Michael Cawood

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Devil's Workload Distribution

2012-02-16
By: michaelcawood
Posted in:

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This is potentially a controversial topic. But I felt it would be valuable to other short film makers in the future looking to run a production like this. Using statistics from running the project I made this chart to show how the work in the film was distributed in three main categories; the team leader, the rest of the team members and other random contributions by people that didnt consider themselves part of the team and didnt join up on the website.

The length of each bar for each category gives a rough idea of the scale of the workload in that category relative to other categories. Its rough but avoids biasing the overall average since some tasks (like animation) were clearly much more time intensive to the team than others (like rendering).

The lessons that I feel are the most valuable to pass on from this are:

What skills were worth recruiting for?
The skills I found the most worthy recruiting for are; Animation, Modeling, and Tool development. Of course this may vary with team leaders with different backgrounds and skillsets, but Ive swapped notes with other Directors and this seems to ring true for them too.

What skills werent worth putting much time into recruiting for?
Importantly, the skill areas I found the least valuable recruiting for (but I tried anyway) where; Writing, Compositing, Supervision, Pipeline management, Website development, Storyboarding and Design. Thats not to say there werent some valuable contributions in those areas but the efforts to recruit in those areas didnt result in a large percentage of the work being done by anyone other than the team leader (i.e. me). Im sure other team leaders would have different results depending on their contacts as, after all, talent attracts talent, so if the team leaders portfolio isnt strong in an area hes recruiting for its unlikely that strong talent will sign up to work with them. Although Ill admit my standards were very high in some areas to the point that the contributions of others didnt make the grade. They were areas I wanted help, thought I could find it, but chose to do more of it myself in the end.

Summary:
Overall in the case of Devils, Angels & Dating, the team leader (i.e. me) did around two thirds of the overall workload on the film. I consider this a success in the grand scheme of the history of projects like this (volunteer based, zero budget, without studio support or a big name attached). Ive spoken to other Directors that would quote a much higher number, either because their efforts to recruit others were limited or because the new team members simply didnt bring as much to the project as hoped. Its a tricky task to run a project like this and most fail, the ones that dont take considerably more years of production than expected. Stories of five to ten years or even longer have circulated, so Devils production length of 3 years (plus a couple of years of idea development and design by the team leader), is pretty short. You also have to remember that most of the time everyone was working part time. There was very little full time commitments overall. I have the greatest of respect to someone that can take time out of their careers to dedicate themselves full time.

Despite these small successes this has still been the longest single project Ive been involved with at over five years and five months of my time. The closest projects behind that were two games, each over three years and one of my first films at around eighteen months. So its been a long journey and I have some taste of the singular vision and determination other independent animated filmmakers have had to go through to finish their epics.

Ill end this by, again, thanking my team. Whatever their individual time commitments to the film were over the years, they brought spades of value to the project and it will take some doing to match this experience on future projects.