Producer Interview Questions
Producers work either as free agents or as part of a production company. Producers lay the groundwork for a film or theater production and are responsible for securing talent, crew, and directors. On top of that, they are also often responsible for obtaining funding for a particular project.
Producers do not control every aspect of a production once it is underway, but they make sure the proper people are hired to perform the tasks required to bring a project to fruition. During production, producers oversee financing, writing, and scheduling to ensure deadlines are met while staying within the budget.
A producer’s responsibilities include:
- Securing funding from various sources to ensure an adequate budget for production
- Overseeing a writer or writers during the script-writing process
- Making sure the hiring process for cast and crew is fair and adequate
- Setting a budget and timetable
- Delegating work to the appropriate workers within the production
- Overseeing the editing process to create an adequate final product
A producer’s skills should include:
- Proper time-management skills
- The ability to delegate tasks effectively
- The ability to work quickly and for long hours in a fast-paced environment
- Good interpersonal skills when working with a large group of skilled workers
- Experience in finance and marketing to make sure everything falls within budget
- Making sure the project recoups its budget with profit
While a degree is not strictly required to enter this field, a bachelor’s degree and post-graduate work in media studies, communications, broadcast journalism, or media production will help keep an applicant competitive in the industry. Previous experience in theater or film production as a production assistant, writer, director, or editor is a must.
Salaries for producers range between $38K and $72K with the median being $53K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as a producer include:
- Degrees (associate's, bachelor's, master's)
- Previous Productions, Recognition, and Awards
- Reporting Structure (seniority of the backer or producer you report to, the size of the production, and number of direct reports)
- Level of Performance - exceeding expectations
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Producer Interview Questions
Question: Can you describe your journey to becoming a producer?
Explanation: This is a general opening question the interviewer will ask to begin a conversation, learn more about your background, and collect information they can use for subsequent questions. This question allows you to provide a narrative of your career and move the interview in a direction you are comfortable.
Example: “My road to becoming a producer started when I was young and participated in junior theater productions. I started helping with the scenery and then moved on to acting and eventually directing. I became fascinated with all of the details needed for a successful theater production and started learning about the role of a producer. I studied film in college and always knew that I wanted to be on the production side rather than in front of the camera. I was fortunate to intern with several production companies which provided me with the experience and skills I needed to eventually get a job as a producer.”
Question: What methods do you use to communicate effectively with directors, actors, crew members, and writers to discuss details of a production?
Explanation: As a producer, one of the vital talents you need to have is the ability to communicate with a diverse group of people. Interviewers will ask about your communication skills and how you go about effectively getting people to do what you need them to do during film production. This is an example of an operational question.
Example: “One of the things I have learned during my career as a producer is that film productions employ a diverse group of people. Each of these individuals has a different communication style. To be effective, I need to be able to quickly sense how each team member communicates and then alter my style to address their specific needs. When speaking to the entire group, I try to keep my style as neutral as possible.”
Question: What do you look for in a script when deciding whether you would like to join a project as the producer?
Explanation: This is another operational question. Operational questions seek to understand how you go about doing your job. The best way to respond to operational questions is directly and concisely. You should also be prepared for follow-up questions.
Example: “When reviewing a script to decide whether I want to be involved with the production of the movie, I look for several qualities, including the clarity of the storyline, how well the characters are developed, whether the script is unique, and how complex producing the story may be. I also think about how I would go about casting the film and what changes would need to be made to the script to make the production feasible and cost-effective.”
Question: How do you stay under budget when you are working on a project with expensive special effects?
Explanation: One of the critical roles of a producer is to keep the project on time and under budget. Many movies, especially those using a lot of special effects, run over budget and take longer than initially forecast. Good producers know how to manage the timeline and where they can cut corners to keep the budget manageable. This needs to be communicated when answering this question.
Example: “I have worked on several productions which have incorporated a great deal of special effects. The method I use to manage the budget on these types of productions is to spend a great deal of time planning the scenes which use the special effects. Experience has taught me that with proper preparation, the scenes can be shot and edited without multiple takes, thereby avoiding having to spend additional money on the special effects.”
Question: Can you think about one of your previous productions and discuss what you would do differently to improve the quality of the production?
Explanation: This is another operational question that prompts you to be introspective and discuss how you would improve a project you’ve already completed. The premise behind this question is that nobody is perfect, and we can all learn from our previous work. Constant improvement is a hallmark of a true professional.
Example: “In one of the most recent productions I was involved in, a lot of time was spent discussing alternatives to the plans for shooting each scene. Even though we spent a lot of time in pre-production planning the schedule, shots, and resources required, additional meetings were held before each scene was filmed. In retrospect, the benefits realized from those additional discussions did not warrant the extra time and resources it took to review the production plans. I would have eliminated the meetings and addressed any issues during filming or in post-production.”
Question: How do you go about establishing deadlines for a project, and what do you do to keep it on schedule?
Explanation: Keeping a film production on schedule and under budget is one of the essential functions of the producer. Establishing realistic deadlines and managing the production to meet them is a critical skill you need to have. Since this is an operational question, you should keep your answer short and to the point without embellishing too much. You should anticipate follow-up questions which the interviewer will use to either have you expand on your answer or explore a different aspect of this critical skill you need to have.
Example: “When we start production, the only deadline I have is the date on which we need to complete the project. It is my role to establish incremental deadlines and make sure we stay on schedule. When doing this, I strive to set reasonable deadlines that we should be able to meet. I also build in some buffer time, so if we do run over, we can make it up and still be on schedule. I hold daily production meetings with team leaders to review the schedule, identify any roadblocks, and create solutions that will help us maintain a demanding production schedule.”
Question: How much experience do you have working with talent agents to cast the actors for your productions?
Explanation: Producers wear a variety of hats during film production. One of which is helping to select the right talent for the film. Although the director may hold open casting calls if the production is large enough, you’ll probably seek out specific actors for the roles. This involves working with talent agents and agencies. Keep in mind that this is an operational question, and the answer should be very concise and to the point.
Example: “Since I’ve produced several films, I have had to work with talent agents quite often. I understand their motivations and what they are trying to accomplish for their clients. I also understand how they go about negotiating to get their clients the best deal possible. Knowing this, I can work effectively with them by creating win-win situations in which the production can acquire the right talent at the right price and the agent can secure a contract that is beneficial to the client. This involves honest communication along with the ability to demonstrate the non-monetary benefits the actor will realize from participating in the production.”
Question: Given the choice, would you prefer to miss a deadline to make a project perfect or meet a deadline but compromise the quality of the production?
Explanation: This is another operational question in which the interviewer is seeking to understand your preference between quality and staying on schedule. During a film, it is necessary to make many compromises to complete the production on time, within budget, and with a level of quality expected by the stakeholders. You should be able to describe how you choose between these alternatives and what criteria you use when faced with this decision.
Example: “As a producer, I’m often asked to choose between compromising the quality of the production and staying on schedule. I agonize over these choices and seek to find a compromise that will satisfy both objectives. I look for ways we can accelerate the production of a film without compromising quality. I also seek solutions for maintaining the quality even though we need to work faster or reduce the budget or a specific portion of the film. Fortunately, my experience so far has taught me how to find these items and mitigate the differences between aggressive timelines and the quality of the production.
Question: What experience do you have using post-production editing software tools?
Explanation: This is a technical question which asks you about your ability to use a piece of software. What makes this question interesting for a producer is that it is rare that you would have to work directly with this type of tool. The interviewer is asking you a question to understand if you can collaborate with editors and people involved in post-production and would have the knowledge necessary to understand their jobs and what they were doing. They’re not anticipating that you will have in-depth knowledge of editing software, just familiarity with it.
Example: “While I worked with post-production editing software during my time in college and on some of the early productions I was involved in, I have not used it myself in years. However, I have enough familiarity with these types of tools to understand what the post-production editors are doing and am able to collaborate with them to produce the final product. I’m also not afraid to ask questions. If I don’t understand something, I will either ask somebody or do my own research.”
Question: Can you tell me about a time where you needed to alter your style to accommodate the communication style of one of the critical members of the production team?
Explanation: If this question looks familiar, it probably is. Interviewers will ask similar questions throughout an interview to calibrate your answers and ensure you're responding consistently throughout the interview. As long as your answer truthfully and forthrightly, this should not be an issue.
Example: “When working on film a production, I am required to interface with a variety of different people from diverse backgrounds. Each of them has their own communication style. I recognize this and strive to adjust my style to match theirs. I’m not too proud to change the way I interface with people, and I keep the big objective in mind. When addressing the entire team, I speak in a neutral style which may not match each individual’s style but is one they all can relate to.”
ADDITIONAL PRODUCER INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
What is the most important skill to have when producing something for television? For film? For theater?
How does working on stage productions and filmed productions differ?
When delegating tasks, what steps do you take to ensure the proper roles are filled?
Describe the last production you worked on as a producer.
What do you think is the most difficult task of a producer when planning a production?
What is the first step you take when working to secure financing?
How do you mitigate disagreements with your writing staff?
What do you look for when hiring a director?
What steps do you take in evaluating a potential script?
How do you deal with unforeseen strains on the budget and/or timetable during a production?
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