Directing and producing are much more similar than they are different, especially in the new media/digital age of filmmaking that we find ourselves in. But what is the difference between a director and a producer?
One major difference is that producers have to have an eye for the business side of filmmaking, whereas directors focus largely on the aesthetic side.
The process of film production is quite complex, with various roles to fill and moving parts to keep an eye on. It seems that a filmmaker’s job is always dynamic and changing.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the relationship between the producer and director in film production is the most crucial both on and offset. Strong teamwork and coordination between them are important to create a successful film.
Difference Between Director And Producer
In short, a producer takes care of the business components during filmmaking while directly working on adding creativity to the whole production.
The producer has the right to give feedback (both negative and positive) or suggest creative elements.
A director works with the creative elements to ensure the film is made and delivered on-budget and on-time.
In order to ensure that his vision is fulfilled, he works closely with the DP (or Director of Photography).
Usually, both the director and producer’s roles are concerned with logistics.
Just like a producer, a director can also decide or arrange some logistical aspects like creatively stretching the budget, scheduling shoot days, etc.
Sometimes the role can overlap, but the director’s duty is to execute film scenes, and the producer is more dedicated to providing accessibility and support.
Naturally, a large part of the distinctions between the two depends on the scale and scope of the film production itself. Big studio productions will have different needs and roles compared to smaller-scale indie films.
What we’ll discuss in this article is a happy medium between both large studio productions and smaller indie films.
What is a Producer?
The production roles of the director and the producer are the most important positions on set. Strong coordination and teamwork between these positions are crucial.
With that in mind, first up let’s look at what a producer is.
A film producer is the person who is responsible for launching and handling financial concerns in a film project. He must also hire screenwriters, arrange finance, hire key members, including directors.
During the whole film production, even from the first day, the producer can oversee all the elements of pre-production, production, and post-production.
Some producers work directly on a film set with other team members. From the start till finish, they oversee production logistics, along with the director.
On the other hand, some are more hands-off and focus on just running the ‘bottom line’ of the production.
Role of Film Producer in Filmmaking
A producer assists many functions during the whole film production process.
Keeping in mind the earlier caveat we mentioned about different sized projects having at times different requirements, the following are the key functions that almost every producer serves:
1. Gather Finance or Financial Partner
While in the pre-production phase, a producer focuses on gathering finance for the film.
Some producers assemble a team of creative members to help to arrange a pitch to production studios and companies.
Sometimes this earlier team is known as ‘a vehicle.’ Usually, this is a name actor and a well-known director who attach themselves to a project. Sometimes the ‘vehicle’ might involve a screenwriter.
2. Recruit Key Crew Members
A producer has to decide and find a suitable director for the film.
In some cases, as we’ve mentioned, the director might be the lead in the film project from the get-go. This is often the case when we’re talking about writer-directors. And in these cases, the director might even be a producer himself.
Once he hires a director, they both work together to hire significant creative partners like a production designer, cinematographer, scriptwriter, the main actors, and other crew members.
Producers also hire a line producer to schedule and budget things accordingly. These people look after the much-talked-about ‘bottom line!’
3. Manage Logistics
The producer manages business operations and logistics on film productions. She also supervises everything in all aspects of physical production and manages everything on a schedule.
Every film production budget is limited to some extent, so it’s a producer’s duty to keep production under a certain budget.
4. Build Marketing Plans
The final decisions on marketing strategy or plans depend on a producer, including advertising, release, public relations, and distribution.
5. Searching and Developing Content
A film project usually starts with a producer. Whether it’s a newspaper article, a book, or a script that has already been written, it’s often the producer who seeks out the story and options or buys the rights to make the film.
Again, caveat here if the director is a writer-director who discovers the initial seed of the idea for the project.
This person will hire or work with a screenwriter to develop the script and have it polished and ready to go.
6. Securing Funding Where Appropriate
The producer will also secure the funding. Of course, this is the barrier to entry that keeps a lot of people out of production, but it’s up to the producer to get the initial funding or find people who can help financially.
To do this, it’s important to have the line items and personnel together to develop the project and sell the idea to get people interested. This is often easier said than done!
There are many ways to raise money for a film and the producer is the focus of this effort.
7. Budgeting And Scheduling
Before a producer can raise money, he must budget. This involves breaking down the script to see how much things will cost and what kind of bells and whistles the film will need.
From office space and visual effects to payroll and insurance considerations. This covers even the smallest details. It is important to consider all aspects of production from the beginning to post production.
Another thing that will inform the budget is the time schedule – that is, how many days the film will shoot for and in what order it’ll be shot.
8. Supporting The Team
The producer hires heads of all departments. As mentioned above, the producer often hires the writer, but in some cases, the producer also hires the director.
In the studio system model, the director actually works for the producer, but the director’s services are retained because of his vision and skill in physically making things happen on a project.
A good producer will make sure that the team he chooses is a good match for the director, just as he chose the director as the best creative match for the script.
The producer is also involved in casting, which, again, is well within the director’s remit.
What Is a Film Director?
The film director is the person who controls the overall vision of a feature film, documentary, television show, or other production.
The director has, for the most part, the sole artistic control over a project. He works hand in hand with the Director of Photography to visually form the ideas in the screenplay and/or storyboard.
Role of a Film Director in Filmmaking
The director of a film has several responsibilities. The number of responsibilities remains the same before, during, and even after the film production.
It’s at once a very enviable job and an at times hugely stressful occupation.
Below are the key responsibilities of a director:
1. Assemble The Production Team
A director works along with a producer in the recruiting process. They partner up and assemble a production crew.
The main crew members that they line up are the production manager, line producer, cinematographer, location manager, assistant director, and production designer.
Once all these main crew members are hired, the rest of the departments develop gradually.
Of course, these roles are sometimes interchangeable (or even non-existent) depending on the type and scale of the project.
2. Create a Vision and Discuss It With Key Members of The Crew
It is the director’s main task to create a vision for the film and later on share it with the crew.
The director arranges meetings with different departments, shares the idea with them, and makes them understand their role or duty within the project.
It’s important for a director to come at the same level as every onset department to communicate his vision successfully. And therefore get a desirable end result.
3. Choose The Right Cast
The director is the one who decides which actor fits a specific role. Before finalizing the cast, he or she ensures that the actor is on the same page and they understand the storyline and what they’re trying to do with the project.
It’s the director’s responsibility to ensure they possess the talent or technique to personify the assigned character.
While filming, a director helps actors in shaping their performances. It’s necessary to keep the actors on the same page as the director. Pardon the pun!
4. Keep Up With Every Department
A director is often familiar with every department of the film production crew. It’s among their duties to frequently check-in with all the head/lead people from every department.
A director openly communicates with them to understand their needs and makes sure that they’re successfully translating their creative vision to the big screen.
After shooting the whole film, the editor assembles and cuts all the raw shots to create a cohesive story under the director’s supervision.
Later, the director helps cut the footage to find a fulfillment of their initial vision and shots that will add up to a meaningful story. This procedure will lead to a final cut of the film.
5. Check-In With The Post-Production Team
The director of a film, if he doesn’t actually do it himself, works closely with the editors in post-production.
The director also works simultaneously with the music supervisor, sound design team, and visual effect experts to make sure that everything is in line according to the vision.
The director will oftentimes give the final approval, and the nod will come only once the overall vision is in the right place.
6. Interpreting The Script
The director is responsible for all the creative aspects of a film. And this starts with a script.
The director has input on the shooting script and any edits, which dig deeper into the development of the main theme and all aspects of the story.
She looks at the script and imagines how to put that vision on the screen, considering how it will be shot and who will be cast.
7. The Look And Feel of The Film
The director will work with the Director of Photography (sometimes known as a cinematographer) to create the look and feel of the film.
Will it be dark and moody or sunny and fun?
She will show the visual feel that she has in mind and use them to create a “storyboard” or some kind of visual aid to help her team understand her vision.
8. Signing Department Heads And Schedules
As mentioned above, the director has the right to be involved in all creative decisions.
This includes hiring department heads (such as costume designers, production designers, directors of photography, editors, etc.), finding and scouting locations, etc.
The director also has a say in scheduling and budgeting. While these things can be a hassle for a producer, it’s a matter of how a director gets things done and how to save time.
9. Working With Department Heads
While the producers are engaged in production logistics, the director is working with the production designer, DP, and costume designer to bring the film to life.
They are discussing color palettes, looking at pictorial references to places, costumes, or other scenes so team leaders can create or find things to mimic ideas on screen.
The director will work with the DP to decide which aspect ratio to shoot and what camera and lenses will be used.
They will also visit the locations and sometimes run some test shots before shooting commences. This is a standard part of the pre-production process.
The Difference Between Director And Producer
As we’ve covered, the relationship between the producer and the director is key to a film’s success. And the bigger the budget, the more true that becomes.
You could even describe the relationship between the two as a kind of marriage with a precious ‘child’ called a movie.
Producers and directors each have important responsibilities, but they should consult with each other, not only because it makes sense. But also because both the Directors Guild (DGA) and the Producers Guild (PGA) need them.
In short, the producer handles the business side of things. While the director handles the creative elements, with lots of decisions made together.
Directors oversee the creative process of filmmaking and producers handle logistics.
Although producers can still learn about the creative aspects of the film, such as cinematography and script development, directors spend more time providing guidelines for filming and editing details.
And as we’ve covered, there is certainly overlap here.
Producers oversee and coordinate the resources and paperwork involved in the filmmaking process, from the initial stage of funding to the promotion of the film.
Film directors usually have more artistic and creative responsibilities, while film producers work with business aspects that enable the director to work on and fulfill his vision.
Director Job Duties
Let’s drill down more deeply into the director and producer’s job roles more specifically.
Directors and producers provide general oversight in their areas of expertise, with specific job duties depending on the scope of the films they work on and their unique interests.
Because both jobs are inherently leadership roles, they can assign assignments to assistants and other professionals, but they are still responsible for the final product developed by their team.
There may be some overlap between the responsibilities of a director and a producer, and some people may play both roles in the same project.
Although they can work together, the director and producer oversee different parts of the film’s development and have separate roles that influence their day-to-day activities.
A director has control over the artistic and creative elements of a film and spends most of his time guiding others to create an aesthetically and thematically harmonious finale.
They combine actors’ performances with staff responsibilities to plan their vision for the overall production of the film.
Some of the important duties of a director include:
- Writing/interpreting scripts.
- Running auditions and castings.
- Managing staff.
- Framing shots.
- Coaching actors.
- The look and feel of the film.
- Editing the film and forming a final vision.
Producer Job Duties
Producers primarily work with a film’s logistics, so their job is to make sure the film comes out on time and that the entire film crew has the resources they need to succeed.
They spend their time talking to others and reviewing the situation so that they can make the best choice to complete the film. Producers are in charge of major aspects of a film’s overall development, such as:
- Managing the budget.
- Scouting locations.
- Hiring staff.
- Monitoring script development.
- Overseeing business operations.
Difference Between Director And Producer – Final Takeaway
What is the difference between a director and producer? The roles and responsibilities between a director and producer are not always clearly defined.
Oftentimes, individuals may take on both roles or the title of both, such as in the case of a television show’s showrunner.
It has been a long-held belief that movies and TV shows have always been produced by producers, and are directed by directors.
But, the producer’s role has evolved drastically throughout the years, from being the person behind the scenes finding money for a project to actually sometimes becoming the main creative voice of a production.
There are some instances where individuals have separate titles for one position, such as with big-budget Hollywood films that hire a supervising director.
It’s true that the producer and director’s responsibilities are very similar. They both play a vital role in making a film production successful. None of them can operate every department from finance to post-production work single-handedly.
However, film directors have more creative and artistic responsibilities, while a producer focuses on things like business aspects that will help the director to work smoothly.
We hope we’ve covered everything you need to know about the complicated and ever-changing roles and relationships of directors and producers when it comes to film production.
Are you currently working as a director or producer? Let us know in the comments below.