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Absence and Production Metaphors; renovating an apartment

Renovating an apartment is more similar to animation production than I would like. A metaphorical look into the logistics, planning and communication that swallowed me whole.

Day 1; the point of departure

I know its been bad timing to disappear so completely so shortly after beginning to write here at AWN, but the last 3 weeks have engulfed me and my time - I've been renovating a new apartment. I'd thought I could still manage to continue my posts in the evenings, but alas I was wrong.

I'm returning to Berlin after a 5 year stay in Ludwigsburg, where I teach at the Filmakademie. We'd found an apartment, arranged the finances and planned what we would like to change. Managing 3D productions, I know that key to meeting tight deadlines is knowing what your goal is - in detail. So I whipped out Modo and used some quickly blocked 3D models to discuss our plans with my wife. We had a very tight deadline (3 weeks) and were too ambitious. But thanks to intense sessions in front of the computer, I was at least sure that we - the contractors - wouldn't start fighting with each other in front of the handimen. I was bent on NOT becoming the horror client I myself dread.

Simple enough; the plan

Okay... so we know what we want and that we only have 3 weeks to do it. We found candidates for plumbers, tile-layers and electric and began the selection process and at the same time got the sledge hammer out. Whoom. By day 3 we were all set up, on plan and in budget. We even had fun doing demolition. We rock.

Day 3; tearing the walls down

By day 5, we'd filled an 8 ton container and our apartment was gutted. Imagine the above scene minus the mess.

Yeah, it looked a lot like this! But wait. This is the apartment at about the middle of week 3. Looks like a cleaned-out version of the demolished version above, right? What happened to the week-and-a-half worth's of 8 to 10 hour days that went into getting things to look like that? We had the support of capable professionals and 

I sweltered in deja-vu. This was like a number of productions I'd been involved in... seen superficially, a large portion of the work had been done in the first week. After that, the effort was just as intense, but the progress - seen froom afar - seemed minimal. The walls had to be prepped, the floor had sunken since the building's cinstruction so that the floor had to be levelled with estrich, countless details lined up and had to get done yet none of these things seemed as momentous as those knocked out walls. An observer detached from the day-to-day issues might well question the project's schedule - a contracting client, for example.

And it came worse... Despite our planning we'd been confronted with details that forced us to alter our plans, despite supervising communication between two workers, they'd botched a tiled toilet accessory. I knew too little of the details they were arguing about, and so was incapable of deciding a course of action. In the end they had to redo their work.

I couldn't help but enjoy myself, despite the pressures of a quickly approaching, hard deadline in the form of a moving truck's arrival... A perverse enjoyment, in fact. I had become my own nightmare client! It was like popping through the wall and finding myself in the producer's shoes. Oddly enjoyable.

But there was another reason for my calm, and it wasn't the numbing exhaustion of the intense crunch phase. The middle of week 3 was a landmark date that triggered that one resource that all production managers keep handy... a back-up plan. We'd contacted a painter and a parquett floorman in advance and had set a do-or-die date for booking them to work in the week in which we were packing and preparing the move. So, though it hurts financially, its nothing compared to the pain of moving into a gutted hole with all our belongings and having to moonlight subsequent renovation.