In the most general terms, a film producer is responsible for the entire production of a film from its inception through its completion. The producer supervises all phases of production (development, pre-production, principal photography, post-production) and oversees or actively participates in a film's conceptualization, financing, budget controls, casting, and director and crew selection. The producer can also contribute significantly to a film's marketing and distribution. The producer's work is, at its core, managerial, administrative, financial, and creative. It is crucial to the realization of any film.

The work of the film producer has always been multifaceted and often difficult to define, particularly when compared with those of other major talents involved in filmmaking. Actors act; screenwriters write; directors work with the actors on staging and with cinematographers on camera placement and movement; cinematographers light and shoot films; editors cut them. In the case of the producer, by contrast, the range of responsibilities varies depending on the country, industry, studio, or production company in which the producer works and on the personal working habits of the producer. This elasticity of definition applies to the producer's work even today to the extent that the Producers Guild of America (PGA) has created a Producer's Code of Credits to help establish a system for awarding credit to film and television producers.

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