Christopher Nolan directing The Dark Knight Rises.
What do they do? The poobah, grand fromage and first link in the on-set chain, the director is the person responsible for getting a vision onto the screen. The buck for all creative aspects of the film – acting, photography, production design, music – stops here. In reality, the amount of control a director has can vary enormously. A jobbing short film / music video / commercials director might be recruited to shepherd a star vehicle (which said star will direct in all but name), while an A-list auteur can demand the moon on a stick and get it (James Cameron) or strike terror into the hearts of all present (Michael Bay).
Required skills In addition to artistic vision, all directors, be they auteur or hack, require immense organisational, technical and people-management skills. Whether said skills come in the form of velvet glove or hobnailed boot is very much down to personal style.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer with Johnny Depp on the set of Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
What do they do? Producers shepherd films from beginning to end, from rights acquisition to final release. Like the Mouth of Sauron, they may represent the faceless behemoth of the studio, forming the bridge between the money men and the director (who they’ve usually been responsible for employing) or they may be money people in their own right. They manage budgets, and oversee pre-production, production and post-production, sometimes in close relationship with their director and other times... less so.
Required skills This job needs similar artistic and interpersonal strengths to the director, with the added requirement that they be comfortable with number crunching, have serious commercial nous and keep a close eye out for great projects in the first place.
THE EXECUTIVE / ASSOCIATE / LINE / CO-PRODUCER
Director Steven Spielberg, stars Kate Capshaw and Harrison Ford with executive producer George Lucas on the set of Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom
What do they do? In theory, executive producers supervise the production on behalf of the financiers, while associate producers are essentially second-in-command to the main producer, responsible for whatever producing tasks are delegated to them. Line producers manage the budget and the day-to-day running of the production. And co-producers are often line producers who also branch out into creative decisions. They can also be principal producers from secondary companies working in cahoots with the main production company. Executive (and sometimes associate) producer credits can be bestowed as ego boosts to people only peripherally involved in the production, such as investors, hence David Mamet’s claim in State And Main that “an associate producer credit is what you give your secretary for Christmas instead of a raise”. In such cases what they do is… well, not very much at all.
Required skills They’re much the same as those for the main producer, but more specialised and compartmentalised. Unless, that is, it’s an honorary title, in which case being mates with someone high up enough should do it.