Positive Disruption: A Case-Study for Embracing Change #mcn2012dsrpt


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This paper provides a real-world example of how strategic planning can have a radical impact on the working practice of a cultural organisation. It explores the ways that the National Gallery, London has had to change long established, and deep-routed thinking in order to successfully deliver its vision for a new film Channel. Encompassing everything from its overhaul of commissioning and decision-making mechanisms through to a new production model for film content. By sharing our experiences as we move towards a new and evolving digital future, the paper will offer valuable insights into the challenges of affecting positive change.

Following the development of a Digital Engagement Strategy at the National Gallery, London, the paper explores the significant impact that implementing the strategy has begun to have on the organisation as a whole. The need to change long established working methods in order to be compatible with the demands of a new digital platform has required seismic shifts in both our thinking and our practice.

Focusing on the development of a new, online film Channel the paper explores how the Gallery has had to radically change its approach to the ways it makes decisions, develops ideas around content, and commissions and produces new films. By actively choosing not to maintain the status quo new ways of working have been needed, and the impact on internal processes and established structured and has been extensive.

The paper provides insights into the Gallery’s rationale; an overview of where we are in the process and the practical steps we have taken to affect change. By reflecting on the progress to date and the valuable lessons learned this project clearly demonstrates the power that a digital initiative can have on the internal culture of an organisation when it is framed within a wider, long-term strategic plan.
@cb_sexton | @nationalgallery | @NGDigital

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  • Today I’m going to be sharing with you a distillation of our experiences from the past 10 months as the Gallery has completely rethought its approach to film and the role it plays in engaging the public with the collection. This is a story of positive change as we’ve sought to revitalise our creative approach to this medium, and to radically change how we commission, produce and publish films across multiple platforms I’ll be talking about our ambitions for film, and also the challenges of moving from a 100% in-house model to one in which the role of external production companies is central.
  • For those of you who might not be familiar with the National Gallery It’s the third most visited attraction in the UK – with around 5 million visitors each year. Founded in 1826 it houses the Nations collection of Old Master paintings
  • The collection comprises 2500 of the worlds greatest old master paintings, by the worlds greatest artists. Within the collection we have works by Leonardo da Vinci Michelangelo Vincent Van Gogh
  • Some of you might have heard me speaking on strategy earlier this year at MW and I was saying at the time that one of the biggest benefits of having put in place a new digital engagement strategy at the Gallery - has been that its given us a framework around which to make major decisions about the way we want to go forward. It’s help us plan our direction of travel, its laid out our ambition for digital and it’s given us a good sense of the resources needed to achieve our goals. But of course as soon as you start to begin to deliver the strategy – its immediately evident that change is going to be a big part of the process… Image: http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/change-architect-sign1.jpg
  • I think we would all agree that film is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to telling compelling stories. It can provide valuable context, It can entertain and surprise you, and it can provide us with a platform from which we can deepen audiences engagement. Image:http://www.pisforpanda.com/2011/11/22/movies-that-kids-love-to-watch/
  • At the Gallery we’ve relied on this medium since the early 70s – when we established a dedicated in-house production team who were responsible for – scripting, shooting, editing and through our commercial arm, distributing films about our exhibition programme and the permanent collection. Starting off with hour-long films for sale firstly on VHS tape, then DVD formats;   Image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/dyingindowney/3483988172/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • These full-length presentations were then re-edited down to a 20 min version for screening in the Gallery’s exhibition cinemas. This approach gave the Gallery both a revenue stream via the sales of the films, and also valuable in-gallery interpretation content at what was considered a reasonable cost. Image:http://www.filmfestivals.com/en/image/watching_opening_film
  • It was a great model for the times, as this was almost 10 years before the grown of independent film production companies that later sprung up in the 80s in the UK to supply new TV stations like Channel 4. Best of all it was perceived as giving the organization 100% control. With three producers/filmmakers, who each had an intimate understating of the organization, its ‘talent’ in the form of its experts, and the collection - between them they had oversight of every aspect of the production. Image:http://www.nowwhat.org.au/community/blog/taking-control
  • Over the following 30 years or so they continued to produce material on demand, to meet the needs of the Gallery…or at least to meet some of the needs of the Gallery, because of course A LOT was changing over this time – most significantly the growth of digital and online film consumption.   So that’s pretty much were we were until 2010/11 – when a number of forces collided – forcing us to reevaluate whether this existing model was going to be the right one to take us forward. So what were these drivers for change? Image:http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/neurons’-zap-keeps-body-clock-in-sync/
  • The first major change was the approval of the digital strategy and its stated aim to completely re-shape the role of film content - taking it online in a big way via our online media channels and social platforms. This meant producing film material that could be consumed in a completely different context from our DVD and cinema offerings. Long-form films focusing on a didactic narrative that had worked really successfully in the past were just not appropriate for online viewing consumption – in this space 3mins is deemed to be an eternity and you don’t have the luxury of leisurely building the argument you’ve got to cut to the chase. Image: http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/change-architect-sign1.jpg
  • Second thing to impact was the falling away of DVD sales – what had been a valuable source of income – and in some ways underpinned the in-house team, had pretty much evaporated over the last few years as more and more people simply expected to find this content online and preferably for free. Image: http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/change-architect-sign1.jpg
  • The third and final driver was a series of heavy cuts brought on by the current economic climate, which forced the Gallery to reassess all of its structures and functions as it sought to reduce costs. What had seemed like a very sensible and affordable model back in the 70s now started to look like a bit of a luxury we could no longer sustain. Image: http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/change-architect-sign1.jpg
  • Well firstly we recognized that there was an opportunity for the Gallery to move towards a more flexible and scalable model for commissioning and production if we moved to an outsourcing model through which we could capatalised on the wealth of talent available through small independent production companies.   Given the competitive nature of the market place– these companies were now willing to take on non TV commissions in favour of short-form/low budget films intended for consumption online rather than through traditional broadcast channels. And this was in part made possible by the rise of digital production techniques which helped bring down the costs for these companies.   By choosing to utilize external companies we could cherry pick the best one for the job based on a combination of their track record, their creative response to the brief and cost. And all the while benefiting from their creative approach and expertise – and in so doing really improve the overall quality and variety of type of films we are able to offer.
  • Of course the downside of this has meant we’ve had to go through the painful process of loosing staff, and with their departure we lost in-house production expertise, and the convenience of having people able to take on ad hoc filming.   We’ve also lost a great deal of institutional knowledge and history, specifically in regard to past productions - and we are still trying to work out how to compensate for this…
  • So the first thing we wanted to tackle was completely reworking the structures for commissioning. So while we continue to work extremely closely with the subject experts, the actual brief is now written but a commissioning editor (Jillian Barker – responsible for public engagement), and then supporting her is a much wider group encompassing representatives from: Exhibitions, Digital, education and interpretation and communications. So now when we consider a film we are bringing multiple viewpoints and disciplines to the discussion, which in turn is helping us to produce a much more varied range of films, and which are designed from the outset to consider the needs of the audience.   And we’ve also assigned a project manager to coordinate the production process, and to liaise closely with both the internal stakeholders and the external companies involved.
  • So that all sounds wonderful straight forward doesn’t it? But of course I’d be lying if I said that there were no challenges or teething problems as we went about implemented these new ways of working,   It wasn’t really a gentle shift – rather we had to jump in feet first, and in an ideal world we’d have allowed a bit more thinking and planning time up front, which would have undoubtedly pre-empted some of these issues.
  • So here are some of the bear traps we stumbled into: 1. The need to build our address book pretty quickly – so this involved sourcing suitable companies to work with us and building a relationship with them. 2. We had to learn how to write a good brief it’s such an important document and this is an area we are still actively evolving and refining. Specifically to ensure that it contains the right kind of elements in order that the production company can produce a sensible creative treatment for us in response. 3. We had to be far more rigorous in our review and feedback on the creative treatment from the production companies. The devil is absolutely in the detail! 4. We had to produce a whole new set of guidelines for titles/captions/credits etc subtitling and these guidelines would have to be suitable in a variety of contexts as we were using these films across multiple platforms so online, in-cinema and potential via mobile devices 5. We’re still evolving our approach to applying the Gallery’s brand and tonal values to films: Elegant, Eminent, Inspiring and Inclusive – but all films must feel authentic to the Gallery… 6. Manage stakeholder feedback has proven to be really complex and time consuming – and good communication in terms of setting the parameters and clear lines of authority have been essential to establish – the buck has to stop somewhere as every tweak and re-edit costs you money. 7. We have to build our audience – so great marketing and communications is essential to helping this happen…and we recognise that it’s a work in progress and is going to take some time. 8. Reflection time is essential – time to evaluate how things are going 9. Course correct when we see that something's aren’t working 10. Learn as we go – both the good and the bad
  • Now I’d like to play you 3 very short extracts from this new series of films… They are all quiet different but I hope give you a good sense of our ambition… The first film is called: Looking back on Leonardo – a film made to celebrate our recent blockbuster exhibition on Leonardo da Vinci - I’m just going to play you the introduction. (go to 1.30 time) Second clip – Poet Patience Agabi – talking about her approach to writing a new poem inspired by Titian’s Diana and Action – this footage was used online/in the cinema, screened during events and was also used within an ebook featuring all 14 poets (56 secs) The final clip is from a film made in partnership with Credit Suisse a supporter of the Gallery and sponsor of our recent summer exhibition – Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. It tells the story of the hunter Actaeon stumbling across the Goddess Diana while she bathes and her terrible revenge on him… This film starring Anna Friel and Downtown Abbey’s Ed Speleers and shows what you can achieve with when you have the right mix of creativity and a pretty hefty budget to play with! (stop at 1.26) So you see we’ve adopted very different styles across each production, introduced a range of voice, we’ve killed off the narrator in favour of a more informal conversational / interview style, and we’ve shortened the length of the films to be more online friendly.
  • 1.Significant change requires significant support: new roles and responsibilities, new structures and new processes There’s going to be a learning curve – factor that in! Get the building blocks in place: tight brief technical guidelines Clear feedback and approval processes Ensure you assign an editor to check/quality assure all on-screen text – production companies just can’t spell or copy and paste! Develop your promotion plan from the outset – the more you promotion the better Evaluate and course correct it’s a long term commitment – it needs time to bed in.
  • Positive Disruption: A Case-Study for Embracing Change #mcn2012dsrpt

    1. 1. THE NATIONALGALLERYPOSITIVE DISRUPTION: A CASE-STUDY FOR EMBRACING CHANGE9 November 2012Charlotte Sexton, Head Digital Media @cb_sextonwww.nationalgallery.org.uk(N.B. Commentary within slide notes)
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    5. 5. Watching film Insert image caption here
    6. 6. Watching film Insert image caption here
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    10. 10. 1Change image Insert image caption here
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    13. 13. WHAT DID WE DO...?
    14. 14. + PRO
    15. 15. – CON
    16. 16. SO WHAT HAPPENED NEXT...?
    17. 17. The team…Commissioning Editor Exhibitions Comms Digital Education/ And Interpretation Marketing Project Manager Stakeholders
    18. 18. ANY CHALLENGES...?
    19. 19. CHALLENGES1. Build up our address book2. Learn how to write a good brief3. Become more rigorous when reviewing the creative treatment4. Develop new guidelines for titles/captions/credits/subtitling etc.5. Decide how to take our brand into the film space6. Learn to manage stakeholder feedback!7. Learn how to build an audience for film8. Allow ourselves time to pause and evaluate9. Have the confidence to course correct if things aren’t working10.Recognize our successes and the failures
    20. 20. Here’s a taster for you…
    21. 21. SOME TAKE-AWAYS…
    22. 22. LESSONS LEARNT…1. Significant change requires significant support2. There’s going to be a learning curve3. Get the building blocks in place: • Develop a tight brief: include key works, interviewees, questions and locations • Develop technical guidelines – brand, house style, caption, credits, subtitling4. Establish clear feedback and approval processes5. Assign an editor to check/quality assure all on-screen text6. Develop promotion plan from the outset7. Evaluate and course correct8. It’s a long-term commitment
    23. 23. THANKS FOR LISTENINGQUESTIONS..?Charlotte Sexton, Head Digital Media @cb_sextonwww.nationalgallery.org.uk