top of page
  • Cindi Knapton

Creative Team Leadership: Discover, Evolve, & Nurture the Project Vision


Some of us start our work as creative producers and problem solvers at an early age.

I want to help your game to be the best game it can be.


In my work across architecture, film making, & game narrative I’ve found that creative producing requires listening, intuition, collaboration, planning, and maybe even a bit of alchemy to transform disparate departmental needs into golden solutions.


Creative producers are problem solvers. We hold the vision and keep the team inspired toward our shared objective. Each field that I have worked in has different expectations for the end product, and therefore has different methods of achieving the creative vision. There is one key overlap, all are team sports that require everyone to move in unison to a clear goal.


Architecture is the most reality-based field in my portfolio. My role was to distill the client’s dream-home/dream-workplace creative vision and bring it into 3D reality. As a creative producer in architecture (i.e. Project Architect), I balanced clients' dreams with the limits of physics, space & time, the governing laws of the land, and the client's own budget.


As a creative producer in architecture (i.e. Project Architect), I balanced clients' dreams with the limits of physics, space & time, the governing laws of the land, and the client's own budget.


Both architecture and game development invite the user to enter a designed world for a curated emotional experience. Both fields use physical cues such as contraction and expansion of space, light, texture, and sound to incite tangible feelings of curiosity, awe, bravery, and delight.


My love of science & engineering helped to creatively integrate reality into my clients' dream environments.

The client may bring images, music, or even poetry to describe the feeling they want in their project. One client, as a law student 40 years earlier, had found a discarded print of a fierce bulldog. He saw himself in that bulldog and retrieved the print from the trash to inspire his decades-long career of fighting injustice. In future-casting he saw himself as that bulldog ensconced in a darkly paneled, luxurious wool carpeted, slightly art deco suite of offices.


He saw himself in that bulldog and retrieved the print from the trash to inspire his decades-long career of fighting injustice.


Decades later, our team transformed his dream into reality. His self-image and achievements were crystalized in a magnificent, multi-story, award-winning, suite of legal offices.


Ask your target player/client "How do you see your avatar?" Oh, as a bulldog? That's unexpected, but we can work with that.

From our very first meeting, I listen and reflect back to the client my understanding of their aspirations. Has their vision evolved as we model spaces and they see and touch material samples? Have they seen something new that they want to incorporate?


Hold the vision, but hold it loosely and let it grow into its strongest form. 


Evolution of the project vision is a real part of the creative process. Hold the vision, but hold it loosely and let it grow into its strongest form. Architecture is teamwork with the client. In games it's team work with your target players through the responses of play testers.


Law Firms & Financiers from my portfolio. ©Tzannes Associates (Sydney) & ©STUDIOS Architecture (San Francisco)

Filmmaking allows a lot more creativity and play with reality. In filmmaking my role as a creative producer was to support writers, directors, auditioning actors, and even my art department crew in the discovery and implementation of the creative vision of the work.


A clear creative vision is crucial when building your team. Everyone needs to understand and embrace the creative vision so that we are working in harmony. Why are we here? What are we making? What's my motivation?

 

"What's my character's motivation?" Is still a valid question when auditioning for a film role or writing NPC quests.

Knowing the creative vision of a project can guide all decisions from the title of the piece, through the body of the work and into the smallest details. As an assistant art director on Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions I was responsible for documenting and supervising the construction and finishing of several suites of sets including The Merovingians' Chateau.


I imagined myself as The Merovingian and incorporated Napoleonic imagery into design elements throughout "my" chateau, including the logo and featured mural.


I also was given latitude to design specific key art elements. Because I knew the scripts, storyboards, and pre-visualizations intimately, I understood The Merovingian imagining himself as a powerful emperor. So...I imagined myself as The Merovingian and incorporated Napoleonic imagery into design elements throughout "my" chateau including the logo and featured mural. I knew the drug link between reality and the Matrix. So... I hand drew the silk screen pattern of opium poppies that became the wallpaper of the Captain's Apartment set.


A clear and shared creative vision allows the entire team to work on their individual crafts in unison.


Creative vision design details. Merovingian's Napoleonic Mural, Opium Poppy Wallpaper. Matrix Reloaded, ©Warner Bros.

Film making is, in many ways, the opposite of game design. A film viewer is not in control of their experience, except in the decision to watch or not. In film the protagonist's needs drive the film and must be clear from the outset.


In games, the player avatar is a blank slate that allows a player to apply their personality when deciding where they will explore, who and how they want to fight, which NPC quests they will accept, and how they will handle themselves in the game.


In any creative field, understanding the end-user experience is integral to the project vision.


Film is like games in that each viewer or player brings their own life experience to receiving the experience of the creative project. That's where the creative producer role is important. Who is this film or game for? I'd argue that no creative work -- film or game, is for everyone. So let's be specific. Who are we trying to reach? And what kind of emotional experience do we want our audience to have? Are we trying to make an impact? Or just to make money? Can we do both?


Lock that camera off so we don't have to build more set, or... we don't have to clean more of the location.

One thing that I loved when simultaneously producing films and designing sets was the ease of incorporating budget cuts. Less money for that set? Okay, can we lock the camera at eye level to eliminate even partial floor and ceiling? Can we agree to only shoot into a corner where two walls meet?


That doesn't work in games where players love the freedom to explore every nook and cranny hunting for loot, lore, and easter eggs, I am that player. I don't want to leave a room until I have found every little thing that the game development team has placed for me to discover.


Less money for that set? Okay, can we lock the camera at eye level to eliminate even partial floor and ceiling? Can we agree to only shoot into a corner where two walls meet?


In creatively producing game narrative, I have worked on my own, in small teams, and for companies of various sizes. On each project, different aspects of my skillset come into play. Being a narrative designer with leadership, creative producing, project management, and diverse communication skills means that I bring extra value to the team.


Every game team has had different needs, but somethings are consistent: such as asking lots of questions, listening, reflecting back what I've heard, experimentation, and consistently checking in with my team mates to ensure they are heard and understand where the project is heading. Ultimately it come down to doing the work reiteratively until we have refined it to achieve the optimum product within the the project parameters.


I encourage you to bring your creative leadership insights from other artistic and experiential fields into the world of game development. There are many shared techniques and experiences that can add depth to your game narrative skill set.




22 views0 comments

コメント


bottom of page