The past couple of days since hearing about the #Room315 project have been my most amazing moments as a film maker/enthusiast. I am glad to be working with the best film team in the industry.
In this blog post, I will be breezing through the role of the production manager in film making. It is important to know before we commence that the real learning is on the field – but there is no saying that the theoretic aspect is not as important.
As my producer Emmanuel Uduma “Shuga Daddy” has pointed out in the previous blog post titled “The Role of a Producer and Multitasking in Nollywood” the production manager is the producer’s wing person, the chief organizer, etc. I will for a moment, on a very light note choose to ignore the part where he adds being a traffic officer at a road intersection – as that automatically puts me in an orange shirt, holding a piece of wood. NO!
Before I proceed to a quick run through the responsibilities of a production manager, it is very important that we for a moment – separate and dwell on the terms “production” and “manager”.
Who is a manager?
Simply put, a manager is responsible for planning and directing a group of individuals; also, monitoring and motivating the execution of the project assigned to them. As simple as this definition reads, the bulk of the work is impatiently peeping at you from within those four terms:
In every field of work that requires a manager, there are 6 core skills that must be checked and passed to portray excellent management:
- Leadership skills: to lead yourself first, then to lead others.
- A passion driven personal motivation: because as a manager you are expected to be two steps ahead of the rest of your team.
- Collaborative and diplomatic skills: you must inspire team spirit.
- Critical and analytical thinking skills: to identify problems, analyse and solve them (please note that critical and analytical thinking skills don’t just come into play when there is a problem to be solved, we can also apply this in other processes of the project as well as interpersonal relations with our team).
- Project management skills
- Financial management skills: as a manager that you are hired to be, you are working on a budget and must ensure loyalty to the budget.
Now, for a production manager, be it in a factory or a film or TV production, these skills are core and flexible enough to be applied irrespective of the uniqueness of the challenges that these different fields are faced with.
Having understood the skills of a manager, let’s bring this into film production
What are the responsibilities of the production manager?
- PLANNING: It is your responsibility to plan and coordinate the process till delivering the project from pre-production to post-production. As mentioned earlier and also mentioned by my producer Emmanuel Uduma in his post (See link: http://niyiakinmolayan.com/2016/10/17/room315-the-role-of-a-producer-and-multitasking-in-nollywood-emmanuel-uduma/ ) you are expected to be two times ahead of everyone else. And after everyone has exited the scene, you are the last man standing – to the point of being able to account for everything no matter how little.
Having been hired and read through the script, your job continues from identifying a qualified crew/team and getting them to understand the project, and establishing milestones for the production. By milestones, we mean fixing a schedule, setting deadlines, rules and regulations for each step of the production, identifying sponsors and partners to be involved in the project also comes under this.
Also, during pre-production, there are certain checks and balances that must not be overlooked, however you must work with what applies to your geographical area and local laws. You must ensure that such things as copyright, insurance, legal requirements, health and safety measures are checked; watch for life threatening stunts (E.G, a fire scene), ensure there is a medical team just incase, and also ensure there is provision for first aid. Also check for government laws, rules and regulations on road usage, one way restricted zones, traffic lights, parking and no parking areas (not checking these things might lead you into a situation that would stretch and create an unnecessary delay in your production.
All these is involved in a process we call a “Recce” – because we don’t want to run into any unforeseen circumstances – for instance, when we have informed our location driver that there is a traffic light 2 blocks ahead, he is most likely not going to beat it on a red, hence endanger your entire team and the production.
Also in the planning process is where documents such as the call sheets, shooting schedules, etc, come into play. As a production manager your best working tool is the Movie Magic software. When meeting your personal deadlines, as a production manager, the truth is that you probably don’t need more hours to get the job done, you just need better planning and scheduling can make or break your production. (Please do a personal research on this software and your job will be easier on your life…or the other way around)
You must also understand the basics of every department, know what they are doing, and understand if it is rocket science or a paper plane. There is a popular joke thrown around the industry that a crew member once requested funds to buy color bar. You don’t want be labelled the production manager that spent money on color bar. Ask questions.
It is your job to ensure that every member of your team is qualified, willing to commit to the project and willing to follow instructions. This brings me to the next point.
- DIRECTING: Don’t be afraid, Mr Director; we can’t even begin to imagine taking your place. But, as a production manager, it is your duty to direct – not the actual production, but the team. The director and producer are busy with the creative and technical aspect of the production, and you should be available and answerable to every individual on your team. You are the go to person for everything, you cannot be tired. You must be able to think on your toes and solve everybody’s problem without having a panic attack. The idea is to coordinate the process so that the producer and director have a well-organized filming.
- MONITORING: As a production manager, to save yourself the stress, all you need is good planning and delegation skills. The first rule of management is delegation, you cannot do everything yourself. Borrowing a phrase from Quentin Tarantino, “A community makes a film” – and one person cannot make a community. Because you are a foreman does not mean you can do the job of four men. This is why you have production assistants and runners. Engage them, delegate tasks, and supervise them. Paraphrased, there is a quote that a classic leader is one who gives out all the work, takes all the credit and pushes all the blame. While this isn’t such a great model for a leader, in reality, the idea is that a job gets done. Always remember that delegation works as long as the person delegating works too.
- MOTIVATING: In the actual sense of it, sometimes, your crew is already motivated, the real challenge is how to tap into their motivation to accomplish your production goal. And as the production manager, you are in control of those factors needed. In most cases, food, drinks will go a long way before thank you and please. If this is in abundant supply you might never need to say you’re sorry or excuse me. When they see you approaching, they will give you a triumphant entry. Remember also that in order for you to motivate your crew, you must be personally motivated first. You would be surprised that a regular supply of tissue papers to your crew lodge will help some of them think well. These people are from different backgrounds and they are converging on your production set with unique excesses. Some of them will develop a panic attack because they are running out of tooth paste. They might not verbally say this, but some of these worries would reflect in their work. You must know and meet these needs. You must be concerned about everything physical, mentally troubling, etc that I a threat to the success of your production. In addition, you must be on the same page with your producer, you should communicate with your crew and pass information in a way that does not suggest foul play. You are the link to both technical and creative minds on the production, so you cannot be found even a step behind.
I would like to add one more to this. It is often overlooked, but it is as important as the film itself.
- REPORTING: As mentioned, this is often overlooked. But it is the duty of the production manager to ensure that all aspects of the production is reported daily to the Producer. You must always give feedback. You must take minutes during production meetings and send these minutes to team heads to ensure follow-up and accountability on crew tasks and assignments.
There is just so much to say about being a production manager, no amount of reading will help you if you don’t stand up to it. Obviously, we cannot touch all the corners but I have tried to scratch a little beyond the surface. I hope this adds up with what we know already, and that this is a step to someone being a better production manager. Don’t forget, all management begins with planning, and until it is a wrap, the planning never stops. Always have a backup plan.
Thank you for reading.
I have attached a copy of an ideal sample call sheet. Download here. i-go-blow-call-sheet-day-1
You can always use the template, or rework into what fits our production. Kindly make requests for other documents sample templates you think you might need. I will be glad to assist.
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