Thursday 4 June 2020

Finding New Ways - Ciaran Murtagh

How we all doing? It's tough isn't it. It's like that last bit of a long distance flight, we've watched all the good films, the food's been eaten, the novelty's worn off and now we just want to get off the plane. Unfortunately it turns out our Captain doesn't know where he's going, he can't fly a plane, and he's just told us we're going round again.

I've been lucky, I've had work to do and I've kept on doing it, squeezed around home schooling, supporting sick relatives and everything else. But now things have started to get a little tricky.

Working in animation you tend to work on contracts that last a year or two. The processes are set up and established, you have your teams and you know what is expected of you. For the past few months, I've been working on shows that have been in progress -  Ninja Express and Viking Skool. They've been a lot of fun, but now they're coming to an end. I'm at a point in the creative process where I'm gearing up for some new projects and figuring out how to move forward with new people and new relationships.

Ninja Express - coming to a screen near you soon. 

This is a tricky thing.  You may have worked with some of the people involved before, but not always. Some of them may be in different countries, some will speak different languages and you have to come together to find a process that works for everybody in order to get a project up and running. It's a very delicate thing, it breaks easily and it's all about relationships.

Viking Skool - also coming to a screen near you soon.

The usual way to do this is to get everyone into a big room and thrash it all out over sandwiches, biscuits and a bucket of coffee for a few days. It always works. The ice is broken, you find out you're all fairly decent, professional people who want the same thing and you commit to getting it done as painlessly as possible. Of course you are. But you have to go through that process to know that. However, right now, in these times, that's not possible and that makes all of this difficult.

An eight hour Zoom call is never fun, and when you're on a call you don't tend to chit chat - you're there to work. You can't form informal relationships over a juddering screen with twelve other people fighting the same barrier. I always knew how important the personal relationships formed at the start of these processes are, they're just as important as the professional ones when it comes to getting  you through the sticky mid series humps. It's nuanced and it's balanced and it starts right at the very beginning.

So far, I've been muddling through, getting stuff done that's been in play, stuff that's already trundling down a well established track. I can't do that any more. I'm about to embark on an 18 month project without doing any of the things I would usually do. We haven't even built the track.

In the scheme of what everyone else is going through it's small beer, but finding new ways to be creative in these difficult times is a challenge. I was hoping I could wait it out until things got back to normal and start things properly, but with the plane going round again and the Captain not having a clue, it looks like I'm going to have to try and generate some kind of spark, jet lagged and exhausted. It's not a good recipe for creativity, but right now it's all we've got.

Oh. And I need a haircut.


Sue Purkiss said...

Really interesting about Zoom v real actual live meetings. And I absolutely agree with your analysis in the first paragraph.

Good luck!

Liz Brownlee said...

Good luck! Have you tried just having a 'coffee' zoom? Especially for getting to know you chat?

Anne Booth said...

Good Luck! I am amazed to hear about 8 hour zoom meetings! That's SO LONG. I find an hour long to be tiring, so I think you and your colleagues need medals! This is such a hard time. I hope everything works out well.

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for your post and the Zoom meeting video which I caught up with today!

Planning any kind of project must be a nightmare when you don't know each other to start with and when you have no space to chat quietly and informally together.

By the by, the problem goes wider. Someone on tv commented that the loss of casual physical contact and chat around the edge of formal meetings had made the Brexit negotiations a much harder task.

Apologies for the B word, and maybe the topic!

Plenty of good wishes for your future projects, Ciaran.