How to be a… Production Coordinator
Written by Randy Steinberg | Posted by: Anonymous
The caterers arrive but don’t know where to set up. Production assistants don’t know what their assignments are. The actors are unsure of their call times for the next day’s shooting. Are the necessary permits to film in order? Does the gaffer know where to plug in? There are a million things to know on the set of a film or television production, and it is the job of the production coordinator to know them.
It would be difficult, in the strictest sense, to identify a production coordinator’s duties. On the set of an independent film, where everyone is pitching in the spirit of community (sometimes with deferred payment), the production coordinator can play many roles, from organizing the set and props to picking up food for cast and crew. In a Hollywood production, job functions are more rigidified due to unionization and business schemes, and the production coordinator serves under the production manager to coordinate the various groups and personnel that come together to make a movie.
And then there is the life of a television production coordinator. Not a far cry from the cinema’s incarnation, but there are differences, and Susan Krause, a native of Medfield, Massachusetts, has had over five years experience as a production coordinator in various strata of television programming.
Krause always knew she wanted to work in television and graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1998 with a degree in Communications. "UNH was great, but I got a little lucky in getting an internship at a New Hampshire TV station," Krause says. "If you really want to be a production coordinator, go to a city school like Emerson or Boston University… somewhere with multiple film and television outlets. You’ll meet all sorts of people and make many contacts that can land you that dream-job down the road." She does not attempt to eschew her education at UNH but notes it is not a major media market.
Krause was fortunate to become an intern at Durham, New Hampshire’s Channel 11 shortly after her graduation and got invaluable hands-on experience. At Channel 11, Krause performed many tasks: she helped with set-up, worked the cameras, and arranged crafts and services — anything and everything to ensure successful programming for a variety of shows. She also made a number of contacts. One led to a job in New York City on Court Television’s show "Snap Judgment." From there she went on to work for a number of shows and networks including Noggin TV, The History Channel, MTV, "TV Funhouse," and "Jeopardy!"
"The life of a production coordinator can’t be boiled down to one or two things," Krause says. "Depending on the size and type of production you can wear many hats. The job of a production coordinator, many times, is simply to solve problems before they arise."
"Be flexible and willing to get involved in the different facets that any individual production offers," Krause counsels. At Court TV, Krause helped to write and produce segments for the program "Snap Judgment." At Noggin TV, a sister network to Nickelodeon, she was the Senior Production Assistant and worked to create on-air promotions for children’s programming. For MTV, Krause was on the phone day and night calling cheerleaders across the nation for a reality-style show in which pom-pom waiving teens competed for a title and cash prizes. Over at Comedy Central, she took on the role of a casting director, hiring actors and conducting auditions for puppeteers and voice-over specialists. Then it was on to the History Channel where she coordinated crafts and services and employee schedules for the game show "History IQ." Finally, Krause coordinated the 4000th episode for "Jeopardy!" which aired live from Radio City Music Hall.
Krause’s jobs in New York enabled her to make solid contacts, and several of these helped her to gain rewarding freelance positions including posts at the Independent Film Channel and a personal assistantship to Martin Bregman (the producer of films such as "Scarface" and "Carlito’s Way").
Krause has recently returned to Boston where she hopes to find work in the city’s heavily news-oriented television programming. When asked about a potential move to Los Angeles, the Mecca of the film and television industry, Krause responded with wit, "Some people are East Coast people and some are West Coasters. I’ve had friends who moved to LA, and what they told me was this: the job market is 10 times better for production coordinators. You may love or hate LA, but you’ll always be able to find a job." She adds, "New York is fruitful as well. Viacom is omnipresent and there are a number of talk shows such as ‘Letterman,’ ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘Conan O’Brien.’" But Krause wants to return to her roots and is content, for now, to see what Boston has to offer.
The life of a production coordinator is not always easy or steady. "Many shows get canceled," Krause notes. "You can be working on a great program one week only to discover the next that the network has decided to move in a different direction. Then you’re out there looking for work again." That’s one reason networking and making contacts is vital to the production coordinator’s career. A good relationship forged on the set of one show can lead to a job when work might otherwise seem scarce.
For the student or newcomer looking to break into the business, Krause cannot be more forthright when she states, "Get an internship at a television station or film production company, make contacts, and network."
Whether your goal as a production coordinator is to work on the set of the next Hollywood blockbuster or to pitch in with struggling independents or even to test the waters of television production, Susan Krause’s advice is plain. Her experience and track record demonstrates that with a positive attitude and a good dose of perseverance, earning the title of production coordinator is an achievable goal.
For further comments or advice, Susan Krause can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org