Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Day in the life of a Television Producer

Television producers make sure that television shows run smoothly in all details, and take responsibility for everything from coordinating writers and performers/correspondents right down to overseeing the fact-checking of credit names and titles. “You’re always scrambling up to air time, checking information, and making sure [the show] goes right,” wrote one producer. Having complete responsibility for all facets of on-air production can be a very stressful job, and the successful TV producer has to be tightly organized, able to communicate clearly and succinctly with everyone on and off the set, from actors to directors to writers to technical crew, and they must have a gift for thinking on their feet, ready to come up with creative ideas fast under extraordinary time pressure. Television producers report high excitement and job satisfaction-these are implementors and problem-solvers who are project-oriented and love to see tangible results-despite the physical toll of the work (all report being tired a lot).

The public perception of the television industry is one of high-profile personalities, and while it helps for the TV producer to act as a dynamic, motivating force, nearly everything a producer does is known only to those involved with the show itself. “Only other producers can tell a really well-produced show. You never get any fan-mail,” said one fifteen-year veteran producer. Another was quick to add, “It’s not as glamorous as it seems on television,” saying that even the smallest detail must be checked and rechecked before a show goes on the air. A good producer should have enough of an ego to make important decisions and defend them, but should not be afraid of drudge work. Even writing text may be a part of the TV producer’s last-minute job. Most producers rise in the ranks from production assistant positions, so they know what it takes to get a show from concept to broadcast. Producers ultimately take credit for a successful broadcast but also have to take the blame for anything that goes wrong on their watch.

Between fellow producers, there is respect but little camaraderie. A number of respondents mentioned that fierce competition-even “backstabbing” behavior-was not only common but virtually expected in the industry. A final word of advice, offered by a producer at a major network: “Work hard and look out for yourself.” For those who can master it, television production is an exciting, difficult job that can be quite financially rewarding.

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