A production company is generally involved in producing either recorded or live entertainment. It might be responsible for booking and overseeing live rock shows, for instance. Alternately, most think of this type of company as involved in funding, helping to facilitate the making of, and distributing films and/or television programs.
Most often, the production company for films and television provides the money, and thus sets the budget, and may also make decisions on what director, and actors can be hired. Budget often makes other decisions possible or impossible. A low budget film may not be able to be filmed in a remote location, for example.
The company may also come attached with certain actors, directors, or film editors and photographers. Often this is especially the case when it belongs to a major studio, like Touchstone Pictures, which belongs to Disney. Directors who have contracts with Touchstone are more likely to be offered jobs produced by Touchstone.
Sometimes actors choose to form a production company to pursue their own artistic goals. For example, actress Drew Barrymore has had success with her small company, Flower Films. She has produced popular films like Fever Pitch, Charlie’s Angels and 50 First Dates.
Some actors will share producing credits with a production company. This tends to mean that they have contributed some of their own funds to the project. Generally, however, the company handles things like hiring extras, dealing with legal issues related to filming and labor, and editing the film.
If a production company is not attached to a studio, it may have to work hard after the film is made to get it distributed by a studio. Art and independent films often have the most difficulty in this area, as they may not be widely distributed. Some films may only be marketed to video, or may be marketed to television instead. In most cases, films are made with the help of a production company that can well afford to distribute the film.
A production company that works producing live shows may work specific to an area. For example, Bill Graham Presents was one of the biggest San Francisco Bay Area production companies for a long time, prior to Graham’s death. This company would work on booking, make arrangements for accommodating sound and visual needs, and hire people to staff theaters for certain performances.
Often, having a show produced by Bill Graham essentially meant one had “arrived” as a performer, since usually only big names got the Bill Graham treatment. It was very hard to get booking at large venues in the San Francisco area without working with Graham’s company.
However, big acts generally had their own producers, which had to interface with any local companies in order to satisfy the talent on a tour. A production company for a live act might include the roadies, directors, sound people and art designers. They actually helped “produce” the show people would watch unfold live.