“What’s the difference between a lead Producer and a Producer?”

Here’s a question from a reader that wouldn’t have even been a question a few decades ago.  In the days of David Merrick, there weren’t 142 names above the title, all calling themselves producers.  There was one, maybe two or three, and everyone knew who was wearing the top hat in that relationship.

Times have changed, as shows have gotten more expensive.  Producers have given up big pieces of profit, as well as diluted the strength of the title of Producer, in exchange for making sure shows still happen (laugh all you want about the umpteen producers above-the-title on Spring Awakening, but without them, that show never would have happened, and we all would have missed out on something spectacular).

Amongst those many names, there is one person who is now affectionately referred to as the Lead Producer.

But just what does this person do?

Well, as with most positions in the theater, the Lead Producer’s list of duties changes depending on the person and the project.

Generally speaking, the Lead Producer is the person that is not only driving the ship, but he or she is usually the person who convinced everyone to get on board in the first place.  The Lead is the explorer, the Columbus, if you will, that says, “I’ve got an idea and I need help to get where I want to go. Who’s with me?  I need money.  I need a staff.  Who’s up for the craziest journey ever?  We could die, or we could discover the new world!”

Along the way, the Lead can help with the development of the script, bring in additional partners, hire the General Manager and primary vendors.  The Lead calls the shots, consulting as he or she goes, with the other Producers.

To put this into business terms, imagine the LP as the Chairman of the Board, who has a bunch of board members (the other Producers) who chime in on big decisions.

But at the end of the day, it’s the Lead’s ship.

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  • Eric says:

    So then, I think the obvious follow-up question is — on which shows have you been the LP? Clearly ‘Altar Boyz’… but what role have you played in the others shows for which you have the producer credit?

  • Ozhan says:

    I agree definitely, a lead is the brave one who can take risks and make others follow.

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