Production Management

Production management is the home of contracted control and paper generation...

It is the realm of the Producer, Line Producer and Production Manager because more than anything else it deals with budget.  On a large project the Producer provides the general budget breakdown parameters and hires his key people, the Line Producer takes this and breaks it down into individual line items while getting much more specific and doing some juggling between areas, and the Production Manager makes the deals and spends the money, contracting crew, equipment, location and everything else that will be needed on the film or video.

These three then constantly monitor spend and rebalance where necessary, providing feedback up the line and to each of the department heads on budget and time.  They also create all of the support information that is needed, call sheets, script copies, storyboard sheets and so on, working closely with the first Assistant Director who controls time and people on the shoot itself, and the Post-Supervisor, who does the same for the post-production parts of the equation.

Of course, on a 2 person documentary or 3 person corporate video there isn’t the need or budget for this sort of detailed production management, and the Producer/Director takes on responsibility for everything flowing smoothly and on or under budget.  But the need for tight control is just as important, because when you want to start shooting at 9am you want everyone there, set up, tested and ready to roll at 9am, which means everyone and their equipment have to be there at 7am on the dot or before… or you are throwing away the two most vital parts of the production equation – money and time.

Production management should start even before a project begins...At CLAi, we are often asked for on the spot quotes for a job, with nothing more than a rough description over the phone to work from.

I always try to explain the reality of production. As we don’t sell a product with a fixed price, but instead create a custom solution for every project, I can take a guesstimate on a likely budget range based on my experience and previous work. But that could be out by 10-20% when I know the reality of what is required – so giving a fixed figure without doing due diligence is really nothing more than a guesstimate. Or I can take a fuller brief, look into the specification and requirements in a lot more detail, work out the likely hours and equipment needed to do the job to a better than acceptable level and then provide an accurate quote along with a creative approach. Doing this document usually takes about a day and a half of work on our part, plus checking availability and cost with any contractors we would use.

That way we know that we can actually do exactly what we promise, at the budget and time scale we give. The catch-22 is that this is a big investment in time and usually breaks into existing work hours – and the less likely that we will be asked to handle the job the greater the risk in making that investment.  So we don’t get involved in crazy 10 way bids – they only make sense for companies that are desperate and are gong to pile on the hidden costs/profit – but do participate in the more usual 3 way bids.

Generally our work is with existing clients, who know that we only charge for the time and equipment we actually use on a project, and don’t add anything for company profit… and they usually tell us what they want to achieve and what they want to spend.  Then we come back to them with a detailed solution that is appropriate for the job and for the budget, as well as a schedule that matches their timetable, and an explanation of what the end program will look like and contain.  From there we are already in pre-production and can quickly move forward, or evolve a more specific solution and often build our own detailed brief for everyone to sign off on.

Got to love those 7Ps.