An associate producer essentially works as an assistant producer, performing various tasks and duties on a movie production at the behest of the producer himself. The title can be somewhat confusing considering the numerous different types of producers recognised by the PGA (Producers Guild of America). The salary involved depends upon the project, and on the specifics of the associate producer's contract.
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An associate producer is usually someone who has played a significant part in the creative process. An associate producer helps to develop the script, works with the publicity department on marketing ideas, manages the post-production process and the like under the auspices of the producer. The producer will often delegate responsibilities to an associate producer in cases where he or she is too busy to handle them all. Their work is typically vital, but it is usually too specialised or focused in one area to merit an executive producer or producer credit.
The various duties of an associate producer depend on the particular skill set of the individual. Those with writing expertise will often be assigned story editor or script consultant duties (and many of them started as story editors themselves). Those with an eye for money will assist with the finances of a production, managing accounts and ensuring that the funding stays in place. If they have experience with post-production, they may oversee the editing process or the addition of special effects if necessary. It all depends on the individual and the particular production they are involved in.
Associate producers require many of the skill sets that other management positions need. They must be strong communicators with an ability to motivate the people beneath them. They need to have a keen understanding of the film making process, particularly the aspects they are directly involved in, and should be able to discern which issues are important enough to bring to the producer's attention. Because film making is a creative process, the associate producer must sometimes work with sensitive, temperamental people and should know how to set them at ease and help them do their best within the given time constraints. In more general terms, the associate producer must serve as an all-around troubleshooter: identifying problems, proposing solutions and implementing them as smoothly and painlessly as possible.
Most producers in Hollywood belong to the PGA, or Producers Guild of America. It is not strictly a union, as associate producers may work without belonging to the group, but they perform many of the functions associated with unions. The PGA assists members with contracts (though they do not act as agents), makes credit available, posts leads for jobs and help members interact more readily with fellow producers. As of early 2009, there are no set rules for associate producer fees from the PGA. They do not dictate any minimums or maximums, and cannot negotiate on behalf of an associate producer for pay.
Instead, associate producers themselves must determine their pay rate based on the personal service contract they sign when they go to work for a particular production. Specific rates vary by individual producers, by the size of the production they sign on for, and by the particular work they may be expected to do. In addition, producers are creative people, and may agree to a pay cut if it means working on a project they care very deeply about. As of 2009, the average pay rate for associate producers is about £40,300 a year, subject to the ups and downs of employment which all entertainment workers experience.