Post Supervisors are Producers who specialize in the post production process, and are a vital to the smooth day-to-day operation of any episodic show. Although the role isn’t a creative one, the depth and breadth of a successful Post Supervisor’s responsibilities, and their ability to establish the operating style influences a show in a multitude of ways. To get an understanding of how versatile a Post Supervisor’s job is, and how they set the pace, it is fun to imagine our favorite television characters in this important role.
Joan Holloway – Mad Men
The primary responsibilities of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Pryce’s office manager are: managing the secretarial pool; implementing Roberts Rules of Order during meetings with department heads; assisting the CFO with financial duties; and organizing agency events. Joan Holloway’s ability to synchronize the agency’s resources would make her an exemplary Post Supervisor.
Editing takes time, and successful projects have realistic deadlines and realistic expectations for the amount of work that can be completed in that time frame. They also need everyone on the team to know these deadlines. Therefore the Post Supervisor’s most important role is schedule keeper. As the keeper of the post schedule, a Post Supervisor’s job is to:
- Make sure everyone on the team knows all of the project’s deadlines.
- Know what work is expected to be completed at each of those deadlines.
- Make sure the show has the necessary resources at each stage.
The Post Supervisor’s primary tool for keeping the team synchronized is the post schedule. After the post schedule is distributed to everyone on the team, it is the Post Supervisor’s responsibility to make sure everyone buys in to these deadlines. On my shows I like to make sure that everyone on the team reviews and understands the deadlines. If anyone has any objections, I make sure to solicit their input and encourage constructive feedback. Then I work hard to make sure that all of the necessary resources are in place at each stage.
Mr. Carson – Downton Abbey
The butler of Downton Abbey is in charge of the estate’s pantry, wine cellar, and dining room; but his goal in managing these resources is to make sure the abbey’s guests feel welcome. For every event Mr. Carson reviews the inventory and staffing arrangement to makes sure Downton Abbey is well represented. His ability to manage the estate’s resources with hospitality would make him a preeminent Post Supervisor.
Post Supervisors are first and foremost the resource manager of their show. A good Post Supervisor is technical enough to understand each stage of the post production process and make sure everyone on the team has the necessary tools for the job at hand. They make sure the appropriate amount of money is allotted into the budget for special resources, they explain to the stakeholders why specific resources are needed, and finally, they’ll negotiate the best rate with vendors.
When network executives come to visit the edit suite a good Post Supervisor takes great pride in making sure things run smoothly and that people feel well attended to. Having a Post P.A. available for coffee runs and having a small space available for a guest to work privately can make all the difference when review sessions get intense. Even small gestures, like emailing visitors the location of convenient parking, can create an atmosphere of comfort.
Post Supervisors establish the department’s operating style. They establish how editors should be treated, the level of respect for the support staff, the importance of deadlines and adhering to the budget. When executives come to visit a Post Supervisor should take pride in the orderly operation of their show.
Tyrion Lannister – Game of Thrones
The Hand of the Queen acts as her chief-of-staff. Therefore, when Daenarys Targaryen decides to invade Westeros, it is Tyrion Lannister’s responsibility to implement the Queen’s plans. Even if that means marshalling disparate units like Dothraki warriors and Unsullied soldiers. Tyrion’s versatility in all situations would make him an unbeatable Post Supervisor.
On large projects that require the efforts of multiple editors, the Post Supervisor prioritizes the workload for each of the team members. But the job begins before the cameras start recording. Working backward from the final deliverables, a good Post Supervisor maps out every activity that needs to be performed and assigns these tasks to the most appropriate person on the team.
The Post Supervisor should also be involved in the project’s overall organization as well. How is the media being transferred from the production team in the field to the editorial team in post? What additional assets are the show going to receive (music, graphics, b-roll)? Where are files being saved on the computer’s operating system and physically on which hard drives? How are the final sequences going to be sent to Color Correction and Audio Mix? Detailed planning creates realistic expectations for everyone on the show, and from my experience, reduces the level of frustration. On small projects this is a nicety, on large shows it is a necessity.
By imagining some of the most recognizable characters on television as Post Supervisors we can see the depth and breadth of skills required for the role. We can also see that what all of these characters have in common is a distinct operating style that sets the tone of their respective operations. The distinct personality of these characters influenced their worlds just as much as a Post Supervisor influences the post department on their show. And perhaps this is the most important aspect of good Post Supervisor; to establish the post department’s operating style.