Centralized Workspace, Shot List, Commercial Content

Firewood Pictures

Firewood Pictures elaborates on minimizing human error by automating production and bringing transparency to the entire crew.

Producer Oli FitzGibbon discusses the benefits of implementing Yamdu at Firewood Pictures and saving valuable time across their projects.

Key takeaway

"The dynamic-ness and how all the steps talk to each other are great. It really works like a production team, or an AD team itself!"

Oli FitzGibbon Producer at Firewood Pictures

What can you tell us about Firewood and your role in the company?

Firewood Pictures was established by Will Dolan and Asher Hardy, who started making films and quickly turned a business idea into a company. Today we specialize in brand content and commercials, and we've done shoots on a national and international scale.

I joined the team 5 years ago, and I am a Producer at Firewood Pictures.

Production still of NHS Branded Short Film.
Production still of NHS Branded Short Film.

Can you tell us what your process was like before Yamdu?

We previously used Google Drive for our projects since it was a great hub for having crew members work on a document together. For those that didn’t use Drive, Microsoft Word and Excel were the main tools for creating production documents like call sheets and general planning. Apart from that, communication was mainly done via WhatsApp and emails - which is where I spent the majority of my time.

And did you experience any problems?

We did experience a few problems in the past after we upgraded to Google Workspace as a company. Typically, we have a production pack for every project that contains all the templates, health documents, scripts, locations, and things like that. So everything was ready to go, but whenever we needed to duplicate the pack, it stopped us in our tracks. We would need to take it to a personal Drive account, then upload it, and then be able to access it. So it was like doing the work twice! Which costs us time.

And as the production scaled up, we would then have production assistants come in, who I would need to teach for every project, and that added even more time.

Music video testing out the parfocal DZO Pictor Cine lenses.
Music video testing out the parfocal DZO Pictor Cine lenses.

Was that the main problem that ultimately led you to look for other solutions?

We explored other options that could work in tandem with Drive. Since Google was well-established, we heard about other productions using a different management software in conjunction with it.

That's when we found places like Asana and even tried Monday, which was good at keeping everyone on track and updating the crew on the documents that have been updated and such. But then we stumbled across Yamdu and haven't looked back since.

What were your general first impressions of our software?

Yamdu being film-centric was the nail in the coffin. It’s a remarkable piece of software. We’d be able to update someone’s information in the company database and let the system update their information on the call sheet and crew list - all without having to do multiple button clicks.

We initially trialed it on a smaller scale production and were amazed by the fluidness of how it works. You would have a script that you upload as a PDF, input a couple of pieces of information, and Yamdu would automatically pick out your scenes and what locations you need for itself.

Production still of Short Film.
Production still of Short Film.

Were there any standout features for you?

The dynamic-ness of the software is great. To be able to update one small detail and not having to update all the other subsequent documents, really changed my process for the better. I used to have all these lists and different documents for production. So, if a crew member ever moved address, or changed their number or email, I would need to visit all these documents and update that information manually. Whereas now, I can just use the company database to store everyone’s contact and make changes to that alone.

As well, if we ever need to change something on the shot list, like using a gimbal instead of a tripod, we can increase the set-up time and have Yamdu implement that change across all the other schedules automatically. The dynamic-ness and how all the steps talk to each other are great. It really works like a production team, or an AD team itself!

Production still shooting in sub-zero temperatures in Sweden.
Production still shooting in sub-zero temperatures in Sweden.

How do you think Yamdu has changed your production workflow now?

I think it's created a sort of self-service environment for our team where they can just go into Yamdu and find the information they need for themselves right away rather than sending me a message that I may not see for half an hour or so. [laughs]  

So it definitely saves a lot of time. Now we just go into a project and everything relevant to it is all in there.

And everything is so logically organized in Yamdu. So you don't need to be doing multiple clicks or going into folders and folders to look for what you need, it's all on the top level. Best of all, you never have to permanently delete information that may be crucial for someone else - you can just hide what’s not relevant to you.

Oh! And just to touch on the templates, the fact that we can now reuse a call sheet on a different project is just fantastic. That saves us the time of having to start from the beginning every time and reformat the original template.

Production still from Short Film for GWR.
Production still from Short Film for GWR.

Can you explain how it  compares to your previous tools, in terms of the time and costs saved?

Yamdu has drastically sped up the project process going from a “treatment” to a fully-fledged working hub on the information. Before, we would need to duplicate folders, move them to the workspace, rename each document or spreadsheet, gather the information that pertains to that project, and update it. Now, all it takes is a click to add a new project and decide whether or not you want to base the folders on a previous project or start fresh. When you upload a script, the system spits-out scene breakdowns for scheduling and a shot list or location info for production design and logistics.

The other thing it helped us with is working closely as a team. We can see what the other departments are working on, say the shot list. The production department can still go in and see it as a spectator as it gets updated. Again, removing human error since fewer people are meddling with documents they shouldn’t be touching.

Yamdu has also transformed the way we create call sheets. It seriously cut down the time by days. Now it can be done in a matter of minutes. We use Yamdu on our smaller projects, a lot of our work doesn’t even involve a script yet we continue to use Yamdu to store and access vital production information for those projects.

What do you believe are the 3 key benefits of Yamdu?

Everything that I would have needed to do mentally or for myself, now Yamdu does for me. It’s helped with time management, removing the opportunity for human error, and brought clarity when picking apart a script - spitting out a shot list, scene breakdown, tagging characters, etc.

Production still from commercial production managed by Firewood.
Production still from commercial production managed by Firewood.

Lastly, do you see yourself continuing to use our software?

Yamdu has been immensely helpful for any scale of project - it's been great. So we definitely see ourselves continuing to use the software. Yamdu coming out with new features is one thing, but the level of support from the staff has been outstanding. I’ve contacted you guys before and the response has always been so quick! The longest we’ve ever waited for a problem to be solved was probably 7 minutes.

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