Ask an expert: A “how to” of line producing

Esi 1
Line Producer Esi Conway

I am Esi Conway, and throughout my years of being a line producer, I have worked hard to become recognized as one of the best at what I do. As a line producer, I build teams who can pull together to make great television shows. I am often one of the first people on the team.  I usually start off with a budget, schedules and deadlines. I then build teams, find locations, and book the crews. Going around the world, I have worked on some of the world’s most well-known television shows, for networks such as MTV, HGTV, BBC, Animal Planet, and more.

To be a successful line producer, you must be organized, disciplined, and have an in-depth knowledge of scheduling and budgeting, as well as an understanding of the technical accepts of TV making. On a day-to-day basis, you plan and schedule to get ahead of the project and forecast the needs of the team. You also trouble shoot any problems that arise. To succeed as a line producer, you need exceptional communication and diplomacy skills about to balance editorial expectations with the financial constraints of the budget. Here are my quick tips to getting into the industry and staying in the industry:

Getting into the industry

When I started out, nepotism was the name of the game. To get a start in the industry, you had to know someone working in TV. I had no such contacts, so I got a friend who studied design to make a cool eye catching resume and cover letter and sent it to every production company listed in the TV directory called “’the knowledge.’ I was given a few weeks work as an office PA, and that’s where I got my break. Thankfully, now there are sites you can go to where they advertise starting positions in TV.

Build relationships with your team

Gain an understanding of what each role does and the challenges they face as this will help you when it comes to problem solving.

Be flexible in your approach to problem solving

Editorial teams are constantly trying to squeeze more out of a budget. Listen to the idea and think is there a way to balance this request with the budget. Ask yourself “where might you be able to save to give them some of their additional requests?”

Be approachable

It is important that you know what’s going on in the project, so it’s important that you are approachable so that people come to you with ideas, issues, progress reports, and everything else.

Stay in contact with contractors

Be the connector person. In this role, it is important to have a great list of contacts with a proven track record in each area so that you can build teams for various projects. Who can pull together to produce hit shows?

Remember the working hours

Filmmaking and television don’t allow for the 9-5, so it is often hard for those with families to maintain their positions at companies. You must be prepared to put in the hours, whether it be the weekend, or holidays to get the project completed.

Take a minute to enjoy the moment

Once you get your foot in the door, it’s important that you maintain your enthusiasm and commitment. As it is a project based industry, you need to maintain your standards so that people want to employ you again. If you can do this, it can be very rewarding. I have worked with some top names in the industry, on television shows watched by millions. Although the hours are long, it doesn’t feel like work as the excitement from the team and the project carry you through. From being on a safari shoot in South Africa, to shooting in the favelas in Brazil, to filming with the Queen in Malaysia, there is never a dull moment.

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