It's less glamorous than directing, but film producing can be the reel deal

Ask any cinema-obsessed teen what job they'd like in the film industry, and the chances are that they'd choose to be an actor or a director. There's no doubt about it: being a film producer just doesn't have the same ring. But as anyone in the industry will tell you, a producer's role is arguably the perfect job for the all-rounder with an interest in the big screen.

The career has certainly changed a great deal in recent times. While previously there were no typical routes into film production – pestering the smaller companies and offering your services for free was one of many – there are now a bewildering number of options for people looking to combine an interest in film with a fulfilling career. The recent explosion in media studies courses has arguably made things even more confusing.

That's why Skillset, the sector skills council for the creative industries, decided to give special recognition to the best film schools in the country. The top six institutions were dubbed screen academies, and are now widely considered as the best places to train for a career in the industry. Three of them are in or near London, with the others located in Bournemouth, Edinburgh and Newport.

The academies offer a full range of study options, from casual summer schools to full-time undergraduate or Masters courses. Because some of the programmes are aimed at people who already have experience in the field, they can also be fiercely competitive. The MA in film-making at the London Film School, for example, takes just six people each year. This is a good reflection of the industry: if you're going to make it as a producer, you'll need to show persistence and competitiveness in equal measure.

"You need a combination of business acumen and salesmanship, but you also need to know how to spot a great story when you see one," says Janine Marmot, who was a producer for many years before becoming director of film at Skillset. "Producing can also be a very long journey from start to finish: it's not uncommon for a film to take five or seven years to make. It's not enough to read a short story or newspaper article and think: 'That would make a great film.' You need to actually make it happen, by pulling together all the different strands, from financing to casting."

Producers need to be able to tell a great script from a mediocre one, so having a creative spark definitely helps. But having vision is even more crucial: you can't turn a writer's ground-breaking idea into reality without the right amount of money, so you'll need to secure funding.

When the film is in the development phase, a producer might be working closely with a few people for months; during shooting, they'll suddenly be in charge of a crew of 50 or more. It's a career for fixers, not perfectionists, and it isn't for everyone.

"Most producers have a freelance or self-employed kind of lifestyle," says Marmot. "It can be extremely insecure, so you need the right attitude: you have to be a multi-skilled multi-tasker who can handle having three separate films on the go at the same time. If you crave security and constancy, it's definitely not for you; but if you thrive under pressure and don't want to work in an office, it can be wonderful."

Rebecca O'Brien, 50, has been an independent film producer for 20 years. Working in partnership with Ken Loach, she has nine feature films to her name, including 2006's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. She admits that producing isn't as glamorous as directing – but fame was never part of her agenda.

"In those days, nobody thought that a young woman could do the job of a producer," she says.

"It was only for big fat men with cigars and a lot of money. But I had a great love of film and the arts when I was a kid, and both of those are essential prerequisites. If all you want to do is make yourself famous, you're in the wrong job, but my desire was always just to get involved in making films.

"Producing is about getting your hands dirty: it's for people who aren't amazingly good at one thing, but are good at a lot of things. The director is the mouthpiece of the film throughout – and that's fine by me."

How to get on in film production

* To find out more about making a living out of film production, call the Skillset careers helpline on 08080 300 900 (England and Northern Ireland); 0808 100 8094 (Scotland); 0800 0121 815 (Wales); or visit

* The BBC's Filmmaker's Guide is an excellent resource for anyone producing or directing their own short film.

* The New Producer's Alliance ( is a good way to network

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own