Jul 23

Searching for golf balls

A complex show, or indeed any project with multiple elements, brings with it many possible pitfalls. Often (if you’re doing it right) these are a direct result of creativity – trying new things, pushing ourselves further into unknown territory while trying to create something surprising and wonderful. After all, if it comes too easy it’s a sure sign you’re retreading old ground. But when resources and time are limited, those pitfalls can soon become major problems. Careful monitoring of progress becomes essential and evaluating not just each element but what happens when those elements are put together. Backgrounds may look great on their own. Animation might look fantastic. Put them together and it’s only then that you might spot some clash that needs to be fixed and dealt with.

What if that happens across 180 scenes or more?

You end up with a huge overwhelming fix list.

Most projects end up with a daunting fix list at some point and this has the potential to cause breakdowns in any system. It can lead to panic. Chaos. Fixing parts here, there. Sending some elements back to be fixed without fully understanding what it is that needs to be fixed. Sometimes each fix breaks something else. The bigger the fix list the greater the pressure and the more likely it is to result in half-fixes, incorrect fixes and an even larger fix list. It can be utterly demoralising. Remember when teachers would give you a whole evening’s homework not taking into account that every other teacher did the same? Did it result in focused high-quality homework? It did not. It either resulted in scrappy homework or none at all because the pain of coming up with an excuse was less than the pain of actually doing the work, which could only ever be done badly.

So how do you deal with a fix list and avoid the breakdowns?

You search for golf balls.

Ever lost something and you’ve looked all over the house, searching many locations over and over again? Good golfers don’t do this. I think it was my granddad, an avid golfer, who once told me about how one should search for golf balls. When searching for a lost golf ball, a good golfer will choose a small likely location and search it. Thoroughly. So thoroughly that, if they don’t find the ball, they can be absolutely certain it isn’t there. So they move on to the next spot and never search that location again. By being thorough, they will always make progress and never go backwards. Dealing with a fix list is the exact same.

One at a time, you work your way through the list. And you do not move from a fix until that single fix is complete, tested and working. The original problem must be solved and evaluated to make sure it did not create any new problems. Only then do you move on.

No half-fixes. No fix snacking. No panic.

A slow process? Sometimes. Not anywhere near as slow as fixing the same thing five times incorrectly. And it is much more manageable dealing with one fix at a time, one anything at a time, rather than looking at some huge gargantuan task.

Just take it one at a time and be thorough.

It’s just like searching for golf balls.

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