Production Coordinators have a wide-ranging role to ensure the smooth running of a production. Their many duties include liaising between departments, creating contracts and coordinating cast and crew at all levels.
Production Office Coordinator
How To Become a Production Coordinator
What Exactly Does a Production Coordinator Do?
Beatriz Chahin, Production Coordinator on NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, explains that the production department is at the heart of every show, film and television series. She describes it as “a customer service team” – people come to them for the lowdown on anything and everything, and they need to distribute that information (daily paperwork, announcements, etc.) so everyone is aware of what’s happening, and the show runs like clockwork. Production Coordinators liaise with every department on the show, including many on the studio and network side.
Every day is fresh: “I love that there’s no typical day when you work in production! When I’m assigned to the early shift, morning paperwork arrives from set the previous day in a file called ‘The Football’ (because it bounces back and forth between set and the office). Alongside the Production Supervisor, we delegate the day’s tasks as needed – it could be a run/errand to the studio, or helping out other departments with a more complicated week.” Chahin also communicates with guest cast members and Stunt Performers, creating their contracts, and ensuring they have the latest script. It’s the range of roles she enjoys: “I work with the legal counsel on the show, making sure production clearances are in order. I’m also the point person when it comes to Brooklyn Nine-Nine publicity – if a media outlet wants to interview or observe, I coordinate with our crew to make sure it runs smoothly.”
To become a Production Coordinator, Chahin offers clear advice: “There’s a clear track once you start working, and that is to enter the production office. Once you’re in as an Office Production Assistant, you either move up to Production Secretary and/or Line Producer’s Assistant. Beyond that, your goal is to join the union (Local 871 in Los Angeles) by becoming an Assistant Production Coordinator. The next step up is Production Coordinator.”
Chahin is advancing up the production ladder, with the ultimate goal of line producing in television. Is that the same for all her peers? She confirms, “It’s quite common that, by the time you become a Production Coordinator, most of your contemporaries are on a similar track, with the majority either looking to line produce, become a Creative Producer or work as a Production Executive.”
Education & Training
Chahin explains, “I think training for production is a combination of many things. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a double major in Radio-Television-Film & Communication Studies: Corporate Communication. Practically, working in production, you have to communicate with people in disparate jobs at different levels — I feel any training program that teaches you how to deal with a wide range of people is ideal. Most colleges or universities offer Communication, English or Media degrees, and those are all perfect foundations.”
Chahin also recommends getting your hands dirty. She explains that internships are an unparalleled way to earn hands-on experience that you can only really learn on the job. “The great thing about internships is they can be done anywhere — most cities have their own public access channels or news stations,” she adds. “They’re also a great way to start building your network, which opens more doors in the long run.”
Beyond that, Chahin recommends casting the net wide. After her internships, she submitted her resumé everywhere and anywhere: “Truly, I sent over 200 emails.” She started working on an indie feature, then a temporary Assistant job turned permanent, which she then left on acceptance of a one-year career development experience at NBC (on the NBCUniversal Page Program). Chahin then entered the NBC family and has progressed there ever since.
What skills do you need to be a Production Coordinator?
Chahin is careful to reiterate: “Internships or any sort of volunteer experience are vital to getting your foot in the door as a Production Assistant, and to show potential employers your interest in the business.” So, although there isn’t any specific qualification or special skill needed, any prior production experience is a huge plus.
“If you’re a helpful, organized and methodical person, this is the route for you,” explains Chahin. She notes that team players and amenable people progress the fastest. She adds, “Though it sounds like common sense, asking when you’re going to be done for the day (we never really know), and not being flexible and understanding are all factors that won’t help you advance.”
Days can be long in the production department. “Twelve-hour days are the norm,” Chahin clarifies. “The days really depend on the series; some shows actually shoot Tuesday to Saturday, so Sunday and Monday are off-days. In that case, crews are working every weekend. When you’re in prep (before a season starts) or in wrap (after the season ends), the hours are a more conventional 9 to 5.
The work/life balance can be challenging, but Chahin insists it is possible, working within the confines of the show. The best advice she offers is to figure out what really puts a smile on your face (aside from the business), and try to make time every day to do it. “A little goes a long way, and helps you stay connected to your life outside of work.”
Chahin recommends any Assistant or PA role as a solid start for anyone looking to take the Production Coordinator route. Chahin says, “While I was in college, I worked for New Student Services (Orientation Program), and I feel a lot of those skills were transferable – speaking to various people in different positions, scheduling, planning, and management/leadership skills.”
How Much Does a Production Coordinator make?
First, Chahin explains that you usually become salaried once you are a Production Coordinator. However, anyone who works in production on shows or features is considered freelance. She adds, “It varies depending on the series, studio, your specific experience and how long you’ve been with a show. Our earnings aren’t set annually – it really depends on the length of your show, and what other pilots or projects you are on. You might have different rates on different productions.”
Unions, Groups & Associations
Chahin urges everyone to check the film commission website for your state/city – these are rich resources to find out what’s going on where you live. “Often you’ll find job and internship listings just down the street from you!” In terms of unions, Local names vary depending on their location in the country. For example, the union for Production Coordinators in Los Angeles is IATSE Local 871.
- Create your own work. Get out in your local community and get your hands dirty by making your own productions.
- See if there’s a way to shadow someone for a day at your local TV station.
- For college, or even high school projects, make your research papers film or TV-centric.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Keep working at it! It might take a while to get your first Office PA job, but as you build experience in the industry, take what you learn with you until you land that first PA gig.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“I’ve seen people use the production ladder as a ‘place-holder’ for what they really want to do – that’s a mistake because as you continue to progress in any department, people tend to see you in that role, and it becomes harder to get to where you want to go, if that’s not production.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“The work-life balance question! Sometimes it’s a real shock to people.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
- 1Multiple. "Production Coordinator Salaries in United States". Glassdoor. published: Dec 11, 2019. retrieved on: Dec 12, 2019
Beatriz Chahin is originally from Katy, TX, and expressed an interest in working in film and television at a very early age. She made her way to Los Angeles via the University of Texas’ L.A. Program during her final school semester. Since finding physical production to be her passion, she has worked on many critically-acclaimed television shows, including NBC’s Go On and HBO’s The Newsroom. She also produced a multiple award-winning short film, Killed In Action. She is currently the Production Coordinator on NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in addition to freelance producing on upcoming independent projects.