Television producers fill a variety of vital jobs within the development and production of a TV show or miniseries. While in film, producers are typically studio executives that supervise the business side of making and distributing a movie, television producers are typically far more intimately involved with their show, and may in fact be the creator or head writer of the project.
Unlike film, television is a very fluid and fast-paced medium that tries to make full use of its talented workers. Television producers often have a broad range of experience, training and expertise, and may receive multiple credits on a show. Some may have studied TV or film production as college students, while others may have worked their way up through the ranks of the studio world starting as assistants and using their networking abilities to pull them up through the various levels of responsibility.
Often, an executive TV producer will be the creator of a show. As a writer, he or she has created the characters, plot and future goals of the series, and therefore is given a lot of power in the development and production process. Television producers who are also creators often have a hand in casting the actors and choosing the crew they want to have on the show. They also usually head the writers room, and are in charge of hiring new writers and handing out episode assignments.
Line producers are incredibly valuable on TV shows, where budget is a constantly shifting concern. A line producers main responsibility is to determine the cost of every moment of the show. If a writer types “Joe jumps through a window,” the line producer will go to work determining how much a stunt double costs, what protective gear is necessary, and how much time and money it will cost to shoot the scene. While their job is arduous, it can be great fun for producers geared toward the business rather than creative side. Without line producers, shows could easily spiral over budget every week.
Consulting producers are typically studio executives who do not work on the show full time, but receive credit for assisting in a particularly vital, though not necessarily constant, capacity. Consulting producers can work on anything from story to casting to securing money for a new show. Usually, a consulting producer is well-known within the studio and may work full time on their own show, but has expertise in an area needed by another series.
Unlike film, which is considered the director's medium, television puts much of its power into the hands of its writers. As television producers, writers are given freedom and protection rarely found in the film world. Throughout much of the late 20th century, television was considered to be a weak substitute for film, and often scoffed at by filmmakers. Today, however, television has proved to be a realm of innovative free-speech and exciting ideas, and is considered to be no less of an art than traditional film. Many experts believe that for creative people looking to exercise their talent and abilities, becoming a television producer may be the most rewarding job in the business.