Saturday, October 23, 2021

Hollywood 9 to 5 - Episode #8 Post-Production Coordinator


Above is the video with what I ended up saying. Here's the script I wrote with what I thought I was going to say:

Post Coordinator

Job Description: A Post Coordinator is basically an assistant to the Post Supervisor on a feature film or TV show. As such, the duties of a post coordinator might change depending on which post supervisor they work for. I’m going to go over the various things I did as a post coordinator, but this might not be representative of all post coordinator jobs.

First, let me explain that there are three broad phases of production - pre-production, production and post production. Post production can actually start during pre-production, before production, lining up schedules and booking people so that as soon as the first second of film is shot, it has somewhere to go to keep the workflow moving.

When a feature came in, the first thing a post supervisor does is set up a schedule for the post production process. As a post coordinator, my job was to actually create the calendar as the post supervisor threw dates and times into the air. We used Movie Magic Scheduler, but something like Outlook is just as good for this. For example: shooting starts on Oct. 1. We need the editing room ready to start that night, with an assistant editor coming in at 10 pm to start digitizing the dailies. The film has a 2-week shoot. Then we’ll give the editor another 4 weeks to get the “editor’s cut” finished. Then we’ll have a few weeks of notes and the director’s cut will be due another 3 weeks after that. Then we’ll have producer’s notes and the final cut will be due two weeks later. Sometimes these dates are also backdated from a release or festival, or include preliminary versions be completed and ready to go to festivals.

So while the post supervisor is saying these things, I’m looking at a calendar, noting which days are weekends, when we don’t want things delivered, if there are holidays in the middle of the schedule where we’ll need extra time. I’m making suggestions and adjustments to the calendar to accommodate these dates.

Then the post team will need to help set up vendors for various parts of the post production process. Some of these things the post supervisor handles directly, like negotiating rates on mixing studios, including time for ADR. The post supervisor probably has people they like to use and often will get deals on low-budget films with the understanding that when a bigger project comes up, they’ll take the work to the same place in exchange for the favorable rates. But some things, like getting bids from different companies for things like dailies processing, main and end title creation, or reaching out to composers for sample reels or talking to sound effects companies for rates and catalogues, the post coordinator will handle. Ultimately, the PC doesn’t make or agree to any deals, but they will ask for lots of bids.

Once the bids come in and the PS has negotiated them, the post coordinator might be asked to send out deal memos and purchase orders for these services.

Once editing is in progress, the PC will interact with the assistant editors and editors, getting copies of cuts as they progress, like the first rough assembly and then updates once they are substantial. The PC will get copies from the editing room and then make sure that all of the important people (director, producers, PS and others) get copies of those edits of the film.

The PC might also be asked to go to different sessions near the completion of the film, like color correction sessions or screenings of silent versions of the film, looking for any errors in the edit - like black frames that shouldn’t be there or flash frames, where an editor accidentally leaves one frame of a shot when they thought they deleted the whole shot. In the days of negatives, you would go to screenings after the negative was cut to make sure that the assembly of the picture looks right. Sometimes the film gets flipped during the negative cutting or something from a wrong scene gets put in. Hopefully there is nothing to catch in these screenings, but the boring job of watching a movie several times will fall to a PC.

Like the name says, there is a lot of coordinating involved with post coordinating. You spend your day making phone calls and sending emails, checking on the progress of various people who are working on a film and updating the PS to let them know if everything is on schedule or if there are problems bubbling up somewhere.

I was also a post coordinator on trailers, so a lot of the same things were done on a much smaller scale. I would book narrators, dealing with agents, and prepare narration scripts for them, attend the narration sessions and make sure that everyone had the materials they needed when they walked into the room so there was no delay in them getting right to work.

Story time: There was one movie where we were doing the Post and that included making a trailer for some event, like a film convention or festival. The director of the film wanted a narrator who sounded like Gary Owens from Laugh-In. As I’m telling this now, that might not be exactly right. Anyway, he wanted someone who could imitate a well-known voice. I called an agent who represented several voice over artists and told them that our only requirement was someone who sounded like Gary Owens. I was assured that the VO artist they were sending over could do it.

Cut to the audio booth with the VO artist in there and come to find out they could not do a Gary Owens voice. Terrible! My fault, even though the agent had clearly lied to me and had set their VO guy up for a failure. The VO artist offered up some of the other celebrities he could impersonate and the director reluctantly chose one, but it was a bad situation for all of us. So, I guess the moral of that story is that agents lie.

How do you get this work and what does it lead to:

I got the job by getting hired on at a small post production company where I was just thrown into it. I actually worked for a month or so for no pay, to get experience, and was then hired full-time.

Funny story about how I even got the unpaid job. A friend of mine was dating a guy who randomly talked to someone. That someone had a friend with a post-production company. The friend’s boyfriend got me a lunch meeting with the guy with the friend and the guy with the friend got me an interview with the guy with the company. Convoluted! But it worked out and I got the job.

I wanted to be an editor, but in exchange for getting to learn how to use an AVID and editing and assistant editing a few things, I had to work a full week and the work available was as a PC. I got low pay, but training and experience.

The best thing to do if you want to be a PC is to find a PS who is looking for one and hope they like you. If they work, you’ll work. So even though working on movies is a short-term job, the right PS will have several movies booked at once, essentially making for steady, full-time (+) work with them and for them.

If you are interested in being a PS or a producer, this is a good foot-in-the-door kind of job. Or if you like to work on films and want to stay in a lower pressure position, this is a good job for that. You don’t have the same pressure to keep the schedule moving as the PS, and as long as you don’t make any big mistakes you will have the opportunity to continue working for the PS as long as they have work. Eventually you can work your way up the ladder to be a PS on your own and the skills a PS has are an excellent transition to being a producer. Obviously, I didn’t not pursue this avenue, but I saw it there.

What kind of person is this good for:

This is good for someone who isn’t shy about talking to strangers and negotiating deals. So, someone pretty much the opposite of me. Outgoing and energetic people.

If you can get really passionate about movies that you don’t have a big creative say in, you’ll do well here. I just couldn’t get on board

The downsides:

Shortly after I got the job at the PP company, I was informed I had to come in over the weekend to do something. Everyone had to work that weekend (all 5 of us), but pizza would be provided. I thought it was a joke.

The biggest downside for me was the long hours - on salary. Although my record for working a 33 hour shift with only short breaks to eat was technically while editing a trailer for Cannes, it was at this PP company. The hours were terrible and the work made me miserable. My boss had the habit of having nothing for me to do for an hour or two before it was time to leave for the day and then just as I was about to turn off my computer, he’d come in and throw something on my desk that needed to be done that night. It was extremely frustrating, because it was usually because of him being disorganized that he didn’t get the work to me sooner and that I’d be stuck at the office until 8 or 9 at night.

It just wasn’t a good fit for me, but if you like to work hard, are organized and like dealing with people all day, this could be a good fit for you.

The pay:

Unfortunately, I was paid on salary, so I didn’t get paid for overtime, and there was a lot of overtime. At the time I started, I got $300/week. This was in 1997, so adjusted for inflation that’s still only about $500/week. Minimum wage was $5/hour, so at $300/week I was over that, at $7.50. But I was taken advantage of. If I had been paid minimum wage, I would have earned more than $300/week with the amount of overtime I was expected to do. When a man started in the same position just a year or so later, he started at $350/week - because he was a man. Someone else came in with more experience as a PC and insisted on getting paid $750/week, which is decent pay and would now be around $1250/week. She was given that rate, so clearly the company could afford it.

But that’s just what happened to me. I worked almost entirely in independent films, which had much lower budgets than studio movies where hopefully the pay is better.

Like with so many things, it comes down to who you work for. I always discourage people from taking salary jobs, because it has never worked out for me. It is a way for the company to screw you over. But if they pay enough and you don’t mind working long hours, go for it.

If you get a job at a post-production company, it will be a regular full-time job. Otherwise, you’ll be more like a freelancer but going from one long-term assignment to another.

If you have any questions about what else I did as a post coordinator or what movies I’ve worked on, please feel free to ask them below. Don’t forget to subscribe so you can see all my videos, about all the different things.

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