Sunday, 30 August 2009

Tip#6: Form a productive production team

By Sinéad Ferguson (Producer)

The Ambleton Delight production team consists of just three of us, Itsuka (writer/producer) Dan (director/producer) and myself (production designer/producer). Having previously worked together on several projects we had already established and developed a great working relationship, with a certain shorthand and knowledge of our mutual strengths, with a good mix of practical, technical, artistic and creative sensibilities.

Our weekly production meetings were integral to the success of the film. This is where we drank copious amounts of coffee and talked late into the night planning our strategies and hammering out ideas, making every single important decision regarding all aspects of the film.

Overwhelming as the work of planning a feature seemed in those early days we found the secret was to break everything down into weekly and monthly goals, with strict deadlines, by drawing up a “must–do list”. We then divided the work load between us, with each task to be completed before our next meeting. To the best of my recollection I don’t think we ever missed even one of those self imposed deadlines.

We would meet a minimum of once a week but once we got the ball rolling we found these meetings definitely increased as did our workload. After each day’s shoot we would have a post mortem where we would discuss any problems that occurred or conversely strategies that were successful. By immediately identifying issues we instantly implemented changes to the following shoot, ensuring the same problems didn’t reoccur.

So here are some important points to consider when forming your production team:
• If possible work with people you have worked well with before.
• If you are forming a team for the first time, do your research thoroughly. Trust your instincts. If you foresee personality clashes, forget it . Especially as you will be spending a tremendous amount of time with each other and often under stressful conditions. Success or failure can simply be down to having the right or wrong people on board.
Commitment is essential. The last thing you need is someone who will bail once their initial enthusiasm has worn off and the hard work had begun.
• Play to each other’s strengths and abilities and assign tasks accordingly.
Avoid having passengers, they’re a liability.
• It’s imperative that overall you share a unified collective vision, but that doesn’t rule out healthy debate and alternative points of view as long as a final decision is made.
• Hold your meetings somewhere you won’t be constantly interrupted, encourage open and frank discussion and have plenty of coffee on hand.
• Make every production meeting you have count. Have an agenda for each one, as it’s very easy to go off topic.
• Have everyone write a must-do list during the meeting, with weekly and monthly targets.
• Lastly remember to enjoy the experience! Take time to enjoy every little success you have along the way.

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