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It is has always been confusing to me, and I believe that I have the right to be confused. In Arabic, we refer to the Executive Producer as the one who executes what the main producer wants. In English on the other hand, I see -mostly- that they use the term executive producer to mean the main producer, because of the word "executive" which is associated with top management typically. But even in English, I keep reading conflicting meanings all around the internet. For example:

Source 1:

  1. Producer: The Producer is the primary producer of the film or TV show, responsible for overseeing the entire production. They oversee all stages of production and are ultimately responsible for quality, schedule, budget, and relationships with the cast, crew, and investors.
  2. Executive Producer: The Executive Producer is responsible for executing the creative ideas and vision of the primary Producer. They oversee quality control and may help finance, market, and distribute the production. The Executive Producer is often closely aligned with the director and helps them achieve their creative vision.

Source 2:

Since executive producers are typically at a higher level than film producers, they may have more experience in the film industry. People in this role frequently have experience as producers on film or television before achieving the executive title. The executive producer is like the CEO of the project. She hires the key leaders and talent – including directors, stars and producers – and supervises them. The executive producer often finances the project, either funding it herself or finding investors to raise the capital needed for production.

The two mentioned sources clearly contradict each others and are saying the exact opposite things, which one is the true one? and how to verify it?

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  • I always thought producers provide creative input and executive producers only provide money, but I don’t really know. I’m curious to see answers to this. Apr 10, 2023 at 3:11
  • A show may have many Executive Producers. They generally receive the credit for bringing something to the project such as creative input (Stan Lee), financing, to give a pay bump to a star over and above standard cast salary etc.
    – Paulie_D
    Apr 10, 2023 at 9:04
  • Essentially Source 1 is more accurate. The term Executive is misleading here.
    – Paulie_D
    Apr 10, 2023 at 9:05
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    I think any answer to the question should also discuss how actors in long running TV series are sometimes given the title producer (executive?) as a "bonus" or pay bump that is not part of the series salary.
    – CGCampbell
    Apr 10, 2023 at 9:41
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    @CGCampbell : I've made an attempt at answering the first part, and I'm looking for more information because your comment stroke me, I thought the same, a kind of 'reward' for more creative content.
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 10, 2023 at 14:10

1 Answer 1

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Out of curiosity, I've read many articles and sources since this question arose, and I think that the term "executive" is misleading. So this answer may be misleading too, as it's my understanding of the job. It has to be taken with a grain of salt then, with the hope that the efforts will be useful in one way or another...

A person who does all of the job is a producer. Once they hire some other persons and delegate parts of their duties, they remain as the main producer, or "executive producer". Nowadays, there are more than 1 main (or executive) producer, as explained below:

The crediting of executive producers in the film industry has risen over time. In the mid-to-late 1990s, there were an average of just under two executive producers per film. In 2000, the number jumped to 2.5 (more than the number of standard "film producers"). In 2013, there were an average of 4.4 executive producers per film. One reason for the increase in executive producers per film is the desire to spread risk, whether due to increasing cost of film making for larger budget films, often met by multiple studios banding together, or alternatively the need to attract multiple smaller investors for lower budget independent films.

Many producers are first and foremost responsible legally and financially. When they delegate some tasks, the person becomes "line producer": "the line producer is the individual who reports directly to the individual(s) receiving "Produced by" credit on the theatrical motion picture and is the single individual who has the primary responsibility for the logistics of the production, from pre-production through completion of production; all department heads report to the line producer."

Producer: a person, family, or organization responsible for most of the business aspects of a production for screen, audio recording, television, webcast, etc. The producer is generally responsible for fund raising, managing the production, hiring key personnel, arranging for distributors, etc. Library of Congress

Somes sources I used are:

  1. The Producers Guild of America: their mark "identifies which producers performed a majority of the producing functions on a specific motion picture in a decision-making capacity"
  2. Film producer: "Producers cannot always supervise all of the production. In this case, the primary producer or executive producer may hire and delegate work to associate producers, assistant producers, line producers, or unit production managers."
  3. Filmmaking: "Film production consists of five major stages. The development stage contains both general and specific components. Studios creative executives hold general meetings with producers and screenwriters about original story ideas. The executives return from the retreat with fairly well-established instructions. They spread these concepts through the industry community, especially to producers they have deals with (traditional studios will have those producers in offices on their lots)."
  4. The Producers Mark (p.g.a.): "In 2012, the Producers Guild introduced the "Producers Mark", a certification mark to feature film credits, allowing approved producers to add the lowercase initials p.g.a. following their "Produced By" credit. It certifies that the credited producer performed a major portion of the producing duties on a motion picture."
  5. Rules and Procedures for Producers Mark Eligibility: a whole lot of information about the duties a producer must conduct in order to be recognized. "These rules provide an overview of the standards and procedures applied by the Producers Guild of America (“PGA”) in determining eligibility for use of the Producers Mark (“p.g.a.”) next to a producer’s name in the credits of, and advertisements and promotional materials for, a motion picture."

NOTE: all emphasis mine.

A comment by CGCampbell led to some research showing that, for an actor, becoming producer brings more money and more creative content. They have more power over the content of the episode/show as well as hiring crew. For the record, a bot created the content quoted below, becoming the 1st credited (but unpaid) line producer of this answer :)

When an actor is also an executive producer, they typically have a significant role in the production of the film or television show beyond just their performance. As an executive producer, they may be involved in developing the story, hiring the director and other key crew members, securing financing, and overseeing the overall production process. They may also have a say in casting decisions, marketing strategies, and other aspects of the project. Essentially, an executive producer is responsible for the overall vision and success of the project, and the actor's involvement in this role can be a way for them to have more creative control and input into the final product.


> (from french movie database) : Note : aux États-Unis, l'executive producer est un collaborateur de haut rang de la société de production qui supervise la production de plusieurs films, chacun de ceux-ci étant à la charge d’un producer. Translation: in the USA, the executive producer is a high-ranking employee of the production company who oversees the production of several films, each of which is the responsibility of a producer.

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