As a young production manager, you may not know how to position yourself toward the other teams. You may be too friendly, but if you do so, at some point, they won’t see you as a leader, but as a friend. They will share information with you but they will not follow you anymore.
At the opposite, you can become a tyrant. You decide to never listen to anybody but yourself. You become rude with people and give orders instead of direction. In that case, your team won’t trust you either. It surely does more damage than good to the production, especially to the spirit of the team. And by the way, ruthlessness is often a signal that you are already not part of the team anymore.
This situation can be very dangerous and even jeopardize the production. If the team doesn’t follow your lead, you won’t be able to manage it properly. You are the only person with the right information to lead all the teams. If you mess it up, the whole production may fail.
The situations described above may sound like caricatures, but we all faced them at some point in our career, especially during the first years. It’s tough to avoid them. I’ve been trapped myself into them and I had hard times to recover the situation. That’s why in this article I want to share with you what I learned from it. During my 10+ years as CG Production Manager/Head of Production, I identified best practices that will help you. With them, you will avoid bad situations and know when you have to change something.
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This is the third article of our series about the production setup:
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Give a weekly to-do list schedule to your team
Each artist needs to know clearly, what is important or not. They also need to know in which order they have to do their work. Each week, take the time to do a schedule with priorities to each team.
NB: If you have issues to estimate the correct amount of time of a task you can refer to our previous article about the schedule.
Once you estimate the right amount of time needed per asset or shot, you can do the team schedule. My preference is a calendar type presentation. They will know day by day what they have to do, what meeting they have to attempt. You can do it weekly or every two weeks. It depends on the pace of your production.
Once you have done it for the teams, do the same for the director. Write down all the briefs, the validation, and the meetings he will have during his week. This way, he will have dedicated time frames for everything and will not miss anything.
You can also report this information in the supervisor’s schedules. They will know when the director is available for them. It will ease communication, and make sure everyone can reach each other.
If you are interested you can download a schedule template on our website. If you want to go further about your relationship with CG artists, you can also read this article: How to properly track the progress of a CG Artist.
From the beginning of the production, plan all the weekly meetings, one for the brief, one for the validation and let everybody know!
It will help the team to focus on what they have to do during the week and nothing else. Questions and discussions will happen during the meetings. The more focus they will be, the better the job they’ll do. They will also have time to prepare the review if they know the date. Even better if the day is always the same, it will become a ritual, and they will trust and follow even more their calendar.
The important part of having a briefing at the beginning of the week is to regroup a maximum of the question at the same time and answer to them in front of everybody. The answers might help other teams. In addition, it will save time for everybody if every CG Artist doesn’t ask the same question to the director.
Prepare you communication in case of frozen production
It’s common to see the production or part of it frozen. It’s not something fun but it can happen and it’s part of the job to deal with it. Your role is to make sure things get the smoother possible.
In that situation, the best thing is to express clearly and as soon as possible when the CG Artists will have a none expected break. All the CG Artists know this misfortune happens. But, they will get mad if you told them at the last minute! They have a personal life that is impacted by this change. The least you could do is to give them information on time so they can get organized accordingly.
If you can’t precisely predict when the break will occur, at least let them know there will be one. Explain to them why they have to go home and for how long if you can.
When they leave, don’t forget that talents are rare. Other productions are probably contacting them to hire them. So, the most important thing to do is to keep in touch with them on a regular basis! Call them to explain how the situation is evolving and let them know when they will come back. They will appreciate your professionalism and won’t be tempted to look for other productions.
The CG Artist will never be mad at you because of a break, but they will blame you if you don’t inform them. So don’t leave them and the dark by communicating properly about what is happening.
To sum up
My belief is the more the team know about the state of the production, the smoother it will be. Explain to them clearly what they have to do, and in which order. Give them rituals, it will help the CG Artists to keep organized and focused. The most important is to explain them clearly every situation, good or bad.
In my experience, when I am honest and transparent with the team, they understand the situation, and never complain about it. Let the CG Artist feels he is part of your team, ask for his advice. Most of the time, they will help you and make things simpler in return. Adopt this mindset early in the production. Because if you don’t do it well, it’s something hard to fix.
In other words, you don’t have to become friend with each of the CG Artist. But if you explain them sincerely the situation and your decisions, they will trust you. With trust, people really feel they are in the same boat, and enjoy going in the same direction as you. They will accept you as the captain and will do their best to deliver the movie on time.
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