As an associate producer on a film, theater or TV project, you're not the top dog -- but you do have your fair share of responsibilities. Producers, whether they're "associate," "assistant," "executive," or "line" producers, take on a nontechnical role in a media production, overseeing the work done by techies such as editors, camera operators, props masters, hair and makeup professionals, and others. How the duties are split up among the various producers is different for every production.
Associate vs. Executive
The term "associate" signifies that the producer is not the head of operations, but that she answers to a higher authority -- typically the executive or lead producer. This role has many different definitions, but at its core, the associate producer does any tasks the executive producer doesn't have time to do, or tasks she may be best suited for based on her own strengths. Generally, the executive producer is the one who deals with money; finding it, budgeting it, or doling it out when payday comes around -- though those duties can also fall to the associate in some cases.
In some productions, the associate producer is a writer who's either conceived of the production, or contributed significantly to its conception and creation. When you know a script inside and out, as a writer-producer does, it's often a natural next step to have that person be the "expert" or go-to person throughout the rest of the production. Having such an integral role in creating the script, the associate producer will be able to identify the things that are needed to complete the production.
Before a production really gets going, producers have to do a lot of leg work. That includes assessing the script to find out what elements they'll need for the production, including securing locations and finding props, costumes, equipment, production staff, and actors. Once these key people are hired and the materials and equipment assembled, the associate producer may be tasked with ensuring that each person is making the proper preparations ahead of the production dates. If the production involves rehearsals, the associate may be on hand to see that the executive producer's vision is being fulfilled and that all staff members are staying on schedule and sticking to their tasks.
Following rehearsals, the associate spends her time on-set, interacting with staff and ensuring that everyone has the materials and knowledge to do the job. Film, TV and theater productions often include a lot of people, and someone needs to be there to direct traffic and be the glue that holds all the players together. Associates need to be good problem-solvers, able to handle any safety or logistical issues that arise during production. They also need to be resourceful and able to think on their feet, making last-minute changes to scripts or knowing where to get last-minute items that are necessary for the production to move forward.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.