Production Coordinator - Fahima Chowdhury
What is your job role and what does that involve?
My job is Drama Production Coordinator and I am currently working on an ITV drama called Beowulf. My main responsibilities are to assist the Line Producer and Producer in the day to day running of the Production. The responsibilities I have are quite varied which makes the job interesting (note: interesting not glamorous!). It is very much an office based job however there are opportunities to go out to location to talk to cast and crew.
A snapshot of the daily tasks I could be involved in: drafting crew contracts, producing daily progress reports, assisting the Line Producer in hiring crew, sending out shoot schedules, sending out daily callsheets to cast and crew. Ordering and arranging logistics of technical equipment, liaising with crew across various departments and helping with any requests they may have, Liaising with suppliers, specialist consultants etc who are involved in the production, assisting the Producer on programme publicity. Liaising with Script Dept on script issues and amendments. Things change on a daily basis so you have to be adaptable.
The Production office is at the heart of the production. It usually consists of Producer, Line Producer, Production Coordinator, Assistant Coordinator, Production Secretary, Production Runner and Rushes Runner. This structure can vary depending on the production and is no way set in stone, although you always have the Producer and Line Producer leading the production. We also have our Accounts team with us – which has Production Accountant, Assistant Accountant and Accounts Assistant. Both teams work closely together and make up the Production office. On a daily basis you’ll find yourself dealing with a wide range of people, from cast, crew, suppliers, specialist consultants, the list is endless, but it’s the production offices’ responsibility to be there to help.
How did you get to become a Production Coordinator?
I’ve been working in production for the last 13 years. However, I started out working in Factual and worked on various factual, factual entertainment and children’s shows, I started out as Production Coordinator and then became Production Manager.
A few years ago I decided to make the move into Drama. The move wasn’t instant and although a lot of my skills were transferable, drama and factual have very different structures on how they are set up and produced. Therefore I had to take a couple of steps down the ladder to be able to gain experience in drama. I also had to make new contacts in the genre. Just because I was experienced in one genre, did not mean that I was recognised and accepted in another. Therefore, it did feel like I was starting again. It was difficult to have to take the step down but well worth the sacrifice, as I now love and enjoy my job and can’t really see myself returning to factual.
What training have you had? All my training has been on the job. It’s the best training you can have. I started in production when I was a little older in my early 30’s, so my first job was as factual production coordinator. I have been very lucky and worked with and still am working with some very experienced people in production both in factual and drama. Their guidance and support has been and still is invaluable. However the best way to start if you are starting off straight from University is to work as a runner and work your way up. It helps you to have a better grounding in production.
What key skills do you need for your job?
As mentioned previously a Production Coordinator’s main responsibility is to assist and support the Line Producer. Therefore to be able to do this, the skills below are important.
Be organised: You have to be organised, and be able to juggle several balls at the same time. There is a lot of paperwork so if you don’t like dealing with paperwork, this job is not for you! Make sure you have all your contacts/scripts/schedules to hand. If your Line Producer sees that you are organised in your own work, that in turn helps them feel supported.
Be Accurate: Accuracy is important not only in any information you are relaying to people verbally but also in paperwork which is produced for the production.
Listen: Listening and being aware of what’s happening around you. By doing this you can pre-empt any problems arising and therefore this helps the Line Producer and Producer to run the production smoothly.
Common sense: Yes might sound obvious but it really is surprising how little it is used and in some people it’s non-existent! It’s the most valuable skill you can have!
What’s the one thing people should be aware of pursuing this role?
Probably obvious, but the long hours. If you want to work in production you need to be aware and accept that for some periods you will be spending more time with your Production family than your own. This isn’t a 9-5 job and although you should not be spending 24-7 in the office and should try and have some sort of work-life balance. It is more than likely that as a Production Coordinator, you will need to be in the office before filming starts and be there after wrap.
Also, having the patience of a saint helps, as you are dealing with a wide range of people, all of different temperaments. To be able to remain calm and patient is a big plus.
What advice would you offer future Coordinators?
Starting out: Try and get as much experience as possible working in a production office. Start off as a production runner and try and work your way up. This means that you will have an overview of everything that goes into the workings of a Drama Production office. You can’t buy good training and advice from experienced Production Secretaries, Production Coordinators and Line Producers.
Be a sponge: Take in as much information and advice (Only good not bad) as you can. Even what you may think as trivial could help you out in a massive way sometime down the line.
Variety: Try and work with a variety of people and productions. Every production office is different. The basis is the same however, every Line Producer has their own way of running the office/production.
Systems: Good to have although not essential basic knowledge of script software Final Draft. Also, you have to be proficient in Microsoft Word and Excel, as a lot of documents are produced using the software.
What do you wish you had known when starting out?
That you can’t be superhuman although everyone expects you to be. You can only do the best you can.
What are your top tips..
- Show enthusiasm and commitment to the job
- Be supportive to your colleagues and be a team player. There’s no room for ‘me, me, me’s’ in a team.
- Don’t pretend that you have more knowledge and experience than you actually have – you’ll be found out. If you don’t know something – Ask for help. People are always willing to help.
- Making an impression – You will make a lot of contacts whilst working in Production however, I’m a great believer in action rather than words. The standard of your work will be what impresses your boss.
- Don’t expect everything to be spoonfed to you: When asked to do something, if you don’t have all the information to hand, do the legwork and research – it’s a better way to learn and also shows initiative.
- Everyone makes mistakes: But it’s how you fix them which is most important!
- Be honest, reliable and professional – you’re only as good as your last job. A good reputation will help you get further work. It’s a very ‘word of mouth’ industry.
- Look after yourself - The long hours the job demands requires you to have good health and stamina. Always make sure you eat properly. It is likely though that like myself, you will pick up some kind of caffeine related addiction.
- Keep Smiling! – the pressure of the job can often make the working environment tense, but above all you need to keep smiling and remember “It’s only Telly”.