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Director vs. Producer: What's the Difference?

February 22, 2021

Directors and producers are both influential people on the set of a movie who provide guidance for a film's overall development, but their jobs have many key differences. Creating a film is a complex process that requires collaboration among everyone involved in its production, with every person have a clear understanding of which elements of the movie they will work on.

For people interested in pursuing a career in film, understanding the responsibilities and skills required to become a director versus a producer is an important step in choosing the right job for you.

In this article, we review the similarities and differences between a director and a producer by explaining the key responsibilities, skills and career paths associated with each position.

Related: How to Write a Film Resume (With Example)

What is the difference between a director and a producer?

The main difference between a director and a producer is that directors oversee the creative process of making a movie and producers handle the logistics. While producers can still have input about creative aspects of the film such as casting and script development, directors spend much more time on set providing guidance for the hands-on details of filming and editing.

Producers oversee and coordinate the resources and paperwork associated with the process of making a movie, from the beginning phase of securing funding to advertising the completed film. Film directors generally have more artistic and creative responsibilities, while film producers work with the business aspects that enable the director to create their vision.

Related: 15 Filmmaking Jobs in the Entertainment Industry

Job duties

Directors and producers provide general oversight within their areas of expertise, with their specific job duties depending on the scope of the films they work on and their unique interests. Because both jobs are inherently leadership roles, they can also delegate some tasks to assistants and other professionals, but they are still responsible for the final product that their team produces.

There can be some overlap between the responsibilities of a director and a producer, and some people may even serve both roles on the same project. Although they can work together, directors and producers oversee different parts of a movie's development and have distinct roles that influence their daily activities.

A director has control over the artistic and creative elements of a film and spends the bulk of their time providing guidance to others to produce an aesthetically and thematically cohesive final project. They coordinate actor performances with the responsibilities of the crew to plan and capture their vision for a film's overall cinematography. Some of the key duties of a director include:

  • Interpreting scripts
  • Auditioning and casting
  • Organizing the crew
  • Framing shots
  • Coaching actors
  • Mediating conflict
  • Editing film

Read more: How to Become a Director: Education and Training Requirements

Producers mainly work with the logistics of a film, so their duties involve supervising and delegating tasks to ensure that the movie comes out on time and that the entire film staff has the resources they need to succeed. They spend their time communicating with others and assessing situations so they can make the best choices for completing the film. Producers are in charge of the major aspects of a film's overall development, such as:

  • Managing a budget
  • Scouting filming locations
  • Hiring the crew
  • Overseeing script development
  • Supervising business operations
  • Creating a filming schedule
  • Marketing
  • Distribution

Skills and characteristics

Producers and directors share several qualifications, such as experience in filmmaking, leadership skills and determination. They need to have strong decision-making abilities to guide the development of a movie and encourage collaboration between people with varying creative ideas and business goals. Both roles also require an ability to delegate tasks, organize schedules, manage stress and communicate efficiently. Understanding the different skills and characteristics involved with being a producer versus a director can help you decide which film career path is right for you.

Some of the most important skills and traits for becoming a producer include:

Critical thinking

Producers make important decisions about acquiring funding and managing budgets, so it is important for them to have strong critical thinking skills to inform their choices.

Flexibility

During the process of making a movie, producers have to be flexible to respond to changes in the script, casting or directorial choices. Their ability to adapt to situations helps them manage their staff and set realistic expectations for their team.

Business knowledge

Producers are often in charge of signing off on business deals and coordinating contracts with the businesses involved in the production of their films.

Negotiation

Negotiating with different professionals to reach a compromise is an important part of film production, and producers must be able to argue for their interests to make a profit from their film on a schedule.

Focus

Making a movie is often an extensive process that takes several months or even years, so producers must be able to stay focused on their long-term goals while also paying close attention to the smaller tasks involved in film production.

Directors should have the following characteristics and abilities to successfully manage the cast and editing team:

Knowledge of cinematography

Directors give instructions to camera and mic operators to achieve the most visually appealing shots. Knowing cinematography helps directors choose angles that provoke an emotional response in an audience, supporting the theme and plot of their movie.

Patience

The process of filming and editing a movie often requires hours of actors repeating the same scene to get the perfect shot for the movie. Directors need to be patient during their long shifts on the movie set so that they can work effectively with the actors to realize their vision of the script.

Creativity

Directors are in charge of using the visual elements of a movie to tell a story, and use creativity through set design, costumes, actor performances and editing. They often have to solve problems and discover creative ways to use their surroundings to improve a shot or communicate a plot point.

Attention to detail

Directors must use attention to detail to create continuity between scenes, even if filming takes place over several months. They ensure that actors look the same in sequential shots and that every aspect of the film contributes to their overall artistic goals.

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