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A Day in the Life of a Post-Production Supervisor: Sean Smith of Brown Bag Films
12 May 2017 : Katie McNeice
As part of our new series promoting training and employment in the Irish film and television industry, we’re catching up with staff from some of the leading companies in the country, in the fields of production, distribution, festivals and beyond.

We started off with BG Team Lead Alana O’Brien and continue this focus on animation with Sean Smith from the multi-award winning Brown Bag Films.

Smith who is now a Post Production Manager runs through his experience as a Post-Production Supervisor on the team behind a vibrant slate including ‘Peter Rabbit’ and ‘Doc McStuffins.

He talks us through the skills he used in tackling everyday tasks and tells us both communication and calm are key, as are adapting to changing formats and answering questions as the rapid work of the animation team progresses.

IFTN: In 1-2 sentences, what are your primary responsibilities as a Post-Production Supervisor?
“A Post Production Supervisor handles two series at a time. On each series their main responsibility is having an overview of the schedule, and management of the team (Coordinator, Assist, Editors, Audio, Online). They can be involved in general overview tasks like reviewing schedules and resourcing; but also in the detail of day to day processes, viewings, reviews, client calls, master deliveries and staff management. So it’s a role with a very wide scope.”

IFTN: Talk me through your training background and what key skills you need to work in this role?
“It’s really a role that’s based on experience more than specific qualifications. A background in Post-Production is essential, any animation experience would be a major plus also. The main skills I’d list would include – being very organised, strong attention to detail, communication, learn fast, operate under your own initiative, work well under pressure, multitask, prioritise, work well as part of a team, be flexible, calm, approachable, positive, able to delegate, and have a strong work ethic.”

IFTN: How does this role differ from other roles in Post Production, such as Coordinator or Assistant, for instance?

“A Coordinator or PA would be knee deep in the day to day detail. A Supervisor needs to have the skills to be aware of that daily progress, but also an overview of the full series. It’s a case of keeping a lot of plates spinning at once. A Supervisor would have a huge volume of questions thrown at them across a day, and also need to be able to plan, prioritise and see the impact of schedule changes coming down the line. That said a Supervisor work as part of a wider team, so they aren’t operating solo by any means.

“Often a Supervisor will see an issue coming and will have to come up with a solution pretty fast, or flag there is an issue with their manager or series producer. Many times it’s fine for them to say I don’t know, or ask. This is not a job where everybody knows the answer all the time, but a supervisor needs to know how to get the answer and not be afraid to query. Communication is key. Within that, a huge part of the job satisfaction is getting those answers, helping people, problem solving and of course… making your Master Deliveries!”

IFTN: What kinds of projects do you work on or can it change from one to the next?
“In general, it’ll be an animated series of some kind, but the format can change. For instance, you could have 52 x 11 minute episodes in one series, but your other series could be made up of shorts, and 45 minute specials. With many video on demand clients now in the mix, the traditional models no longer stand so formats are rapidly changing. On the rare occasion you have 2 series with the same format, the clients and content of the series can be so vastly different, no two series are really ever the same. But a series can actually run for the best of two years from start to finish in post.”

IFTN: What tips would you give young IFTN readers who are training at the moment or other professionals looking to branch into your area, to be a successful Post Production Supervisor?
“In any area of production being very organised, with a strong attention to detail, while also being flexible and working well within teams is a must. No two studios or post houses are the same but it’ll certainly stand to you to get as much experience as you can in different aspects of post. Plus, definitely try and get some animation experience. Lastly, people like working with nice people.”




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