Production Designer Vs. Production Manager

Production designers and production managers both work on movies and television shows, but there are few other commonalities between their main responsibilities. Read more to learn about the duties, salaries and expected growth in these two entertainment careers.

Comparing Production Designers to Production Managers

Production designers and production managers typically have years of experience creating entertaining media, and they work on many different projects over the span of their careers. The former focuses more on making sure films and plays are effective for viewers, while the latter is interested in budgeting and scheduling for films, television, and radio broadcasts.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Production Designers Bachelor's Degree $46,728 11% (Set and Exhibit Designers)
Production Managers Bachelor's Degree $62,757 12% (Producers and Directors)

Sources: *Payscale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Production Designers vs. Production Managers

These professionals keep the process running smoothly for delivering entertainment, either by conveying artistic decisions or by taking part in production meetings. Production designers may have a budget to allocate for members of the art department, but production managers track this spending to keep the whole project on budget. Similarly, production designers focus on the look and feel of the media. Production managers, however, help find the funding for the building materials the designers will need.

Production Designers

Production designers work with producers, directors, and writers to establish the physical world of a movie, television show, or stage production. They supervise the art department, including sets, costumes, lighting, and makeup. Based on the script and the director's dream for it, these artists develop the atmosphere that will draw audiences. They pull ideas from books, photographs, and films to design concept art, which is then used by costume makers, as well as prop and set builders. The colors they choose, as well as the composition of possible camera shots, help add to the mood of the production. Additionally, they sometimes scout filming locations that fit a particular story or decide what sets will be built in a studio.

Job responsibilities of a production designer include:

  • Establishing a budget for the art department based on building, wardrobe, and camera materials
  • Helping to design computer generated images for characters or backdrops in films
  • Studying the time period or foreign location to ensure the visual elements of the film or play are correct
  • Performing quality control checks on lighting and makeup to make sure actors look as intended through the camera or on stage

Production Managers

Production managers focus on the budget and spending related to creating a film, play, or radio show. They negotiate contracts with production crew members, including camera operators, set designers, and stage managers. In fact, these managers may even decide ways to utilize one individual for multiple jobs to keep cost down. When it comes to hiring the talent, production managers work with agents to agree on the actors' contracts as well. Once the script is selected, they may be responsible for gaining copyrights to characters and stories before the project can continue. Additionally, permits may be needed to shoot on certain locations or to complete some elements of filming, including pyrotechnics, and it is the job of production managers to procure these.

Job responsibilities of a production manager include:

  • Checking that cast and crew members are insured and remain safe
  • Scheduling the cast for shooting or for rehearsals
  • Completing weekly cost reports for different departments
  • Finding the cheapest suppliers for production materials, such as wood, fabric, and lighting

Related Careers

You could look into a career as an art director if you're interested in becoming a production designer, because both work with aesthetically engaging projects. Additionally, if you're curious about a job as a production manager, you could explore a career as a producer, as both may work to finance movies.

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