Thursday, June 30, 2011

Communication: The Foundation of Production

For those of you just discovering the joys of production milestones, the nuances of production communication might baffle and confound you during your indoctrination to the process, especially in an academic environment. In academia, we are all learning the workflow, and our responses to the various behavioral mechanisms in the client/artist relationship are not yet at the professional level.

Trust Your Training

In order to reduce erroneous and repetitive and aged miscommunication, the key is to keep your communication flow through established channels. I drilled you guys on this over the past three years. Here are the basic production roles and the communications throughput associated with each. This is a mirror of the professional production workplace, so make a note of it.


The producer handles ALL communication with the client. This means everything that goes before the client, from dailies notes, to meeting setups, to deadline discussions, all communication between post-production and client MUST go through one channel: the show producer.

This is essential for several reasons.

1. Establish a Single Voice

If the client is confused about who to contact because they are getting input/feedback from various post-production sources, they will lose confidence in the production team. This is the cardinal rule: the show producer must present an overwhelming grasp of post-production shot status. This overwhelming grasp will establish a one-stop buck-stops-here presence that will help calm the client when things get hot, especially around 911 delivery time.

2. Consistency

Direct contact by artists, leads or supervisors with the client will de-stabilize the show dynamic, and will undermine the client relationship with the show producer. The show producer must know everything that is happening in the show, therefore, direct communication with the client by the post-staff not only erodes the one-voice rule, but it also surprises the show producer, especially when post staff begin setting unreal expectations up between client and artist directly.

No show can succeed if individual artists are brokering deals directly with the client. The producer's job is to balance client expectation with production assets and budgeting. Since the producer's job is to plan and manage the production corps, they will always know how to manage client expectation in balance with overall production milestones.

3. Trust Basis

Sending three emails from production to client will most likely confuse the client and derail any confidence that has been established between the two entities from show production start. Communications must be managed. I cannot stress the importance of this, especially as you are learning your workflows. You cannot bail yourself out of a tight jam in a 911 situation by calling on more artists from your overhead pool. You are it. If you have a show artist that promises something directly to the client, the show producer will be hard pressed to undo that expectation, and only at a trust loss.

Trust is supreme here. Overlapping communication and miscommunication at cross-purposes will destroy trust.

4. Established Role

The expectation of the client is that the show producer IS in communication with the entire show staff. When emails go out from these disparate entities, that expectation is lost and the show trust is lost. This is not production. This is chaos. The expectation is that the post-production producer is gathering information and preparing it in hallway meetings (exec-staff meeting prior to show dailies) and presenting it to the client.

The client only wants to see progress. The client could care less about in-house show workflow or production issues. They WANT to be protected to the day-to-day of post-production efforts. This is why you have a producer!

VFX Supervisor

The VFX Supervisor MUST work with the show producer to manage client expectation. If a shot requires additional second unit footage, if an edit point needs clarification, if a process or a result needs presentation, testing and the requisite client feedback, the VFX Supervisor MUST allow the producer to handle the traffic.

Directions like, please find out if our latest green-screen replacement tests are working for the client, or please see if the client has additional takes of shot 3, are all acceptable. Directly contacting the client, even if done in a cc fashion, completely takes the voice of your producer out of the equation. Whether or not it makes visual sense, aesthetic sense or any other sense, it most likely WILL NOT make production sense, especially when balanced with the complex equation of established budget and delivery. Just check with your producer first.


(See VFX Supervisor above.) If you have an idea, if you see something that everyone has missed in dailies, please inform the VFX Supervisor, DPS (Digital Production Supervisor) or your show producer. Contacting the client in any way is PROHIBITED, no matter how informal or how great your relationship is with the client.

Many young artists arriving in the post-production arena are so eager to prove their merit that they try to blast their awesomeness to all within earshot, especially in dailies. DO NOT DO THIS. Not only does this derail the presentation tempo, but it again circumvents the established communication flow/approval process.

Make a Note of It

So, again, here is the entertainment project production chain of command:


Artist -> Lead -> VFX Supe -> Producer -> Client


Client -> Producer -> Team

In Summation

Please keep the aforementioned chart handy. Draw it on your forearm. Tack it to your 1950s fridge stocked with old Diet Pepsi's and Boost protein shakes. Nail it to your corral out back near the shed. Follow the rules and the production will flourish and live to take on more projects.

Break the rules and prepare to abandon ship.


  1. Aye Aye Captain :)

  2. I want to be the producer. It's a good way to offset ageism, plus, they're the ones who get the actual statues come Oscar and Emmy time.