Thursday, June 23, 2011

Legacy: The Production Track

Those of you who participated in the genesis of the production track at any point while I was at the AAU recognized the impact it had upon all aspects of the department. Every candidate, whether BFA or MFA, who joined this specialized (and unrecognized) sub-plan benefited with a series of high-profile internships and career placement at graduation. (For a full list of graduates, and current AAU producers, see this blog:


The complete history of the production program is detailed in a previous blog entry, but in a nutshell, this is how it came to be: Arriving in the classroom, having ten years of production experience, I quickly recognized that post-production project coordination, even at an academic level, needed production management. In my advanced visual effects course, a course based on multiple-project delivery over a short period of time (in an attempt to mirror the industry), I selected students to be production assistants (based on their resumes). The production assistants would help me run dailies, take notes, and for their efforts, received a small grade bump.

I selected students who either had production backgrounds, or those students who seemed outgoing, fearless under pressure, and well-organized.

After noting the successes in the class (75% Spring Show placement rate) and the beneficial effect it had upon the academic careers of the production assistants, we expanded the program to include Catherine Tate's Composting For Production collaborative courses. Catherine adopted the PA approach so well that the roles were expanded to other courses in the program later on, like Derek Flood's lighting/texture courses.

It just makes sense. All trade-based core courses should be structured in a way that mirrors the industry. Producers are part of the workflow. Why not at a trade school?


I loved my producers. In return, they loved the industry perspective their positions afforded them. Once they understood the system of bidding, client management, artist development, workflow design and pipeline assessment, they blossomed. Many of them had struggled as animation, modeling or post-production artists. When the word-of-mouth spread that they was a safe harbor in the program for those artists who loved the process and the industry, but didn't love the technical aspects so much, they came knocking, hesitantly, at my office door.


Because most of the producers that I developed were artists and designers first, they fully understood the workflow and technical processes involved with the respective programs in feature animation and visual effects. They understood both sides: from the management point of view and the artist's point of view. Few current producers in the industry have such clarity of perspectives.

These producers immediately found jobs outside. Having had some experiences with Shotgun and Basecamp helped, certainly, as well as having nearly a dozen small productions on their early resumes.


I am hoping that Catherine can manage the producers in the meantime. Executive MFA Producer, Lutz Wong should be able to run the weekly meetings, including the live broadcasts, through the Adobe Connect production office. The department may seek a Production Lead, inviting a retired pro to helm the program. That would be the best of all worlds, certainly.

You can't go back to how it was done before. You shouldn't erase all the progress we've made in the last six years. It was a struggle to find good producers while I was there. Without clear leadership, your recruiting classes will dwindle and the program will die.

Get out there and talk to your colleagues about the program. Keep it alive!


  1. Please feel free to remind Lutz I'm here to help to! I can't wait to see what Catherine has to offer, I've always enjoyed learning from her, and would like to pick her brain further!

  2. Nooooo..... this is not even O.K. i really want to do something to help. If intuition has anything to do with artists emotions, I certainly acknowledge the lack of leadership at the moment. I feel like I am on the edge of a precipice. Not fair. I will be writing letters.