Working as a Production Assistant for the LEGO:Star Wars trailer

Game Development graduate Josh Braddy met the Head of Production of Plastic Wax Animation studio at JMC’s Speed Networking event.

Josh-Braddy.jpgHeld with industry professionals, he expressed his interested in production after being Project Lead on his final assessment and it was from there that he was invited for a trial at the studio. He’s now been working as a Production Assistant for Plastic Wax on projects including the LEGO:Star Wars Trailer. 

“I consider myself very fortunate to have found work right out of university but I likely would not be here if I hadn't attended that JMC event. I know classmates who chose not to attend for various reasons, so I'd definitely encourage students to be proactive and go to events like these.”

“The trailer for 'LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens' video game was the first project I was assigned to at Plastic Wax. I was really thrown in the deep end but it was a fantastic experience (which should be obvious considering the IP.) Plastic Wax employs some of the most talented artists in the industry, so it was hugely educational and I made a point to absorb every ounce of knowledge I could. In order to be effective in my role, I need to have a good understanding of how each department functions - I can't resolve an artist's issues myself but I can source and facilitate the solution as best I can. It was fascinating to come in on a job like Star Wars Lego and get such a top-down view of how something like that comes together."

"You know you're definitely in the deep end when JJ Abrams is the final sign-off for your work!"

“My day to day tasks include scheduling of assets, working with artists both in the studio and remotely all over the world, and maintaining client-facing relationships over the course of a project. It will often be my responsibility to assess the work of an artist with the respective Lead before it hits the eyes of our Head of Production or Creative Director for final review. My role shifts depending upon what the work demands so I'm expected to have versatility over the lifespan of a project."

What are your favourite things about working in the industry?

Working in production means you can set the tone for the studio, and keeping the team supported and on track is one of my key roles. It doesn't get much better than seeing a group of artists working to their fullest and knowing you played a role in that. 

The briefs we will receive from clients can vary wildly. Sometimes a company will approach us with a locked script, final assets, and a strong artistic direction and tell us to hit that specifically. Other times, we're given little more than a cool idea or basic outline and the client will lean on our expertise. Both of these have their pros and cons of course, but personally I love the chance to sit down with a team and just starting throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what will stick. At Plastic Wax, everyone is afforded a voice so it's pretty great to see a concept or shot you suggested end up in the final product. 

Finally, working here means that we get some of the coolest IP's coming through the door - hard to get stressed out when your day includes reviewing footage of Lego Star Wars characters.

How did your course help you prepare for the industry?

I think one of the most valuable aspects of my time at JMC was the way in which assignments were approached like professional briefs. If a client makes specific requests and your work veers way off course then you're in a bad spot - and that was how my assignments were treated. Each assignment from a lecturer was more like a brief from a client. While my degree was specifically in Game Design, it was one of the great aspects of the course that we were exposed to multiple disciplines within that scope. So, when it came to my class' final assignment, it was my time as the Project Lead that I got a taste of the role of a Producer. I was expected to formulate a schedule for the team, keep them on task and identify the strongest and weakest links of that schedule.

The collaborative nature of this industry is almost inescapable and so the many group tasks we were given have served as a great foundation for transitioning into the professional sphere. Of course, it goes without saying that being exposed to software and hardware used in the industry is a definite boon. I was able to hit the ground running on my first day when it came to the software training JMC had equipped me with.

What were your favourite things about JMC?

The Lecturers. Being taught by people who had worked extensively in the industry was far and away the greatest resource I found at JMC. I leaned on their expertise and critique heavily during my time there. As I neared the end of my degree, I had formed strong relationships with them and considered them people I could turn to for advice or guidance. While they were always open to offering their thoughts on your own artistic work, they also respected the individual and their process - particularly on the final projects. Even if the concept was overly ambitious at its outset, we were given honest and sincere feedback but never told that it wasn't an option. 

I honestly can't say enough good things about the staff there, even lecturers who's expertise sat outside the gaming industry could offer insights that were applicable and relevant. I'd highly recommend every student absorb as much as they possibly can from the lecturers there. Rarely will you have a time in the future when you have such a collective of knowledge at your disposal.

What advice would you give to current students?

First and foremost, this advice goes out to any students who are taking the role of Project Lead on their final assignment - and this will apply to any discipline. Consider yourself the Producer of your project, and respect all the responsibilities that come with that. As dull as Gantt charts and scheduling might seem, if you don't have these then there is no road map for your art being the best it can be and no accountability for your team. It's going to be your job to look at what each person is working on and be able to quickly identify if someone is spinning their wheels on a task. When it doesn't look like an approach or idea you had is going to work - quickly recognize that and begin brainstorming another approach or different concept. This can honestly save a lot of headaches down the track. Most of the time, it will be the Producer who has to make the painful decision to cut something they loved or give up on a specific approach, so you have to be prepared to do this.  

When looking at your strategy, always remember to respect your weakest link - because it will be that task or area that is going to hurt you the most so unless you honestly account for that you can end up in trouble.

Finally, speaking specifically to the Project Leads once more, I mentioned above that Production sets the tone for a studio and the exact same is true in your case. If you're on task and take your role seriously then that will affect the attitudes of your team. You lose nothing by treating your team as though you're all in a professional setting - which leads me to my next point...

This advice applies to any and all students. It will reward you enormously if you mentally frame each task you are given in a professional context. Every lecturer is a client and every assessment is a brief. 

Find out more about studying Game Development or Animation. 

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