Posted May 8, 2014, By Nathan Eyers, Operations Director
Easier said than done, but worth the investment I can assure you. Any production will have its challenges and risks, and from time to time things will scale out of your control, but this is when you need to keep your head. If you stay calm and composed then the best route forward will be much clearer. Plus your team, your client, and your employer, will have confidence in you. Take yourself in to a quiet room to make this happen.
A successful producer needs a good team working for and with them, so invest time in getting to know people, and what they are capable of doing, whether it’s enriching a shot, or solving a technical problem they may have the solution. Extend your network of contacts outside the day to day, and get to know suppliers, external agencies, post-production houses, render farms, and freelancers.
Most projects kick-off at short notice, and you’re often thrown in at the deep end, so buy yourself some time even if it’s just a day to look at what lies ahead. You’ll no doubt have your own systems for organising the project, but my advice is always to work backwards from the deadline.
One department relies upon another, and it’s your job to identify and remove any blockages. Experience will help you spot the roadblocks a mile off, but in the early days you should learn from those around you.
You should always be in listening mode. Find out how your clients, and team prefer to work. Hold daily meetings with the key members of the project. Get into the habit of doing this from the start and try not to let them slip. Use this to identify any warning signs, and as a basis for finding solutions.
Despite all your careful planning, there are so many variables that things will inevitably go wrong occasionally. It can’t be avoided. The trick to limiting the damage is not to expose the production to too much risk. Factor in contingency from the start, and that means leaving a healthy percentage in the budget, allowing breathing space in and around the key milestones and deliverables, and lining up your artists and team members well in advance.
Often you’ll be working with a highly skilled group of artists, and your job is to encourage a team ethic, and relaxed working environment. With tight deadlines, and long working hours, people’s weaknesses can start to show. Look out for disagreements and put them to bed quickly. Flexing your negotiation skills is important, and so is showing leadership around decision-making.
Pull together a mood board, and provide references. It’s one of the oldest and easiest tricks in the book, and it works. There’s no need to leave the team guessing, nor the client for that matter. Bringing together clips, images, footage, and audio, will help with inspiration and clear direction, and if you want to develop the team spirit further, ask the artists to provide their own, and work them in to daily or weekly catch-ups.
Get the best technology, networks, servers, software licences, and kit that you can afford within your budget. Never expect to get by on the minimum. If you do you’ll end up with frustrated artists, costly downtime, missed deliveries, and poor quality outputs. That’s not to say that you should blow the budget, but do start as you mean to go on, and I guarantee that it will save you a lot of time and heartache in the long run.
Never expect your team to do something that you’re not prepared to do yourself. That means if there’s overtime, and weekends to be worked then you should expect to stick around too. You’re in it together and that’s what counts. OK so you might not be much use on the production side, but you can get the beers, order the pizzas, and keep everyone well nourished. Believe me it’s the least that you can do, and they’ll love you for it!