With the theatrical release of German local comedy hit Guglhupfgeschwader and rom-com Liebesdings, we asked Constantin Film what challenges film productions face today, what workflows are involved - and how the first year with Yamdu went. We were joined by Nicholas Goodwin (Head of Post-Production), Verena Vogl (Junior Production Manager), Salomé Tomasek (Assistant Production Manager) and Florian Schneider (Producer and Managing Director at PSSST! Film, a subsidiary of Constantin Film).
"Previously, you had to think first: Was it in Dropbox or on my desktop in an Excel file, or was it in an email? Today I open Yamdu in the morning and find everything bundled in one place, project by project. Very simple."
Verena Vogl Junior Production Manager at Constantin Film
What was your first point of contact with Yamdu?
Nicholas Goodwin (NG): We've been looking for something to work with in a collaborative way for a very long time. Especially for post-production, but beyond that as well. We have too many islands in our day-to-day professional lives. From story development to the finished product and distribution. That's traditionally the case in film, even at Constantin Film.
We've learned to work with stand-alone products, like email, Notes, Excel, Word, ftrack, calendar, Whatsapp - really different ways of interacting with each other and some of them, in their own way, are very local. I too have re-colored many fields and bars in Excel. One person does it this way, the other does it differently. There's just never been a form of unified communication and collaboration when it comes to software. I heard about Yamdu early on and I've always liked the idea that Yamdu is a tool that captures a lot of what we see here in terms of problems and what comes up in a production. That's the collaborative goal we want to achieve together.
Verena Vogl (VV): For me, the first point of contact was with Liebesdings in early 2021. At first, I was skeptical. It was not very comprehensible for me. How could a platform map what we move from A to B every day? Can software solve our problems at all?
What specific problems could you face in your day-to-day work in (of managing and in coordinating projects?) production management and coordinating projects?
VV: In our daily lives, for example, it's about contacts that you need quickly. Appointments that you want to double-check. In general, it's all about looking for things to coordinate with others across many projects. And that brings me to the point where Yamdu surprised me. It's super easy to switch back and forth between projects at the push of a button. One minute you are in the calendar in the project Liebesdings, the next minute you need a contact from KaDeWe and then a cast list for Rumspringa. Previously, you had to think first: Was it in Dropbox or on my desktop in an Excel file, or was it in an email? Today I open Yamdu in the morning and find everything bundled in one place, project by project. Very simple.
We’re glad to hear that. Now you don't want to run Yamdu alone, but you want to add team members. What was your experience with this?
VV: Inviting or adding team members is quite simple. However, I have saved various text modules in Word so that I can quickly have the necessary module ready for the invitation text and insert it into the Yamdu invitation. At the beginning, I didn't pay that much attention to it, but it's super important to get everyone settled in right from the start. Writing to them: Hi, this is Yamdu and this is the reason we're asking you to use Yamdu. With a semi-personal message, acceptance goes up immediately.
Florian Schneider (FS): It was similar for us with Servus, Baby. On average, we can say that the team members who had already had contact with Yamdu continued to use it. For those who were new to it, we had to break down reservations here and there and give them a moment to get to know the tool. On the whole, however, it was well received. It certainly helped that someone was answering in the support bubble; there were people behind it who were happy to help and who understood our industry.
"With Yamdu, we give the team a common tool and free ourselves from individual solutions, different storage locations or individual hardware."
Florian Schneider Producer and Managing Director at PSSST! Film
So the crew registrations ran smoothly for the most part?
VV: Yes. What was more of a hurdle for me at the beginning was the question, have I given the team members the correct access rights? Does the person see what he or she is supposed to see - and what he or she is not supposed to see? I had a hard time with that in the beginning. Yamdu offers new possibilities in terms of transparency, which is good per se–With many presets, it's much better than Dropbox and tailored to our industry. But you can also decide for yourself what you really want to share; and that on a very granular level. That was still very unusual with Liebesdings as my first project. It took two or three projects to get to know Yamdu and to trust Yamdu. Today I can proudly say: Yes, I want Yamdu! And I trust Yamdu.
Salomé Tomasek (ST): At the time of my first contact with Yamdu, for KaDeWe, I was on the other side. I was added to the project. I thought that was very good; it made me curious to have such a shared workspace. I also understood right away that I could find everything about the project here. Of course I remember that I was worried, just like Verena, if the access rights would really work out. It takes time when dealing with such systems. I think the more Yamdu can show in the future who is on the mailing list or something similar, the more secure you feel. This is essential for sharing production data. I found and still find the idea of Yamdu superb, no question.
What advantages does Yamdu bring, to you personally, for your work as a coordinator or in production on a day-to-day basis?
ST: The automatic generation of watermarks, for example, is a huge relief. When you send documents like screenplays, Yamdu automatically adds personalized watermarks - in a way that makes them impossible to remove. What used to take hours can now be done with one click - including tracking. We've even had problems with Adobe & Co in this regard. But you can also see the challenges. It would also be possible in Yamdu to store the script, and Yamdu would point it out to the team, and the team could virtually use it themselves - including individual watermarks. But that doesn't work on a broad scale yet. People just expect to be sent files like the script, but at least out of Yamdu. I'm sure we could save more time with Yamdu in the future if the crew gets used to it.
FS: From a production point of view, we work under tremendous time pressure. Not only with the series. New technical tools are making everything more flexible: lighter cameras, lighter lighting equipment, right down to the software. And that is the reason why we chose Yamdu. Yamdu gives us more agility and flexibility in production.
Can you think of a concrete example?
FS: With Yamdu, we have a common hub for all important information that everyone can always access. From staff and cast lists, which we can "dial" directly via the platform but also the mobile app. All the essential information from scripts to shooting schedules, call sheets, and calendars. This information can be accessed on set or in the office and is always available in the latest version.
Especially in the current shooting situation, which was influenced by Corona, it meant that we were independent of where we were actually working. Regardless of whether it was on set, in the office, or even in home-office, there was no problem for the team member to continue working with Yamdu in the usual manner. If crew members were completely absent due to Corona, for example, we were able to quickly integrate the replacement into the ongoing production using Yamdu. After all, all you have to do at Yamdu is assign the position or change the access rights accordingly with a few clicks. This meant that the work could continue without any loss of information.
So, was that more difficult before Yamdu?
FS: Before Yamdu, we didn’t know of any collaboration tool that would allow us to keep the core information of complex production processes together in one place so that we could work on it together and thus transfer it to other production stages without any losses. In the past, everyone tried to keep their information together individually. Information and documents were in emails or resided on individual laptops, shared files in different dropboxes.
But you were always dependent on individual order and individual team members, which is fatal. Teams thrown together means tools thrown together. So there are always gaps in information - from development to pre-production, to the shooting team, the final delivery, and the broadcaster. And then important "informants," such as assistant directors or coordinators drop out after the shoot. But you remain dependent on their knowledge, lists, files and calendars.
With Yamdu, it's easy to seamlessly plug in, pass information to the next production stages, because everyone works in the same software with different, but flexible, access rights to protect sensitive data. All data and information in one place from pre-production to shooting, post-production and delivery. A game changer if you work almost exclusively with freelancers, as we do in film. With Yamdu, we give the team a common tool and free ourselves from individual solutions, different storage locations or individual hardware.
ST: As far as I know, we also no longer run crew lists in parallel, just in Yamdu. The advantage is simply that everything always looks uniform–that's what Yamdu has brought, including reusability. Yamdu was also used for Guglhupfgeschwader. And now, when I prepare the new (film) installments to the Eberhofer franchise, I naturally use the old project and the old staff list as a template. Even if I don't add all the team members right away. In my Yamdu projects, I want to be alone at first and prepare everything properly. Then I add the people. The ones we've already shot with are in the database anyway.
VV: True. That's important for acceptance from the team. We don't invite the crew until we have something to offer. The script is in there, there are already the first dates, there's a shooting schedule, etc. Yamdu's power can unfold when people can work together in real time. And for that, it has to be filled with life. And if it's done well, you'll notice how artificial hurdles and spatial distances between departments disappear.
Does that also apply to post-production?
NG: We discovered for ourselves how to create templates for the plans and make them usable again in Yamdu. After all, we have to see Yamdu as a platform that can map the different project types at Constantin Film and Constantin Television: Feature films for cinema, feature films for TV, series productions - with different numbers of episodes. This is a Netflix-owned title, while this is a Netflix-licensed title, and so on. And here we want to offer templates that our colleagues can just quickly get started with.
Is the influence of post-production greater nowadays than it used to be?
NG: At the very least, it can be said that the post defines where it will go. And it's only consequential to think from the onset about what will have to be delivered to whom at some point. Of course, this also affects the choice of cameras, formats and other technological issues. But it's also very much related to planning. In our everyday lives, things change all the time. And with Yamdu, everyone can see changes immediately. You don't have to read emails. It's just there. You automatically create facts. Of course, to do that, people have to be willing to accept opening Yamdu in the morning and saying, this is my single source of truth. That's a process.
ST: Yes, it will eventually, but it will take time for crews to adjust. Because of the insane amount of information we distribute. Even if you're asked the same question three times a day. Actually, in the future, we want to say, "Have you looked at Yamdu yet?" For some people, it's not easy to get used to something like that.
FS: I remember my productions where, as an intern to the assistant director, I was allowed to digitally recreate the shooting schedule in MovieMagic. Because nobody in the office wanted to make friends with "this new technology". Of course, the flexibility in arranging the strips in software like MovieMagic, Fuzzlecheck, or Yamdu has caught on. Today, no one would think of unpacking the stripboard again. And so, for the teams and especially for those who are new to Yamdu, the transition also takes time and persuasion.
VV: Yes, Yamdu shows you the potential. Everything is actually there for this self-service idea. The departments always have access to the current shooting schedule, and are even informed automatically by Yamdu. Each department can also get day-out-of-days in real time with one click. It's accepted sometimes, but not yet across all departments–and we're currently discussing this issue. Because it would actually be easier for everyone if the crew helped themselves in Yamdu. They wouldn't even have to write emails to us, let alone wait for our response.
For example, Yamdu even stores some of the actors' and actresses' measurements, which costumes can access directly. Sometimes this is understood immediately, which is great. Other times, we still have to point it out or send this data. After all, we currently have to - and can - serve both worlds with Yamdu. This also generally leads me to believe that Yamdu was noticeably developed by filmmakers. It also thinks along with the analog world. I myself, for example, look at contacts in Yamdu. But I can also export the staff lists as a PDF with one click, and I can also export the calendar with various filters. This connection of the digital and analog worlds also helps to convert skeptics more quickly. In the meantime, Yamdu should help us to turn this into an obligation for the crew to fetch items for themselves. This is indeed a learning process. But it's also a core idea of the digitization of our productions.
We are so glad to hear that. Yes, we've learned how important exports and lists are for this industry.
ST: Absolutely. We used to have Word templates for the staff and cast lists. And depending on who worked on them before, you couldn't get some of the formatting back and you weren't sure which version was which. It could take an hour or two just to add a new department and somehow get the formatting back. That's all done automatically in Yamdu now.
VV: And now the lists finally look the same every time. That's great and important here at the company.
"Yamdu can also be a bridge between production and post-production."
Nicholas Goodwin Head of Post-Production at Constantin Film
Would you say that Yamdu is constantly changing - but that your workflows are changing as well?
VV: Yes. That is also necessary. I've been working in film for just under ten years now. I don't have a lot of experience, but even in that short amount of time I've realized that you have to report more. For example, you have to track more and constantly check your back. Let's be honest, our industry is very personal and not yet so digital. And that's an adjustment. And that's also where Yamdu helps. Simply to be sure that everyone is playing by the same rules, complying with the law - and to automatically have a certain level of tracking. A place where the crew can at least meet digitally.
ST: I think this social aspect can be expanded even more in Yamdu. I'm sure we don't use Yamdu with all its possibilities yet, I'll be honest. I am currently still concentrating on the staff list, cast list, calendar and file transfer. It is clear that we need a tool like Yamdu. Even if only to cope with the flood of emails.
VV: Yamdu brings headquarters, production offices, and the sets closer together. It builds bridges there. If we notice in headquarters that the producer's assistant is missing from the export header, then we quickly add that, and the production office is informed right-away. I don't have to send an email to the production office to ask them to do this or that. We also get a better idea of what is happening on site. You click through and immediately see the status of things.
NG: Bridge is a good keyword. Yamdu can also be a bridge between production and post-production. Nowadays, post-production begins with or even well before the shoot. And so it makes sense for all departments to work with the same tool and the same data right from the start. We are still a long way from where we want to be. But the path and the idea of Yamdu is only logical. With Yamdu, we also suddenly have access to data that would normally only have come to us at a very late stage. That's when whole new ideas suddenly emerge, like with our credit tool.
Can you elaborate on that?
NG: This was an idea that we first came up with by using Yamdu, and we love the way you guys went right along with it. The feature allows us to create templates for credits and end-crawls based on the crew and cast list of a project. But also including logos, disclaimers and so on. This saves a lot of time and avoids typos. No one in film is eager to deal with credits, but they are very important and require a lot of attention to detail. We want to simplify this process with Yamdu further.
FS: It is clear that the team has to be or become digital. But we are still dominated by too many individual solutions. Files are stored on Dropbox or OneDrive or Google Drive. Lists are kept in Word or Excel. But bringing all that back together at the end is almost impossible. And Yamdu is now changing that. The first step towards better handling production data has been taken.
Since Normaloland or Servus, Baby, which data do you manage in Yamdu?
FS: We have our core production data on Yamdu. The crew lists, the cast lists including agencies, the scripts, the shooting schedules, and important forms and files. In the case of Normaloland, that went all the way to creating and sending the daily schedules with Yamdu. It's the place for us to get information from the team and provide information to work on together.
Do you have any final words for us?
NG: Not only the credit tool, but the general development of Yamdu helps us to establish new workflows in the minds of the team. We are not yet where we want to be. Keyword "offline" for some features. But we are on a very, very good way.
ST: Even if there are still a few gatekeepers in the teams, we will never go back to a Word document.
FS: As a specific wish, I would love to see a new mobile app (laughs). In general, I would like to see us use Yamdu to fill all the missing workflow gaps that currently require a "ballpoint pen". For me, that's the idea of Yamdu. And that's also where I see the future of productions.
VV: Yamdu makes us faster, more flexible and - in a positive sense - more open. I am a big Yamdu fan.