I love creative surprises. I love the little moments of life people can add that I didn’t see coming. The smiles that a spontaneous idea can bring to a scene. Life is full of surprises and getting that across in a story is really important.
But when it comes to production aspects, I don’t like surprises. Not one little bit. This comes from many years of production – concepts to scripts to storyboards to layouts, backgrounds, animation, compositing, sound, music and post. So many processes and so many things to keep track of.
What a production needs is certainty.
In a production, you have to know what’s coming up, when things are expected and what has been planned for. You have to manage your resources carefully and often those resources will have been set down very early in the process. If the needs of the production don’t always match the resources, you need to see this coming from a very long distance so that you can adapt and amend plans – basically so it isn’t a surprise when it happens.
Surprises in a production lead to flusters, misuse of resources and wasted time. So when you’re entering into a production, get to know your production inside and out. Know what you have planned for. If you are lacking any of that information, find it out. Write it down so you can’t forget it. Make sure everyone is aware of what things need to happen and when. And do a regular review of where things are at so you are always kept informed. Avoid the surprises.
If you keep your production as clear as possible, you can save the surprises for where you really want them: in the creativity.
I found myself unusually busy approaching the Christmas break. I had a lot to do and so a lot of things I would normally do at this time (like sending out nice mails to people), I didn’t get to do. It’s unfortunate and I apologise for you missing out on my usual catch up message this time of year. But no matter how good you are at time management, there is a point at which there is not enough time to get everything done. At that point, we have to knock things off our to-do list not because they are done or because they are no longer important but instead because other tasks have a higher priority and you will only get through a certain amount of them.
Prioritising is hard. It’s hard because it can feel like a failure if interpreted the wrong way. You can focus on the things that you didn’t get done. But look at the alternative. I often think back to school when it comes to this sort of thing. Every teacher gives you homework blissfully unaware of what homework the other teachers are giving you. Now I was a good student but even I hit points in a school day when I realised that there was simply too much homework to get done to any reasonable standard.
Did I prioritise and do what I can well? I did not. Instead, the feeling that it was now an impossible task gave me the feeling that the entire endeavour was pointless. I was doomed to fail and so why even try if it just couldn’t be done? Having a lot to do can give us a kick and motivate us to get through it. Having what is obviously too much to do is a terrible motivator. Nobody feels good about starting something they know won’t end well.
Cut to years later and my approach is different. I carefully select tasks and the order I work through them to ensure that each one is done well. Once something goes on my list and is in the correct order, I work through one thing at a time and I don’t worry about the next thing on my list until the task I am on is complete. That focus is crucial. And when the list has to be evaluated because it is just too long, I have to look at what I can assign to others and, when things just get too much, what I will drop. Better to get what is achievable done well than fail at the whole lot.
Prioritising is hard. It involves making tough decisions and then being okay with those decisions. It takes consideration, evaluation and a sense of what each task involves. But there are times it just has to be done. It’s an important part of getting things done. So prioritise. Get things done and get them done well. And if they can’t be done, there is always next year.
One of the things with this business is that you can rarely talk about the cool stuff you’re making while you’re making it. It’s often top secret stuff. As we approach Christmas, I desperately want to shout about what we’re making at Mooshku… but I can’t. Next year.
What I can mention, however, is how we make what we make. How we’re trusted to deliver the best for young kids and how we pass that trust on to our fantastic team, allowing them to bring what is special to them to our work. How we explore character, life, acting and how crucial the setting for all this is. How we like to encourage people to do more than that one thing they were hired for, how we have to do that as a small team. And how we look to see where everyone can bring something more, something extra to each part of the process. Always looking to make it better and doing so with a smile, enjoying the making.
All of this has made the latter part of this year a joy and makes me excited for next year as we take this production to the next level. We’re making something special.
A break gives me that space to step back and look at what we’re doing and how fortunate we are to do what we do. How fortunate we are to work with the people we work with. And how important it is that we make something incredible for kids, to make them smile and laugh and brighten a day. Giving them something positive. So thank you to all our team and everyone we work with. We’re doing something wonderful.
And to everyone else stopping by my little blog, have a wonderful Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate. No doubt 2017 brought its challenges but I hope that, when you step back and look at what you did this year, you see progression, something fun or that you know you have laid the groundwork for something fun in the future. Find the victories and allow yourself to acknowledge them and enjoy them for what they are, no matter how big or small.
Have a fantastic break and I wish everyone the best for 2018!
Oh, one last thing. The Fluffy Gardens Christmas Special is airing on RTE 2 on Christmas Morning. The 11th year running! Quite a Christmas tradition now.