In a television production, no one member of the team is dispensable. Each person has a job to do, without which the programme could not be made. It is the job of the production manager to tie in and oversee the process and people to ensure that the programme is made and delivered on time and that there as few problems as possible during it’s making.
The production manager is one of the first people to be involved in the process. They have to ensure that the production is insured from the start, and that the facilities and people are in place to get the film made. One of the most major tasks the production manager faces is to ensure that the film stays within its budget whilst also maintaining the highest level of quality within the constraint. The production manager therefore has to balance the creative aspirations of the director with the financial constraints of the accountant and find a happy medium.
The pre-production stage is when the production manager will assemble the team which will work on the film, and the equipment that will be needed. Contracts are negotiated and signed. This way, the balance sheets will be taking shape, expenditures on wages and equipment will be worked out, the amount to be spent on stock can be accurately estimated and peripheral expenses estimated based on the length of the shoot. Contingency plans must always be built into a shoot schedule, there are many unknowns which could affect the length of a shoot, with a contingency period built in, the equipment and people needed to continue working will be available at no extra cost to the original estimate (see appendix 1 for Out and About shooting schedule.)
The production manager by this point should be in possession of a contact book containing all the names, addresses and phone numbers of everybody who is working on the production. Also present, will be list of the equipment ordered along with the details of the supplier so that it is easy to ascertain whether what was ordered has been supplied. Call sheets will also be drawn up and distributed to all the cast and crew. A call sheet lists who is supposed to turn up on which day and when. The purpose is two fold, the production manager can easily see on each day who is supposed to be there and then check whether they are, whilst the cast and crew can easily see on which days it is necessary for them to turn up and at what time.
Whilst shooting is taking place, it is the production managers responsibility to make sure that the process is as painless as possible, this can be achieved by making sure that there is adequate communication between crew members, and that everyone knows what they should be doing. The production manager may also need to act as arbitrator in the resolution of any disagreements which many arise, if everyone agrees they will be happier and consequently work better and quicker.
One of the major responsibilities of the production manger is health and safety. One aspect of this takes place during pre-production – ensuring that everyone who will be working on the production is covered by insurance and that they are qualified for the job they will be doing. This is especially crucial when doing stunts of action sequences, these need to be carried out by highly trained and experienced professionals. Risk assessments need to be carried out in every location and preventative measures carried out to minimise all the risks. In cynical business terms, a shoot without accidents saves vast amounts of money on production costs, re-staffing, re-equipping etc. as well as the obvious court costs involved in any legal proceedings resulting from accidents. Ethically it is essential to try and prevent people from being hurt of in extreme circumstances killed.
During the shooting period, the production manager also needs to keep track of day-to-day expenditure and stock usage, this way, it possible to work out whether the shoot is running on budget and make adjustments to compensate from any deviations. The production manager as well as dealing with the issues of the moment needs to stay one-step ahead, lining up and organising aspects of the post-production process. Forward planning ensures a smooth transition from one production phase to another.
The main problems faced by the production manager in the post production phase are ensuring that all aspects of the phase coincide and are completed and assembled in time for the deadline. The three main components of the post production process are the editing of the footage, editing and assembling of the sound and any music which is to be used and the generation of graphics if they are required. All these processes require separate people generally working independently of each other. Fundamentally, the production manager must ensure that all these aspects are compatible with each other; there is no point in having expensive graphics produced if they are then supplied in a format which is not compatible with the edit suite being used. There also needs to be cohesion between the offline and online edit, compatibility of the EDL (edit decision list) is vital and must be ascertained before any decisions are made or facilities booked.
All the processes above require careful and detailed planning between the editor, director, producer, composer (if one is used) and graphics designer (if one is used). The production manager needs to make sure that these meetings happen within a time scale that enables the product to be completed on time, and that agreement is reached between all the parties, whilst also staying with the constraints of the budget. There is little point in deciding on a complete soundtrack if the budget will not stretch to cover the cost of copyright. If this is the case, it may well be cheaper to employ a composer to write some original music, the production manager will have to make a decision on this aspect and then contact and contract the relevant people.
As with the booking people and equipment for shooting, striking a balance between cost and quality is essential during the post production phase. There may well be differences in the cost of hiring exactly the same edit suite, and it is down to the production manager to ensure that the production gets the best facilities at the most reasonable price. Bargaining skills are essential in this process. Ideally, much of the leg work for this section will have been carried out in the pre-production phase, however, circumstances may have changed as the shoot has progressed, and the production manager needs to have enough flexibility to be able to adapt to any changes that may arise whilst also have enough foresight and planning to make the production run smoothly.
When the product is finished, there is generally a clearing week in which the production manager must make sure that all the lose ends have been tied up. With the benefit of planning and foresight the production manager can make this a relatively stress free period, however the process is still essential. The production manger needs to ensure that all issues of copyright are closed, that any interviewees have signed release forms to allow themselves to be broadcast and that none of the content of the programme is libellous in any way. The basic and practical reason for this is to avoid any civil legal proceedings as a result of the transmission of the programme.
The production manager also needs to close down the production office which will have been set up at the beginning of the pre-production stage. All the paperwork needs to be collated and filed in case it needs to be referred to at a later date. For example, insurance certificates need to be kept for forty years in case there are any compensation claims made in the future.
Contracts with the commissioning company also need to be finally checked to make sure that everybody is clear and happy with the terms that the product is being supplied unto, for example who owns the rights to the piece, for home broadcast and abroad, for secondary video sales and for merchandising rights. These can all make a big financial difference to whoever owns the rights to them, therefore any ambiguity could, again, result in legal action. With the right planning this process should be relatively easy, as a good production manager will have negotiated terms, conditions and contracts at the beginning, however, it is always wise to double check these things. Finally, the finished product needs to be delivered to the buyer in the format specified.