What’s the difference between director and producer?

Ok, I’m a film buff, not to mention I’m also attending Webster University and majoring in film-production. So I study this all the time but with that said, here’s the true answer; it really depends on who’s producing and who’s directing.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to dividing up responsibilities on a film project, and any definition of a specific role in the movie-making process is bound to have tons of exceptions.  But, since this is a blog and not an essay, we’ll just focus on the high-level descriptions of what “typical” producers and directors might do.  In general, a producer takes care of the business and logistical side of things, whereas a director is usually there on the set, day in and day out and is in charge of the overall artistic vision of the movie, as well as the execution of that vision.

A producer might spend a good chunk of his or her time flipping through scripts or looking at other possible source materials for adaptation (novels, plays, etc.), trying to find a project he or she thinks is worthy of the efforts (or might make a mint at the box office).  If he comes across a keeper he will then get to work on securing financing or raising funds, which includes, selecting a director (and sometimes other key cast and crew members), helping to finalize the script and eventually figuring out distribution.  When all is said and done, the producer has ultimate responsibility for bringing a film in on time and on budget.  Up until a few summers ago, Kathleen Kennedy was considered the most financially successful producer of all time with $5 billion in ticket sales grossed across 54 movies, but Steven Spielberg knocked her out of first place thanks to his Executive Producer credit on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  He’s now at $5.03 billion across the 52 movies he’s had a hand in producing.

(I’ll talk about executive producing in another blog)

Ok, so if the producer hires the director, what does a director do?

A director determines the overall look of the film, sets its mood and tone, and instructs actors, actresses and members of the crew how to carry out the vision that’s whirling around in that creative mind of his or hers.  Sometimes they’ll use storyboards to communicate thoughts, sometimes they’ll actually act things out a bit on their own, sometimes they’ll explain the gist of a scene and let the cast improvise — all of that really comes down to the personal style of the man or woman at the helm.  They’re most likely going to have a say in everything from camera angles to editing techniques to the film’s score and sound effects to action sequences to costume design, even though there are typically also specific people in charge of each of those areas.  That’s why the director is usually the one to get the majority of the kudos if
the movie is a success… or the one to be blamed (and possibly ridiculed) if the end product is a stinker. Your Thoughts?


4 thoughts on “What’s the difference between director and producer?

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