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Documentary Producer Career Profile

Do you want to work as a documentary producer?

READ: This page helps you read about the career and the information you need to decide whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.
RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.
PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED:

29 April 2024

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What is a documentary producer?

An animal documentary producer is a professional responsible for overseeing the production of documentaries that focus on animals, wildlife, and nature. These producers play a crucial role in conceptualizing, planning, managing, and executing documentary projects that aim to educate, entertain, and inspire audiences about the natural world.

POF Art 6

Alternative Names

Alternative names for an animal documentary producer may vary depending on the specific focus or context of their work. Some alternative titles or roles that encompass aspects of producing documentaries related to animals include:

  • Wildlife Documentary Producer
  • Nature Documentary Producer
  • Animal Film Producer
  • Wildlife Film Producer
  • Conservation Documentary Producer
  • Natural History Documentary Producer
  • Environmental Documentary Producer
  • Wildlife Media Producer
  • Wildlife Program Producer
  • Wildlife Content Producer

These alternative names reflect the diverse roles, specialties, and applications within the field of producing documentaries focused on animals, wildlife, and nature.

First Documentary?

The first wildlife documentary was The Birth of the Flower by Emile Cohl in 1903, which was a time-lapse film of a flower growing

The Famous?

Sir David Attenborough is a British broadcaster, biologist, writer, and naturalist who is considered one of the most famous wildlife documentary producers

What does an Animal Documentary Producer do?

Category:

Media / Education / Marine Conservation / Wildlife Conservation

Focus:

The primary focus of a documentary producer is to oversee the editing and post-production work of a documentary by gathering existing footage and other production elements like photos, documents etc and writing a script outline, and putting it all together.

Daily Tasks:

  • manage a large production crew
  • hire and appoint members of the technical crew and cast
  • secure or procure finance
  • research subject of documentary, including animals
  • arrange setup of crew, including cameras
  • shoot documentary
  • oversee post-production
  • oversee marketing and screening of documentary
  • Administration and filing

Where they work:

Environment –

Although documentary producers are more engaged indoors, within an office or production studio, they may also do research and oversee filming in the outdoors.

Places of Employment –

Most documentary producers work privately, under contract for various clients. They can also be employed by TV and film production houses, conservation organizations, universities and governments.

Average Salary:

As most producers are self employed, their income is based on obtaining contracts. On average the income per year of those fully employed is around $55,000. This will differ from country to country.

Difficulties:

The most difficult part is always to get your work seen by future clients. They may also work long hours and over weekends and holidays to finish work within tight deadlines.

​Future growth and Possibilities:

The growth of documentary producers is good (around 5% per year), but there is a lot of competition. Combining conservation initiatives with wildlife documentaries is showing some positive growth.

3. Which Skills are required?

The skills required for a career as a documentary producer can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship

Career Skills:

  • ​Good business knowledge
  • Good video editing skills
  • Basic customer service skills
  • Good health and physical fitness
  • Excellent computer literacy 
Life Skills
40%
Career Skills
60%

4. Which Subjects must I have at School?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

5. What will I need to Study?

Minimum Requirements:

The minimum requirements is an excellent College Diploma, with most producers following a Bachelor’s Degree.

Focus:

Major –

With subjects in line with film production, digital editing, business management or marketing.

Short Courses –

Especially in the use of documentary producing software.

Duration:

The duration of Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

Possible Career Preparation Paths:

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Possible Combined Career Paths:

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping Stone Career:

Although most students that want to follow the path of becoming a documentary producer, are doing so because they are passionate about the career, being an documentary producer can also be used later as a stepping stone career.

A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high tertiary fees etc).

You can begin as an intern producer, and the money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.

Some of the possible paths:

Training and apprenticeship:

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a producer will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior producer or expert.

Join the Documentary Producers Group in STEP 8 to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of those entering the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

6. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.

Learn more about requirements by joining OZT in STEP 8.

Professional Associations:

7. Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards filmmaking.

Documentary Producer Career_opt

8. Join the OZT community

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a documentary producer.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Documentary Producer, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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Career Profiles and Resources

Career Mentors are Members who assist by volunteering to keep each Career Page factual and current, while mentoring Students in the related Career Group.

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Contributions by expert members are always appreciated to allow the Students to make informed decisions. Please add your contribution through the attached Form:

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List of Career Mentors/Educators who have contributed to this Career info:

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