Collaboration versus Obfuscation

The most valuable information is shared information. Most especially in the context of Production Teams, it is the responsibility of the Producer or Production Executive to create an environment, a hierarchy and communications matrix that supports open communication between and amongst all components of the Team. From initial concept development and all along the road of revision and evolution, it is imperative that all departments participate in the ongoing conversation and process that is to lead to the best final result.

Concurrently, the onus is on the representatives of each department, guild or discipline to respect hierarchy and process, participate in good faith, appreciate the value, talent, experience and skill of all others at the table and seek ways in which each can contribute to the moving forward of the process to the best, final result.

Balkanization of Production Teams = Bad.

At first blush, this must sound obvious. Yet, every so often one can encounter what I call a “hub-and-spoke” producer: one who holds all the cards, all the components, all the information close to the chest and shares bits of information piecemeal — where and when s/he thinks it’s needed. This means that only that one individual has the full, Big Picture. This can slow and even derail the creative and production process(es), effectively keeping those who might well prove to have creative solutions to obstacles in areas other than their own primary purview from contributing to others.

While the Producer / Director is the crucial Fulcrum for the Production and Maker of Final Decisions, s/he should strive not to hoard.

The simple fact, one that is lost even on the [purportedly] all-knowing Producer, is that not even s/he has the full picture when s/he is the only one with all the cards. By not including all others in the process, vast amounts of possibility may never come to light and the final product may suffer in ways never appreciated…as those possibilities were never articulated, examined or assessed.

I’m sure your mother taught you to Share. I’m almost positive she never told you to stop.

Simple solution.

Regular, Inclusive Production Meetings. (I know, right? This should be obvious.) At the outset of any project, one of the first things to lock is the schedule of production meetings. This, even prior to the hiring or appointing of the full team. As individuals or teams are brought onto the team, that schedule is communicated and schedules adjusted to support these regular confabs. This is critical to the success of a show or event.

My general practice for these meetings is once a week, though, increased magnitude and abbreviated schedules might support twice that, on occasion. These are calendared and a required commitment of every member of the team for the run of the project. If someone can’t make it to a given meeting, s/he is required to send someone conversant in the responsibilities and needs of that department, who can make decisions at that meeting.

These meetings, targeted at one-hour, are not optional. At these meetings, the entire production or event is gone over, moment-by-moment, piece-by-piece. Nothing is held back, and any bumps in the road are addressed, any missing pieces discovered and handled. Through this process as often as not, missing pieces are discovered, duplications of effort that affect budget are discovered: solutions are offered.

Sometimes, these meetings may only last 15 minutes. Most often, they spawn ad hoc satellite meetings to iron out conflicts or forge cooperative teams to address specifics. This is healthy stuff.

Through this, every person on the Production Team becomes aware of where they and their work fit in the production, what is taking place when they are doing their own jobs, what is the Big Picture – what are we creating. This gives a strong and deep sense of ownership and fosters responsibility.

Don’t keep people in the dark, intentionally or through ignorance. Include every discipline, even if only responsible for a small part of overall design or substance. You just never know.

Share the Budget. Allow others to see the budget at these meetings. Not to question where money is spent, but to see through their eyes that they are being supported and to call attention to anything perceived as missing as it is examined. Giving each department or individual the opportunity to review the line items relevant to their responsibilities ultimately protects from coming up short at showtime and having to make last-minute (and more expensive) changes or revisions.

It may also protect the relationship with the Client, if budgets must change. Far better to know that, way out front, than in the final days before curtain.

It is only the unprofessional who complain about money being spent in other areas – that’s the Producer/Director’s call. While there’s nothing wrong with a little offline lobbying, a clear case made in open forum for money to be well-spent will satisfy all in the room and alleviate conflict down the road.

Hear the voices of Others (beyond any already in your head). Let everyone speak when compelled to do so in these meetings…or anytime. Have the patience to let people finish their sentences. Though one might believe to have a good idea where someone is going in a line of thought or reasoning, one doesn’t actually know, until it has been said. Wait for it. Let it be said. Y’never know what you might hear…and learn…what perspective might change.


Respect the Process (Contribute to the Process) and the Process will Support You. This goes for everyone on the team, from top to bottom and side to side. Hierarchy is not bureaucracy, it is structure; a framework that should be designed so that every component of the team can depend on the others. Without Hierarchy and Fulcrum, there is no organization. Things fall through the cracks, unnecessary money is spent, departments find themselves unsupported: people, and clients, get cranky.

Trust department heads to do their jobs and alert you to problems in plenty of time. If you are a department head, be clear about the support you need and that which you offer. The regular meetings are the perfect forum to ask for support where it’s needed; to offer the same.

Then, if Hierarchy becomes Bureaucracy, burn it down and begin again.

Ultimately, the creative, production and budgetary decisions most effectively fall to one individual; to the Producer or Director or somewhere in that fluid Field of Titles that drive the process…but in the most efficient and effective structures to just one individual.

This fact of hierarchy must remain sacrosanct; being held as such by every member of the Team. I have found, in my own experience, that the more fully my teams have participated in the creation of a project, the more willing those on said team are willing to live with and actively, authentically support the ultimate decisions made by The One In Charge, when all is said and done.


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