I have often wondered what exactly makes up the difference between a producer and an executive producer, and now that I know, I’m passing it along to you, in case any one else dared wonder the same thing.
An executive producer is not really involved in the day to day of the film. Their role is mostly served well before a movie even begins filming. You pretty much get an automatic Executive Producer credit if you helped secure at least 25% of the film’s budget. You have to be a very well-known and well-respected producer to do that – you have to have a lot of hits under your belt. OR you have to be a big movie star with a guaranteed draw, and you have to be willing to be really attached to this film – no dropping out due to scheduling conflicts, even if your dream job opens up, no just showing up to the set for filming either, you have to actually go to all those boring pre-production meetings about money and where to find it and how to save it. You might also get an Executive Producer credit for coming through on some key thing without which the movie would not have been made – maybe you’re the one who secured the source material (ie, bought the rights to a book or a life story, for example), or maybe you had an in with the Pope, which allowed the movie to shoot inside the Vatican for a week. If your contribution was big enough and rare enough, they might repay you with an Executive Producer credit.
The producer, on the other hand, is actually intimately involved with the movie, working alongside the director. The producer is the person who actually handles all the money. They executive producer gets funding, and the producer spends it. And not just spends it, but allocates portions of the budget to all the departments, and tries her best to make sure everyone sticks to that budget. The producer is therefore involved right from the beginning; they will oversee writing and hiring and assembling the whole necessary crew. Then the producer becomes the time manager (or perhaps micromanager). The average Hollywood film has about 600 people working on it. A big-budget, effects-heavy movie like Avengers will have probably more than 3000. Budgeting for all of those people falls to the producer, and so does keeping them all on schedule. The average movie budget is $65 million to make, and another $35 million to market and distribute. And a producer has to know where that money has gone, down to the penny. She likely also has to fend off a director who constantly wants more more more, and sometimes has to go back begging to an executive producer for more cash if the movie is in danger of not getting made without another injection of funds. It is the movie’s producers who accept the Oscar for Best Picture when it wins.
Some of the top producers include
Kevin Feige: Feige producers the Marvel movies so he’s made a crap tonne of money. I mean, he’s done ALL of them, all the way back to Iron Man, so he’s got a well-oiled machine. Avengers: Infinity War had a production budget of 300 MILLION DOLLARS and went on to make 2 billion at the box office. So. Why has he been so successful? Well, he had a vision for the shared Marvel universe from the get go; he has allowed the movies to capitalize from being interconnected. He has kept in touch with the Marvel fandom but he’s grown his audience by making movies that people want to see, regardless of whether they were previously super hero fans. And he’s done it even with lesser known heroes, like Black Panther and Guardians. Plus he’s given the reigns to exciting new directors like Ryan Coogler and the Russo brothers, which has allowed him to make 3 Marvel movies every year, so he’s growing the talent pool and developing new voices.
Kathleen Kennedy: Kennedy has such a great story. She was hired in 1971 by Steven Spielberg to be a secretary on the production of 1941. Both agree that she was a lousy typist but had great production ideas. She came on to 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark as an associate and got her first producing credit in 1982 on a little low-budget movie called E.T. She co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Spielberg and fellow producer/future husband Frank Marshall, where she worked with Martin Scoresese, Robert Zemeckis, and Clint Eastwood. She has produced 8 Best Picture-nominated films: E.T., The Color Purple, The Sixth Sense, Seabiscuit, Munich, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, War Horse, and Lincoln. She was Executive Producer on Best Picture winner, Schindler’s List. In 2012 she became co-chair of Lucasfilm with George Lucas, and she took over as president when it was sold to Disney, so she’s the brilliant mind behind all the recent prequels, sequels, and spinoffs. She is without a doubt the most powerful woman in Hollywood.
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Ren: Can’t you SEE?!? I have no… talent!
Stimpy: Hmmm…I’ve got it, Ren! YOU CAN PLAY PRODUCER!
That bit from Ren & Stimpy is still funny to me even though you’ve really shown here how much producers do–or maybe because you’ve shown how much producers do.
This also explains why certain directors–Kubrick is the one who first comes to mind–also produce their own movies. That way they have the greatest possible control over the film.
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Good explanation, last week I taught this lesson in one of my class as guest lecturer. My designation was also once Producer and Executive Producer but it was for television. And for films I only worked as Creative Producer.
I’m printing this out – I want to produce and executive produce in my future!
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“she’s the brilliant mind behind all the recent prequels, sequels, and spinoffs.”
Brilliant my ass. She trusted in roundhead Ruin Johnson as director of SW8 and cost Disney hundreds of millions and is responsible for one of the biggest media backlashes in the history of ever!
Rian Johnson is a genius and I adore what he’s done with the series.
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Oh, so that’s what my brother is doing now… (I thought he was still editing. Apparently, he’s doing a bit of producing._
Wow, that’s quite a leap.
Editing is such a technical skill.
This is so funny because I was just thinking about what does a producer do and what is an executive producer and an associate producer. We must have been telepathically connected:) I know that many directors hated the producers on the set. Hitchcock would lock the doors and when Goldwyn came onto the set of Dead End, he would clean up the set. The problem is the set was supposed to look grimy:). I’m glad you wrote about this and now I understand why some stars get Executive production credit
Yes, I always wonder about these things too, so why not go digging for the answers?
I always thought of it as backward. The producer was just the money guy and the executive producer had the most power. (Which I suppose depending on what’s more important to you could be true.) But the story bits and the details is what I’m most interested in so the day to day. Thanks for this! I’ll have to try to keep that straight when I yell about what producers are annoying me 🙂
Yes, I think the titles are a little misleading.
Kevin Feige in my opinion is the best producer working today as I kind of see him as the modern-day version of what Albert “Cubby” Broccoli was to the James Bond film series. He and Harry Saltzman were the ones that brought the franchise to life until Saltzman left in the mid-70s leaving Broccoli to run the franchise on his own and eventually left it to his daughter Barbara and stepson Michael G. Wilson to run the franchise as they’ve been doing it since his passing in 1996/1997.
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Interesting post, thank you!!!
Charlee: “Hmm … Chaplin, which one of us is the executive producer, and which is the producer?”
Chaplin: “I think Dada is both of those, and we’re the talent.”
I always wondered about this–thanks for the explanation! I thought for some weird reason that Ellen Page was also the executive producer of The Umbrella Academy but nothing I’ve looked at confirmed it–maybe I just imagined it!
I’ve always wondered what the difference was and never looked it up lol Thank you got the clear explanation and the awesome examples! Very interesting to know how Kathleen Kennedy started her career:)