Director? Producer? (What’s the Difference?)

If you’re like most people, you hear these two words thrown around a lot in reference to productions. “Coming this Summer… from the Executive Producer of Avatar,” “This Christmas…you won’t believe what happens! From the Director of The Santa Clause 6…” We hear these credentials all the time… but what do they actually mean? What makes a director a director and a producer a producer?

It's not just a fancy chair!
It’s not just a fancy chair!

As an Associate Producer who has been working in the industry for only a few years, quite honestly, I’m still figuring this out. The more productions I’m involved with, the better I understand that the roles are very different, but can vary from project to project. This blog is my best effort to explain the difference between a producer and a director, based on my own experiences on set.

First, the director. We can all name a handful of popular directors: Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino etc. They’re some of the biggest names in Hollywood, but aside from sitting in that fancy chair with their name on the back and yelling “ACTION!”, what do they do? Simply put, the director is in charge of the creative vision. They are the ones calling the shots, coaching actors, and ultimately have the final say on how the video or film is going to look and feel. It’s the director’s job to take the vision from their mind and convey it to a competent crew who can bring it to life.

The “bringing it to life” piece is where producers come in. According to IMDB, the definition of a producer is, “The chief of staff of a movie production in all matters save the creative efforts of the director, who is head of the line.” The producer raises funds, hires the crew, and lays the ground work for the production. In a nutshell, the producer strives to create an environment that is most conducive to creative success. They handle all the nitty-gritty details so the director can focus on making his or her film. There’s also typically a chain of command when it comes to producers. There are executive producers, field producers, associate producers, etc. Each have different responsibilities which keep the production organized and on track.

Since both producers and directors have such important roles on a film, it is essential that the relationship between the two is a healthy one. Things go south pretty quickly if the producer and director are constantly butting heads over how a film should take shape. The best productions come from teams who are on the same team.

At Anchor Line, we’re a small team, so we all wear many hats. Our roles switch frequently based on the nature of the project. If one of us has a particularly strong vision for how a finished project should look and feel, then the directing role will naturally fall to that person, and others will handle the logistics. We’re flexible and open-minded, always offering support and advice to one another. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you are the producer or the director; you should consider yourselves and your crew to be one unit. Without your ability to collaborate and communicate effectively, the entire project is likely to fail. Go team!