This blog first appeared on the Women’s Film and Television History Network – UK/Ireland website on 22 March 2024.


This week, the nominations for the British Academy Television Awards will be announced. There will be nominations for a range of TV craft roles, including directors, cinematographers, sound recordists and editors, as well as production design, hair and make-up, and costume; there will also be awards for programmes and series falling into a range of genres, with named members of the teams generally including writers and producers. However, there is one category of contributor you will rarely see or hear acknowledged: the line producers and production managers who sit at the epicentre of every production. Their job is to understand every aspect and facilitate the show’s journey from script, or pitch, to screen. They are the people who make it all happen but are seldom noticed: the Cinderellas who never get to go to the ball.

Production managers, on the whole, are not an especially self-promoting bunch, and the fact that they rarely get to bask in the public acclaim awarded to their colleagues is something they are used to. What they do take issue with, however, is a widespread lack of professional respect, which too many of them encounter in their working lives. The negative or dismissive attitudes they encounter are one reason why the industry has struggled, over recent years, to recruit people into production management roles and to retain the experienced production managers they have.

Our report, released this month, examines the experiences of people working in production management roles in UK television and seeks to identify the key reasons behind the production management skills gap.

Fig. 1: ‘Where have all the PMs gone?’, a report by Christa van Raalte, Rowan Aust, Richard Wallis, and Dawid Pekalski.

Our participants told us that they often find themselves undervalued, underestimated, and underpaid compared to equivalent roles in other departments, with staff experiencing a lack of appreciation and respect from employers and co-workers. Their invisibility at awards ceremonies is frequently echoed in other contexts, including within the day-to-day world of television work. Too often, their critical contribution remains invisible to colleagues unless something goes wrong. Indeed, many of their colleagues have only the foggiest idea of what it is they actually do!

Participants further reported that they and their teams were overloaded, under-resourced and expected to ‘mop up’ extra responsibilities without any additional resources or compensation. Production management staff were expected to work excessively long hours and to be ‘always on’, resulting in a poor work-life balance and unhealthy lifestyle.

We found that these issues were facilitated and exacerbated by a corrosive cultural divide between production management staff and the more ‘creative’ editorial teams. This divide negatively impacted effective programme-making and individual experiences of work in the industry. We also found that this divide had a distinctly gendered dimension, with some 85% of people working in production management being women.

In this respect, production managers can be seen as heirs to the many women described by Erin Hill in her history of the industry, the patronisingly named ‘script girls’ and ‘[for development]-girls’, who historically took on roles in film production that were not attractive to men, dealing with the endless, unrecognised support work that ‘swirled around creative endeavours’ (2016: 4-5). Like these women, academic researchers have neglected production managers, with only the occasional mention, even in scholarship focused on women’s experiences in the screen industries, again mirroring their invisibility at those award ceremonies.

So, when you watch the BAFTAs or read the enthusiastic flurry of news coverage and social media debate that surrounds them, please spare a thought for the invisible folk, not on stage and often not even on the guest list, without whom none of the creative input of their colleagues would ever make it to the screen.


Dr Christa van Raalte is Associate Professor of Film and Television and Head of the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP), in the Faculty of Media and Communications at Bournemouth University. She researches working conditions and management practices in the UK screen industries and has published a number of article and industry reports on these topics. She has also published on issues of gender, age and aesthetics in the Hollywood action film and narrative strategies in complex TV.