A professional film producer can expect to face countless dilemmas on the job. As founder of the production management software company, Assemble, there is one challenge that stands out above the rest. The most consistent challenge for producers tends to be related to a simple question: how can one achieve overall efficiency and productivity when keeping track of so many moving parts? While there are a number of new apps that can improve your production workflow, sometimes it’s best to start with the basics.
In this article, we’ll cover the film production management process like a system, explore how it works, and identify two key techniques that can help producers save time, increase their focus throughout the day, reduce general stress, and maximize productivity.
It’s helpful to start a conversation about film production management and productivity by reviewing the basics. A film production is the type of system in which many separate yet coordinated activities converge into a single process with the intended goal of delivering a finished film or video on deadline.
Let’s begin by zooming out and looking at a flowchart of a typical film production in its entirety - start at the top of the chart and follow your way to the bottom.
You’ll notice two things right away.
First, the various activities in a film production fit into the larger process in a particular order, dictated by five consecutive stages: planning, pre-production, production, post-production, and delivery. A producer should not move from one stage to the next without first resolving every requirement of the previous stage.
Second, the various activities generally fall into three categories: production, security, and legal obligations. Production activities have to do with executing the project, and are the type of things that a layperson would associate with a film production (i.e. casting, shooting, editing). Security activities ensure you always have a backup plan in case things go wrong (i.e. contingency budgeting, media backups). Legal obligations ensure that you’re not exposed to any potential liabilities (i.e. holding insurance, following government rules around hiring).
The producer’s role is to address these characteristics by (1) synchronizing the activities with protective buffers so as to avoid bottlenecks, and by (2) balancing the production, security, and legal obligations of your project to maximize the efficiency of the overall system
Now that we’ve reviewed the big picture, let’s highlight two specific techniques that a producer can implement to maximize their efficiency: keeping a production workbook and creating standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The key for a producer to manage their time and stay focused day-to-day is maintaining rigorous and centralized documentation. Also called a wrap binder, the production workbook is where you store and organize all documents, files, and forms associated with the production broken down into the phases: planning, pre-production, production, post, and delivery. This should include everything from the budget to call sheets to production overages.
Take a typical production phase activity: issuing certificates of insurance, or COIs, to the owners of a shooting location. An organized producer, who has already filed both a signed location agreement and proof of general liability insurance coverage in the pre-production section of their workbook, easily finds the information from those documents needed to create the COI on the insurer’s online portal, sends off the document to the location owner’s inbox, and minimizes any and all delays for their crew in the process.
In this domain, there is no better all-around solution than using a production management software such as Assemble, which enables you to organize and store all of your production documents on a cloud platform that can be accessed easily by your entire team.
A standard operating procedure is essentially a list of instructions for an activity that you continually update with new insights through experience on more efficient management. Assemble recommends that producers create detailed SOPs for all of their processes and to share them with their team.
Sharing SOPs with your team encourages efficiency and coordination. It also accelerates the process of adding new members to the team who need to get up to speed quickly.
Here’s an example of a typical SOP a producer might consult beginning from pre-production.
Another common practice productions will need to take daily is backing up media. Here’s another example of a standard operating procedure.
By analyzing the overview of a typical film production management system, you can see how you can improve your management skills and overall efficiency as a producer by utilizing a production workbook to store all your documents and forms, and then implementing standard operating procedures for the most important and repetitive activities. These two key components can take your processes to the next level, help you save time, and work faster and more efficiently with your team.
Finally, a reminder that in terms of smarter and more powerful tools to maximize the performance of your production workbook and beyond, Assemble is a great place to start organizing all of your production assets, from pre-production documents to post-production reviews, for your next project.
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