Executive Producer (TV)
In many ways, television production departs greatly from the formula for filmmaking, as do the job functions associated with certain titles. On a television series, the executive producer may be creator and chief writer of the product. This person is the ultimate creative force and business authority behind the property, rather than just the chief financial backer or the studio’s enforcer on a film set.
The first step toward a television series is a concept. The creator, who generally acts as a series executive producer, conceives of the story, format, and characters, and hires the writing staff. In conjunction with the showrunner, the executive producer supervises script meetings to flesh out the first season’s storylines. He or she will also help establish the show’s bible, which is maintained by the showrunner. Casting is an especially critical task, as principal characters are expected to be the central interest of the project; the executive producer has final approval over regular and recurring characters, and may spend a significant amount of time coaching the cast in their performance. This person is not directly involved with hiring all production staff, but will weigh in on episode directors and department heads. With his or her senior staff in place, the executive producer participates in all production and design meetings to set the look and feel of the show; he or she has approval over everything from set design and location to the wardrobe, the music, and the choice of recording format. During photography, this person trades time between consulting on set and coordinating business affairs in the production office; the executive producer is the point of contact for the network and studio, as well as having the responsibility to set the budget and shooting schedule.
Before the show airs, the executive producer must work closely with the editor on the final cut of each episode; he or she consults on each stage of post-production from spotting the music and sound effects to dubbing scenes. Finally, this person presents the cut to the network and studio heads, and participates in planning for marketing and promotional campaigns.
Skills & Education
This is not the job for someone new to the game; an executive producer is a seasoned industry veteran with experience as a writer, producer, or director. Talent and tenacity are required, but an education in film and television production, entertainment business, or creative writing is encouraged as a foundation to your career. You must have a firm understanding of each stage of the development and production process, as well as knowledge of filming and video techniques and a talent for constructing a compelling story. Organization, business savvy, and the ability to communicate your vision in a way that enthralling listeners are a necessity in this line of work.
What to Expect
The place to start is the writers’ room. The most successful executive producers have done their time as staff writers or freelancers on past television series. Talent and skill will get you promoted from staff writer to story editor, writer-producer, and on up the ladder. To become an executive producer, you will have to land that one great pitch that sparks the interest of a network, so embrace your creativity and constantly be grooming your pet project for presentation to anyone who will listen. Be honest about your work; be true to your creative vision. As executive producer Ed Weinberger said, “Do the show you want to do, because in the end they’re going to cancel you anyway.”
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