How to Become a TV Producer in 5 Steps
TV producers are creative and organized, and they function well under pressure. Read here to learn what else you must do to score a job in television production. See information on job duties, potential degree programs and employment prospects. Schools offering Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What Is a TV Producer?
A TV producer is partly the creator of taped and live TV shows and partly the top executive who performs, delegates or supervises all off-camera administrative and organizational functions. Your duties as a producer include writing and submitting bids for TV projects; devising budgets and schedules; hiring writers; providing input on casting decisions; leading production meetings and script conferences; coordinating the work of writers, directors and subordinates; and supervising editing and other post production activities. In a news broadcast operation you might contribute to the writing and editing of news stories.
Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma
Many high schools offer media classes in which you can gain familiarity with the process of shooting and editing video footage. If your school also supports a TV station you can fill an assortment of production support roles as a volunteer. You need a diploma or GED for admission to postsecondary programs related to TV production.
Step 2: Earn a Degree
Although TV producers have no set educational path, according to O*Net Online, about 42% of producers have a bachelor's degree and about 21% have a master's degree (www.onetonline.org). You might enroll in a bachelor's degree program in media production, film production, filmmaking, broadcast journalism or a similar field. You should seek out a program that will help you develop your TV production knowledge and skills by providing you with the opportunity to participate in most or all phases of physical production. In a program with a particular emphasis in TV production, technical courses might cover such subjects as screenwriting, storyboarding, cinematography, editing and motion graphics. Administrative courses cover budgeting, fundraising and marketing.
Master's programs also engage multiple aspects of production but allow you to specialize in technical areas or administrative areas. Courses that focus on the business and economics of television, decision-making, effective pitching and project development are relevant options if you intend to become a producer.
Step 3: Complete an Internship
Working as an intern provides you with initial experience, an opportunity to begin forming relationships with industry professionals and possibly a job straight out of college. With so many applicants to choose from, many broadcasters prefer candidates who are ready to work and don't need on-the-job training. You might find a position interning with a television studio or network, a production company or a television show currently in production. If you are interested in fulfilling an internship while still in college, you might want to consider interning at a local television station.
Step 4: Obtain Employment at a TV Station or Film Studio
The major TV and film production centers are located in New York and Los Angeles. However, you're likely to encounter the keenest competition for jobs in either locale. Entry-level production assistant positions in the cable access and local TV stations in smaller cities around the U.S. may be easier to secure. The broader your technical knowledge and the more tasks you can perform competently, the better your employment prospects will be.
Step 5: Produce Your First TV Show or TV Movie
The first show or movie you successfully guide from inception to air improves your chances of winning approval for the next project and the one after that. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that growth in demand for programming content will be strongest for subscription and cable TV broadcasting and in online, mobile and interactive media (www.bls.gov).
In 2008 the broadcasting industry employed about 27,200 producers and directors. Employment figures don't reflect the number of producers who were between projects when data was collected. From 2008-2018 employment was expected to increase 4.7% to 28,480. Industry consolidation will be an inhibiting factor to growth. Salary.com reports that as of September 2011 you could have potentially earned a median annual salary of $49,938 as a producer.
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