Working as a Production Coordinator
Working as a production coordinator can be a very stressful and demanding job, it takes a certain discipline and high levels of organization to get the job done efficiently. This post will outline the skills, tools and responsibilities required for working as a production coordinator.
Production Coordinator: Skills
Organization/Multitasking: This is probably the number one skill that you have to possess if you want to be a production coordinator. You are the right hand to the production manager and have to be ready and willing to balance a multitude of jobs at the same time. If you don’t enjoy paperwork and working in an office then production coordinator is not the job for you.
Strong Computer Skills: As a production coordinator, most of your day will be spent working on a computer. You need to be comfortable trouble shooting computer issues and you need to be able to make your way around programs like Word and Excel with ease.
Strong Scheduling Skills: During a production, the production coordinator is responsible for schedule upkeep. You need to be very comfortable with scheduling software and have a strong understanding of how the schedule works. Schedules can be very different from one production to the next so be sure to have a firm grasp on why decisions are made and how they help the production.
Team Leading: As the production coordinator you report to the production manager but you are responsible for the production assistants and junior or assistant production coordinators. You have to delegate and make sure that your team is working effectively, I find it is always best to lead with a firm but kind attitude. No one wants to help someone who is treating them like crap or bossing them around because it makes them feel important. Your team is only as good as you are.
Communication: This one goes with team leading, as the production coordinator you are the point of contact for the crew and you need to make sure that you are communicating with all of the appropriate people and getting the right messages to the right people. Be clear with instructions and emails and make sure that you are understood, don’t just assume that people have received your emails or calls, follow up with people.
Production Coordinator: Tools
Computer: On some productions a computer will be provided to you but you can’t always assume that that will be the case. I found myself having to borrow a laptop from a friend for a while until I could afford my own. It will make you life much easier to have your own computer. You also need to be able to communicate from home.
Printer: I don’t think a printer is a must but it will help you, being able to print documents at home is very useful and there have been times when I have had to bring my printer to set because of a low budget and now office supplies in the production office. You can find printers really cheap from Amazon.com and if you are lucky you can get the production to cover your ink costs.
Office Supplies: Again this one isn’t always necessary but I like to have office supplies with me when I start a job, a lot of jobs will have these supplies but sometimes when you are working on low budget productions you have to bring a few of your own things with you. I like to bring pens, markers, staples and stapler, highlighters, paper, scissors, tape and anything else that might help get the job done. It always better to over prepared than to be stuck without something. Amazon has all the office supplies you will need.
Driver’s License: I have found that having my license has helped me out more often than I could have imagined. I think if the person hiring you sees that you can drive it automatically puts you above the person who can’t. You never know when you might have to go to set or deliver important papers, there may not always be a production assistant around so you may have to get in a car and get the job done. Being able to drive will make you a more useful production coordinator.
First Aid: I like to go with the rule that if you are going to work in the production department you should have your first aid training. For the assistant directors this is a requirement but for the production coordinator it is just strongly recommended, it can never hurt to have this training. There may also be times when an assistant director was not hired for the job and if you have first aid training on your resume it will look very good.
Scheduling Software: Some productions will use Movie Magic Scheduling which is available from Amazon but it is quite expensive. If you cannot afford scheduling software make sure that you have a word document program such as Microsoft Word to create your own documents. You can download documents in our free stuff section to help with this.
Cell Phone: This may seem a little too obvious but it is amazing how many times I have met people on sets that do not own a cell phone. As the production coordinator you need to be available to the entire cast and crew, you cannot be unreachable. You have every right to have a life but at the same time if you sign up for the job of production coordinator then you have to know that your hours are not going to be 9-5, you may get to go home but you need to reachable. Always carry your cell phone and always have a charger with you.
Production Coordinator: Responsibilities
Co-ordinate the Crew: As the production coordinator you should be the point of contact with the crew, you tell them when and where to be, you inform them of schedule changes and you relay all important information. I have found that it is more likely that a production coordinator working in television will have this job more so than on film sets but it really depends. In my experience there has been an AD team on dramas that take care of these things for the most part, they take care of the call sheets and the schedule and the production coordinator takes care of travel, equipment, accommodations etc. In factual television there doesn’t seem to be a role for AD’s so the production coordinator assumes the role of AD as well, they make and send out call sheets and maintain the schedule. The role of production coordinator will vary on each job.
Run the Production Office: The production coordinator should be the first person in the office and the last person to leave at night. At the beginning of pre-production the production coordinator should set up the office, order supplies and make sure that everything needed for the production is available. The production coordinator rarely leaves the office unless asked by the production manager to go to set. You need to make sure that the office is running smoothly and efficiently. The more organized and efficient the production office is, the smoother things should run on set.
Paperwork: The production coordinator may be responsible for call sheets, schedules, production reports, work permits, visas, cast and crew lists and insurance paperwork. There really is no end to the paperwork that the production coordinator has to deal with. This is where the organizational skills come in handy, keep binders and folders of all paperwork that you do, make sure that you can find documents easily and keep a paper trail of everything you do in case anything should go wrong. The production coordinator has to distribute all kinds of paperwork to the cast and crew such as script revisions, schedule updates and call sheets.
Equipment: The production coordinator is responsible for equipment, they have to order it and get it to set. A lot of the times the production manager will deal with large equipment orders but as the production coordinator you may have to order specialty equipment that is required on certain days. You have to make sure that a PA picks it up and gets it to set as well.
Footage: As the production coordinator you need to keep track of shot footage, it may be film, tape or digital cards, either way you need to make sure that it gets from set and into the right hands.
Accommodations: There may be times when the crew is out of town and they will need to be put up at a hotel, the production coordinator is responsible for organizing and booking these accommodations. Sometimes it may just be the talent that needs a hotel and sometimes it is the entire cast and crew. Be loyal to certain hotel chain to help with group rates and always try to get the best deal, whenever you can save on the budget the more the production manager will love you. Try not to put your crew up in a disgusting hotel, you want them to like you too.
Travel: The production coordinator is responsible for coordinating travel on a production, it may be as simple as communicating needs with the transportation team and having them execute them for you. In my experience there has not been a transportation team so I have had to coordinate crew shuttles, cast pick ups and vehicle rentals for PA’s. Be prepared to deal with a lot or a little on the transportation front as it will change from job to job. Always try to get a deal when renting vehicles. If possible always send separate cars for talent pick ups, it will make you look better. Be sure to organize shuttles for crew when necessary, not everyone drives and if the shoot is out of town you need to help people out.
Wrap Out: When it comes time to wrap out a production, the production coordinator works with the production manager to tie everything up nicely and leave no loose ends. Accounts may need to be closed, equipment returned, paperwork completed and essentially anything that needs to be done to wrap the production up neatly. Make sure that all of your paperwork is complete and accessible for anyone that may need to access it. If you are wrapping a season of a series and there is potential for another make sure to leave things in a way that will make it easy for the next season and in case you are not coming back make sure the new production coordinator can pick up right where you left off with ease.
Being a production coordinator is a lot of work but it can be a lot of fun, you get to be involved in many aspects of the production. It is a great position for learning the ins and outs of production. Be sure to appreciate everyone that works with and for you, the best way to get hired again is to do the best job you can and be likable along the way. Be organized and efficient and always follow up with people, never assume that someone has it taken care of, cover your own ass as well as theirs. Stay focused and you will get the job done and as with anything try to enjoy the work you are doing, as stressful as it can get at times it should be enjoyable too.
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