Star as Exec Producer?
August 10, 2011 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Why are many TV shows giving the lead an Executive Producer credit?

It seems that on a lot of the shows I watch -- The Big C, Breaking Bad, Web Therapy, and Burn Notice, among others -- the lead actor/actress gets a credit as Executive Producer. I read the 2004 question on what the EP actually does (equivalent to the CEO, the one who Makes Stuff Happen) so I get that, but what is behind the trend of the lead taking this role? Is it vanity? Control? Money?
posted by Zhai to Media & Arts (12 answers total)
"Sometimes an actor, director, or producer will financially invest in a film he or she is making. In this case the investor will carry the title of executive producer in addition to their normal credit of actor, director, etc.

Anyone with enough money to invest can become an executive producer. This title does not require experience of any kind, or input into the process."

What is an executive producer?
posted by plokent at 10:36 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of times it's an incentive to get that star attached to the project which helps to sell the show to the network.
posted by cazoo at 10:37 AM on August 10, 2011

It is also another way to pay the star and not upset the salary balance among cast members. It is another stream of income.
posted by AugustWest at 10:40 AM on August 10, 2011

you'll notice drew barrymore produces/executive produces a lot of her projects. there's a million examples of this and sometimes you'll notice one of the stars getting an executive producer credit shortly after a discussion about whether to cancel or not to cancel.
posted by nadawi at 10:41 AM on August 10, 2011

which is to say - they start investing in the show and it can stay on the air (or like augustwest says - it can be another revenue stream)
posted by nadawi at 10:42 AM on August 10, 2011

I really liked this article about it as an incentive for actors. I was curious after reading about Lauren Graham got executive producer credits the final season of Gilmore Girls as an incentive to stay.
posted by Zophi at 10:43 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Note the difference between and executive producer and a producer, as alluded to above.

"Anyone with enough money to invest can become an executive producer" is correct- it is a fancy word for "investor."

Producers, on the other hand, make high-level creative decisions about the project- who to hire, that sort of thing. If an actor is credited as a producer, it may mean they wanted more input into the overall course of the show/movie. Or it can just be a way to give someone another credit or more money, and they may not actually do anything production-wise.

Or, as someone mentioned, it can just be a way to attach famous names: "From the producers of Car Crash 7...."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:04 AM on August 10, 2011

There's a great exchange from State and Main:

"What's an associate producer credit?"
"It's what you give to your secretary instead of a raise."

That goes for EP as well. It may indicate that a star is actively involved in the creative direction/production duties...or it may just mean that the star wanted the title for vanity reasons.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:06 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ken Levine (who has some experience in this world) has blogged about this.

You'll notice that these credits usually show up after a show has renegotiated contracts/become successful. I believe this is because they are given this credit as part of that process. It's not so much about $$ going in to the production (as is the traditional case with a producer, especially in movies) but instead about the star getting more $$ in the backend and in the future (they get a set salary as the star, but a certain percentage of future profits - in DVD sales or syndication deals -- as a producer), and as Levine says, also more creative control.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:06 AM on August 10, 2011

(the only source on my info above was also, weirdly (though maybe not considering the often overlapping TV tastes here) Lauren Graham from the Gilmore Girls)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:08 AM on August 10, 2011

I had always figured there was some additional residuals/syndication/dvd money that went to someone with a producer credit as well as an acting credit, so that it was a way to provide more deferred compensation.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:10 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

This was mentioned on Jay Mohr's new podcast (which has been excellent 5 episodes in), when talking about his sitcom Gary Unmarried. He had an Executive Producer title, as did his manager; in his description, this allowed them to essentially have two voices in the business discussions - but obviously they couldn't save the show. Jay also said it allowed his manager to play the part of "bad guy" for some decisions that might not be popular among the cast and crew.
posted by shinynewnick at 1:22 PM on August 10, 2011

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