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Career Advice on How to Become a Producer or Director

General Career Information

Everybody and their mother, and even their mother’s friend, has a “creative vision.” There are two kinds of people in the film business: people who want to become producers and/or directors, and people who are lying about wanting to become producers or directors. It’s just the nature of the business that large egos often inhabit the world of entertainment. 
 
Everyone feels that they could do it better. In this sense, the entertainment industry is unique. For example, not everyone wants the stress of being a middle management functionary, but show business is a bit different. Everyone wants to be the boss. 
 
This is an important point as you are embarking upon any career planning or job search. If you want to become a producer or a director, please realize that most people in the entertainment industry want the exact same position as well. It’s a “dog eat dog” career. In fact, most directors and producers would be willing to film just that, a dog eating a dog, if there was money and career advancement in it. In short, it’s not pretty. It just looks that way.
 

Career Facts:

The film industry in the United States is largely concentrated in Los Angeles and New York. Don’t fool yourself; although occasionally there is a production, whether it is a television series or a movie, shot in another city or location, most of the work is in NYC and LA. Thus, if you don’t like Los Angeles or New York City, you will be in for a rough time. Dream all you want, but the odds of becoming a big music video, commercial, television or movie director living in Des Moines, Iowa or Burlington, Vermont is next to zero.
 
As a producer, you are the person in charge of lining up the money for the production, approving the script and various other ideas, such as cutting the werewolf’s head off with a chainsaw, as well as handling on the logistics and mountains of paper work. Now, that is the official statement about what a producer does. In fact, producers dump most of their responsibilities off onto the backs of their underlings and then take all the credit and most of the money. Sweet deal? You bet if you can get it.
 

Directors on the other hand are the creative geniuses that say things like, “what if the monkey wasn’t wearing the bow-tie,” or “can we have her oiled down with baby oil, while actually on the hood of the car?” As a director, you line up shots, work with actors and, much like a producer, you take credit for other people’s work. (See George Lucas for a great example.)

 

Career Opportunities and Job Outlook-Fair:

As of 2006, the United States had about 93,000 directors and producers taking credit for other people’s work around the country. The number of directors and producers is expected to increase by about eleven-percent by 2016.
 
Job Outlook is Fair  
 

A Day in The Life:

The road to becoming a producer or a director is usually a long one. As these are jobs that any monkey can do, the entertainment industry has a definite policy of “paying your dues.” This effectively means that no matter how talented you might be, you will have to allow your work and creativity to be exploited by lesser beings in hopes of climbing the ladder. Unfair? Of course, this is the entertainment industry. Therefore, “fair” is an extremely dirty word. Nor is the system merit based. You have been warned.
 
The average day for a producer or a director revolves around showing up on set, which is largely optional for a producer, and taking credit for the work of all sorts of skilled people such as directors of cinematography, sound engineers or visual effects artists.
 

Average Salary:

The average director can expect to earn about $56,000, but top directors and producers can make ridiculous almost offensive level salaries similar to that of bank executives. There are very few people that rise to this level.

$50k - $60k

 

Career Training and Qualifications:

There are a variety of degrees one can pursue to become a producer or a director, but much of the job can and will be learned on the job. Degrees in directing are obviously a big plus for any would-be director, and a demo reel showing that one is capable is an enormous plus.
 
Want to learn more about these careers?
 

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