Project Manager Hobbies: Managing Projects
This year marked my 7th consecutive trip to Park City, Utah to volunteer at the Sundance Film Festival. In past many years, I’ve been lucky enough to balance 10 days of volunteerism and my “real life” job(s) in tandem. My role at the festival this year included working as a venue staffer at ASCAP’s Music Cafe venue, as well as supporting the Manager of Film Music for the Sundance Institute, Jarom Rowland. It just so happened that my particular arsenal of soft skills (project management) proved incredibly valuable. And relevant.
Rowland’s role during the festival is a busy one, and includes putting on several large-scale and high-profile events. As part of an independent festival with 50,000+ attendees and 2,500 staff and volunteers, you can imagine the layers of complexity. Add in variables like celebrity performers and an element of surprise (theme, performers, location) and it’s mission critical that each special event goes off without a hitch.
Much of the support I provided in the early days of the festival went like this: making and modifying travel arrangements for talent, booking shuttles, documenting lodging requests and changes, confirming what was needed for soundchecks and rehearsals, requested screening tickets for performers, creating itineraries, scheduling everything that could be locked in, changing all of these pieces as needed (which was often).
There are many ways to keep organized. Given my personal preferences, I relied heavily on Google Calendar (my one true love!) and Google Drive. I created a calendar, shared specific events with Festival drivers and venue Special Events crew, and set up reminders. Using a shared calendar for the Sundance special events allowed me to quickly make changes as flights were delayed, musicians left equipment at hotels, or drivers were needed to pivot their locations. I then was able to create daily agendas and to do’s.
Google Calendar and Drive are core tools of project management at Metal Toad. PMs set up estimation meetings, one-on-ones, kick-offs, and demos all to keep projects healthy and moving. However simple, these tools are critical to project communication and success.
As a Project Manager, there are universal pieces that lay the groundwork for a successful endeavor: be it a website, a concert, or a home renovation. When Adam Edgerton, our Director of Project Management and Operations, was preparing Metal Toad for our big office move, he regularly talked about how the process (from documentation to construction to moving in) was so parallel to projects we do for clients. When we talk to each other about our projects - both in and out of the office - PMs take a lot of pride in their organizational efforts, favorite tools, and ways of innovating.
Ultimately, my time at Sundance helped keep special events running smoothly was immensely rewarding. Opening weekend, we showcased A Celebration of Music in Film, a tribute to Nina Simone (and the featured documentary premiere) to 500+ festival patrons. Additionally, we coordinated a “secret show” at the Music Cafe with a Bosco photo booth, filmmakers Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia (H), and a 60-minute set performed by Blonde Redhead who scored the film. Identical to the satisfaction felt after shipping a completed project to the client, I was beyond pleased to be have the opportunity to contribute some of what I love about being a project manager to ensuring the success of two incredible event, and to the Sundance Film Festival itself.