What is a Unit Production Manager?
Unit Production Managers work across the production process managing the production’s budget and schedule ensuring that the film makes it from conception to reality.
Budgets make the world go round
Although the role of a Unit Production Manager is largely managerial, people skills are essential for this role. As a Unit Production Manager you will take charge of all budgeting and scheduling issues, both of which are directly impacted by the people working on the production. Conflicts on the production lead to unmotivated staff, unmotivated staff lead to decreased efficiency and mistakes, both of which wreak havoc for the schedule and budget. As a result, Unit Production Managers often act as the mediators between departments, resolving issues and motivating staff.
What is a Production Manager?
Production Managers work across the production, overseeing the general running of the production and working with the producer and other senior members of staff.
During pre-production the Production Manager will meet with senior staff members to ascertain budgetary requirements for a production. These costs may include the cost of hiring the crew, equipment, sets and additional locations. Part of the Production Manager’s role may include negotiating rates of pay, location costs, risk assessments and logistical issues as and when they arise. Negotiation skills are essential for a Production Manager for keeping contractual costs down and dealing with potential issues as they arise.
This week, Production Manager, Sonia Caller, discusses the challenges of dealing with contributors and handling multi-million pound budgets.
You have done a lot of location shoots across the world – where has been your favourite place and what are the main factors and challenges that need to be considered when filming abroad?
Filming overseas has its own challenges. What is really essential is making sure the teams are well briefed and have everything they need and if possible to travel as lightly as possible. Working with teams in a different time zone generally means my end of day is their beginning of day and as my phone is rarely off I have found myself taking calls at all hours to smooth the way. My favourite place so far has been Barcelona, I had negotiated an exceptionally great rate at a 5 star hotel for the team and when I turned up at location I think they thought I was someone quite important and put me in the penthouse suite – if only I could travel like that all the time on location! I have travelled the world extensively for pleasure living in very basic conditions, so I appreciate that some destinations can be extremely tough on teams working in volatile locations or challenging because of the elements of the natural world so it’s important to ensure they have the best opportunity to rest and rejuvenate on the road from time to time if they are away for extended periods because days are long and hard going.
How do you have to adapt your management skills between working with large broadcasting companies and small independent production houses?
Essentially, it’s always about communication – the bigger the team is, the more important it is to keep the flow and ensure everyone is informed of changes as timely as possible. Working with small independent production companies generally means I may bring expertise in some areas they have not got – so it’s not unusual if I am asked to establish new foundations, introducing new ways of working in the future and establish new important contacts for the business going forward.