Production Department

1. Production Manager

Production Managers run productions on behalf of the Producer and Line Producer. They help to determine the most efficient and economic way to schedule shoots, negotiate business deals for crews, locations and technical equipment, and make day-to-day production decisions to ensure that productions proceed smoothly. Production Managers are dynamic and highly self-motivated individuals. They should be excellent communicators, prepared to work very long hours, and able to react calmly under intense pressure. The role is challenging but well paid, usually on a freelance basis.

Responsibilities

Production Managers are in charge of the expenditure of the ‘below-the-line’ budget.
In pre-production, Production Managers work closely with the Producer, Line Producer and First Assistant Director to break down the script page by page, and to prepare a provisional schedule. Production Managers then consult with the various Heads of Department to estimate the materials needed, and to assist in the preparation of draft budgets. Once the overall budget has been signed off, Production Managers assist Producers in interviewing and selecting crews and suppliers to meet production requirements. They help to negotiate rates of pay, and conditions of employment, ensuring compliance with regulations and codes of practice. They negotiate, approve and arrange the rental and purchase of all production materials, equipment and supplies. Production Managers oversee the search for locations, sign location releases, and liaise with local authorities and the Police regarding permits and other permissions. On smaller productions they may also negotiate contracts with casting agencies.

During production, Production Managers ensure that all bills are paid, that tasks are delegated properly, and that people work well together. Their responsibilities include:
setting up and implementing financial monitoring systems; controlling production expenditure; monitoring and controlling the progress of productions; overseeing production paperwork, such as releases, call sheets, and daily progress reports; and liaising with the First Assistant Director on set, to ensure that the production schedule and departmental budgets are on target. Production Managers sign and authorise all purchase orders, and help the Production Accountant to prepare weekly cost reports. They make changes to the schedule and to the budget as required, and ensure that these changes are brought to the attention of all relevant personnel. Production Managers deal with any personnel problems or issues that may arise, and ensure that all Health and Safety regulations are adhered to.

At the end of the shoot, the Production Manager ‘wraps’ the production. This involves ensuring that all final invoices for services provided are received, checked and passed for payment, overseeing that locations are signed off in accordance with agreements, and that all rental agreements are terminated, and equipment returned on time. On larger productions involving more than one Production Unit, these responsibilities may be delegated to Assistant Production Managers, who are referred to as Second Unit Production Managers, or Assistant Production Managers. In such situations, Production Managers are likely to work permanently in the main production office.

Skills

This role is very business oriented, and requires a thorough knowledge of film production. Production Managers must be hard working, with superb planning, organisational and administrative skills. They spend a great deal of their time on the telephone, and must therefore have excellent communication and negotiation skills in order to win the confidence and respect of suppliers and production personnel. Production Managers must be familiar with budgeting and accounting programmes, film scheduling and word processing software. They also need to understand the creative and business challenges faced by the Producer, Director and Heads of Department, on each specific film production. They must have good contacts with local equipment suppliers, and know where to recruit reliable production personnel, from Location Managers and Art Directors, to Carpenters and Production Assistants. Production Managers need to be familiar with Health & Safety legislation, and must know how to carry our risk assessments according to regulatory requirements. They must also be familiar with all insurance issues.

2. Production Co-ordinator

Production Co-ordinators are directly responsible to the Line Producer and Production Manager for scheduling and co-ordinating the communications and day-to-day workings of the whole production team. They co-ordinate the crew, maintain the purchase order log, make sure paperwork is completed and filed, answer the telephone, and ensure that nothing is overlooked. Production Co-ordinators also produce new versions of the script as changes are made. Because they are most responsible for the day-to-day workings of the production office, Production Co-ordinators must work very long hours, particularly in the final week before the start of principal photography. Employment is usually on a freelance basis.

Responsibilities

Production Co-ordinators run the production office according to the guidelines set out by the Production Manager. The role is entirely office based. Production Co-ordinators manage the production office and are left in charge of it whenever the Production Manager is on set. Production Co-ordinators typically perform the following duties during the different phases of production:

· Pre-production – Production Co-ordinators are responsible for setting up the Production Office and for ordering equipment and supplies; they co-ordinate travel, accommodation, work permits, and visas for cast and crew; and they prepare and distribute shooting schedules, crew and cast lists, scripts and script revisions. They also assist with ordering and collecting equipment, and booking personnel, once the Production Manager has negotiated acceptable terms. Production Co-ordinators organise and process the paperwork related to insurance cover for action vehicles, rental cars, office equipment, etc.

· Production – Production Co-ordinators are responsible for preparing, updating and distributing crew lists, daily progress reports, script changes, call sheets and movement orders. They must ensure that transportation needs are communicated to the transport captain, or to unit drivers. They organise the use of courier and shipping companies, co-ordinate the shipment of film and tape to and from various laboratories, and make arrangements for the movement of props and costumes, and other equipment.

· ‘Wrap’ – As the shoot draws to an end, Production Co-ordinators assist the Production Manager to “wrap” the production by closing accounts with suppliers, returning surplus stock, tying up all loose ends, and ensuring that office files are stored safely, and in a suitable format, so that information can be easily accessed by other personnel when required.

Depending on the size of the production, Production Co-ordinators may delegate tasks to one or more Assistant Production Co-ordinators, and to a number of Production Runners.

Skills

This role can be stressful, particularly during the last week of pre-production. Production Co-ordinators must therefore have strong multi-tasking abilities, be good team players and be able to work calmly under pressure and without constant supervision. They need to be hardworking and efficient, and must have excellent organisational and communication skills. They need a very good understanding of the film making process, and of the different phases of production. Specific production skills often required include identifying and negotiating copyright issues, and assisting with daily financial control. Production Co-ordinators must be highly computer literate, with excellent secretarial, word processing and e-mail abilities. They should have a good knowledge of Health & Safety regulations, and may be required to help conduct an assessment of risks in the workplace.

3. Production Runner or Production Assistant

Production Runners are the foot soldiers of the production team, performing small but important tasks in the office, around the set and on location. Their duties may involve anything from office administration to crowd control, and from public relations to cleaning up locations. Production Runners are usually employed on a freelance basis, are not very well paid, and their hours are long and irregular. However, the work is usually extremely varied and provides a good entry-level role into the film industry.

What is the job?
Production Runners are deployed by the Producer and by other production staff, such as the Production Co-ordinator, to assist wherever they are needed on productions. Their responsibilities vary considerably depending on where Production Runners are assigned. In the Production Office duties typically include: assisting with answering telephones, filing paperwork and data entry, arranging lunches, dinners, and transportation reservations, photocopying, general office administration, and distributing production paperwork.

On-set duties typically include: acting as a courier, helping to keep the set clean and tidy and distributing call sheets, Health and Safety notices, and other paperwork. On location shoots, Production Runners may also be required to help to co-ordinate the extras, and to perform crowd control duties, except where this work is dangerous, or performed by police officers or other official personnel.

Essential knowledge & skills
Production Runners must be flexible and well organised, and be able to think on their feet. They should be able to relay messages quickly and accurately, whilst paying due regard to the need for silence when on set. They should have strong verbal and written communication skills, be able to take orders, and to show tact and deference towards those in positions of authority and greater responsibility. They must be punctual and enthusiastic, and understand the importance of taking detailed notes and recording expenditure accurately. They should be level-headed, and able to work calmly and effectively under pressure. Production Runners must be able to contribute to good working relationships, and to creating a positive atmosphere on the production. They should have good secretarial skills, and be computer literate in standard word processor, spreadsheet and e-mail programs. They should also be aware of Health and Safety issues, and ensure that their actions do not constitute a risk to themselves or to others.

Key skills include:

  • organisational and administrative skills
  • computer skills
  • good communication and interpersonal skills
  • the ability to work without supervision
  • versatility and a willingness to learn
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

4. Location Manager

The Location Managers’ primary role is to identify and find ideal locations for a film shoot, reporting to the Producer, Director and Production Designer. The role also involves negotiating with each location’s owners about a number of issues, such as the cost and terms of the hire, crew and vehicle access, parking, noise reduction, and what official permissions may be required. Once filming has begun, Location Managers are in charge of managing all aspects of shooting in each location, and also ensuring that every location is handed back to its owners in a satisfactory condition after the shoot.

On larger productions, Location Managers may supervise Assistant Location Managers and/or Location Scouts, each of whom support and assist the Location Manager in finding the ideal location, and in all matters relating to its use for filming.

What is the job?
In pre-production, Location Managers must work closely with the Director to understand his or her creative vision for the film. This informs Location Managers’ decisions when identifying and visiting potential locations, together with issues such as accessibility, and the flexibility of the schedule and budget. They usually compile a photographic storyboard in the production office in order to report back on their findings.

Location Managers’ primary role is to identify and find ideal locations for a film shoot, reporting to the Producer, Director and Production Designer.  The role also involves negotiating with each location’s owners about a number of issues, such as the cost and terms of the hire, crew and vehicle access, parking, noise reduction, and what official permissions may be required.  Once filming has begun, Location Managers are in charge of managing all aspects of shooting in each location, and also ensuring that every location is handed back to its owners in a satisfactory condition after the shoot.

On larger productions, Location Managers may supervise Assistant Location Managers and/or Location Scouts, each of whom support and assist the Location Manager in finding the ideal location, and in all matters relating to its use for filming.

Responsibilities
In pre-production, Location Managers must work closely with the Director to understand his or her creative vision for the film.  This informs Location Managers’ decisions when identifying and visiting potential locations, together with issues such as accessibility, and the flexibility of the schedule and budget.  They usually compile a photographic storyboard in the production office in order to report back on their findings.  Once the ideal location is agreed, Location Managers begin negotiations over contracts and fees for the location, and make all the necessary arrangements for filming to take place, including co-ordinating parking facilities, available power sources, catering requirements, and permissions from the relevant authorities.

Location Managers are also responsible for ensuring that everyone in the cast and crew knows how to get to the filming location, and they must display clear ‘location’ or ‘unit’ signs along main routes.  During filming, Location Managers oversee the health and safety of everyone using the location.  After the shoot, they must ensure that the location is securely locked, and adequately cleaned, before returning it to its owners.  Any damage must be reported to the production office and, if necessary, insurance proceedings instigated.

Skills
Location Managers need initiative and a strong imagination in order to visualise and find potential locations that will satisfy the Director’s requirements.  Excellent organisational skills and the ability to negotiate are essential in order to successfully gain permissions to film in the ideal locations, as well as to keep location fees on budget.  Administrative skills may be required when drawing up contracts and negotiating permissions with local authorities.  Trouble-shooting and communication skills are useful during filming, when Location Managers may need to resolve any unforeseen problems involving the location.  They must also be extremely reliable and flexible – Location Managers are usually the first to arrive on location and the last to leave, so the hours can be long and unsocial.  A high degree of motivation and enthusiasm are required.

5. Unit Manager

Unit Managers (UMs) work in the Location Department and support the Location Manager and the Assistant Location Manager. UMs liaise between the film crew and the location, making sure that the property’s residents or landlords are kept informed and happy so that filming can progress quickly. If an angry resident complains because of a noisy generator, the UM must placate them, and try to resolve the problem without impacting on the shooting schedule.

UMs are responsible for parking and positioning most of the location’s vehicles, ranging from crew cars to Facilities trucks. UMs are also responsible for organising the collection and disposal of waste materials, e.g., water and/or rubbish from the location. They are responsible for the smooth running of the Unit Base including the Facilities trucks, vehicles for Hair, Makeup and Wardrobe, as well as the toilets – known in the industry as Honey Wagons. UMs work on a freelance basis. The hours are extremely long and the work can be physically demanding.

What is the job?
UMs usually start work approximately 4 weeks before filming begins, joining all Heads of Departments for several days of technical recces, when locations are visited and checked against each department’s needs. During recces, UMs try to establish good working relationships with the locations’ owners/ landlords, and note any specific technical requirements, e.g. changing fixtures and fittings, attaching lights or rigs to the property.

During pre-production, UMs help with Movement Orders (directions to locations which are distributed daily to crew members with call sheets), and check the dimensions of trailers and trucks to ensure that on the first day of shooting, all vehicles fit into their allocated parking spaces. UMs arrive at the unit base before the rest of the crew on the first day of filming, to liaise with security staff (who may have been guarding the vehicles throughout the night) and to organise the marking out of parking areas using traffic cones. They pick up their radio-microphones from the production office trailer and go to the location where they make sure that everything is ready for the get-in, including checking that all parking areas are clear and ready for use by the crew.

When the crew arrive, UMs must be available to deal with all eventualities. Working closely with the 1st Assistant Director, UMs may be required to de-ice a driveway or, if there is a lighting problem, to help the Electricians carefully prepare the location for rigging. UMs must be permanently on stand by throughout each shooting day, ready to respond to any situation. They are also responsible for ensuring that the location owners and local residents are not overly inconvenienced by the film shoot. At the end of each day’s filming, UMs clear away all rubbish and ensure that locations are left in good order. UMs may be kept on for several days after films have wrapped (shooting is completed) to ensure that all locations are cleaned and restored to their original condition, and that letters of thanks are sent.

Essential knowledge and skills
UMs must be experienced and confident drivers, and should also be computer literate. Practical knowledge of how film crews work on location, and of on set protocol, is also required.

Key Skills Include:

  • excellent knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures;
  • ability to trouble shoot and to respond quickly in any circumstances;
  • excellent communication skills;
  • ability to be amiable and calm in difficult situations;
  • tact and diplomacy; excellent organisational skills;
  • a practical approach to work.

6. Catering Crew

Film crews work long hours and need to eat well. On sets or locations, the standard daily meals are breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus tea or snacks if the crew are required to work late into the evening. Catering is provided by specialist companies who drive catering trucks packed with food and a range of equipment including ovens, extraction fans, fridges, gas and water, to each Unit Base.

On big films, these trucks can be 35ft in length and weigh up to 8 tons. Catering companies vary in size; the biggest have as many as 20 trucks, employ hundreds of staff and have their own garage for maintaining their vehicles. The smallest comprise of one or two individuals who prepare the menus, buy, cook and serve the food, make teas and coffees, and clean and drive the truck to and from the location.

Catering companies are hired by Production Managers who put the work out to tender according to the catering budget agreed with the Producer. Catering companies prepare quotes and supply sample menus, and if their tender is accepted, provide catering for the production. On big films, the Catering Crew typically involves Unit Leaders, Location Chefs, Salad Persons and Dish Washers. As in all jobs in the catering profession, the work is hard and hours can be long.

What is the job?
Two days before the start of principal photography, Unit Leaders organise the packing of the catering truck with equipment and food. On each shooting day, they set off early in the morning, to arrive on set in time to prepare cooked breakfasts for the cast and crew. If they need to drive a long distance to the location, or if it is difficult to find, they rendezvous with the Location Manager who escorts them to the Unit Base.

Location Chefs cook the meals according to their previously approved menus, ensuring that any special dietary requirements are catered for. The Salad Person is responsible for the preparation and presentation of all cold platters, fruit, salads, sandwiches and afternoon teas. The Dish Washer helps with service, preparing vegetables and salads, dish washing and cleaning duties. They also manage the large tea urns and coffee pots which are required throughout the day. Catering crews work every day of the shoot, finishing when the film wraps (is completed).

Essential knowledge and skills
Unit Leaders must have experience of catering management at senior levels. They also need cooking, budgeting and book keeping skills. Both Unit Leaders and Chefs must have full training in and knowledge of Health and Safety procedures in the kitchen, e.g., The Food Safety Act (1990) and Food Premises (Registration) Regulations (1991), etc. Knowledge of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), the internationally recognized and recommended approach to food safety that anticipates and prevents hazards associated with ingredients, is also required.

Unit Leaders must be confident drivers and may be required to drive LGVs (Light Goods Vehicles). Chefs must have experience of location catering and know how to run well organised kitchens, and cook and cater for large numbers, while adhering to strict budgets.
Key Skills include:

  • good communication skills;
  • excellent standards of cleanliness;
  • ability to work to high standards in mobile kitchens;
  • ability to lead and motivate staff;
  • resourcefulness and flexibility;
  • excellent management and organisational skills;
  • excellent knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures.

7. The Transport Department

The Transport Department provides crucial support to a film production. Even the lowest budget feature is likely to require at least one person to oversee the transport of cast, crew and equipment to the location of the film shoot.In the case of a very big budget film produced outside the UK, such as a James Bond feature, the demands placed on the Transport Department are huge: equipment must be packed and shipped to multiple locations in the UK or overseas; travel permits must be sorted out; complex itineraries for the hundreds of cast and crew must be arranged; and support vehicles such as mobile production offices, artist caravans and mobile toilets, must be hired. Given the time constraints of a film shoot, everything and everybody must arrive at exactly the right time – if one of the cast is left at the airport, it can prove a very costly mistake.