Production Management in Animation

And the importance of Communication

5 min

July 26, 2023

Blauw Films

Without wanting to sound too cheesy about the whole thing, filmmaking is all about teamwork!

There are a multitude of different departments all working together to achieve the same goal; to tell stories that will entertain and enlighten audiences, ideally to the point that they are willing to depart with some of their hard earned cash!

The problem is that the different departments, although sharing the same goal, often do not sing from the same hymn sheet.

It is the job of the director and the producers to oversee the whole shebang, often to the point that they can overlook the minutiae of the production.

Communication is Key

The production manager is the link between the different departments and the different members of the same department. You could view them as the conductor of the orchestra, keeping everyone in harmony (I’m pretty sure a producer would take umbrage with this analogy, but this is written by a production manager so we’re sticking with it!)

The most crucial aspect to production management is communication. A clear brief is at the core of this. Although the production manager does not write the brief, it is their job to ensure it is communicated as effectively as possible to every department.

The brief should contain concise information regarding the overall vision, the artistic style, breakdowns of the story and characters, potential deadlines and preliminary schedules, and any technical requirements.

Once everyone knows what we are making, the most important part of
communication is culture.

By creating a culture where people are happy and comfortable, people will be willing and able to communicate clearly. If for example someone has fallen behind on their schedule, this can easily be fixed by giving some of their work to a colleague who is ahead of schedule.

If however someone is not comfortable with the production manager, they may not be willing to say that they have fallen behind, meaning the issue can not be managed.

Creating a happy healthy work environment where people are not afraid to communicate is the first step in effective communication.

As simple as it sounds it is important to be available.

Having an open door policy, literally and metaphorically helps nurture this culture where everyone feels seen and heard. Regular team meetings not only help in the exchange of information but can help build the interpersonal relationships of the artists, and help build a team atmosphere, where people work for each other as well as for the project.

Digital or Face to Face

Face to face communication, whether virtually or physically is important, but equally important is having clear online communication channels.

As productions become more and more virtual in a post pandemic world, and more and more people work from home, these communication channels are more important than ever.

Emails are great and should of course be utilised (and replied to promptly), but instant messaging apps such as Telegram, (other instant messaging apps are available) or team workspaces such as Notion (other team workspaces are available) are more crucial than ever to allow for the
fastest, most agile communication possible.

And of course don’t forget about good old fashioned phone calls!

Tracking

Another crucial tool in communication, and is the production manager’s bread and butter, is tracking.

Production tracking is the systematic management and monitoring of all resources, assets and tasks. It is crucial to keep the project on track in terms of schedule and budget.

Using tracking software, or project management software is very useful, but often costs money that the production may not be willing to pay.

For my money, nothing is more useful than google sheets.

Having a collection of production documents that everyone can access, keeps everyone on the same page. People can use the documents to input their progress (for example how many shots, frames, or seconds an animator has animated last week, and will animate next week).

It is the production manager’s job to keep on top of all things tracking, making sure everyone is using it effectively and the production’s progress is clearly… well… tracked!

The Language of a Production

All of the above is particularly useful as there are many different departments, all working towards the same goal, but often speaking different languages as they do so!

For example, a sound mixer and an animator sometimes need help to communicate effectively, as the technical jargon they use, or perhaps the knowledge about the length of time it takes to carry out a particular task, can be lost in translation. The translator is the production manager, and they use all of the above tools and methods to carry out this task effectively.

The production manager is key in making sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, the orchestra is playing in harmony, and everyone’s instruments are in tune, so that the project is completed on schedule and crucially, (if you like having a job) within budget!

Clear, concise communication is the most important aspect of this.

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