What Does a Unit Production Manager Do?

Unit production manager and director on film set

Filmmaking isn’t a job to be taken lightly. It is an intensive process that demands a great deal of energy. Having an education in video production helps create an important wealth of knowledge, which every film crew needs. In many cases, this is where a unit production manager comes in.

When it comes to filmmaking, certain roles stand out more than others. Everyone knows about producers and directors, however you may not recognize the unit production manager. The unit production manager has a number of duties that make them vital to the film. Let’s explore how this critical role is essential to any film production.

What is a Unit Production Manager?

To begin, a unit production manager (also known as the UPM) is the primary administrator on a film set. This position can often be confused with what a line producer does. A line producer creates the entire budget for the movie and details all expenses. On the other hand, the UPM puts the plan in motion. This role also reports to the Line Producer.

The role of the UPM got its name due to a designation from the Directors Guild of America making it the top position when it comes to “below the line” costs that all film productions will have.

“Below the line” refers to the separation of production costs between the cast, script writers, the director and producers from the rest of the film crew. These costs are sorted out before principal photography takes place. The UPM associates with the first unit, and the second unit has its own production manager.

Responsibilities and Duties

A unit production manager also prepares for breakdowns and creates a preliminary shooting schedule. Through this process, they must also consider the production’s budget.

The Many Tasks of a UPM

The UPM’s tasks also include handling new hires for the production crew and may also negotiate deals with filming locations. A unit production manager also reviews the day’s production script at the end of the day. During this time, the UPM checks and ensures that everything was sufficient and no future obstacles are anticipated.

The UPM and Budgets

Depending on the size of the production, this could allow the unit production manager to enlist the services of a production accountant to keep an eye on the funds coming out of escrow for the shoot and to give a heads up if there are potential funding issues. Smaller shoots mean that the UPM assumes this as another one of their duties.

Lodging and Transportation

The UPM also cares for transportation and lodging for the cast and crew. The UPM works to keep everyone on schedule in order for the film. At the same time, the UPM communicates with producers and executives as filming takes place.

This kind of work requires the unit production manager to be on call constantly. The UPM also divides divide their time between the set and the offices of the company producing the project.

How Many Hours Does a UPM Work?

A UPM works an average of 80-100 hours a week during a film production. If this number sounds excessive, it’s because the UMP helps to protect the artistic vision of the film. They are present all the way to the end of principal photography and if needed, for any re-shoots that could be required afterwards by the producers.

Want to Learn More?

Being a unit production manager involves decision-making, planning, patience and endurance. But it’s one role on a film that provides great thrills and satisfaction during and after a film shoot takes place. If you’d like to learn more, take a moment to check out IPR’s Digital Video & Media Production Program.

Contact us today to learn more about the digital video and media production program and starting a rewarding career in the film industry.