Becoming a TV Producer after Broadcasting School: What the Job Entails & How to Get Started
Jan 17, 2017
Cast and production crew prepare to shoot a scene on location in Cambodia
For most of us, television and film are synonymous with excitement, glamour, celebrity, and wealth. And with the growth of companies like Netflix, television is bigger than ever, pumping billions of production dollars into new shows, made-for-TV-movies, and mini-series.
But what is it really like behind-the-scenes as a television producer? What does a producer do—and how does one get started in this career?
The first step is developing an understanding of how television production and broadcasting works by completing either a college broadcasting program or a university degree in film/TV production or directing.
Experience means more than advanced degrees in this field, so some students may opt for a shorter training program that leads quickly to entry level employment in production—and then work their way up the ladder from there.
If you’re considering broadcasting school (or are already enrolled) and want to know more about breaking into TV production, read on to understand how this world works, and how to get started.
Different Kinds of TV Producers & Their Roles
Producers have a hand in almost every aspect of a television show’s lifecycle, guiding it from inception to production, to post-production. Shows often have several tiers of producers who take on different kinds of tasks and shoulder varying degrees of responsibility. For example:
The executive producer (EP) typically manages the financial aspects of the television program, and may also contribute to its creative content (think writers and show creators who are also credited as executive producers). As the title suggests, the EP outranks all other producers and has “final say” when it comes to decision-making. However, in some cases, the EP is more of a figurehead— someone who started a long-running and successful show, and then retired, but still enjoys honorary EP status. Executive producers may also be called “showrunners”.
The associate producer helps the EP handle everything by overseeing every-day operations. Then you might have a segment producer who is responsible for a particular part, or segment, of a larger program (such as a segment on beauty, pop culture, travel, etc. within a lifestyle show).
You may also see the term line producer in show credits, which refers to someone who oversees the practical aspects of production, such as finding shooting locations, and keeping cast and crew on schedule. Line producers do not typically weigh-in on creative matters.
According to their role and rank, television producers oversee a wide range of tasks including hiring cast and crew, script re-writes, creative direction, shooting schedules, location scouting, and budget.
Getting Started as a Production Assistant
After you’ve completed a broadcasting program or film degree, one of the best ways to break into producing is as a production assistant (PA). Some training programs include internships, which could open the door to an assistant position. Production assistants offer support wherever ever it’s needed, both on and off set, in order to keep the television show on track.
This entry level position may include getting coffee, sending emails, booking appointments, shuttling crew members and equipment around town, making script copies—and anything else higher ranked producers simply don’t have time for.
Being a television PA is hard work, but provides excellent industry experience and the chance to move upward through the production hierarchy.
Key Skills You’ll Need to Excel in TV Production
From assistant producers right up to EPs, people who work successfully in television production hone a specific repertoire of skills to do their jobs well. These include:
- excellent organizational skills and meticulous attention to detail
- strong management skills: time management, financial management, and the ability to supervise others effectively
- excellent communication skills: giving constructive criticism in a diplomatic way, working well with a team, treating the cast and crew with respect, negotiating effectively, etc.
- creativity: the ability to conceptualize and share your creative vision
- networking: attending industry events, seminars, and seeking out ways to connect with and learn from others in the field—students in broadcasting school should begin working on this skill from day one, and especially during an internship
Think you have the drive and passion to pursue a career in television production? Looking for a reputable broadcasting program in Winnipeg to begin your training?
Take a look at Herzing College’s Radio and Television Broadcaster program. Training takes just 10 months to complete and includes a 4-week (100 hours) internship.
Visit the program page for a complete list of broadcasting courses, examples of companies who hire Herzing graduates, and information about applying. You can also chat live with a knowledgeable academic advisor. We’ll help you get started!
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