An Overview of the Core Team
When you are taking the first steps to start an animated project, a select number of staff members need to be in place prior to the start of production. This skeletal group is what we call the core team. In most cases, the producer is the central person, pulling this team together based on the fiscal and creative needs of the project. The formation of the core team typically starts during the development phase with the initial creative group, which includes:
Creator/originator of the concept
As the project gets ready for further development into the story and the visual realm, it is necessary to add the following members to the core team:
Visual effects supervisor (if applicable)
Production designer/art director
Visual development artists
Stereoscopic supervisor (if applicable)
Pending the size and scale of your production, it is also important to loop in personnel handling recruiting, legal and business affairs, human resources, accounting, training, and technology. In larger studios, some of these individuals may already be on staff, in which case the producer brings them into the mix as necessary. Based on the scope of the project, budget limitations, and the expertise of the producer, he or she can personally take on some of these roles while delegating others. For example, a common practice in a boutique studio is for the producer to fulfill all human resources duties, such as negotiating fees with new hires and facilitating personnel issues.
Each individual on the core team plays a significant role in getting a production up and running. On a feature production with a larger budget, a typical example of this process is as follows: the project has become solidified in terms of script and the overall art direction concept. It is ‘greenlit’ to proceed further into the pre-production stage. Next a director, if he or she is not already attached, needs to be hired to guide its visual development and to collaborate on the story with the producer, buyer/ executive, and writer. The recruiter helps identify potential directors.
The producer interviews all candidates and, in partnership with the buyer/executive, makes a final selection. The legal and business affairs departments negotiate the director’s deal. Once on board, human resources coordinates the director’s orientation and fills out the start-up paperwork. The production accountant processes his or her payment. The director works with the recruiters to cast and hire the most appropriate visual development and storyboard artists. If necessary to bolster the artistic team when there’s a shortage of artists, the recruiting department scouts fresh talent and the training group starts organizing classes for the new hires. The technology group is instrumental in developing the production strategy and pipeline as well as researching and developing the tools to create the look of the project. All of these steps are overseen and managed by the producer.
Catherine Winder is a veteran animation producer and creative executive who is currently President and Executive Producer of Rainmaker Entertainment, one of Canada’s largest producers of CG animation. Winder was most recently at Lucasfilm Animation where as Executive Producer she set up the studio and produced the feature film and television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. She has worked with many of the industry’s major entertainment companies including Fox Feature Animation, Blue Sky Studios, HBO, Warner Bros., MTV, Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Cartoon Network and Disney.
Zahra Dowlatabadi is an award-winning animation producer and a consultant based in Los Angeles. Dowlatabadi has worked with many major studios including Disney, Warner Bros.,Cartoon Network, and Universal Cartoon Studios in addition to collaborating with numerous internationally acclaimed animation studios and talent.
Tracey Miller-Zarneke earned her production experience on the feature films Chicken Little and The Emperor’s New Groove and has gained a unique perspective on the industry by having authored five books on the art of animation, including those for DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon, Sony’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Disney’s Meet the Robinsons.