words on a whiteboard that describe all the risks for the art project

We often make risky projects. It might be the risk to people who are playing a game among traffic or just the risk that our software will crash.

For the last decade, we have used pre-mortems for all our larger works. In a pre-mortem, the whole team sits down a few weeks before the event happens and imagines every possible thing that could go wrong. You have to fully embrace every disaster, mishap and cock-up.

We score them according to how likely they are and how severe they would be. Then we work through them in order to work out how to fix them. Here’s a screenshot of the pre-mortem we did for Spit Spreads Death: The Parade in Philadelphia. There were 254 identified risks!

Usually this process is scary; not just for us but for people we work with. When we did our one shot feature film My One Demand, the first risk that went on the list was that our 13-year-old actor Brielle had to ride a bike on public roads (see above).

We had a panic when we realised that Brielle and her mum were about to enter the room where this piece of paper was stuck prominently on the wall. As it turned out, both of them were relieved to see that we were worried about the same thing as them: it reassured them that we were thinking ahead and were working out plans to make sure it wasn’t going to happen.

If you want to learn more about the process, this is a chatty introduction to the pre-mortem process.