A line producer is the key manager during the daily operations of a motion picture production. The title is associated with the idea that he or she is the person who is “on the line” on a day-to-day basis.
From the beginning of principal photography, the line producer oversees the budgetary and physical production needs of the shoot.
A finalized or “locked” budget is the one used as the basis for the production to move forward. A key objective of a line producer will be to respect this “locked” budget and to deliver in time.
Line producer Chris Stinton recently spoke to Film Independent, and highlighted what it is like, being a line producer on a film.
Stinton has worked in production on more than 30 features during the last 10 years, his upcoming projects include the biopic Nina about Nina Simone, which is to be directed by Cynthia Mort and It Is What It Is, to be directed by Susanna Fogel.
Stinson has several features in development at his production company, Live Free Or Die Films.
Speaking of how line producers shape up the pre-production process, Stinton said it varies for almost every film project.
“Some films are fully financed when I’m approached and on others some preparation has already taken place,” he said. “Generally speaking, one of the first things I do for any feature is a schedule and a budget”.
“Then we decide where to shoot the film. Often I’ll budget for more than one city for cost comparison purposes. Once we pick a state and city, the first two people I usually hire are the casting director and location manager.”
With regard to working with union crews, Stinton noted that even a low-budget film crew can afford it.
“I’ve done several films that were in the $1.5M range and we were with SAG, WGA, and IATSE on a few of them. All of these unions are somewhat accommodating to low budget films,” he said.
He added that about half of the films he worked on, were “union”.
“One of the main advantages is you get to hire union crewmembers. These days, all of my favorite crewmembers are in IATSE. I’ve never done a non-SAG film as they have rates that accommodate practically any budget,” he said.
Since problems do arise from time to time on a movie set, Stinton expressed his views on how a line producer deals with them.
“Inevitably things on set don’t always go according to plan. Anything from a camera body malfunctioning to a late actor arrival can set you back hours and jeopardize making your day,” he said.
“When this happens I generally have a quick meeting with the director, cinematographer and the 1st AD to discuss what adjustments need to be made to complete the day’s work. Usually there’s a creative workaround to still make the day”.
He added that a few things that can happen to stay on schedule include combining two shots into one shot, which more than once has worked out to be better than the original two shots.
“My favorite 1st ADs make lists with the director of shots (aka “shotlists”) that are time permitting and save those shots for the end of the day. This way, when you’re falling behind schedule, you already know what can be sacrificed. Making those decisions on set in the thick of it is not when I like to solve problems. It’s always best to fix it in prep,” he said.
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