Producers and Directors Overview

Producers and directors usually find work on the basis of their talent and experience alone, though formal training at film school is typical. It is common for producers and directors to work at jobs in other fields in order to supplement their incomes.

Nature of the Work for Producers and Directors

Producers and Directors

Producers and directors create and express images in film, television, radio, theater and other performing arts media. A great number of producers and directors work in Los Angeles or New York, though many more work in other locations. They produce and direct in theaters, local or regional television studios and film production companies.

Producers are responsible for financial and other business decisions involving a stage production, television show or motion picture. They arrange financing, select scripts, approve development ideas and figure out the cost and size of the production. They also approve and hire directors, key production staff members and principal cast members.

Producers supervise the assistant, associate or line producers who share in the responsibilities. The size and budget of each productions determine the number of producers and their specific job duties, however the executive director has the final say. To ensure that each production stays within budget and on schedule, producers work with directors, writers, managers and agents.

Directors make the creative decisions of the production, such as auditioning and selecting cast members, conducting rehearsals, interpreting scripts and directing the work of crew and cast. Directors are also responsible for approving the costumes, sets, music and choreography of the production. Assistant directors work under the supervision of the director and cue technicians and performers, directing them to make entrances or sound, light or set changes. The director also answers to the executive producers who has the final say in every production.

Producers and directors are under intense pressure to find their next job. Thus, they must have commitment to their craft and patients. Daily stress also comes from organizing rehearsals, meeting with designers, writers, production technicians and financial bankers. In addition, they also must adhere to union work rules, production schedules and budgets.

Because work assignments usually last from one day to a few months, there Is great uncertainty to where their next job will come from. Due to this uncertain nature of the job, producers and directors face fierce job competition and unpredictable earnings. Sometimes, they must sustain a living by holding jobs in other occupations.

Producers and directors who work in theater may tour the country when traveling with the cast, others who work in film work on location. Long, irregular hours and evening and weekend work is commonplace for a career as a producer or director.

To make sure actors are safe on set, producers and directors conduct extra rehearsals on set so that actors have time to understand the layout of set pieces and props, allot time for stretching exercises and warm-ups, and providing a sufficient number of breaks to prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Producers and Directors

Recommended Education Level

There are many paths leading to a career as a producer and director, although some people may attend college or university programs to pursue their bachelor’s degree. Common courses that producing and directing students take are film, theater management, directing and theatrical production, drama or dramatic literature, and radio and television broadcasting.

Producers come from a variety of backgrounds, and many are also writers, actors, business managers and film editors. They typically start their careers in a theatrical management office working for a managing director, press agent or business manager. Others begin their careers in a service organization or in a performing arts union. Some work with successful directors, promote their own projects, or on the boards of art companies. Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in managing nonprofit organization and arts management, however there are no formal training programs for producers.

Some directors earn experience by assisting established directors in the field, while others have experience as actors or writers. Still, many have formal training in directing. Directors also need management skills in order to take charge of the large amount of people on set. Producers and directors also need to have an abundance of creativity and talent.

There is no set formula for advancement for producers and directors. Some are able to work on bigger budget productions, in more prestigious theaters or on network or syndicated broadcasts as their reputations grow.

Top 10 Most Popular Film and Theater Schools

1. New York University (New York, New York)
2. Full Sail University (Multiple Campus Locations)
3. The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, New York (New York, New York)
4. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, California)
5. Columbia College, Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
6. Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
7. San Francisco State University (San Francisco, California)
8. Emerson College, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts)
9. Chapman University (Orange, California)
10. University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, California)

See All Film and Theater Schools

Most Popular Online Film and Theater Schools

1. Saint Leo University Online
2. Arizona State University - Online School
3. Boston University - Online School

Employment and Job Outlook for Producers and Directors

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).

Producers, directors and actors hold about 155,100 jobs, mostly in the performing arts, broadcast and motion picture industries. However, this statistic does not include the large number of producers and directors who are available for work, but are in between jobs. Of all producers and directors, about 21 percent are self-employed.

Many small studios exist throughout the country, though employment for films for television and motion pictures centers around Los Angeles and New York. Local and cable television services that employ many producers and directors are located around the country.

Most theater productions are concentrated in New York and other major cities. Employment is higher in the fall and spring seasons, when productions are most common, although many cities have established professional regional theaters that operate on a year-round basis.

Producers and directors sometimes find work on cruise lines, summer festivals and theme parks. Small nonprofit companies including dinner theaters, acting conservatories and universities provide employment opportunities for local and amateur producers and directors.

In the next decade, employment for producers and directors is expected to grow as fast as average for all occupations. The demand for producers and directors will come from increasing box-office receipts for independent and major studio films, as well growing cable and satellite television operations.

Producers and directors will also enjoy more employment opportunities as the demand continues to rise for US films in other countries. As interactive media, mobile content and online movies continue to grow in popularity, they will see job growth in these areas. Stage producers and directors may see steady employment as audiences continue to attend live theater performances. Those in the broadcasting industry may not experience growth as stations consolidate.

Earnings and Salary for Producers and Directors

Many successful producers and directors have remarkably high earnings, but many more of these professionals do not have steady earnings and must supplement their income with other jobs.

The median annual wages of producers and directors is $66,720 and the middle 50 percent earn between $42,890 and $111,250. The median annual wages for radio and television broadcasting is $55,380, while it is $85,940 in the motion picture and video industry.

Annual Salary for Producers and Directors

On average, Producers and Directors earn $66,720 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $30,560/yr $42,890/yr $111,250/yr $166,400/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook