How To Build An Animation Crew

June 22, 2016

Three years ago, I pitched my take on VeggieTales to Dreamworks and got the gig as a Show Runner. That’s an industry name for an executive producer who helps execute the day to day vision of a TV series. One of my first tasks what to build a team for one of the most aggressive schedules in TV animation history. We had three years to make 78 half hour episodes for Netflix with no time off between seasons!

The first thing I did was build an animation team, that means I pick a director, musicians, story board artists, post production, production assistants, writers etc. Almost three years into the show and the crew works like a clock, but that doesn’t always happen, and I credit a few operating principles to our success.

1. I picked a blend of personality types, not people who were like me, but often people who were nothing like me to benefit from their strengths and counter my own weaknesses. I needed technical minds, funny people, serious people, casual types and workaholics. This team became the closest team I every worked with because of the blend of personalities. It makes most days entertaining because of the people, even when the show can be a drag from time to time.

2. People usually have more than one talent set, so I went for people who excel at more than one discipline. A director who can write and storyboard is a useful thing. We have PA’s who can also do post production special effects. It keeps crew members from merely doing one task and when the show gets in a bind, it’s nice when a director boards on their own show.

3. People need to feel comfortable in their own skin. That is, there are times when the crew needs to be seen as more than an artist-for-hire in a giant entertainment company. I treat them like human beings and give them space for their real life drama. When a family member passes away or even when a crew member gets cancer or gets moved to another team, there has to be a place for tears, quiet space and emotional rest.

Those are my big three and it makes for a bullet-proof team of semi-sane workers.

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