Over a year ago, when I wrote up the Glossary, I decided that defining each of the individual sub-categories of producer would just muddy it up, so I included a link to “the producer page.”

Unfortunately, I never wrote that page.

So here, now, is what that page would include. Note that the terms mean different things for features and television, and that all bets are off in Europe, which has evolved different names for certain jobs. Also, keep in mind that there are no hard-and-fast rules for what the various titles mean, which is one reason why the Producers Guild is trying to be more assertive about who should really be called a producer.

For Feature Films:

The highest ranking producer is simply called Producer. This is the person ultimately responsible for the film. He or she is also the person who collects the Oscar if the movie wins an Academy Award.

After that comes Executive Producer, who is involved in the development, financing or production of the movie, but generally not all three.

Below executive producer, the credits get a little murkier. Occasionally, you’ll see Co-Executive Producer, but the third-highest ranking is generally called Co-Producer. Then comes Associate Producer. These two “junior producer” credits often go to someone who performs a key function in getting the movie made, but who doesn’t have the power or clout of a producer or executive producer. For instance, I was a co-producer on Go.

Line Producer is really a job, rather than a title. This person, who is directly responsible for many of the day-to-day burdens of production (such as budgets, unions, and bureaucracy), would often have another title, such as Co-Producer or Executive Producer. Many line producer functions overlap with a Unit Production Manager. Depending on the film, you might also see a Production Supervisor or Production Coordinator listed.

To summarize, for features:

  1. Producer
  2. Executive Producer
  3. Co-Producer
  4. Associate Producer

Related Jobs:

  • Line Producer
  • Unit Production Manager
  • Production Supervisor
  • Production Coordinator

For Television:

Because scripted television is run by writers, the majority of producers you see listed are writers.

The highest ranking producer is the showrunner, the man or woman ultimately responsible for the creative direction of the series. Showrunner is a function, not a title — this person is credited as an Executive Producer. In many cases, he or she has “Created by” credit on the series.

Many TV shows have multiple executive producers, and without knowing the specific situation, it’s hard to say what the individual people do. For instance, a TV show derived from a movie (like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), may bring with it Executive Producers from the original film, who have little direct involvement with the show.

In terms of the writing staff, below Executive Producer comes Co-Executive Producer, followed by Supervising Producer, Producer, Co-Producer, Story Editor and Staff Writer. While some writers will occasionally leap-frog a few credits up the ladder, generally it takes years of work to climb to the upper ranks.

On some shows, you’ll see a Consulting Producer or Executive Consultant listed. This is generally a high-level writer who is contributing to a show, but is not one of the principal forces.

Obviously, it takes more than just writers to make a TV show. The line producer is a crucial function, and that person is often listed simply as Producer. The person who heads up post-production on a television series may be an Associate Producer. On some shows, there is an in-house director who also gets a Producer or Executive Producer credit.

To summarize, for television:

  1. Executive Producer (the showrunner)
  2. Executive Producer
  3. Co-Executive Producer
  4. Supervising Producer
  5. Producer
  6. Co-Producer
  7. Story Editor
  8. Staff Writer

Related jobs:

  • Consulting Producer
  • Executive Consultant
  • Line Producer
  • Associate Producer

[Update: For no explicable reason, I had left off co-producer. Thanks to Mike, below, for pointing that out.]