Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Route Sheet Meeting

Dick Williams' approach to directing and managing was quite unique. He didn't really have a production team as we know it from other feature film studios. His wife Mo was co-producing with him and she had one assistant. Both of them had minimal interaction with the crew and were mostly taking care of the business side of things. Then we had 2 accountants for pay roll.
Dick managed the different departments himself with only one production coordinator, Ian Cook. There were people in supervising roles in camera, ink&paint and checking, but they were all also doing their share of the hands-on work in their departments.

Once a week (and later as we grew up to around 30 animators twice a week) we would gather for a route sheet meeting. Route sheets looked like this:Dick used them to keep track of the scenes from rough animation through final film. In the meeting he would work his way along the walls that the route sheets were hanging on (actually just the back of animation desks and shelves). Often he would be on his knees since they went right to the ground. As he was progressing through the scenes you knew when it would be your turn. He would ask you to estimate how much of the work you had accomplished. If you said 20% he would shade in 20% of the appropriate box with a blue color erase pencil (green meant it was done, shot on film and final). After a few weeks he had often shaded in more than was justified and he would ask: almost done? You had given your best, put in long hours, but still you're just half way through your shot. You tell him and now he starts erasing the box with the back of his color erase pencil, making some concerned noises. That was one of his ways of applying pressure.
He went through the same process in this same meeting with all departments. The next shot might be already in trace&paint and now it would be their turn to haggle over the percentage.
This would move along fairly swiftly and offered all sorts of opportunities to coordinate the needs of the different departments. Trace& paint, checking, camera would all know when each scene was about to come their way.

He had no scheduled review times. Most of the time he would be sitting at his desk in the middle of the big animation room and animate his scenes. Anybody who needed his feedback, animators, BG artists, T&P, checking would approach him carefully. He usually was very approachable and enthusiastic. If you were showing a linetest he would walk with you to the video linetester. He might ask “Is it good?”, which is a difficult thing to answer, but he was expressing confidence in you at that point. He wanted it to be good. Initially he would respond to the things he liked, before talking about things that he wanted you to change or improve. If he liked s.th. he would sometimes say so very loud and ask everybody around to come and check it out.


Andreas said...

those meetings were always interesting. sometimes an" i am not any further along than last week " ( which could easily happen as Dick may have decided to add some animated background characters or reflections on the floor) , he may shade in a line of hairs width anyway to mark some invisible progress.

Rafi animates said...

Dunno how I missed this post - really enjoyed reading this one and learning about Dick's approach.