Gebhardt Productions has been one of the top names in the Austrian production landscape since 1997. In addition to numerous feature and commercial film productions, the successful series SOKO Kitzbühel (ZDF) is now in its 18th season. CEO Florian Gebhardt and producer Gregor Schmalix talked to us about current challenges in producing series, green production and their experiences with Yamdu.
Yamdu has improved our workflow noticeably because we now have a single digital data source in which you can quickly find information about all of your projects in one place.
Florian Gebhardt, CEO, Gebhardt Productions
Can you tell us a bit about Gebhardt Productions?
Florian Gebhardt (FG): Gebhardt Productions is an independent Austrian production company based in Mödling near Vienna. We see ourselves as a boutique production company for different types of projects. This includes high-quality independent films, advertising, production services and of course SOKO Kitzbühel as a long-running series.
You've been using Yamdu for a few years now - how did this come about?
FG: We looked around three years ago for a production management software that summarizes everything about production in a good overview and also provides a good interface for the in-house team and the many freelancers we work with. What we always notice is that it's a great challenge to manage information that should remain internal but also share other information more widely: that means on the one hand having selected information available to people in managerial positions and on the other hand providing basic information to a larger group of people.
Back then, we worked a lot with various Dropboxes and all sorts of lists and then we tried out different solutions hoping to somehow summarize everything, but nothing really worked. For fiction, advertising, non-fiction – we needed something better to streamline the operational process. Then we came across Yamdu and found it exciting straight away.
What are the special challenges in series production and how can software help?
FG: Maintaining high quality at lower costs is an ongoing topic. Can you avoid sources of error? Do I have a tool that I can rely on and where I can always find the latest version of some piece of information? A single software will never replace personal notepads, but in the end, such a tool can result in higher quality data usage and help avoid reduplication and redundant work.
Gregor Schmalix (GS): In concrete terms, SOKO Kitzbühel is also about synchronizing the two locations (Vienna and Kitzbühel) within Yamdu.
How difficult or easy is it to win the crew over to such a system?
GS: It's always a big topic. There are always inhibitions with new things. At the beginning there's often a feeling that additional effort is required - which is put into perspective later. At the start it should be clear that this new system might initially involve some additional learning, but that the benefits will become clear in the future.
FG: Absolutely. It takes courage to overturn paths that have worked - if they didn't work, you would not be where you are – in order to further optimize the way you do things. There are the early adopters who you can get on board quickly. And then there is a group that has been plagued by many software issues in the past and who have negative experiences which resulted in them not trusting that technology will make their jobs easier. You have to convince them - and the software itself must convince everyone in everyday use.
It is so impressive to see what has been developed in Yamdu over the past three years. From the production scheduling feature to the import options to Yamdu’s own shooting schedule tool. It’s amazing.
Gregor Schmalix, Producer, Gebhardt Productions
What has Yamdu improved?
FG: Yamdu has improved our workflow noticeably because we now have a single digital data source in which you can quickly find information about all of your projects in one place. Be it the current staff list, the actors who have been cast, the current arrangements and other information, which of course is also sent by email from the system. When changes occur, the team can rely on Yamdu to always find the current status of the project and the latest information. That quickly became understood.
Yamdu also has a 'green' effect. SOKO Kitzbühel was the first TV series in Austria to be awarded the Austrian eco-label for Green Production. All production steps have been optimized for resource conservation and sustainability. Yamdu helps to contain the flood of paper and provides all relevant production information digitally.
GS: With a series like SOKO, it also means that the database of actors, including supporting roles, and also all of the location information, can be managed with Yamdu. Being able to reuse existing information and incorporate new elements is really a great thing.
FG: It is also great that, for example, when an actor or an actress is cast, that information is automatically sent to relevant departments like costume or make-up. They get information from the system in real time and can draw their conclusions from it immediately. There is no need for mails with separate information, everything is already there. Automated information like this makes work easier.
Software is never really finished. Where do you think there is still room for improvement?
FG: Frankly, data speed is a point. A lot has improved here. But when it comes to speed, there's always room for improvement. And we are happy to see that significant measures have been and will continue to be taken in relation to this to make Yamdu faster.
This is especially important with a production like SOKO, where we shoot in the mountains and in the countryside, where you don't always have perfect internet reception and can't always wait for everything. It works - but it would be good if it could be done even faster. In this context, we would be happy if Yamdu was also supplemented with an offline system. That would certainly be a whole new boost and a great add-on. Almost all of our departments find this idea exciting.
GS: It is so impressive to see what has been developed in Yamdu over the past three years. From the production scheduling feature to the import options to Yamdu’s own shooting schedule tool. It’s amazing. I tried to create things myself in Yamdu years ago and I failed. It works much better today. Keep it up.
FG: What I would also like to emphasize again positively is that you have managed to build up an exemplary support. Where else do you have that? You enter a question in the small speech bubble in the program and get concrete answers very quickly. This is really a great solution and also helps with onboarding the team.
In relation to onboarding, what is important when getting a team started in Yamdu?
FG: Preparation time. It's all too easy for many of the crew to settle into their usual processes - and we are guilty of that ourselves too. It is inconvenient if someone has already started collecting data in his or her traditional way and then has to enter a lot of information twice. That is bad. It is better to make a clear announcement early: This is Yamdu and Yamdu can manage all of this, we will use it right from the start.
GS: It also helps if you have someone who can showcase the software responsibly and advocates for it early in the process.
FG: Exactly, the internal troubleshooter who also excites the crew members about the most important functions. It is not everyone's cup of tea to deal with new software right down to the last detail. Yamdu now has strong and bespoke onboarding aids in the system, but it helps when the team knows that there are one or two people on the staff who can be contacted with questions.
GS: And you can also play through many production processes quite easily on a small scale. That certainly makes sense in advance in order to announce the most important 'dos and don'ts'. It also helps if you create a basic database for the company and for your project. To put it simply, there is greater happiness in the team when you can easily find the cast and locations and crew information in a project. It means a project isn't empty, it's alive right from the start. The new team members in particular then have the positive feeling "I am now adding something". Then everyone can see together how the project is growing.
And your conclusion after three years - will you continue to use Yamdu?
FG: Certainly. We know that the biggest source of errors in any production is miscommunication. We use Yamdu because we believe it significantly improves the quality of information and communication. That's why we use it now and why we will continue to use it in the future.
Header Image: Gebhardt Productions / Stefanie Leo. Interviewee Images: Gebhardt Productions / Alexander Gebhardt.