*This article kicks off a 5 part series on Animation Production Management by Ranjit (Tony) Singh.*
AAA: What exactly is Animation Production Management?
Tony: Animation has been used as a generic term here and includes visual effects, game development, e-learning projects, episodic tv series, features, tv commercials, interactive titles, dvds etc. Any organization or individual who works with art can benefit by adopting a structured approach towards managing projects.
Project Management is a specialized science with various facets. If you break down the life cycle of any project, there are multiple stages such as initiation, implementation, completion, delivery and closure with active monitoring as a common factor across the entire process chain. Each of these stages can be extrapolated into many individual tasks and for each task a defined process or method can be created. In this way an effective system can be designed that ensures complete control over the processes and the execution of the tasks in a time bound manner.
Animation production is no different. Irrespective of the medium (2d/3d/stop-motion), an animation project goes through each of the stages mentioned above and for a project to be financially viable it has to be managed effectively. Animation Production Management therefore deals with enabling effective oversight on creative projects that involve manpower, infrastructure, finance, administration and resources in a time-bound manner.
AAA: Is it practised by all studios – big and small, or is it something that is applicable only to a big studio and irrelevant to a small one?
Tony: Management of projects cannot be irrelevant to anyone, no matter what the size of the unit. Even for an individual artist, it is very important to know just how much time and resources will be needed on projects. Production Management is practiced by studios –big, medium and small and each one handles it in their own way. Large studios have dedicated production departments with many production managers, assistants and runners. Small studios very often have the artists playing multiple roles – that of creators as well as managers.
AAA: If it is so important, why don’t we hear much about Animation Production Management? Why don’t people give it much importance?
Tony: Any unit that is organized takes this subject very seriously. There could be many reasons why we don’t hear much about this subject. Animation is itself evolving as an industry and a specialized subject such as this will take some time to find seed and favor. Plus you need teachers / mentors who have extensive first-hand experience of the entire production pipeline, including administration and business aspects. Ask any studio head who is struggling with deliveries and overruns and they will tell you how important project management is for them. The fact is that it is difficult to find people who have effective administrative capabilities, understand the intricacies of the art and are also able to manage creative teams.
As artists, we very often feel that there is no need to look beyond our art or technical capabilities. This is a most unfortunate and misplaced approach. In fact, I strongly believe that artists must experience the various facets of a production. It is an important aspect of being a true exponent of this profession.
AAA: Do you think there is enough awareness about the subject? If not, what can be done to make more people aware about this critical aspect of Animation production?
Tony: Unfortunately there isn’t much awareness about this subject. People are only attracted towards the glamour roles and currently management is not high on the list. Students either want to be modelors, riggers, animators, lighters, compositors or roto-match movers. Specialisation in any one of these topics is in focus, everything else is considered unimportant.
Well to create awareness, I have been speaking on this subject for some time now with dedicated sessions and masterclasses at Anifest India, Department of Business Studies – IIT Delhi and at various training institutes across the country. Also articles such as this series are an attempt to bring this subject into the mainstream. I am also launching a specialized course very soon so that those who are interested have a place to learn.
AAA: Are there people who specialise in managing animation production? Is it a clearly defined role in a studio?
Tony: Yes, people do specialize in managing animation productions. Just as skills and talent are required to create art, they are also required to manage it. An organized structured studio will have the role and responsibilities clearly defined.
To read the next part (i.e part 2) of this article click here.