As the project has developed it’s become obvious that spending time teaching the others and managing them is not always the best use of my time for the project as awhole. My work rate in producing models and visual assets for the film was much faster than the other group members who were learning as they went. My time was divided approximately 40% to management and 60% creative work and so consequently we fell behind with the production of visual assets.
Some of the management tasks were not as well performed as they could have been if I had been able to spend more time doing them. Fundamentally the two roles I fulfil for the project are too much for one person to achieve well. Unfortunately there are no other group members who have the ability the knowledge to assist in managing the project. That said, both Alan and Susi have supplied clear thinking and alternative perspectives in the decision making process throughout the project.
I was placed in a de facto position of authority for the group, which I accepted with some ambivalence. Being the authoritative figure placed me at the centre of much of the group dynamics. It is interesting to note how the different personalities reacted and adapted to the group working situation. My reaction was to feel very responsible and anxious towards them at the same time as feeling powerfully directive about the objectives of the project.
I found it quite strange that I became very patriarchal in my approach, which is quite different to how I normally perceive myself.
Dave’s approach was the simplest and quite effective. He claimed the role that he was interested in and was most confident in achieving very early on, and proved himself to us straight away. He is a competitive person and he directed this competitiveness constructively. Over the project he worked hard and stuck to his initial objective quite firmly. In terms of management it was almost no work with Dave. However I think his focussed approach may have denied him some learning opportunities, e.g. He was not interested in the animation side of the project. So he remained incurious about the aspects of the project that held these. I think the motivation for this may have been as much about fearing failure as about creative preference.
Dave had a facility for working very long hours. He was generally very productive if not always very efficient. He found it difficult to understand how some other group member could not contribute as well as him. Eventually he grew to resent the least productive group members. It is common to feel this way in group work, because there is an inevitable disparity in work levels, skills and motivation. I tried to manage the inevitable resentments by suggesting a systems of quantifying credit for the work they actually did. I think it helped a little, but the underlying emotions seem to have the quality of built in psychological mechanisms that override our thought processes.
At first Alan struggled to find a particular role largely due to his feelings about his levels of competence. From his perspective, his skill base was inadequate. He wanted to find an area of the project to make his own. His self-criticism was quite extreme and largely unfounded. He is a very intelligent man and very capable- however his highly charged emotional reaction to working in the group did cause some problems that had to be managed. When this was discussed Alan relaxed, and found a niche dealing with the motion capture data processing. We were all equally ignorant in this field so his fierce self-criticism was not triggered by comparisons with others.
Susi’s engagement with the group was difficult. She did not attend many of the early meetings and found it difficult to keep up with the progress of our decision making. She also found it difficult to find her place in the group, preferring to define herself as an outsider. For the first half of the project her contribution was sporadic and quite thin. The quantity was not brilliant but the quality of her thinking was often very good.
Susi was an asset to the group when it came to costume design and characterisation. I had a particularly good experience of working in direct collaboration, where I was modelling costumes and character postures of the hologram character with her direct input.
A number of the tasks required individuals to research and make decisions under their own initiative. May found it hard to identify necessary tasks without deferring to me for approval, but her inquisitiveness meant she asked questions and found out what was needed from the rest out us.
Generally May was great to work with. She was very enthusiastic in all tasks. I think she may have felt that her contribution was not as great as it was because she could not take on much of the modelling work. Her research design work for the architecture and the urban scene was every thoughtful and relevant. She is highly intelligent and quick. It is a shame her spoken English is limited otherwise I think she would have had even more input to the look and feel of the project.
In Gunter’s case we identified early on that he wanted to be told what to do. So we offered him a simply defined task to make the bird character and deliver an animatable rig. Unfortunately he took an approach that isolated him from interacting at a group level and created the biggest management problem.
Gunter would only do exactly what was asked of him and only if it related to the specific things he wanted to do. This was at odds with how the rest of the group was working as well as being at odds with the goals of the project. The group interpreted it as being very selfish and lacking in respect for the work they were all doing.
He displayed little capacity for self-criticism or initiative, if there were problems with his work he was either unable to identify them as problems, or unable to communicate them. I found myself continually breaking off from the work I had allocated for myself, to spend many hours trying to instruct him on; how to research and observe to subject; how to model; why models should be made a certain way; How to rig and animate. He understood everything that I explicitly told him but he never went further or inferred anything for himself. If I left out a detail then it was not put into his process. He was uninterested in the work being done by theother group members
He did not complete any of the research, modelling or rigging he was asked to do. Over a 10 week period he produced no work that can be used in the final output. He also managed to enrage the group by not turning up to critical meetings and by failing in the tasks that we were all depending on .
I think the underlying reality is that Gunter is not confident in communicating in English, and is very shy. He, very likely, felt ashamed that he was failing and found it very hard to speak about it. The fact that he was failing and not communicating became a lightning rod/scapegoat for the group’s anger and frustration at the other problems and we were experiencing along the way.
I felt this as my own failure because I didn’t identify the problem early enough and because my attempts to advise and teach him were so ineffective. A consequence of this is that the group lost the benefit of not only Gunter’s time and a large chunk of my time too- In the time it took to try and correct Gunter’s approach and train him, I could have made the character he was working on twice.
In conclusion, working in collaborative groups can be a minefield. This group worked relatively well. The clarity of the the project objective were our greatest asset in binding the group to the tasks. there was little need for debate and argument after the initial concept phase.