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Leading and Supervising

One day I'll make this a short course, lots of powerpoint slides, team building games etc...

So you've been asked to step up into a lead role? Here's some stuff to ponder.


Try to be a positive force in the room. It's important for being a junior or mid, its REALLY important for being a lead; you're now setting the tone for the people on your team for the next x months.

Time management for you

Understand what is the best use of your time, and what the studio (in fact not even the studio, that particular show) expects of your role. Some shows need a leader, your time is better spent unblocking the 10 folk on your watch. others need a lead artist, your time is better spent working on tricky shots.

My personal take is i could do one or the other, but not both. at the start of a show when the crew is small, fine, do lookdev, setup flows etc, but i'd always warn production early to not put me on shots, especially towards the meat of the show. I found I could only lead AND do shots by making my day be 8am-10pm, after doing that on a couple of shows, I learned my lesson, stopped.


A friend said when i got a sup role 'congrats, i hope you like spreadsheets'. They weren't wrong. Know that about yourself too, will you be happy being less on box, more of a pencil pusher? It's the usual trade off, you get to point at stuff in dailies, but you definitely spend less time in nodes.

Time management for others

Make your team go home on time. There'll be crunch at the end of the show, your artists need to conserve their energy for that sprint. Especially if its in parts of the show where overtime isn't being asked for, artists staying back and doing invisible extra hours is setting quality standards you don't want to maintain later on.

Read the room

Listen, be aware. some shows are bantery and fun. other shows are business and to the point. you don't wanna be the lead in a silly wig in the serious show, nor the person in a suit in the wacky show. Read the room, listen to the sups, production, the artists, work out what approach will be most effective. over time you can 'reveal' your true pun making sarcastic shit-talking nature, but early on be reactive, adapt.

Production staff

Treat your prod coords/producers as your equal. They're there to help with the stuff you don't wanna do, I've always approached leading as a partnering thing with my prod coord, when you get good trust going both ways, it makes a project fly.

The tech art social triangle

Generally speaking its balance. In presentations I often blather on about the tech/art/social triangle as a broad classifier of people in this biz. Fx folk tend to be towards the edge of tech/art, leaning towards tech.

As you become a lead, either by choice or because management recognise it in you, you get pulled more in the direction of the social vector. Ideally you wanna be right in the middle of that triangle, but that's pretty hard.


A lead/sup role is largely a conduit for communication. If there was infinite time the vfx sup would talk to everyone individually, as would the producer, as would every head of department. But there's not infinite time, so you have to help info flow top-down from sups to artists, bottom-up from artist to sups, and left-to-right across departments.

Quiet artists need help in dailies. Confident artists need mild containing so they don't take up all the time. Your team needs to know a little about why the shots are all delayed. They don't need to know that the modelling lead got caught doing coke in the bathroom again (well, maybe they do). Anim leads can give you a heads up on sequences that could do with some fx love, surfacing need to be told that the rbd fracture you were asked to do will affect their materials etc etc etc etc

You become the network hub for all this info flow, both in terms of allowing some info, and holding back other info.

Study people

Become a student of human behavior. Sounds wanky, but really start to watch everyone, doing everything, as a low level background task in your brain, especially leads and sups.

Why do people like that lead? Why do people not like that producer? Why is that artist getting all the good shots? Why is that team lead always getting slammed in dailies? How can any of these qualities apply to me? Can I take on that positive trait? Can I recognise that negative trait in me, remember to turn that down a little?

Learn from both the good and the bad you see in others.

Going behind the back of production

If you're friendly with everyone, you can use that to get stuff done more quickly, but cash in those chips rarely, and carefully. If you go behind productions back too often to get material fixes or anim corrections done, that really pisses off production, and its fucking some poor co-ord over. Don't do that.

Department factions

Don't play into the 'ugh, fucking animators/lighters/compers eh?' trope. It's cheap and lazy. Again be positive, if you can get other departments on your side, it makes a show flow so much better.