Before starting to produce your independent film, it’s important to plan everything out to make sure you have enough hands on deck to fulfill all necessary responsibilities.

If you’re ready to start producing your own film, you know how many responsibilities there really are.

Someone who can help you to alleviate the stress of these responsibilities is a unit production manager (UPM). 

The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady
The Film Fund Podcast: Colleen Brady

In simple terms, their job is to help oversee production and make sure that during production, you and your crew are sticking to the budget and remain on task. The UPM works closely with the 1st Assistant Director (AD).

This is an extremely valuable person to have on set, though it can be difficult to fit their position into your budget if you’re working independently with a predictably low budget.

Let’s go over some pros and cons of hiring a unit production manager.

Pros of Hiring a UPM

Alleviate a lot of stress

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Two of their primary responsibilities are overseeing your film’s budget and making sure you stay on schedule in conjunction with the AD. These are two enormous responsibilities when filming. 

If you have someone helping you out who can take the lead on these responsibilities, it will help you exponentially. If you don’t have to worry about those responsibilities, you can allow your focuses to fall toward other important things, like making sure the reality of your film matches the vision that you have in your head.

Your UPM will set standards on set to be followed, such as the schedule, which will give structure to the set and lend a positive direction for production to follow.

Another brain to bounce ideas off of

"together, we create" film fund

Even though a unit production manager fills more of a business than a creative role, they are there to be of assistance to you.

If you run into a problem, they are a key resource for you to go to and they will be more than happy to help you bring your vision to life.

They will bring their own creative advice and solutions to your production and will serve as another brain if you need help coming up with alternative ideas to bringing your production to the big screen.

Resource for your crew

Not only is your unit production manager a resource to you, they’re a resource to your crew as well.

If there are any disagreements on set, before the issue comes to you, it can go to the UPM.

They are also a logistical resource as well. If anyone on set has any questions regarding finances or scheduling, they have a direct resource to go to before needing to bring the issue to you.

Cons of hiring a UPM

It is costly

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Even though your production manager is managing your budget, you must make sure you have enough money in it to pay this individual for their services.

If you’re creating an independent film, it is likely you don’t have a large budget. That is something to think about when considering whether or not you want this extra set of hands on your production. 

It can limit your creative vision

Since you’re working independently, you could be very protective over your work and it could be difficult to have someone else’s vision imparted upon your own.

Even if the individual is well-intentioned, their responsibilities are wide and could take a lot of creative choices out of your hands and put them into theirs.

UPMs can slow down work flow

Bringing in a unit production manager means adding another person to coordinate your schedule with and another body on set.

Because everybody has their own individual vision for how something will flow or for the best way to execute something, having this extra person could potentially slow work flow as you will have to come up with compromises regarding the best ways to execute things.

UPMs are typically for larger productions

Typically, only larger productions, like features, utilize unit production managers since features have significantly more moving parts.

Although your independent short film is still a large undertaking, it is less so than a feature and may not actually require the assistance of UPM, despite your desire for the extra hands and brain power.

Hiring is time consuming

Not only does hiring a unit production manager add an extra expense, but it also takes time out of your busy schedule to find someone suitable for the job and someone you know will perform it well.

Even though it may be easiest to have one person filling the role of a UPM, the role that they fill is administrative, and if need be, it can be fulfilled by various other crew members who are already on set and not expecting a significantly larger pay increase for the work they are going to be putting in.

If you’re looking to produce your own independent film, check out our contests on our website for opportunities to win funding for your own film!

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