Friday, 2 January 2015

Seven Rules to Make a Group Project Work
Group projects always sound like a great idea, in theory. In practice, things rarely go according to plan. Why do they go wrong?  Usually it's due to a lack of individual responsibility. Everyone in your group will tend to think that, where there's a job to be done, someone else will do it. The result is paralysis - nothing happens. This is a problem for all group projects, and students film projects are no exception. So, save yourself some pain and heartache by following this step-by-step guide to making a group project work. These are the rules to live by.

Rule 1 - Make sure everyone has a job for which they alone are responsible

At a minimum, you will need to decide who is responsible for the following jobs: Producer, Director, Art Director/designer, Writer, Editor. If it's a CG project, you will need a digital supervisor as well. Each role must be filled by one person (never divide roles) who is responsible for this part of the project getting done.

Someone must be King. Or Queen.

Rule 2 - Decide who is the boss

Film studios, even small ones, are not democracies. Someone must be in charge. On any film project there are usually two people in charge - Producer and Director. Each job is different.

  1. Producer. It is the Producer's job to organise the show, to set deadlines, to make sure deadlines are met. The Producer is organiser-in-chief, the project manager. 
  2. Director. The Director's job is to provide creative leadership. The director must make the key creative decisions, working with the rest of the group, coming up with fresh ideas, inspiring the team. The Director is problem-solver in chief. 

Rule 3 - Set deadlines.

Without deadlines, projects don't get done. When will the script be done by? When will the mood boards be done? The storyboards? The animation? The final edit? The Producer must make a spreadsheet (learn to love Excel, or Google calendars) so everyone knows what the schedule is. Without a schedule you will struggle to get anything done.

Learn how to use a spreadsheet
Rule 4 - Meet Your Deadlines

Deadlines are there for your own protection - you must make them on time or your project will hit trouble. Treat deadlines with respect. Meet them every week. Be disciplined. Someone will need to create a schedule, probably in Excel, and then stick to it.

Rule 5 - Have a Plan B

If someone on your team isn't working out, replace them. You cannot have a smooth running machine with components that cannot or will not work.  If any individual won't deliver, replace them or do their job yourself. Nothing must stop the train.

Image: Wikipedia

Rule 6 -  Understand How Films Get Made. 

Understand how film-making works. Every project starts with a script, closely followed by visual development, storyboards, animatic (usually with voices, music and temp sound effects), then animation, lighting and rendering (if it's CG), post production (eg final sound design), and final output.

You can watch this free film here to get you started. Know the process of film-making thoroughly and don't try to re-invent the wheel.

The cartoon at the top of the blog is from For more on Group Projects, try this link.


To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link. For more information on finding work and surviving in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films. Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business. Also see our post about freelancers and taxes.  

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