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According to the Producers Guild of America, a supervising producer oversees one or more producers in the performance of some or all of their functions, on single or multiple projects, either in place of or subject to the authority of an executive producer. When we get down to the nitty-gritty of film and television production, however, there are countless tasks involved in this challenging but highly rewarding position.
Producers are like captains of ships. They run things, organizing, planning, plotting and seeing to the myriad tasks that need completion for short and feature films and TV shows. They steer department heads and teams and arrange deals with attorneys. They adjust things when foul weather sets in. They keep the ship moving, protecting it, fueling it, allocating funds for each crew member. If any system breaks down, they find solutions and keep things afloat, preventing mutiny. The numerous tasks any supervising producer undertakes overlap other producers' roles, sometimes leaving gray areas as to responsibilities. Chain of command must be clear before any production begins.
Development and Pre-Production
During the developmental phases of a story or program, ideas are given shape. Supervising producers work closely with writers, directors, casting directors, department keys and the production office. At this stage, some SPs are involved in securing distribution and fundraising. Their jobs include overseeing finances, working alongside line producers to create budgets and scheduling. They are often in meetings or on the phone and computer, managing and fine-tuning all the plans that will proceed into actual production. Different roles are also determined by the production's being a studio, network or independent effort.
During principal photography or shooting the actual content, supervising producers can be found either in the production office or on set working with writers and other producers or staff. They ensure scheduling is on track and budgets are adhered to. They check in with the script supervisor and first assistant director to ensure all the daily reports reflect that the project is on track. If filming falls behind, the SP nudges whichever departments need adjusting to get things back on track.
Once filming is wrapped, or completed, editing begins toward the final cut: the end product that goes out to the world. During this phase, supervising producers continue the management components and advise in the editing process as part of the team of producers. This includes sound, visual, effects and other editing procedures. Records are coalesced, budgets balanced and final reports go in. Some supervising producers are only involved in this part of a project, thoroughly adhering to or aligning with assignments doled out by executive producers, directors and other producers.
Once everything is done and the film is ready to go to market, the supervising producer may be involved with finalizing distribution details. Getting the film or TV program through proper channels, as well as distributing payouts and deal completions, can go with the job. They could also be found representing the film at festivals, or to studio heads and other organizations. It's a huge job, with multiple facets, but the rewards are many once a project is successfully and skillfully completed. The ship is safely docked, and everyone can rest.
- "The Complete Film Production Handbook"; Eve Light Honthaner; 1996
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Actors, Producers, and Directors
Debra J. Rigas, a professional writing coach, has been a writer and editor since 1975. She is the author of the nonfiction book "Everyone's A Guru" and has edited novels ("The Woman Pope") and worked in arts and sciences as a filmmaker, boat captain, landscaper, counselor, theater administrator and licensed midwife.