Thomas Gottschall is Executive Producer at The Terminal, whose clients include BMW, Allianz, Leica and Harmon. He is currently working on two feature films which are in post-production. He recently spoke to us about using Yamdu for both commercial and feature film projects.
"Yamdu is very fast and intuitive and it has this artificial intelligence – the guys who programmed this have the preproduction background and you can tell that."
Thomas Gottschall, Executive Producer at The Terminal
Hi Thomas, can you tell me what you were looking for in a production management system and what you found in Yamdu?
The main thing I was looking for was a way to simplify processes, making sure that everything is in one system rather than being spread out – so that one crew member is not asking for things in one system and another crew member asking for things in another system.
It was always a very manual process, there was nothing automated and I think that Yamdu has what I would maybe describe as a kind of artificial intelligence where you import the script and everything you need is there, you don't have to manually create everything - all the characters and sets and technical things are there. Our process starts with the script and from there on we have a very broad basis to work on without having to enter everything manually.
You have one software to address everything and not lots of different parts. You don't need an excel sheet anymore because you can download everything from Yamdu. It's put together in a way that means things that would have taken half a day to do manually before - like creating a shot list or a crew list - can be done now by clicking a button and adding a bit of information.
It's very fast and intuitive and it has this artificial intelligence – the guys who programmed this have the preproduction background and you can tell that. So even compared to other software pieces it's more intuitive and comprehensive – everything is in there. Even more than you might need for a particular project, but you can turn things on and off so it's very modular and scalable.
The systems we were looking at before Yamdu dealt with preproduction or postproduction with no link between, but Yamdu and Arri Webgate work so perfectly together and that was the main reason why we signed up. And it's not a start-up, so you know the company knows what it is doing and that made a very good impression.
What was the initial reaction of the crew to Yamdu?
The reactions were very diverse initially. Some people were very impressed and were immediately saying 'this is perfect, we need to use this on every project'. Others were a little annoyed that they had to engage with the system rather than just asking someone every time they wanted information about something. That's just a difference in mentality. People had to get used to having a new system to engage with and very quickly they really came to see what the system can do and how all of the information updates in there. From my point of view, the advantages far outweigh the time it takes for everyone to get used to it.
Over time then it became a communication hub as people started messaging and replying and the system has become very accepted now.
Looking at commercial productions, how does a client approach you?
From a commercial point of view, I'll reference a campaign for ADAC that's just being released now. It covers online spots, Facebook, print and radio. In this case we were given a script idea with some dialogue. Working with a director, we generate some ideas on where to shoot and how to manage everything and we work then on shot lists and storyboards and from that point on we've started the entire workflow. You set up your locations and your talents and then you start mapping out your shots.
It's a very quick process and sometimes we are working with a director from Hamburg or Düsseldorf or London which means Yamdu is a central part of the process. I've had circumstances where the director is already familiar with Yamdu and that is always great because we can get started straight away. The main thing on a commercial project is the communication platform and the gathering of all the information that is necessary for the project in one place.
So preproduction is a key part of why you use Yamdu?
Yes, preproduction is the most important part of it because you are adding all the information to the project, whereas in post-production everything you need is already there – you have your footage and you start to edit and so on. But preproduction is where you get every little thing in place so you don't miss anything before shooting and that's something that Yamdu really helps with.
Yes, as an administrator I can allow people to see the things they need to see and the access rights are great because for example it means that the make-up department don't need to see all the technical things, they just know who is playing the role and where they need to be and what they will need for the actors. And of course, if they want to see something like the shot list to prepare things, I can give them access rights to whatever they might need and it's done. It's as easy as hitting one button.
We usually start with setting up the crew – who is the director, who is the cameraman. the entire crew planning is done with Yamdu, that way everyone knows who is on board and who to talk to about all the different things. It's one of the main features that I use.
Then we plan all the shots and we do all our shot lists with Yamdu only. There is no second software that we use to do that. We start in Yamdu, we put all the shots in there and that of course defines all the technical equipment we will need.
And from there, the scheduling, all of the planning is done in Yamdu. First, we work on pre-production, then on shooting and the fact that you can link the workflow to the scheduling makes making changes in the production calendar very easy. If the shoot changes, you don't have to go back in and change everything manually, you just change the shooting date and everything else changes accordingly, so that makes my life much easier of course.
And from there we move to the shooting schedules and the call sheet – so that everyone knows where to be and when to get there. And the fact that Yamdu sends that directly to all the people makes it easier than ever to manage. You know everyone has it, you know everyone is on the same page and that makes the period coming up to the shoot much easier.
So it's a tool you use all the way through preproduction and shooting on a commercial production?
And also in Post-Production with the Arri Webgate add-on as we use that as the client feedback tool.
You've recently worked on a feature film (Restguthaben, directed by Benjamin Strobel, in association with Lower Bavaria Films). Has the process of using Yamdu for a project like that been different?
Honestly, regarding the feature film, Yamdu was the perfect tool and I don't think that we would have made that project if we didn't have Yamdu. The thing was that we were three producers and a director and we were geographically 300km apart. It was not possible to meet every week to discuss everything and move the project forward, so we started working with Yamdu at the very beginning. We imported the script so we had the sets and then everyone started scouting locations. The two other producers were closer to the location we were going to be shooting in, so they uploaded images and I could take a look at them so it was a much more collaborative thing compared to the commercial side and that made everything much easier.
What about Yamdu as a casting tool for feature productions?
With the acting talent – we each uploaded different actors and everyone was able to rate them, so the four of us had a very good impression of who might fit each role best. This makes the collaboration on a feature much easier, especially as it was not a project we were working on for two months in a row at any time, it was much more fragmented. And that meant that it was very necessary to have something that gathered everything and allowed the producers to work and add things in their own time for everyone else to see. This meant that we didn't need to have regular meetings. If we did, we wouldn't have finished the shooting yet. It just speeds up the process and makes sure that everyone is on the same page.
So it's a different process to creating a commercial production?
It's very different to creating a commercial – there are more people, more crew and that all has to be coordinated. All the information, all the contract details – everything has to be in one place for the producers to take a look at. If Yamdu didn't exist, we probably would have had to use Google Spreadsheets or something similar and that is not tailored for the feature film process. The information isn't really synced as you could have two people editing the same file at the same time leading to confusion. Previously, when I wanted to work on some file and a director wanted to work on it too, we would each have to wait until the other was finished to do what we wanted to do which is very frustrating. With Yamdu we can both work at the same time.
Do you use any other Yamdu features differently for a project like this?
We have used the production schedule for the movie more than for commercials as the only thing we plan for in a commercial production is the shooting day. One of the best things is that if an actor has any off-periods, they are in the project calendar so it's taken into account when you move your schedule around so you don't forget about those dates, because if you miss that information it will screw up the entire production schedule.
What stage are you currently at in the feature project?
Post-production. We are currently working on the rough cut and once that's completed, we will be working on color-grading and audio. The film should be completed by the end of the year.
If you were recommending Yamdu to someone, what would you say are the key features?
It's always available wherever I am. I don't need to have access to any servers, I don't need to have anything with me, I can manage everything on my mobile phone and work on every PC that I come across – I just log in and there it is, the entire world of the project.
The next key thing I would say to someone considering Yamdu is that it speeds up the production process. All of the things I used to have to do manually are done automatically in Yamdu now and it means I don't forget or miss any important details because something like that can ruin a project. It's all about the collaboration and the availability of all the necessary information.
All of the decisions that are made in the project are in Yamdu, so everyone is on the same page, it's all there and everyone can see it.