Monday, 2 September 2019

Managing Successful Group Projects

Working in teams at Escape Studios
Group projects are something we do a lot of at Escape Studios. Animation is a team sport - almost all of our graduates will end up working in teams along side other artists on group projects.

Developing the skills to work on team projects is essential for success in our industry. Employers tell us they want team players, not soloists.

The problem is, group projects are hard, and can easily go wrong. Below are some of the common problems - and how to fix them. 

Someone must be King
Rule 1 - Make sure everyone takes responsibility for their own task
Decide roles on the project: These will likely include Producer, Director, Art Director/designer, Writer, Editor. If it's a CG project, you will need a digital supervisor as well. Each role should be filled by one person (try to avoid dividing roles) who is responsible for this part of the project getting done.

Rule 2 - Decide who is in charge
Film-making is not a democracy; someone must be in charge. On any film project there are usually two leaders - Producer and Director.
  1. Producer. It is the Producer's job to organise the show, to set deadlines, to make sure deadlines are met. The Producer is organiser-in-chief, the project manager. 
  2. Director. The Director's job is to provide creative leadership. The director must make the key creative decisions, working with the rest of the group, coming up with fresh ideas, inspiring the team. The Director is problem-solver in chief. 
Producer and director work together to make sure the project is completed to the highest possible standard within the time available.

Learn how to use a spreadsheet
Rule 3 - Make a schedule, and set deadlines.
Without deadlines, projects don't get done. When will the script be done by? When will the mood boards be done? The storyboards? The animation? The final edit? The Producer must make a spreadsheet (learn to love Excel, Shotgun, or Google calendars) so everyone knows what the schedule is. Without a schedule you will struggle to get anything done.

Rule 4 - Meet Your Deadlines
Deadlines are there for your own protection - you must make them on time or your project will hit trouble. Treat deadlines with respect. Meet them every week. Be disciplined. Someone will need to create a schedule, probably in Excel, and then stick to it.

Rule 5 - Deal with Group Members Who Aren't Contributing
One of the biggest problems occurs when someone lets you down.  What do you do when your team-member doesn't perform? Below are some possible solutions.

Solution 1: Improve the communication within your group.
Make sure that all group members agree what exactly they are going to do, and are responsible for it.

Solution 2: Use a reliable online platform to share information. There are many ways of managing your project online.

Solution 3: Replace the person who isn't performing, and assign their tasks to someone else. This can feel harsh, but on production this happens all the time. 

Rule 6 -  Understand How Films Get Made. 
Understand how film-making works. Every project starts with a script, closely followed by visual development, storyboards, animatic (usually with voices, music and temp sound effects), then animation, lighting and rendering (if it's CG), post production (eg final sound design), and final output. Watch this free film here to get you started. Know the process of film-making thoroughly and don't try to re-invent the wheel.

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt in the Art of Computer Animation starting in September 2016, see this post. And to apply, follow this link.

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