Troy DeVolld: Why It Pays to Write a Post-Mortem at the End of the Season

abstractedby Troy DeVolld

When someone dies, medical professionals sometimes perform a post-mortem (autopsy) on the corpse in order to gain understanding of what went wrong and to evaluate any disease or trauma that might be present.  Post-mortems often lead to academic discovery and become useful in the future treatment of illnesses and injuries.

While there’s a great deal of difference between the medical field and producing a reality television program, I hate to dash out the door at the end of my run on a show without looking back and asking what we might have been able to do better for our “patient,” the series.

When completing a season, I strongly urge producers at the Supervising Producer level and above to write up a simple one or two page post-mortem detailing practices that they feel worked or did not work in all areas of the production.  Sometimes the company or showrunner won’t be interested in them, but even if they’re done just for your own understanding, they’ll help you to avoid missteps and enable you to repeat or improve upon what worked when you’re hired back on either the next season or your next project.

It’s important to approach the post-mortem not as an exercise in placing blame or heaping praise on individuals or departments, but in being able to enter subsequent seasons and other future efforts with greater focus and an understanding of the show’s stumbles and triumphs.

Points to ponder:

  • Were workflow and creative objective clearly outlined from the onset of the show?
  • Were adequate resources made available to production?  Post-production?
  • Were the allotted resources used efficiently?
  • Did the internal review process work?
  • Did the external (network) review process work?
  • Were there any surprises along the way?  Did we deal with them effectively and efficiently?
  • Were there any issues with staff or crew retention?  What were the sources of conflict there in the event of poor retention?
  • Was communication between field and post effective?  How can we improve communication next season?
  • What unique challenges did the show propose?
  • Did we improve or erode our relationship with the cast over the season?  How can we improve our relationship in subsequent seasons?

You know what they say —  those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.  A little navel-gazing at the end of a run will make you a better storyteller and professional.

One thought on “Troy DeVolld: Why It Pays to Write a Post-Mortem at the End of the Season”

  1. On the scripted side, the post mortem this season would have to be bad decisions by people who don’t know any better when buying shows and bad decisions by equally unqualified people when canceling shows.

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