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  • A Producer's First Steps

    [07.23.19]
    - Nick Guilliams
  •  When I first started out as a producer I had little to no clue how to handle a team. Based on what I see and hear now I know that many new producers or team leads are in a similar situation as I was then. 

    Core Values

    In any project you will have three factors: 

    • People
    • Project
    • Profit

    These three values need to co-exist to have a healthy environment. If one fails this will cause ripple effects that can have disastrous consequences to a team. 

    Profit is, arguably, the easiest one. Balancing numbers is very easy to do and even easier to predict. Project shouldn't be too hard either when you think about it. There is a clear goal that you're working towards and you lay out the work that needs to happen to get there.

    People is a bit harder but generally if you're not an asshole this shouldn't be a problem. If someone doesn't like something you discuss it and figure out a solution.

    All three of these on their own are not a big problem. It's when they come together that shit can and will hit the fan. Profit remains the same. While there is a whole lot that can go wrong here, with terrible results if it does, the premise of it being clear to balance and easy to predict still stands. So let's assume that your company or studio does not have financial problems. This leads to the eternal question: How do you balance project and people?

    The Lesson

    I remember asking Jason Vandenberghe (Creative Director of For Honor)  this exact question. He answered this with "Oh god... this is a hard one." then continued with "People. Always people.". His reasoning behind this answer was that a project will inevitably come to an end and people don't. Well.. they do but not in the way a project does. Basically, you will have to work with people in the future while that project that went bad will stop being a problem. 

    While it's hard to not agree with this statement this did not really answer my question. How do you balance people and project? There is an underlying contradiction in this problem that make it feel like its very hard to make decisions that benefit both. This made me realize the following:

    A project is only as healthy as its team. I figured this out very early in my career yet it did not help me a lot during development because it does not actually provide you with any hands on information that you can apply to a team. However the following is incredibly important to understand:

    People affect your project and project affect your people.

    The two values, people and project, are inherently confounded with each other. If one goes bad so will the other and believe me, it will escalate into a negative spiral if not contained quickly. This means you have to cultivate both a healthy team and a healthy project. So how do you do that?

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