The film or TV head of production is one of the most critical positions in a production company, so much so that nearly every company that creates entertainment at a professional scale employs at least one of them within its ranks by necessity. Without a doubt, head of production jobs are important, influential, and integral to the filmmaking ecosystem.
But how much do you really know about what they do?
In this post, we’re crafting our own head of production definition by digging into the 21 most asked questions about film and TV heads of production. We’ll talk about what the head of production title means, how much a head of production salary could be, and exactly why the head of production responsibilities are so significant.
Let’s start from the top.
The film or TV head of production is one of the top positions in a production company’s hierarchy. The exact scope and scale of the head of production definition can differ from company to company, but any basic head of film or head of TV production job description will focus on the role’s leadership and oversight of the company’s production operations.
But what does that mean in practice?
Because the head of film or head of TV production job description centers around leadership, head of production responsibilities generally center around organization and management.
Film and TV head of production jobs are all about big picture strategy and making sure that those individuals who work in production departments downstream have everything they need to fulfill their own production team roles and responsibilities.
Head of production responsibilities more specifically, include:
In order to adequately fulfill their responsibilities, film and TV heads of production must develop a wide range of production management skills.
Such skills might include, but are not limited to:
In short, no.
By nature, head of production responsibilities require full-time, long-term commitments from those who hold this title.
Unlike the many crew members who work in production departments on individual projects, often as a freelancer, this role dictates that production heads work for (usually) one production company. The head of production is effectively a corporate position that must be worked on a full-time basis.
Let’s dive a little deeper with our next question.
One of the critical elements of any head of film or head of TV production job description is their responsibilities are spread across a company’s entire slate of projects, rather than just one of them.
In other words, what sets the head of production responsibilities apart from other production team roles and responsibilities is that they do not operate on a project-by-project basis.
In fact, production heads don’t technically work in production departments at all, rather, they oversee all of the production departments working under a production company’s umbrella at any given time.
Production heads work on slates of projects, while producers work on individual projects.
In practice, however, the line between the two is less strictly defined and more context sensitive. Let’s take a look at some examples with our next two questions.
When it comes to television, the relationship between producers and production heads may be less linear or hierarchical, but still function basically as described above.
Head of production TV jobs exist mostly at the network level, which means that production heads in TV are often in charge of a large slate of projects and are responsible to network executives above anyone else.
In many cases, a producer is hired by a production company or network to deliver a specified creative vision. Because the production head is responsible to the network, the job would then include overseeing the producer in a way that’s not dissimilar from how a head of production oversees other production team roles and responsibilities--- even though the producer has an increased level of both influence and independence.
At a major studio like Warner Bros. or Paramount, head of production film positions operate similarly to their counterparts in television. Producers are hired to complete specific projects, while production heads oversee several projects at once.
On the other hand, within an independent film production company, the head of production may actually work for the producer. In such head of production film positions, the producer is also an executive responsible for developing and delivering their own slate of projects. The production head then oversees the work in production departments on a project-by-project basis in accordance with the producer’s slate.
As you’ve probably noticed, the relationship between producers and production heads can be surprisingly flexible.
And that begs an interesting question…
Experienced producers are often some of the top candidates for both head of production film positions and TV positions.
This role necessitates that those who hold the title be intimately familiar with both the process and politics of entertainment. For that reason, producers with a proven track record are seen as highly qualified for the job.
When it comes to high-profile head of production jobs, business experience is oftentimes just as valuable as a thorough understanding of production team roles and responsibilities.
Production heads can be found working within a wide variety of entertainment production companies, not just film and television.
From theater companies to social media companies to the companies behind the best experiential events, the head of production can perform a vital function within nearly any organization that specializes in creating entertainment.
Within commercial production companies, production heads often perform a particularly critical and challenging role. The reliance on client relations layered with the heavy workload of managing several productions simultaneously increases the demand for seasoned, flexible heads of production who maintain a wide range of expertise.
In addition to live-action filmmaking, commercial heads of production may benefit from experience in post-production, visual effects, public relations, animation, and more.
The head of production at any given company will work with a wide variety of professionals in the course of fulfilling their duties.
Depending on the exact nature of their position, the head of production may find themselves in direct collaboration with:
As you can see, the range of professionals with whom a head of production might work is surprisingly large. Let’s use our next two questions to clarify where production heads fit within the entertainment world’s structure.
In general, the head of production works for other executives within the company that’s hired them. They will usually be very close to the top of the organization’s hierarchy, reporting to the organization’s highest-ranking executives.
However, this is not always the case.
Depending on the size, scope, and type of organization, a head of production might report to any one of several positions, including but not limited to:
Because the head of production is in charge of production oversight, the majority of their direct reports are those in charge of individual productions.
Among others, those who answer to a head of production might include:
The short answer is, yes, the head of production is responsible for all phases of a production’s life cycle.
…But not in the way you might think.
A head of production has to take a macro view of all the projects on their plate. They can’t afford to expend the time or energy it would take to manage every microscopic detail that comes up as a project moves from idea to reality.
While the head of production is technically responsible for the pre-production, production, and post-production phases of a project’s life cycle, they aren’t necessarily involved each individual step of the way.
Instead, they focus on monitoring progress and strategizing for the big picture.
A head of production salary can vary dramatically according to the size and type of the company hiring the role.
A head of production salary for an average-sized role will often start at around $100,000. However, that amount can quickly scale up into several hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in pay among the top production head executives.
Public listings for head of production positions can be found on popular employment and networking sites like LinkedIn. You can apply with the usual combinations of resumes, cover letters, and supplementary materials.
However, as with most jobs in the entertainment industry, your best bet for finding production head opportunities that suit your unique needs and qualifications is to tap your personal network of friends and colleagues.
Your own network may be able to not only direct you to opportunities you would not have discovered otherwise, but also to provide the kind of personal recommendations that are so often required in securing any highly competitive position.
Becoming a head of production is a big challenge. It requires that you establish yourself as a thoroughly capable production professional with the reputation to match. The fundamental ingredient in doing so is building a proven track record of relevant successes, often through producing projects independently or working your way up the production ladder within a given company.
However, there is no single career path to becoming a head of production. What matters most is accumulating the experience necessary to do the job by any means available.
There are two essential categories of experience needed.
Those categories? Production and business.
Production heads need to understand the world of production inside and out. As such, the best place to start your journey towards becoming a head of production is often within the production department of individual projects.
As an assistant director, line producer, or some combination of other roles, you’ll quickly achieve an intimate familiarity with the details of a working production.
But production heads also need to understand how production fits into the overall world of business. If you were to search “head of production company film job description,” you would likely find several results that emphasize skills like organization, negotiation, project management, communication, and even marketing.
Working directly within a production company, network, or studio can often provide critical experience that a would-be production head would not likely acquire on set.
Heads of production must be aware of the basic function of many types of software, even if they won’t have to use it themselves on a regular basis.
And, of course, having a solid payroll software provides a huge advantage. Payroll shouldn’t be something creatives have to think about too much. Digital time cards and digital startwork only help to streamline the wrap process.
Though it’s more likely that a production manager or coordinator will be working within this kind of software, it would likely be a head of production’s job to choose and deploy the software for their company.
The head of production is not an on-set role, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they never see their productions in action.
Whether or not a head of production gets to spend any time on set is largely a matter of their own discretion. As part of their oversight responsibilities, a head of production can choose to visit a set for any number of reasons, whether to check on a critical detail in person or to simply show support.
The degree to which a head of production has creative influence over the development process will vary from company to company.
However, in virtually any context, creative problem solving will be one of the most vital components of a production head’s skillset.
The head of production is an inherently creative role because of its focus on the big picture. A production head needs to be adept at crafting strategy and should be prepared to think outside the box when necessary.
If you’re interested in learning more about other positions in the entertainment industry, check out our lists of the 21 most asked questions about production coordinators, entertainment lawyers, or associate producers.
At Wrapbook, we're all about providing the very best free resources to producers and their crews. However, this post is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Answers do not create a company-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice. Seek the advice of a licensed attorney in the appropriate jurisdiction before taking any action that may affect your decisions or rights.
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