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Work Schedule

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Adrian TecsonWork Schedule
by on Mar 29, 2007 at 9:19:03 am

Our post-house is comprised of about 15 2D/3D artists and compositors, everyone with their own way of doing things and diff peak working hours, which is usual of artists in the industry. But i'm also trying to create a semblance of a workable schedule that a typical office has and I was wondering if anyone could share how the work hours are for artists in their post shop. Flexi-time? Output based? Strict time in and out? How do you squeeze in tutorials and upgrade of artists skillset, etc etc. Thanks.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Work Schedule
by on Mar 29, 2007 at 2:25:02 pm

I'm married to an artist, so I may be biased:-)

Two points I'd make are:
1)Training is a serious matter and if you want to retain good, sharp artists, you need to keep their skills up to date and you want to formally schedule the training, commit to it as time just for personal development, booked as if the company IS the client... And don't just train them on what you have in the shop right now, but even let them train on new things you don't yet have, but might get: when a client comes in asking for something more exotic or out of your normal experience, you will be able to say: "yes, we have a person with expertise on that, we can take at look at this job". And you've expanded your business. Maybe even anticipated a major shift in demand.

So often, if you go with "we'll get you some training on so-and-so right after the Throckmorton job is done and out the door", what happens is another job comes in right afterwards, and another, and the trainng keeps getting bumped and bumped, because it's not considerd "productive". Like maintenace down-time. This makes the artist, or any worker, dissatisfied, and soon they start sneaking their training in on another project's time, or they start to look for another job where they can get the training to keep current. If they learn the new skills on their own time and dime, they are not going to feel any loyalty about aplying said new skills to your company projects, instead, they'll apply the new skills to freelance work outside the daily grind. Good for them, bad for you. To retain the best, you have to invest in them. Yes, you risk making them attractive to competitors that can try to hire them away from you. But this is the cost of doing business at a high level: if you can't keep them, you don't deserve them. When you improve them, you can also get away with charging more for them as well. In that sense, training doesn't cost: it pays. Certainly never paying for training will cost you lost jobs and quality employees.

Point number two: If you are trusting the artists to get the work done, and this is truly "artist" work and not mindless rotoscoping, simple application of stock plug-ins or something, all that really needs to be set is the drop-dead deadline for finished product at each step of client approvals. As long as they always meet that deadline with a high quality product, how they get there and what hours they run to get it is none of my concern. Artists need "head time" to think things thru, they also need time to experiment and make mistakes sometimes. Learning on the client's time while they sit there is NEVER a positive experience for anybody, avoid it at all costs because you lose much prestige with clients from that, and give them leverage to talk down your rates.

When you see a real artist get something done with apparent ease, you may not fully know the amount of practice, mental work and preparation and strategizing that went on unseen to lead to that quick-looking output. It is impractical to quantize that process on a punch clock, as even when they are not at the office, often they are grinding away on the ideas in their heads. I know that is the case with me on many writing and effects projects. If the artist is in the building an agreed-upon number of total hours, I think that's all you need. There are programs you can install on the PC (lawyers use them a lot) that let you clock in and out on each of multiple projects as you work on them, recording the hours to a fine line, and generate a billable hours report. But for real "art", there is no good way to clock the process accurately, because you don't do it, you LIVE it. Also, clocking the artists with a stopwatch tells them you don't trust them, and nobody produces their best work under that situation.


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DougRe: Work Schedule
by on Mar 29, 2007 at 3:53:43 pm

"...as even when they are not at the office, often they are grinding away on the ideas in their heads."

I spent a half hour trying to figure out why our Avid wouldn't do what I wanted it to.....five minutes after going to lunch I realized what I was doing wrong....had it fixed thirty seconds after I got back.

Doug


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Del HolfordRe: Work Schedule
by on Mar 29, 2007 at 7:26:31 pm

[Doug] ""...as even when they are not at the office, often they are grinding away on the ideas in their heads."

I spent a half hour trying to figure out why our Avid wouldn't do what I wanted it to.....five minutes after going to lunch I realized what I was doing wrong....had it fixed thirty seconds after I got back.

Doug"


Whenever I get frustrated with such problems it's amazing how many times I get inpiration facing the wall behind the urinal. That change of venue allows the brain to mull over the problem and so often the "simple solution" pops into the brain. Those walks down the hall are so useful on so many levels.


Del
fire*, smoke*, photoshopCS2
Charlotte Public Television


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Mark SuszkoRe: Work Schedule
by on Mar 30, 2007 at 6:45:36 pm

Not exactly the evocation we were looking for in the search for inspiration, but whatever let's you find your, um, bliss.


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grinnerRe: Work Schedule
by on Apr 24, 2007 at 2:37:39 am

This is just not a 9-5 kind of industry. Very hard to meet deadlines, make all cliets or bosses happy and make it home each night in time for scout meetings, soccer practices or even bedtime stories. Communication is key. I like the assign a project to an artist and let em meet their deadline approach. When a client is in the house, the artist can't really make their own schedules. They have to adhere to the client's schedule. When gear isn't available in those houses, a night or weekend shift is in order. If the house is big enough for two shifts a day, it's best to have artists on either days or nights, not swinging them to and from. I had a wacky boss once that liked to book us randomly... one week on days two weeks on nights, three weeks on days one week on nights. We never knew what we were working next so nobody had a life, everyone was medicated and ultimatly, it was a rotating door of personell. Thats the only one who messed with people's schedules like that. Every other place hasn't hesitated to try to work a brother 80 hour weeks but it was always the same schedule and was as simple as saying, nope it's time to go home. I've never missed a deadline and the truth is, I have missed scout events, soccer games and bedtime stories. I'm at an age now where I see this as bass ackwards and while most of it was required to get where I am today, all of it wasn't and I do wish I had those evenings back.
So, to answer our question, artists are big people. Give em a deadline. Let em meet it and don't make em kick down a fence by locking a gate. We all like freedom. It gives us responsibility, not rules that will sooner or later be broken. I guess I'm saying the boss is ultimatly the client. A good boss knows this. A temporary boss mico-manages his best assets away.



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Tim WilsonRe: Work Schedule
by on Apr 24, 2007 at 2:14:21 pm

[Adrian Tecson] "But i'm also trying to create a semblance of a workable schedule that a typical office has"

First, good on ya for trying to take care of your people and your office. You're way, way ahead of the game as a boss, and I salute you.

Out of curiosity, have you asked your people for suggestions? They might think everything is fine as it is.

That said, creative people will keep going and going -- they don't have an off switch. They often pride themselves on working around the clock.

They're (we're) idiots.

To the extent that you want to support them being more sane, create a big fat wall between "on" time and "off" time. Get them to stop working AT ALL. (Much harder than it sounds.)

Otherwise, there's a tendency to keep polishing, keep finding new tasks. Don't let it happen. Prioritize deadlines, and if the deadline isn't screaming hot, make your people take down time.

Let them know that you factor this into their evaluations: not taking enough time off is unacceptable. It's not about driving yourself crazy hitting deadlines. It's about getting there with sanity intact.

BTW, this is every bit as true for the self-employed. :-)


[grinner] "This is just not a 9-5 kind of industry."

Almost none are. There are a handful of jobs that have strictly regulated limits on hours, and should: pilots, surgeons, truck drivers, assembly line workers. We all pay the price if these folks work too long.

About the only 9-5 profession after that is receptionists I think.

Even among the not-all-that-creative parts of white collardom, a recent gig of mine was more or less 8-6:30 or 7, pretty much every day, frequently longer. The joke (sort of) was, "If you're not in the office on Saturday, don't bother coming to work Sunday."

That said, I know an engineer -- a true genius -- who usually wanders in around noon, and never ever leaves earlier than ten pm. You have to be flexible enough to accomodate folks like this.

[grinner] "I'm at an age now where I see this as bass ackwards and while most of it was required to get where I am today..."

You know that thing about "when you're on your deathbed you'll never say 'i wish i'd worked more"? There was a time not that long ago I'd have disputed that. There were things I really could have accomplished, people I really could have helped, if only I'd worked harder. I regretted not having more time to put into the job.

I was also an idiot.

I know a guy who sells suits for close to $200,000 a year. The nights he works until 9 are days when he started at noon. He loves his life. He paints, he's a musician, he flies a plane and has a great time with his family.

I haven't figured out what's wrong with this picture yet, except for the part about me being an idiot.


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