Mark Mayerson

Writer, Cartoonist, Sculptor

Where Does Morale Fit Into a Budget?

There’s a definite psychology to projects. If the project is going well and what’s going on screen excites people, you end up with a happy crew. There’s a different psychology of working on a project that's perceived as nothing special or an outright failure.

In all kinds of subtle ways, people do less on a perceived failure. Even if they're doing their jobs, they're not as quick to report problems they see coming down the pipe. The project's beyond hope anyway, so why worry about helping it out? Depending on how management has treated the crew, there’s even an incentive to keep quiet and let the problems grow larger than they have to before anybody notices. The entire crew can get passive-aggressive.

Knowing you're working on a failure saps your energy. It's harder to motivate yourself to do more than is required or to put in the overtime. You fall into the habit of "getting it done" rather than "making it good." The psychology is contagious and can easily spread throughout a crew.

This is one of the areas where business people just don't understand production. People who are enthused about a project, who believe that it will please audiences and enhance their resumes, do better work. People who believe that the show is bad don't exert themselves beyond the minimum that's expected. And if you're working for a subcontractor who's always on your back to get the stuff out the door and quality be damned, then the job becomes particularly joyless. You are encouraged not to care or to have fun.

Keeping everybody's enthusiasm and energy up is critical. Lack of enthusiasm and burnout show up on the screen.