring and controlling the progress of productions. Line Producers usually allow a 10% contingency in the budget to cater for unforeseen circumstances, and spend much of their time juggling figures and resources. Line Producers are responsible for certain Health and Safety procedures, and for sorting out any insurance claims. At the end of the shoot, the Line Producer oversees the 'wrap', or winding down, of the production.
Line Producers must possess an in-depth knowledge of scheduling and budgeting, and of all the physical and technical processes of filmmaking. They need excellent industry contacts, and must command the respect of the production crew. Exceptional communication skills are required, as well as the diplomacy to balance the creative expectations of the director, artists and creative personnel with the financial resources available. They always need to plan for the worst, whilst simultaneously being able to inspire others to excel in their work. Unlike Producers, Line Producers are not responsible under Health & Safety legislation for setting up health and safety procedures; however, they are required to carry out risk assessments according to regulatory requirements. They must therefore know how to identify the hazards in the production environment, to assess the level of risk, to recommend action, and to carry out a review of their assessment.
No qualifications can prepare anyone completely for this hugely demanding role. Line Producers must have considerable industry experience, which can only be acquired by working for a number of years in film, television and/or commercial production. Individuals usually progress to the role of Line Producer by working their way through a variety of roles in Assistant Direction, Location Management and/or the Production Office. Many start their careers as Runners or Production Assistants. Line Producers must also attend the required Health & Safety courses.