What is a Production Manager?

Written by 90 Seconds
Last updated: October 4, 2023
What is a Production Manager?

A production manager (PM) ensures that production starts and finishes on time and on budget. The production manager is the infrastructure to the production.

They plan, coordinate, organize and control the production crew schedules and activities.

The job starts with the initial planning and cost estimating for producing a quality video. Remember this is a business and the production must run smoothly and finish on schedule. PMs understand the video requirements and the business costs to develop realistic budgets.

They know how to create practical timelines based on industry performance and work schedules. They also understand that each phase of the production is tied to an approved financial budget.

At one time most production managers have been assistants or supervised media productions. Besides the business aspects, production managers gain hands-on experience in these early positions.

Pre-production preparation

Before production actually starts, the production manager calls a meeting. The PM discusses all of the production schedules, locations, equipment and resources necessary to complete the project.

Pre-production tasks include getting permission to use a written script or reproduction of privately owned works.

They generally do a risk assessment of the location and stunts to ensure the safety of the crew and cast during production.

It’s a fact, major problems presented at this meeting need to be resolved prior to production.

Primary roles

The most important task for the production manager is the pre-planning. Getting the approval from upper levels to produce the video requires a solid budget.

Incorporated in the budget is some flexibility to handle the unknown that always pops up. The PM ensures the producer has everything in place to create the vision.

During production, both the producer and the director rely on the production manager’s schedules.

The reason – the production budget is created based on the daily schedule of activities. Any changes due to uncontrollable circumstances must be prevented. Downtime during production is a serious enemy for the production manager.

While the crew, staff and cast sit – they are still on the clock and expending the budget. PMs are responsible for making sure there are no surprises such as copywriter infringements.

In this industry those infringements include reproduction without permission.

Secondary roles

Depending on the size of the production, the production manager may have an assistant to help.

PM manages the process and works with industry contacts.

Under the supervision of the PM the assistant acts as a runner, coordinator or secretary to the production office.

The assistant may follow up for the PM on permissions to use music, images or content.

The production manager may also work with a line producer. The line producer is hired for this single production and responsible for the actual daily activities on location.

They are also responsible for crew resources and managing problems during production versus the PM’s responsibility, which covers the overall budget. In most cases the two positions will cross paths.

If the line producer contributes artistically, they may be credited as co-producer.