Unscripted content production is not for the faint of heart. Unscripted production teams often face a variety of challenges. No matter how much time and effort producers put into the pre-production phase, they cannot predict how unscripted production unfolds. 

Any production team's goal is to get better with each show. However, this can be difficult in the fast-paced world of unscripted production. Therefore, a reflection process is a must at the end of production. 

This retrospective, or post-mortem as some call it, allows the team to analyze their performance and highlight areas for improvement. It also allows the production personnel to identify pain points and better prepare for future productions. 

This article will explain how unscripted producers can conduct a post-show retrospective. But first, let’s break down exactly what a post-show retrospective entails. 

Understanding what a post-show retrospective is

A post-show retrospective is a team meeting for the production team once production is complete. Production team meetings are ordinary during pre-production because they must coordinate the logistics to pull off the shoot. Unfortunately, it is not always typical for the production team to touch base once production is complete. 

It might seem daunting to organize a post-show retrospective, especially if you’ve never done it before. To make this process easier, use Wrapbook’s post-show retrospective checklist. Our comprehensive checklist will give you a simple structure to organize a post-show retrospective (more on this below!).

In a recent conversation with Wrapbook, Bruce David Klein (President of Atlas Media Corp) revealed that he is,

“Surprised by how few companies do a post-mortem after shows.”

Post-show retrospectives are vital for a company like Atlas Media Corp, which produces a variety of content for the unscripted market. This self-evaluation meeting primarily involves the production team reviewing the cost report.

A cost report is a comprehensive line-by-line breakdown of the production budget. During production, every expense, payment, and charge is listed and categorized in the cost report

Analyzing the cost report allows producers to compare the amount budgeted for each item to the actual cost. It will also reveal expenses your team may not have planned for, such as losses and damages. 

Going through and picking apart the budget might seem time-consuming and even demoralizing in some cases. However, honest self-evaluation is the essential first step toward improvement. 

Knowing why a post-show retro is important for unscripted

The hurried pace of unscripted production often means that unscripted producers put out fires without always communicating their pain points. A post-show retrospective allows the production assistants, coordinators, and managers to share these pain points. 

A comprehensive post-show retrospective includes financial, critical, operational, and creative evaluation. When these production issues are openly discussed, producers can understand the story behind the problem.

From an accounting and budgeting point of view, a post-show retrospective will also reveal the actual cost of production. It may turn out that post-production costs were higher than quoted, but the catering costs came in under budget. Once these discrepancies are identified, line producers can allocate future budgets more appropriately.

Why Retrospectives Are Essential for Unscripted Productions - Wrapbook - Receipt
Ensure that the cost report is accurate and up to date before the post-show retrospective.

An added benefit of doing a post-show retrospective is knowing the budget and cost report inside out. This is especially helpful when producers negotiate a renewal or ask the network to cover overage costs. Bruce explains how having,

“That story, with real-time information, makes you so much more credible. Because the network is not just going to write you a check.”

And he’s right! 

Most networks, especially in the unscripted space, will ask producers to justify budget increases. The best way to prepare for such a meeting is to conduct a thorough post-show retrospective and truly understand the story behind your cost report. 

Knowing these additional details allows you to make a stronger argument and negotiate a higher production budget. 

Learning how to make a post-show retro that works for you

There are many ways to do a post-show retrospective. Producers should find a system that works for them and modify it based on the production and personnel. 

As we’ve already mentioned, the post-show retro starts with the cost report. Bruce echoes this sentiment and adds that his team asks themselves a series of questions after reviewing the report. 
“What happened? Where were we off? Where were we right? What was the surprise, and how did we meet it?”

These are the fundamental questions that the production team should discuss during the retrospective. As production companies produce more shows and conduct post-show retros, they can streamline this meeting to be more efficient.

But what if you’ve never conducted a post-show retrospective before? 

Don’t worry! Wrapbook has you covered with our post-show retro checklist template.

Using the Wrapbook template means you spend less time organizing the post-show retro and more time self-evaluating. It covers the production's financial, operational, and creative elements and offers questions to kick off discussions.  

There is no exact science to constructing a post-show retrospective, but there is one principle everyone on the production team must adhere to: open and honest communication. 

The goal of a post-show retrospective is self-evaluation. 

This exercise will be effective only if the production team feels comfortable sharing mistakes and opinions. To ensure success, producers must evaluate the personalities on their team and structure the discussion accordingly. This might mean that your team fills out a questionnaire beforehand, or maybe the post-show retrospective is done in person rather than remotely. 

You can structure this meeting in various ways, just as long as you ensure that everyone feels comfortable being honest about their production experience. 

Finding the takeaways from your post-show retro

During production, the big issues present themselves quickly. However, Bruce explains that in the unscripted production world,

“You don’t get killed by a shotgun. You get killed by a thousand paper cuts.”

Productions often go over budget because many small costs add up. These small items are hidden in the cost report, and eventually they might make up a significant portion of the budget. 

It’s difficult to notice these small costs adding up during production. But, it should be easily traceable as a pattern during a post-show retrospective. Identifying these costs ensures that line producers and production coordinators budget accordingly for future shows. 

During the post-show retrospective, you will also have to look beyond the cost report. The cost report is closely linked to the production's operational, creative, and logistical elements. Therefore, it is a great tool for uncovering inefficiencies in your team's production management. 

For example, a production might be over budget due to poor communication between the coordinators and buyers. Once a pattern of poor communication is identified as the root cause, producers can implement direct solutions that address the real problem. Identifying the underlying issue is the first step to improving unscripted production collaboration and efficiency.  

Applying those takeaways to your next project

Being aware of the problem is a great first step, but it is not enough. Producers must also be able to identify solutions that they can implement for the next production. Execution is the vital concluding step of a thorough post-show retrospective. 

Therefore, it is essential to create actionable items that will be implemented for subsequent productions. It is also good practice to assign key production personnel the responsibility of implementing the solutions to the problems that have been identified. Some producers might even set a timeline and require regular check-ins to ensure that issues identified during the post-show retrospective are properly addressed. 

Wrapping up

Self-reflection is necessary in many walks of life. When it comes to unscripted production, it is absolutely essential. As the famous quote goes, “To define the future, one must study the past.” 

Wrapbook’s post-show retrospective template makes studying the past much easier. You can also learn more about Accounting for the Reality of Unscripted Production by watching our conversation with production accountant Margot Ransom and Atlas Media Corp’s President and EP, Bruce David Klein. 

If you are an unscripted filmmaker, watch our demo to learn how Wrapbook can streamline your production operations. You can also visit our resource center for all things unscripted.

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How to Run a Post-Show Retro: A Checklist for Unscripted Shows

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Last Updated 
March 28, 2024


At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice.  You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.

About the author
Shiv Rajagopal

Shiv Rajagopal is a filmmaker based out of Hong Kong & Los Angeles. With a background as a producer of indie films, music videos, and commercials, he writes about the entertainment industry at large. He is also the Co-Founder of Forgotten Films, an indie film company with a slate of films revolving around superheroes from the golden age of comics.

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