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“It’s exhausting but fun.”

No, I didn’t say that about being a PA. That’s Jane Espenson, talking about “producing.”

I produced a sitcom pilot in film school. I asked my professor what, exactly, was a producer’s job. My professor said, “The producer is the guy who, when something goes wrong, fixes it, even if it means picking up a screwdriver and doing it yourself.” He happened to be, at that very moment, fixing something with a screwdriver. He was a simple man.

His simple declaration was one of the most important things I learned in that class (that, and the fact that I’m a terrible producer). But deciding who is a producer is not always that simple. Studio executives, script doctors, and, God help us, managers have all tried to lay claim to the title, despite the Producers Guild’s best efforts.

But nothing violates my erstwhile professor’s dictum more than a television series. The show I’m working on now has no less than a dozen folks with “producer” in their title– we have Producers, Executive Producers, Co-Producers, Co-Executive Producers, Supervising Producers, and Associate Producers.

About two of those people actually fit the definition of a real producer. Most of them are writers with enough experience to demand a cooler title. Of the eight writers on the show, only one has the word “writer” in her title.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our writing staff. They do a great job, and work long, long hours. But the work they do is writing, not producing.

At least, that’s what it seems like, from the perspective of one production assistant.

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