Most often referred to in the entertainment industry, the unit production manager (UPM) is instrumental in overseeing entire performance projects like theatrical plays, feature films, independent films or television programming (scripted or reality TV). Successful production managers have a broad knowledge of technical aspects of production including camera work, editing and lighting. A UPM manages production assistants, and reports to the line producer.
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The UPM typically performs a variety of tasks. One of his major functions is to safeguard against overspending on a film, television or theatre project. Along with managing budgets, the UPM also maintains production schedules. She handles issues that may arise on the set, with production equipment or regarding safety regulations and union standards.
For the UPM, experience in the production field is just as important, if not more, than formal education. However, it can be beneficial if a UPM has taken coursework in related fields like broadcast journalism, television and film or communications. Either through classes or by observing professional production environments as an intern, the aspiring UPM ideally understands basic functions of film or television editing and lighting technique, as his duties touch upon all aspects of production.
First and foremost, a UPM must be able to communicate and articulate effectively. Production management requires one who can delegate tasks consistently, clearly and constantly. The ideal UPM is professional and calm in any situation, and feels comfortable asking questions in order to address problems pertaining to production schedules, talent, budget or oversights. A unit production manager must be patient, willing to work with a variety of people, maintain positive outlooks and possess high attention to detail.
Though a UPM's job is highly instrumental to a film or television project, work is often not permanent, and can be precarious due to constant changes among studio projects. According to Education-Portal.com, a UPM can expect to earn anywhere from £26,214 to £51,099 in film and TV, or between £21,375 and £34,580 in theatre. Salaries are likely higher (generally) for jobs out of Los Angeles.
A UPM is always a stronger candidate for landing projects if he is willing to relocate. Many film and television projects are based in Los Angeles or New York, while a lot of theatre work happens in Chicago and even Las Vegas. Film and television locations can change quickly, however. Theatre shows can go on tour. Successful production managers follow the work where it may lead, which ultimately offers more enjoyable careers.
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