What does an associate producer do? While it may seem like an easy question to answer, production is a complex environment. There are times when the same title can mean different jobs simply because every project is unique in nature and budget. In this article, we'll examine the various responsibilities of associate producers and the skills needed to succeed.
What Is an Associate Producer? Our Associate Producer Definition
The associate producer assists the senior producers in any way that is needed and the role can vary depending on the type of production. Under the direction of the other producers, an associate producer multitasks, organizes, supervises production crew, or coordinates the various aspects of production.
Talent may get an associate producer credit if they have helped with securing financing, attracting other talent or providing story ideas and other creative input to the project.
What Does an Associate Producer Do?
An associate producer is there to support the producing team. If you’ve seen our “what does a producer do” guide, you know there are many different types of producers from executive producers to production managers responsible for developing and launching a film.
Let’s explore the associate producer’s role through the various mediums in the business.
What Does an Associate Producer Do In Film?
An associate producer in film might be very involved with the producer work of obtaining funding or talent or may have a hand in the development of the idea and screenplay. The role of the associate producer is fluid and dependent on the scope and the needs of the production.
What an associate producer does isn’t easily defined like “what does an executive producer do”, which is mostly focused on fundraising. Their role is often under the radar or so seamless as not to be perceived. Do you know what Robin does specifically to aid Batman? Often it is packing a well-timed punch or having the Batmobile at the ready when needed. In that way, the associate producer may lack the spotlight, but is likely responsible for the spotlight being at the right spot at the right time on the right person.
So what does an associate producer work on? Or what does an associate producer do? Here’s a list of likely responsibilities:
Work with the producer to solidify funding, crew and talent.
Put together short lists to fill crew and talent positions
Work with agents on producer’s behalf to procure talent
Coordinate meetings between producers and creative stakeholders
Work closely with the line producer to help with budgetary issues
Assist the producer on creative notes, including pitching ideas
Represent the producer and film on marketing and distribution calls
What Does an Associate Producer Do In TV?
On a television show, the producers often are also the showrunners and writers on the TV show. Therefore, the associate producer needs strong writing and editing skills as they are very involved in the creative and logistical aspects of the production.
A television production can be a pressure cooker, as producers are managing physical production while outlining, writing and editing new scripts about to go into production. Many associate producers in television start out as production assistants where they can truly understand the needs of a producer or a particular company. Eventually graduating into the role of an associate producer is a natural fit.
For example, Succession associate producer Callie Hersheway has built a career at HBO, starting out as an assistant production coordinator, then production coordinator to showrunner’s assistant to associate producer.
The role of an associate producer in TV is guided by the individual needs of the producers of the show, but there are often common responsibilities associated with the job whether it be in the writers room, production office or on set:
Coordinate meetings between department stakeholders
Pitch ideas and develop stories
Writing and editing scripts
Contributing to creative decisions
Liaison between set and production office
Keeping up with industry trends
Writing content in support of the project (such as blogs or social media)
What Does an Associate Producer Do In Commercials?
Just as with film and television, the role of an associate producer in commercial work is to support the producer creatively and administratively. Duties and responsibilities can include:
- Review and edit scripts
- Pitch ideas and original content, including writing when needed
- Book external photographers, stylists, and talent for shoots as needed
- Coordinate shooting and filming schedules
- Ensure deadlines are met
- Assist with desktop editing
- Work with animation and graphics department to develop additional video elements
- Assist with billing and other administrative tasks as needed
Associate Producer Job Description
As we’ve explored above, the associate producer's job description varies based on the medium (film, television, commercials) and the needs of the production team. It may be their job to assist the producer with writing and editing tasks, or it may be to oversee or manage production activities.
And the compensation? This too has a wide range depending on the scope of production. According to Producer, Chris Rokaz “the associate producer’s salary can range from next to nothing to $13 million a year depending on whether the production is being made independently or through a studio”
Pretty vague, right? The right answer to what does an associate producer earn is really what they negotiate. And since the entertainment industry can include anything from supporting a multi-million dollar feature film to a sports field reporter, the range is vast.
Here is recent information from payscale, but understand they don’t have access to film and television budgets and are probably pulling information from local stations and self-reporting of salaries.
What Is the Job of an Associate Producer in Each Stage of Production?
The job of an associate producer involves supporting all three phases of the filmmaking process: pre-production, production, and post-production. A majority of the executive producer's work occurs during planning, development, and pre-production, while creative producers and physical line producers are involved throughout the production process.
(If you are wondering what is a line producer, we’ve got you covered.)
What Do Associate Producers Do During Pre-production?
Associate producers assist with all production preparations during this stage. This could mean everything from gathering information to confirm a preliminary budget to scheduling for production. The involvement might include hiring talent and production team heads and creative and logistical planning, such as securing rentals, filing permits, and confirming locations for the shoot.
By the end of this stage, the true budget and production schedule have been determined, and the rest of the crew has been hired and assigned tasks according to the needs of the production.
Associate Producer Responsibilities During Production
Here, all the planning in pre-production comes to fruition. Associate producers assist producers in overseeing all aspects of physical production. This would include:
Assist with management of the production and schedule
Facilitate getting the director and department heads what they need
Help the producer balance budget vs. creative needs
Support your production team and problem solve.
Help the producer run a safe and productive set.
Associate Producer Role in Post-production
The associate producer role during post-production provides support to the producer overseeing the editorial process, music supervision, color grading and VFX and prepares for marketing and distribution, including all the elements included in the campaign such as posters, trailers and TV spots.
Associate Producer Requirements: Key Skills Needed
Associate producer positions require problem-solving skills, communication skills, a passion for entertainment, and the ability to coordinate assignments on a day-to-day basis. If you are working for a production company that is involved in several different productions at once, you should be prepared to juggle workloads and be flexible. Having the following skills is an advantage.
Problem solving skills
Excellent communication skills
Passion and knowledge of entertainment
Problem Solving Skills
This is the ability to identify a problem and not seek blame, but solutions. Film productions are complex and roadblocks are inevitable. The location didn't work out. An actor got sick. Production costs went over budget. Regardless of the issue, being calm in the face of chaos, evaluating the options, selecting the best solution, executing it, and evaluating how it went can be invaluable to the production team.
Excellent Communication Skills
You’ve heard the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger”. It is often not the news itself, but the way it is communicated that can make or break working relationships. Being able to listen and effectively communicate in a clear way shows leadership skills and will gain the respect and confidence of those on your team.
Passion and Knowledge of Entertainment
Passion is contagious, especially when it’s rooted in purpose. If you show enthusiasm for the work, you’ll lift others to share your excitement. It is also valuable to do your industry research and know the major players in the business and the projects in development and production.
An associate producer must have a thorough understanding of all aspects of production. From pre-production to post-production, you need to be familiar with the production language so you know what any department might need. A working knowledge of software that covers screenwriting, finances and scheduling, payroll, equipment rentals, and post-production may be essential depending on the nature of the project and the role you play as associate producer.
How to Become an Associate Producer
In general, there is no set roadmap to becoming an associate producer, so an associate producer job description would depend on the specific production to which you apply. A college degree in film producing or in management and significant experience in film or broadcast television can be helpful.
Working various positions in the medium of your choice so that you understand the film crew hierarchy and the roles and responsibilities on set will give you a leg up. You will be working closely with the producers and should be familiar with project management collaboration tools and scriptwriting to be able to jump in when needed or take the leadership role when asked. Being able to articulate a story, including pitching and using a logline generator in a concise manner is a useful skill.
The associate producer reports to the producer and should be able to anticipate the needs of the production and provide support to the producers, crew and talent in making the production a successful endeavor. This support can range from financial - helping the producer gain the money needed through all aspects of production, to creative - writing and editing, giving notes and direction, to administration - finding the best crew and talent and troubleshooting with the producers to make the days and stay within budget.