The Corona crisis has forced many creative people to take a break. Actress Maria Furtwängler and Executive Producer Mark Popp see no reason to stop. Produced for WarnerMedia and TNT Comedy, the series Ausgebremst (Slowed Down) continues. What is special: Together with prominent filmmakers, Atalante Film and Poppular Pictures are realizing a very special project in collaboration with NDR under the direction of Charlotte Rolfes.
Mark Popp, Daniel Rohm (Production Manager) and Lennart Heidtmann (Production Coordination) describe their experiences of working with Yamdu on a passion project in a difficult time.
"With Yamdu, you have more time for creative work and avoid the pointless transfer of lists and sending dozens of emails."
Mark Popp, Executive Producer, Poppular Pictures
A shoot in times of Corona with prominent actresses and actors is anything but "normal", right?
Mark Popp (MP): Absolutely. But the concept is exciting. With Maria, we had a protagonist on the main set in Munich. In line with the story, numerous other roles were filmed around the country with their own units and connected online. The tough Corona regulations dictated the rules. But it is exciting to see how creativity can still flourish despite the distances involved.
Daniel Rohm (DR): The distance was the biggest challenge from the start. Because work in the production office or on the set thrives on human closeness and communication. On Ausgebremst (Slowed Down), hardly any team members had ever seen each other in person before filming started - some of them still haven't.
And that's where online tools came into play?
Lennart Heidtmann (LH): Exactly. The entire pre-production took place purely online in fact. Daniel and I already knew Yamdu from other projects. We thought this software is ideally suited to give the team a unified platform. We also used Microsoft Teams for the video calls. Those were the two apps of choice.
MP: I've known Yamdu for a long time through friends at ARRI - right from the very beginning. At that time, I thought: "Yeah, sure, a tool for everyone, have fun with that!" But I have to say that the software has advanced in recent years. It's not perfect yet, but I'm very impressed. The question of course was: "Will the other team members see it that way too?" There is always a reluctance.
DR: Yes, it takes some convincing to introduce such a powerful tool at the beginning.
And how did you do that specifically?
DR: At the beginning I asked the team whether they wanted to be flooded with emails and DropBox accounts with regard to the enormous data exchange and extensive communication during preproduction or not? The answer was a resounding no. So we explained the benefits of Yamdu and got the team up to speed in onboarding calls. Of course, not everyone felt comfortable right away, but most of them did over time. For many people, such as the director, assistant director or production designer, it quickly clicked when everyone understood the logic of Yamdu. And it really led to more structured communication and fewer emails.
MP: Once you've discovered where you can turn auto notifications on and off for yourself! (laughs)
DR: And if people decide to comment directly in Yamdu the transparency is unusual, sometimes even a barrier. Although, of course, this applies to any type of digital collaboration.
LH: The basic principle of Yamdu makes sense. You have sets from the script, you can then suggest real locations and then choose a location to use. Everyone knows what's happening immediately and has the same information. Same thing with casting. The roles come from the script and you exchange ideas about casting suggestions. If a role is fixed, the relevant departments have access to the necessary data.
MP: Exactly. Even with the staff. No need to manually copy contacts back and forth. Just nice to see how the staff list is automatically and dynamically put together - that's awesome. And it saves a lot of time.
DR: And when the profiles are completed, you immediately have a photo of your colleague before you see each other on the set. These details make Yamdu so charming, but often also quite complex. It is good, for example, that you have given so much thought to access rights. This is extremely important in film. But here and there it could be made easier. Maybe with group rights or bulk editing.
"Yamdu helps to bring everything together and keep it up to date."
Lennart Heidtmann, Production Coordination, Bardamu Film
We are happy to take that on board! Which features were particularly helpful?
LH: Almost every feature was used as it turns out. The assistant director even did the shooting planning and the scheduling directly in Yamdu. These areas have grown in size over the past year. After a few initial difficulties, the assistant director suddenly realised: "Aha, if the other departments have already entered this and that, I'll save myself the work of adding this information afterwards." All data is bundled. And thanks to these cross-references, Yamdu is fundamentally superior to regular shooting schedule software.
DR: And even if one or the other department didn't work with Yamdu's own features, it was practical that everyone could access the same data from anywhere.
MP: And with any device. Once you understood the structure, it worked well in the browser on an iPad. A comprehensive app would of course be even more stylish, but this is very good, especially for brainstorming suggestions or quickly looking up contact details.
LH: And the exports are super practical.
MP: Yes, exactly. You need an internal cast list quickly and - bang - it's already exported.
DR: More design adjustments would be desirable, but in general the exports are great. And that should promote Yamdu more. We have often said to our team members "You can do this yourself, go to Yamdu!". Most of them weren't aware of that at first.
Can you explain that in more detail?
LH: For me as a coordinator, for example, you are bombarded with data from all departments. This information is not connected, however - just individual documents from Word and Excel, images, script versions or just emails. Then you have to bring everything together and keep it up to date. And team members then constantly ask by email whether you can send over this or that list. This is exactly where Yamdu helps a lot. Because all of them already have the same database in Yamdu and each crew member can pull his or her desired export from Yamdu at any time. Cast lists, staff lists, set overviews - whatever it is.
MP: Especially with larger productions you can easily save yourself on manpower.
LH: Wait! (laughs)
MP: Don't worry. But seriously - in addition to the savings potential of an entire employee, you have more time for creative work and avoid the pointless transfer of lists and sending dozens of emails.
"We have often said to our team members 'You can do this yourself, go to Yamdu!'"
Daniel Rohm, Production Manager, Rohmetheus
Will Yamdu be back next time?
LH: Absolutely. We also see how constant improvements are made to performance and usability. That's worth a lot.
DR: And onboarding the team is also an important foundation. The more Yamdu helps the production people with this, the better. It takes persuasion and often Yamdu does not immediately show what it can do or how it is structured. But that is solvable. By the way, the fact that feedback is always welcomed is great and you suddenly see the next day or even weeks later, news about an update that you requested.
MP: There are still a lot of ideas and, honestly, a lot of things that can be done better. One key thing is the topic of 'offline' - extremely important! Likewise, more export options and interfaces. But all in all, Yamdu is going confidently forward in the right direction.
Thank you for sharing your experiences. We keep our fingers crossed for a lot of donations to the artists' emergency aid and of course for a successful first broadcast: On March 20, 2021 from 6.30 pm on TNT Comedy.
Header Image: Maria Furtwängler on set. © 2021 Turner Broadcasting System Deutschland GmbH / Mark Popp