Project Management

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Project
Management

The film project
“The man who killed Don Quixote”

Project Management, University of Bristol, The film project “The man who killed Don Quixote” __________________________________________________________________________________

“The man who killed Don Quixote” was going to be one of Terry Gilliam’s most successful film’s ever, despite the fact that financial and organisational difficulties came to light long before the actual production. Famous actors starring in this film, Johnny Depp and Jean Rochefort, as well as the interpretation of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s classic “Don Quixote” seemed to promise great success. Yet, the attempted production of the film took only six days and the film was never completed, due to interruptions caused by illness, unexpected weather conditions and other external constraints, such as the noise of NATO fighters, making the shoot impossible (Fulton and Pepe, 2002). In this paper it will firstly be outlined why the production, or the attempt, of the film “The man who killed Don Quixote” was a project. Further it will be discussed whether it was a success or a failure, using Maylor’s (2005) “conformance versus performance” measurement as a traditional success measurement. Following further dimensions to measure success respectively failure will be analysed on the basis of Shenhar’s et al (2002) multidimensional framework. Subsequently other aspects such as the complexity of the project and the team cohesiveness will be taken into consideration as further influential aspects towards the final outcome. Finally recommendations on the basis of Maylor’s framework for risk management (2005) will be demonstrated as this might have prevented the unfortunate result or might avoid similar problems in a further attempt.

A project can be defined as a unique product or service, which must have a start and finishing date, and due to its uniqueness it can’t be a repetitive activity. If the aim of a project was to deliver a product or service, this implies that it is goal-oriented. Further the project life cycle is restricted by three major constraints; time, resources and quality, which leads to some degree of uncertainty of the final outcome - the latter being measurable. In order to coordinate activities within the project process there is a need for a project manager (Maylor, 2005). Looking at “The man who killed Don Quixote”, and the determining factors for a project, it can be stated that it was unique, because firstly the composition of actors was irreplaceable production did not continue when Jean Rochefort had to leave the set because of illness. If one of the actors were to be replaced, this would militate against the contract, where the actors are stated as “essential elements”. The consequence of replacing them would entail the refinancing of the entire project (Fulton and Pepe, 2002). It was also the first European film with a budget of that extend and the script was an entirely new interpretation of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s novel “Don Quixote” (Fulton and Pepe, 2002; Gilliam, 2002). Even if the film production were to be repeated, parts of the team would likely to be different 2

Project Management, University of Bristol, The film project “The man who killed Don Quixote” __________________________________________________________________________________

presumably also due to the outcome of this project. The starting point was when Terry Gilliam started writing the script for the film in 1990. Shortly after that he started to raise funds for the film. It’s finishing point was in the end of October 2000, when the production was aborted, with an unfinished product (O’Hagan, 2001) (see Figure 1 and Appendix A: Organisational Chart).

Figure 1: Milestones of the production

Late October 2000:
Project Manager
leaves, end of
project

Fund Raising

1990:
Decision to produce Don
Quixote, write up of script

1999:
Beginning of PreProduction...
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