The French film pioneer Abel Gance (1889-1981) is said to have stated that the task of every filmmaker is placing a sun into every image. However, a director can only achieve this when he is able to rely on organisational support. Filmmaking is project work and film is team work. And, frequently, a logistical nightmare. Not only image and product films, but even online videos are surprisingly often subject to prototype character.
Sponsored films share this property with feature films. Like the deceased producer Bernd Eichinger, numerous producers call themselves “fire extinguishers” and also think that one of their most important tasks lies in organising the telling of a story.
Not sexy. But essential.
Project. For creative ears, the term alone is exceedingly unsexy. However, communication with film and video requires the regular visualisation of what it means to be active in project business. Indeed, project work in itself holds little glory. It should and even must exist! Because, wherever true creativity is given room to play, stable framework conditions become relevant for success. Anything else is unprofessional.
But beware: in the planning and implementation of film and video, traditional project management also always means an enticement to depict complex processes with even more complex planning instruments. Even in planning, creative projects also require particular flexibility. The motto should be “Tents instead of palaces”. Short response times and adaptive control are required to combine enhanced project tools with practical knowledge and filming competence. After all, the film budget that is based on a proper film script should, at the end of the day, not be invested in project management but be visible on the movie and TV screens or on the Smartphone instead.
Components of project work
Let’s take a closer look at the individual components of a film: The ABC of project work. We first need to mention that, as is always the case with theory, only differentiated implementation in relation to the respective task results in a practicable guideline. The production manager is usually faced with an entire series of challenges.
- He knows by when the project has to be completed.
- He knows how much money he has available.
- And he knows the quality specifications and objectives.
In order to reconcile all of these parameters in well-thought out manner, it is advisable to work through a film and video communication project in a seven-step structure.
Step 1: Analysis
Every film or video should commence with an analysis of the task. Is the scope unequivocally defined? Was the project objective formulated clearly? Is the project aligned with the Owner and at the Production Company between sales and the ordering party? Are the risks specified?
Step 2: Planning
The activities and procedure are planned during the project planning phase. Time estimates must be created and a schedule has to be transferred. Ideally, work packages can be bundled and allocated to the designated project team thanks to the assignment and capacity plan. The cost plan and project documentation are specified on the basis of the films structure.
Step 3: Commencement
Now we are ready to roll! Project commencement is initiated and the actual start of the work prepared with a kick-off meeting. Team members get to know one another, the project’s history is explained. This project phase also includes the categorisation of the project at the ordering party’s, an explanation of the project’s most significant characteristics (e.g. confidentiality) and the commitment of all involved parties to all relevant rules and procedures.
Step 4: Implemenation
If the film is set up correctly, the “only” thing in the forefront of project management is problem solution. Despite all solution competence, we should never forget that the solution of problems is only a means to an end. Every project’s sole objective is to satisfy the ordering party!
Step 5: Management
As trains follow fixed tracks while still needing an engine driver, projects also need a companion and leader along the way. The project manager ensures coordination processes during this phase. He involves the ordering party in all important questions, is responsible for site determination and additionally controls collaborations and subcontractors. He is also responsible for change management.
Step 6: Control
Project control is manifested in cost and project expenditure control, in performance control and quality assurance. Irrespective of the project’s scope and complexity, any associated reporting is more or less extensive.
Step 7: Finalising
Project completion hardly ever means the end of the project. Once the project is completed at the ordering party’s (project acceptance/approval and debriefing), it is followed by finalising internal and organisational tasks. These are accompanied by expert project assessment and a provisional commercial end calculation. If the project is accompanied by public relations work, this is known to extend far beyond the end of the project.
Professional and organisational competence is always closely followed by personal and interpersonal factors with a great influence on project success. Regardless of theory, project managers should also regard motivation, leadership behaviour and communication as the important foundation for all project work.