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Lights, Camera, Build!

Jason Gilligan, a recent addition to Pype, shares the parallels he found between construction and film.

When my producing professor at George Mason University told us “try to hire former military and former construction for film crews,” I never really questioned it. After all, both former military and construction workers were good at listening, anticipating needs and issues, and heavy lifting: all essential skills to crewing on a fast-moving film set. However, I never expected the reverse to be true—that my skills as a film major would at all be useful in the construction industry.

When I received an offer letter for a Content Specialist position at Pype, which focused on both written articles and video projects, I was ecstatic! I was amazed! I was terrified because I knew nothing about construction! Sure, I know how to write well, and I was a film and video major, but none of that helps if I don’t know a sub from a submittal.

They had reassured me throughout the interview process that with their collective industry knowledge and experience, they could get me up to speed in no time. So, I returned to the office my first day, having now memorized where it is amidst all the subcontractor offices that comprised our neighbors, and was led to the conference room with five other new hires and Alistair, Pype’s VP of Sales. We spent the whole day learning about the chaos that is construction, and the roles of the GC, designers, and trades in managing that chaos.

What struck me the most, though, was how similar construction was to film production. Sure, the AEC jargon was different than film jargon, and the exact responsibilities were tailored to the industry, but the workflows and command structure were similar enough that I took my notes by comparing it to film.

The owners would commission a building, and hand it over to the design team to design. Once they had the specs , they’d hire a GC who would, in turn, hire trade partners, and manage the creation of the building.         The executive producers would commission a film, and hand it over to the writer, director, cinematographer, etc. to design. Once they had the script, they’d hire a producer who would, in turn, hire department crew, and manage the creation of the film.

Even the structure of a GC team mirrored the production department on set.

The PM is responsible for the logistics, scheduling, and documentation of construction. They’re assisted by Superintendents who organize the crew to complete their assigned tasks on time, while PEs ensure everything is completed correctly according to the specs, drawings, and schedules, while the PAs worked on the paperwork in the back office and did whatever else someone needed.         The producer is responsible for the logistics, scheduling, and documentation of filming. They’re assisted by Assistant Directors/ADs who organize the crew to complete their assigned tasks on time, while script supervisors ensure everything is completed correctly according to the script, storyboard, and shot list, while the production assistants/PAs worked on the paperwork in the back office and did whatever else someone needed.

Of course, as I learn more from Alistair, Sunil, Karuna, John, and all my other coworkers at Pype, I’ve developed an understanding of AEC independent from film. I’m still surprised that the framework for one multi-million dollar investment transfers so well to another, but the speed at which Pype’s collective knowledge-base was able to get me trained in industry terminology, trends, and processes surprised me even more.

Jason Gilligan

A newcomer to the construction tech industry, Jason has a background in content creation and brings a fresh perspective to Pype. A graduate of George Mason's film department, Jason uses both written and visual mediums to share information.

Connect with Jason on LinkedIn.

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