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Scrum Series: Using Scrum for Film

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

Don’t believe that Scrum can work for non-software development projects?

Try this on for size.


Using Scrum for Film Projects

I didn’t start as an Agile Coach. I was first trained as an actress. I still work on various projects in order to stretch my creative side. I was recently on a film project that had a “wasted effort” issue.


Long days with nothing of value to show. The team becoming unmotivated and losing energy. Having to re-do work more than once? Does this sound familiar? Maybe with your own teams? Well, this was actually the reality of the film project. And recognizing the inefficiency patterns, I had an idea, what if we used the Scrum Framework to help streamline the process and create a realistic project for ourselves?


How do we do this? Let’s break this out by the 3x5x3 of Scrum. Keep in mind that film projects do vary but if you stay to the core framework, you can usually find the appropriate links.


The 3 Roles:

Development Team: The crew and the actors. They were the ones doing the work in front and behind the camera. Product Owner: The director. He was responsible for prioritizing the scenes and working with our stakeholders to set expectations and get feedback. Scrum Master: I ended up taking on that role. But ONLY because this had become an experiment of mine. In Theatre, the Scrum Master would most likely be the stage manager. In film, it would be whomever is responsible for keeping the team on track, sticking to the time-boxes, and helping us improve the process.


The 5 Events:


The Sprint: The filming time-box (a day in our case).


Sprint Planning: The team figuring out what scenes to complete that day and how.

  • During this time, the director reviewed with us what he wanted to get done. Based on his proposed shot list for each scene, the cast and crew weighed in on what we thought we could get done and how to effectively manage our time.

  • Daily Stand-up: The morning call-time check-in.

  • Right when we arrived for call-time, we checked in. How were we doing, did we still think we could complete everything, did we need to shift any priorities with what we were shooting? Had anything changed?

  • Sprint Review: Viewing the dailies.

  • This is when the director watched the raw footage/audio to determine if there were any errors.

Sprint Retro: Reviewing the completed, rough cut/edit of the footage.

  • Before we planned out our next filming day, we would discuss what went well/not well with prior filming and what we would do different this time.

The 3 Artifacts:

  • Product Backlog: The complete list of all scenes and breakdowns.

  • Sprint Backlog: The daily shot list. What scenes and shots needed for that day.

  • Increment: The completed, usable, footage from that day of filming.


What about Refinement?

I started to breakdown the scenes we had already filmed, trying to find common denominators between the “easy” ones vs. the “pull your hair out” ones. And below are some of the factors I identified:


  • # of Actors in the scene.

  • This increases the number of camera angles and shots needed.

  • # of Pages for the scene.

  • The amount of dialogue, movement, prop usage all contribute to increased filming complexity.

  • The content of the scene.

  • If it was a particularly emotion driven scene, the director would take 2x as much time in order to nail the right moment.


Taking these factors into consideration I was able to classify all of the scenes into estimations of the fibonacci sequence. The highest number was 34, a scene that contained the maximum number of actors, maximum pages of dialogue and shot complexity. The lowest number was a 1 and contained 1 actor, minimum to no dialogue or shot complexity. Using these estimations, I was able to weigh-in during sprint planning on whether I thought we could get through the proposed scenes/shots in a day and the reason behind my thoughts.


The Results?

The director began to think more about his priorities and weighed the effort involved with each scene. He was able to use this information to determine the actual scope of the project and timeline.


The cast and crew were able to weigh in on what we thought we could accomplish. This allowed us to set realistic goals and become more predictable in delivering usable footage.


And I was happier, knowing that the time and effort I spent doing something I love was worth it.

It can be done!

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