Being A Supervising Colorist – Tips For Managing Others

Being A Supervising Colorist – Tips For Managing Others

November 26, 2014

Managing other colorists creative work can be challenging. In this Insight, learn key ways to make that process efficient and stress free.


Creative & Personnel Management Is Not As Easy As It Sounds

I’ll be completely honest – I’m new at being a supervising colorist. Which of course is just a fancy way of saying managing other colorists and the work they do.

However, over the past few years as my company has grown and we’ve become busier, I’ve had to hire freelancers, bring on staff, and learn how to manage those folks.

I’ve found that working with admin and sales staff tends to be really straight forward, but I’m still perfecting how to work with, and creatively manage, colorists in my employ.

So, in this Insight I want to share with you the key strategies I’ve discovered for effective management as well as the mistakes I’ve made in taking on the role of supervising colorist.

Before we dive in, I know that many of you are owner operators and the only person you have to supervise is yourself!

The strategies that I’ll discuss in this article are great to have in your business toolkit if you ever have to hire freelancers, or work with other colorists in a creative way, but understandably, might not apply to you right this moment.

Trust, Criticism & Praise

I want to start with some general words of advice about starting to manage other people especially people just like you – creative types.

Think about your worst boss from over the years.

As you made that hopefully not too painful recollection, you probably remember a person who micromanaged and didn’t really trust you to do the work you were hired to do.

This type of person probably seconded guessed your work, re-did a lot of it, and in the worst case scenario, just trashed your work and started over from scratch with their way of doing things.

When this manager or boss actually did use your work, they were keen on throwing on a huge handful of criticism of your work – but not constructive criticism.

They probably lashed out saying how you’ve ruined the project, what were you thinking with that grade? Or why did they even bring you on in the first place!

And one thing that was almost surely lacking was any sort of praise for the work that you did.

My point is, the golden rule is in place when managing others.

Just keep in mind good management is not an overnight process, but you have to learn to trust that the work that others can do, and understand that in many cases, it’s just as good, if not better than your own.

As a supervising colorist you’ll encounter bad work from others, but how you handle those situations says a lot about your effectiveness as a manager – be calm, think about specific things you’d change, and give the person techniques that have worked for you solving similar problems.  We’ll discuss the particulars a bit later in this Insight. 

Finally, when someone does a great job – be sure to let them know it, a little praise goes a long way to keeping people happy.

If you manage people you must remember – they’re people! They’re not machines that make things look pretty on screen.

If you can think of a model boss – be that person.

Setting The Stage – With Clients

Chances are if you’re now managing other colorists, you have probably been in demand quite a bit from clients, or your work has garnered a lot attention for the facility that you work at.

In my own experience, I have had to fight “We’d like to work with Robbie”.

I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, but rather to say it’s hard to work on every single job out there yourself as you gain more of a client following.

Clients want to work with you, and in general, would prefer not work with your colleagues or a more junior colorist.

So, in my opinion, an important step in being a supervising colorist is getting clients comfortable with working with another colorist on your team or that you like to work with a particular client.

Here are some things I do to “sell” the client on working with someone other than myself:

  • Be honest about who is going to actually be working on the project. Not being truthful here can come back to bite you.
  • Introduce the client to the other colorist he/she will be working with prior to the grade. I’ve found getting together over lunch or drinks can be a good ice breaker and as we all know a good relationship with the client is at the heart of good session or project.
  • Get samples or a demo reel of the colorist’s work that the client will be working with in their hands early.  Many clients’ only reason for being at all hesitant about working with someone other than you is because they don’t know the other colorist’s work very well. Make sure they get familiar as soon as possible.
  • Chat the client up! As the lead colorist, your opinion goes a long way with the client. Be proud of your team members and discuss with the client how you think the colorist they’re going to work with is a perfect fit for their project.

Also keep in mind that with some clients getting them to work with someone other than you, the lead colorist, is an extended process.

In other words, it might take a few weeks, or a few projects with you chatting the client up to convince them to work with someone else on their next project.

In my experience, that ground work usually goes pretty quick, but your mileage may vary.

And of course try, try, try again if you encounter push back from a client when suggesting working with another colorist. Some clients just need a little extra convincing.

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