Seen in photo above: Izabella Mayumi
This is part one of our feature on VFX production coordinators. Read part two here.
The Focus spoke with Darren Usher from MPC Film, Brittany Amos from MR. X and Izabella Mayumi from Mill Film – all production coordinators – to gain insight into their responsibilities and the future of VFX production.
They primarily hail from communications backgrounds and the film production as a whole. Usher did a Master of Fine Arts at SCAD in Atlanta for Film and Television, while Amos started her career in production after doing a Master of Fine Arts at UBC in Screenwriting and working as an assistant producer. After doing a course in Production and Post-Production of TV and Cinema, Mayumi started an internship as a production coordinator and fell in love with the position.
The Focus: What is a typical work day like for you?
Darren: Usually my day starts with a production meeting that will go through the targets for the day. From there, I prep with the designated leads (whichever department I am working on), go through some shots, address any issues, make sure that the shots within the departments are being worked on.It's about spending time with the schedule, checking updates, sending agendas and making sure that everything is just on time.
Brittany: Generally, I come in and prep a task list for the artists. Then, I spend some time on the floor just doing rounds, checking in with everyone and making sure everyone is on track. Just basically making sure everything is moving on the floor. I'm also involved in dailies, taking notes and making sure the next steps from the VFX supervisor are clear. So, a combination of being on the floor and in dailies and making sure everything is happening on schedule.
Izabella: The first thing I need to know is the week’s targets to be sure the team will reach them. I need to talk to the supervisors and leads to check if everyone is doing something and if they will finish everything on time. I have to attend the dailies and note every feedback we receive – and make sure that the team understands this feedback, so every person informs me how long it will take to modify their shots. Also, I manage the team’s calendar, so I need to know who is sick, who is on vacation, who has worked during the weekends.
The Focus: What is the most challenging part of the job?
Darren: I think my biggest challenge is ensuring that I will have the necessary allocated time to address all my tasks within a given day, outside of the scheduled meetings. It's about a balancing act because meetings are absolutely required for production to attend. Most of the times in those meetings we need to be very attentive and then also take action from those meetings. So, those tasks that are requested in meetings usually become high priority, which means that your original schedule of tasks usually will get pushed. It's about finding those times and balancing between them. I would say that this is my biggest challenge.
Brittany: Time! I feel there there's never enough time in a day. It's always a challenge to prioritize things and make sure the most important ones are happening, because priorities often change. There is always so much going on, so the biggest challenge is just making sure we're finishing everything on time.
Izabella: Reaching all the targets. Things change all the time because while we have the week’s targets, there is a lot going on in parallel. For example: my supervisor wants to show a shot to the movie’s director, but it isn’t part of the week’s targets – in this case, I need to include the shot on my list and think about how I will deliver everything on time. Basically, I have to deal with big and small demands every day.
The Focus: What do you think about coordinating projects remotely?
Darren: I would say that the biggest issue in terms of interaction is really the time zone. It’s just figuring out when you can basically get together and address any issues that are impeding progress between the sites.
Brittany: I think it works. We do that here in Toronto as we also have studios in Montreal and Bangalore. The project that I'm on right now has shots in Bangalore and in Montreal, so we're all working towards the same thing. It can be challenging, so it's important to keep communication clear and open at all times because that's often where it can break down. It's very doable if you have a dedicated team, a coordinator who handles specifically the global side of things and somebody who is handling everything internally, so nothing gets missed.
Izabella: Here at Mill Film we work a lot with Bangalore and Australia. I have a compositing team in Bangalore and even if I have a production coordinator and supervisor there. I am responsible for telling them what they need to do and their weekly targets. The communication needs to be really clear and all processes need to be aligned to make it work. If there is anything out of track, we can lose something important. Due to the time zone, we only have one or two hours per day to talk with Bangalore, so we need to capitalize on this period to establish a good plan. — thefocus.com
Editor's note: Izabella Mayumi worked at Mill Film from May 2019 to February 2020.