For those who haven't been following, we've recently started managing BloodSpell by taking the ideas from Agile Software Development processes like SCRUM and, most famously, Extreme Programming*, and adapting them to making a film.
That probably sounds as dull as dishwater to most people who haven't been involved in a big project. It shouldn't. What we're looking for here is a way to make sure that we can keep on top of everything that's going on, at least roughly predict when stuff will Get Done, and ensure that no-one wastes time waiting for tasks to be completed or people to finish their work. All of these tasks sound easy, but on a project this big, they're anything but.
We were a little dubious about how well a process meant for software development would work for filmmaking, initially, but so far it's been massively, massively helpful. It feels slightly embarassing to be talking about project management on a project that's meant to be all punk (and stuff), but frankly, you've got a much better chance of being spontaneous, edgy and brilliant if you're not constantly worrying about technical and admin stuff screwing up.
Probably top of the "Helpful" tree for me has been the *very* light nature of the admin required. Because our version of Agile stuff relies on working in two-weekly "mini-projects", and deliberately not planning much further than that two-week horizon, I've got a lot less to worry about, and a lot closer control and understanding of what's currently being achieved. The "themes" of each two-week mini-project mean that I can still think longer-term about hitting our objectives, by thinking "OK, so next iteration we'll shoot the trailer, then shoot the animatic, then after that we'll start filming...", but having to only track about 20 tasks at once really cuts down on the "endless to-do list" nightmare that anyone who has tried to make a big film knows all too well. Sure, we have a huge to-do list, but it's less a formal to-do list and more a dumping ground for anything that people think might be useful, from which we winnow our tasks every two weeks.
Related to that has been my move to the role of "Customer". This, basically, means I don't do any actual work on the project (in theory), and simply set priorities, provide requirements, track progress and answer questions. In practise, it doesn't work quite like that, as I've still got the creative part of the project to do, but it still means that my primary function is now oversight.
I think everyone would agree that this has succeeded like a charm. Because I've set a very firm rule that I don't *do* tech stuff, I just teach other people how to do it, the team's gaining practical skills at a frightening rate, and because my primary role is to answer questions, I've been much more available so to do. Added to that, our simple two-week to-do lists mean that everyone working on the project now knows what they're meant to be doing, and as such can get on with it without having to ask me for priorities all the time, which has been really good for us.
Next up - Wiki! Yes, we've set up an internal development wiki, which for those of you who don't know is basically a communal note-taking center where anyone can add new notes, correct other people's notes, comment on them, and so on.
We've had some teething troubles with it, to do with the fact that wikis are still perhaps a little too technical for non-geeks to easily use, but overall, WIKIS ROCK! Seriously. They're the best thing ever, as far as I'm concerned. We're putting just about everything on the wiki - project tracking, development notes, script notes - and they mean that everyone can have the vital documents of the project at their fingertips. If there's one thing that I'm going to take away from this project, it's that everyone, everywhere, who is running a project, should set up a wiki right now. No, now. Go on. I'll wait.
Phew. Ok, there's going to be more at some point, but I think that's enough of a giant block of text for us to be going on with. Comments?
*A term the BloodSpell crew finds impossible to use without one of us "throwing the horns" or doing something else, y'know, EXTREME!