Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

3 Tips for TV Line Producing


The other day I sat in on an inspirational conversation with the Line Producer of a popular half-hour comedy television show. The Line Producer is the person who “tows the line” of the budget, meaning she makes sure episodes are delivered on time and on budget. I won’t get into everything she said because they’re too specific to television production, but here are a few universal nuggets:

“Coming under budget is a bad thing because it means you’re producing scared.”

When you have a budget and deliver the episode way under, it means you’re not very good at your job. You over-estimated how much things would cost originally (i.e. inflated the budget). Then you committed the cardinal sin of not using all your resources on the screen. The studio wants a great show, a hit show. If you deliver $10,000 over budget you won’t get in trouble. If you deliver $100,000 under budget, you will.

“Line producing is like playing 3-D chess in space with math.”
As a line producer, your job is to protect the showrunner’s vision, protect the studio’s money, and keep your crew happy. You’re the one who signs the checks, so you better be sure you’re responsible for them. You have to be great with numbers, great at solving problems and managing people. You have to be comfortable making big decisions and small decisions. You also have to be willing to use the carrot and the stick.

“To be a good line producer, you must have self esteem.”
No one will believe your words if you don’t. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities. You should be able to go home and sleep well at night, not worry about your work. This isn’t to say things don’t come up. They will. But feel confident in your decisions and know that whatever happens, you know how to fix it. Believe your words.

At the end of the lecture, she mentioned having been inspired by the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken.

Here it is:

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Happy creating!

Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

2 thoughts on “3 Tips for TV Line Producing

  1. great post and great poem by Maestro Frost – it has been years since I read this. I thank the producer who mentioned it to you and to you for posting it here. I read your post to my son last night about your “Love of the Cinema”. He really enjoyed it. He was curious to know where you went to film school – i told him I would ask, but it may be a personal question – so, please – I apologize if I am asking something personal. It is so exciting watching him get excited about college and especially film production. we just moved and I moved his Entertainment Weekly Magazines – all of them since 2000! Talk about a back breaker. He has been reading Rolling Stone and now he is into Variety. It is cute!

    By the way – I really do enjoy your posts – I love the one about your pooch – I am afraid I have not much to contribute – mine is a bit of a spoiled princess – thanks to her father. we co-parented her until he passed away last year and now she lives with us full time. All I can say is my life would be miserable without her (my boys spend half of their time with their dad) – and the comic relief she provides. and she can be a pain in the buttocks – but we love her. have a wonderful friday night and a great Mom’s Day. I am sure you will be getting lots of licks:)

    • Hi there, I was offline most of the weekend. I went to Temple U for undergrad and USC for grad. That is very cute that your son reads Variety! Tell him to read deadline.com too. That’s the new source for media news.

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