Have You Mastered Project Management for Film Production?

We all manage projects in everyday life. In business settings, fine-tuned project management skills are essential for keeping companies profitable and sustainable.  It also allows for the transfer of professional knowledge and business intelligence. The Project Management Institute (PMI) provides globally recognized standards and certifications for project management. Research shared on their site by Christopher Rhyne sheds light on project management in the film industry.

Motion picture production has been deemed similar to other industries such as software development and pharmaceutical research…What makes motion picture project management different from many other industries, however, is the degree or intensity in which these fundamentals are applied, and by whom….it is a logistically complex and difficult undertaking, much like waging a small war. It creates an innovative and subjectively evaluated product, the motion picture. It calls for constant communication during development, planning, negotiating, reporting, discussing, and directing. It depends on detailed scheduling and clockwork timing, such as with the tightly controlled and compact shooting schedule. It needs excellent decision-making, such as used during resource changes, unforeseen events, and artistic or financial decisions.[i]Christopher Rhyne

In film production, producers, directors and production managers are often responsible for project management, but the role can be held by others deemed fit, and if you have passion for creating documentaries you might take on all of these roles yourself. In addition to the best practices in project management found here, the following project management tips will help you avoid a few frustrations:


Don’t Let Team Members Grow Silent

Aim for full participation early on in team meetings and take corrective action if participation or communication wanes or changes. The excitement of an initial project launch can diminish over time. Take note of team members that might be shy or hesitant to talk during meetings. Ask questions and solicit perspectives around detailed tasks that must be accomplished. Acknowledge individual contributions and milestones to keep everyone motivated. Finally, reach out to those who become disengaged with a quick one-on-one phone call or email outside of meeting to get him or her on track.


Communicate Sub-goals

Be careful to make sub-goals or ancillary goals clear. For example, if your goal is to get external sponsors to support event or marketing initiatives, a sub-goal might be to convert that sponsor into a presenter at your event or a social media advocate to drive attendance.


Define Known Risks

Often projects have a historical precedent. Maybe a similar project did not work in the past for many reasons. When goals are communicated, take the time to provide details and stories about how and why the project went wrong in the past and describe any failed processes you want to avoid repeating.


Document the Steps in the Journey, Not Just the Outcome

The process that each person involved uses to accomplish specific tasks during the project should be documented. This documentation is in addition to updates on completed goals and milestones. This means each team member should outline the steps they took to accomplish tasks, including sources of information, vendors and services used. If these resources are not recorded it will increase the work involved to repeat the steps or update information later. Recording a process also allows you to use the most streamlined approach next time.


Use Project Management Software

Software such as Asana, Wrike, Smartsheet and Quip are examples of project management software that can work across various industries. Monday.com, Studiobinder and Yamdu have modules specifically designed for the film industry. These applications are easy to learn and you will soon find them indispensable for your film projects and many other projects you undertake.


[i] Rhyne, C. C. (2008). Looking behind the scenes: project management in the motion picture industry. Paper presented at PMI® Research Conference: Defining the Future of Project Management, Warsaw, Poland. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/project-management-motion-picture-industry-7121