Over the last few weeks, I’ve described the post production scheduling process in detail. In this concluding post, I’m going to explain why the Post Supervisor’s most important role is the show’s Schedule Keeper. And why the Post Supervisor’s method of communicating the schedule truly matters.
Editing takes time, and successful projects have realistic deadlines and realistic expectations for the amount of work that can be completed by each milestone. They also need everyone on the team to know these deadlines. Therefore, the Post Supervisor’s most important role is to be the show’s 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 milestones.
- Know what work is expected to be included at each of those milestones.
The Post Supervisor’s primary tool for keeping the team synchronized is the post schedule in all of it’s formats. At the start of every project I create a calendar that clearly presents when each of the project’s cuts are due, and what needs to be included in each cut. For example: on my broadcast shows, the network expects our Fine Cuts to include all graphical elements and to be within 1 minute of the final run time.
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. I like to make sure that everyone on the team has reviewed and understands the dates. If anyone has any objections, I make sure to solicit their input and encourage constructive feedback. If someone on the team sees trouble in the post schedule, they should bring up their concerns and either 1) agree the project needs more time and have the Post Supervisor talk to the show’s stakeholders about getting more time, or 2) come to an agreement about what’s possible in the time allotted.
As your best collaborator, the Post Supervisor should ask questions like, “If I can’t get the deadline moved, how much could you accomplish in this time frame?” Or “How much time would you need to realize the stakeholder’s vision?” Sometimes the Post Supervisor will also prod by asking a producer if they’re really addressing the stakeholder’s vision or pursuing work for themselves. These questions aren’t meant to be offensive, but a subtle reminder that we’re all hired to execute the stakeholder’s vision, not our own.
If the tone of the conversation is adversarial, there is a problem. In general, by acting as a go-between, a good Post Supervisor mitigates any tension between the show stakeholders and the creative team; including the editors. As an advocate for the show, the Post Supervisor should remove emotion and keep all of the attention on the quality of the final product.
When I first became a Post Supervisor, scheduling was the most difficult responsibility for me to learn. The how-to do things in Excel was easy. Learning to roll with the punches and not take the changes personally was not. I used to internalize every “push”. But then I realized that in this area the Post Production Supervisor’s role most resembles a Project Manager’s role. Your job is to report the post schedule as fact.
These days I report on schedule changes per request, and don’t elaborate unless I’m asked to explain why a cut is late. In general [postponing] takes time; time equals money; and stakeholders tend to shoot the messenger. So be prepared to not take it personally.
Post production scheduling matters to me because I believe the Post Supervisor sets the tone; they establish the post department’s operating style. They establish how editors should be treated, the level of acceptable respect for the support staff, the importance of deadlines, and try to adhere to the budget and communicate when they can’t. Scheduling is not only about keeping all parties informed of the show’s progress. Scheduling is about creating a feeling of calm and control in the storm of the creative process.