TV Production Manager

    If you are wondering how to become a TV production manager, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of the television and media industry, as well as job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Production managers organise the business, finance and employment issues in film, television, commercials and corporate videos. They are in charge of how the production budget is spent, and make sure that everything runs smoothly during filming.

    Before production begins, their work involves:
    meeting the producer and other senior production staff to examine scripts or programme ideas
    ‘breaking down’ scripts, drawing up a shooting schedule and estimating costs
    hiring crews and contractors, and negotiating rates of pay
    approving the booking of resources, equipment and supplies, and negotiating costs
    overseeing location bookings and arranging any necessary permissions and risk assessments.
    During filming, their duties include:

    making sure that the production runs to schedule, and reporting on progress to the producers
    monitoring, controlling and reporting on production spending and accounts
    managing the production office team
    dealing with problems and making any necessary changes to the schedule and budget
    making sure that insurance, health and safety rules, copyright laws and union agreements are followed.
    Most production managers in TV specialise in either drama or documentary.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good production managers include:

    excellent financial and business skills
    good computer skills
    excellent planning, negotiation and problem-solving skills
    good written and spoken communication skills
    confidence, assertiveness and decisiveness
    the ability to work well under pressure and to tight deadlines
    the ability to manage people and delegate tasks
    willingness to work long or flexible hours when needed
    a knowledge of first aid and health and safety.

    How to become a television production manager
    There are various routes you can take to become a production manager. Qualifications are less important than having substantial experience in TV or film, in-depth understanding of the production process, and a network of contacts in the industry.

    You will often start as a runner, junior assistant or secretary in the production office, and work your way up to production co-ordinator then assistant production manager. See the TV/Film Production Assistant profile for more about starting at this level.

    Alternatively, you could progress to production manager after being a runner, third assistant director then second or first assistant director, or from being an assistant TV floor manager, floor manager and location manager.

    You may be able to start as an assistant production co-ordinator or assistant location manager through Film and Television Freelance Training (FT2) Production First, an apprenticeship-style programme for trainees in the production office, continuity and location management departments. Places are limited and the selection process is tough. To apply, you must be aged 18 or over, be able to touch type at 40 words a minute and be prepared to live in London during training. See FT2’s website for full details.

    Broadcasters and regional media training organisations may offer their own new entrant training programmes – contact Skillset Careers for more information.

    You may find it helpful to take a course in film, video or media production. The most useful ones include practical skills and work placements. Several universities and colleges offer relevant BTEC HNDs, degrees and postgraduate courses – check with course providers for entry requirements. See Skillset’s website for details of industry-endorsed courses.

    You will need a good understanding of budget management, so it would be an advantage to have skills and qualifications in accountancy.

    Training and Development
    You will usually train on the job, developing your skills as you gain more experience in the management role.

    As a production manager, you could also take short courses in various specialist business and production skills, for example in risk assessment, or using budgeting and scheduling software such as Movie Magic. Courses are offered by the Production Managers’ Association (PMA), the Producers’ Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), and also by some film schools and private training companies.

    See Skillset’s website for a database of media courses (including relevant courses for production managers), and for information about how to fund your training as a freelance in the media.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Freelance production managers are paid a fee for each individual contract or project.

    Freelance rates can vary widely. You could negotiate fees based on the type of production and your experience and track record, or you may be paid according to Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) guidelines.

    Job Prospects
    As a production manager, you could work for television broadcasters or independent production companies. You will usually be freelance and work on fixed-term contracts. There is strong competition for work in the film and TV industry.

    Over half of the TV and film workforce is employed in London. The rest of industry is mainly based in the south-east and north-west of England, and other major regional cities in the UK. You will increase your chances of building a successful career if you are prepared to work anywhere in the UK or overseas.

    Some jobs are advertised in the trade press and websites such as Broadcast, but it is common to get work through networking and contacts. If you are member of the Production Managers’ Association or Production Guild, you can also advertise your availability on their websites when looking for work.

    Useful media industry resources:
    Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT)
    Procter House
    1 Procter Street
    WC1V 6DW
    Tel: 020 7067 4367

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