Tuesday, January 6, 2009

JUST SOME THOUGHTS

I'm just going to start a thread here about how we are all doing and what, if anything we can do to make things better for ourselves and our cartooning brothers and sisters.

Times are tough and things are changing faster than anybody can grasp them. It all used to be so clear-cut the way things worked. Not any more.

Right now I'm scraping together freelance and putting together projects to sell. Are the Networks buying? No. Am I the only one that finds that process IMPOSSIBLE?
Is the internet the way to go?
What new kinds of work groups can be created to get content out there?


It's not just thinking outside of the box. The box is dead.

39 comments:

Ironbob said...

UGH to our industry!

I am moving to LA at the end of the month (arrival Jan.26th) cause Animation in NYC is deader then dead.

If you are looking to bitch I'd be happy to meet up for a pint. Invitation goes out to everyone. Of course I'll need to pay on Wednesday for a pint on Tuesday.

Bob Camp said...

Good luck with LA. From what I hear it's slim pickins out there too.
I live in CT.
Maybe getting together for pints is is important to the solution.

Anonymous said...

I've heard this from a lot of people. Mabey if you animated flash cartoons and then uploaded them to youtube, you'd build a fanbase big enough to sell a show. Have you seen this interview with Ralph Bakshi? He tells young cartoonists how to finance and sell their own projects. You should check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WApcUBcVMos

Bob Camp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Camp said...

Here's a comment by Rob Davies he posted to my Plaxo link:

Hi Bob,

Good way to start the new year, sharing some thoughts and ideas.

I agree with what you are saying. Who knows what the rules are anymore. Of course, the smartest guys in the world can't even figure out how to get out of this giant financial mess, so we humble cartoon folk can't feel too bad for being a little confused during these times.

The majority of animation networks are only red-headed step children of larger conglomerates, subject to the panicky whims of the global marketplace. If liquidity and credit are drying up, then where is the financing for animated productions coming from?

One thing I do know...we have to stay as positive as possible and keep looking for that elusive ray of hope. Animation will have its day again. I like the suggestion of work groups, that's a very strong idea.

As a studio, we (Atomic Cartoons) are doing our utmost to keep the content coming (in the form of pitches) with the ultimate hope of getting something of ours on the air. I feel we are close, but the question does remain 'are the networks even buying?' If so, 'how much are they buying'?

And, if the networks aren't buying enough these days (for whatever reason) to sustain our industry, what replaces (television) demand for content so we can all keep making a living in animation? That's the billion dollar question.

Weirdo said...

I don't know if you've tried, but did you try the pay-cable channels like HBO or Showtime? They might be more open to your material, and you could be as adult as you want. After all, they put up stuff like "Spawn" and Ralph Bakshi's "Spicy City".

Another idea is to pitch a feature to a studio like Focus Features or Laika House Entertainment. They've been known to do different types of films. Laika is doing "Coraline".

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Bob Flynn said...

Don't know much about the biz because I'm more of a cartoonist, but there's an interestion discussion over at Cartoon Brew...abouting cutting Hollywood out of the equation:

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/internet-blogs/the-la-times-on-the-future-of-animation-production.html

I think the future is promising, once we get over the current economic slump, and folks are interested again in investing money in creative ventures.

Rick Roberts said...

I think it's good to either make your own flash toons. Video games is another option.

WIL BRANCA said...

I live in NJ & I drink CONSTANTLY! Coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, I hear that pan-handling will be one of the biggest growth industries in the next few years, maybe we can arrange a carpool.

Other than that, I'm afraid we're all at the mercy of our Communist Chinese financiers.

Brian said...

In this modern age it seems you have to be doing lots of different stuff. There is no way to only work in one specific area. Like everyone else there seems to be no clear answer, but what ever you do, the internet will be part of the process, even if it's just publishing a how-too book.

I think that having some sort of workgroup would be cool. Sort of a studio that is not a studio.

Maybe you can do a music video.

Rick Roberts said...

Oh another suggestion is to make films and enter them in film festivals. Tribecca film festival is a great one.

Bob Camp said...

Good start. I like Will's comments. Firmly based in reality!

Bob Camp said...

Hey Anon, thanks for the Bakshi clip. Ralph is crazy but he is smart and he is right.

Thanks Bob Flynn for the article by Amid. I agree with him that the old corporate way is dead. Look at the Record industry. Same thing.

We have become like sheep who don't know what to do without corporate types running the show.

We have the tools, we have an audience.

I see the only thing stopping anybody is knowing how to make a living creating and distributing your own cartoons using off the shelf software and the internet.

Build it and they will come!

Bob Camp said...

What is becoming clear to me is that the best or only way to get shows made/distributed is to just make them. Put together a team(s) willing to invest the time and skills. There needs to be a core that is a safe place for creative types to work through where they know that they will not be ripped off and that their work will pay off for them.

A virtual studio! A business hub run by the artists. An incubator if you will.

What is the model for the business entity that will ensure that the work will get done, distributed and that the people that have invested their efforts will be rewarded for their efforts?

Nick Gibbons said...

Just make your damn film!

I started in the industry over 15 years ago greener than a field of monkey grass. I immediately jumped head first into making short animated films in my free time, all by myself, at the place I was interning. I had no idea what I was doing, all I knew was I wanted to make a film, so I did. I didn't wait around for a corporation to poke it's head in and say, "Here's a ton of money, and a crew."

Over the past 15 years, I've made hundreds of shorts. They aren't all great, hell 70% of them are shit, but the point is I made them. It feels good. It keeps me sane.

It's far to easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "If I just had money" or "I have to have a crew and 100's of people helping me". Those are just excuses NOT to make your film. Money and studios do not guarantee the success or quality of a piece. Go to the movies sometime if you don't believe me.

Basically I'm just telling everyone to not let excuses or perceptions stop you from doing your art. Your art won't get made if you don't make it, and if you wait around long enough, someone else will make it before you even get a chance. Do it by hook or by crook. Quality shines through no matter what a project looks like. Even the ugliest sweater keeps you warm in the winter.

Things will get better, it's just going to take a while. So in the mean time go make some art!

Gav said...

There are several groups right now trying their guts out to take the power out of the Network systems hand and build a fan base that will pay for content. Will it work? I sure hope so, then perhaps we can start producing the work we all know would be great but the Networks don't buy. The "Cartoon" horizon is pretty bleak, the present content on TV rubs me like sandpaper. I remember funny, really, I do.

Bob Camp said...

Nick is right.
(His stuff is funny too!)

Bob Camp said...

Pitching concepts to networks and studios is getting harder and harder. Most studios farm ideas from the in house talent. If you want to create your own project with your singular vision than you have to find your own way I think.

If you do your art for free then you own it. Then you can choose how to market it. Nick does it because he is a filmmaker. He makes films!

Look at Bill Plympton. here’s a guy who never sold out, did his stuff his own way before anybody else without animation software or the internet.

Rick Roberts said...

"Look at Bill Plympton. here’s a guy who never sold out, did his stuff his own way before anybody else without animation software or the internet."

That goes back what I said about film fesitivals. I saw Bill at the Tribecca film festival and he said he just sent his stuff in until it got accepted at the film festivals. Since he has such a good rep, he makes independent stuff for a living.

Nick Gibbons said...

Just a quick thought on self promotion during the internet age. This is in no way an "excuse", this has just been my experience. The hardest thing with internet stuff is exposure. I throw my crap on you tube and it gets ok numbers, but not nearly as many hits as when I get one on the front page. But getting on the front page is a crap shoot.

You could make the best film ever created in the history of man, but if it sits on your website and no one knows about it, it will never get seen.

So the challenge becomes exposing yourself, and I ain't talking about the Pee Wee Herman kind of exposing yourself. How do you get the word out about your film and how do you keep the ball rolling. It's very difficult and if you set out to create a "viral" video, you are doomed to fail. Those things are lightening in a bottle and never intended on launching anyone's careers, except that dramatic chipmunk, that guy is a millionaire now.

So I would like to officially start a sub topic, and I'll do it Rocky and Bullwinkle style: "How do you get buts in seats, or how to get clicks on mouses"

Brett McCoy said...

Creative angst. I love it.

Everything, including cartoons, and the way you pitch them, all needs to evolve. You can not continue to do business the way it used to be done.

Evolve- Create a concept, as Nick said anyway you can, and get it out there. Try to get brands involved to help pay for hosting and up keep.

Or, find someone like me to help you get your idea out there. If you have a concept that ROCKS, people will watch it. If people watch it, brands will want to be part of it. If brands want to be part of it, networks will have embedded advertising and will want to run it.

Be brilliant, create something unique, and we will get it out there for you.

Cheer

Monkeyfeather said...

A tough one indeed.

Executives seem less and less willing to put their necks out on new material. I think the internet provides the opportunity to show that the property already has a fan base, even if it is small. If others show that they like it, the execs may be more likely to like it as well. Total lemming philosophy I guess.

I have a friend that works at a studio in Canada, and one of their projects (for TV) is based on someone's (not associated with the studio) internet cartoon. A network bought the rights, and assigned the studio to produce the show. The problem is, that the creator loses the rights, and now the network is reworking the concept, and the whole thing is turning into a nightmare for studio and creator.

So yeah, the internet can be used as a way "in" with a project, but it still seems to get the same end result. Of course, I saw the original internet cartoon I mentioned above, and it wasn't very good. So, something better executed, by someone with a more experienced, and clearer vision may fair better.

As far as putting a team together...

As someone who is struggling with freelance himself, it's hard to jump on board with that kind of "do the work for free with pay off later" set up. Only because for every honest offer like that, there are 30 other offers that are just trying to scam artists (mostly fresh out of college) by getting free work out of them with the promise of a "great portfolio piece" at the end of it. That's like the horse finding out he's been chasing a rubber carrot this whole time. Now he's exhausted, and still hungry.

Obviously, something with you Bob at the head of it would be one of the honest set ups, but I think there's a lot of artists out there who would be suspicious of such an offer.

Since I went freelance a year and a half ago (also known as getting laid off) I have had numerous offers to work on "wonderful" projects, but offered only deferred pay until after they receive their next round of financing. I guess, this can be okay if you get to work with someone whom you could really learn from, or if you really believed in the project yourself. In my case though, it was just disillusioned businessman trying to make a quick buck in the gloriously enticing world of animation.

Like you said, if a business model can be created to make sure everyone is taken care of, in the new world, this could be the best approach. At the end of the day though, it usually just comes down to an artist needing to pay the bills.

The audience is there, I hear this internet thing is pretty big, the trick is getting people to believe that it is a legit form of entertainment. I think most people look at the net as more of a time waster, instead of an actual form of entertainment like television. That said, television wasn't taken seriously for years until the quality of programming improved. Let's face it, there's some good internet cartoons out there, but they are far,and few between. So let's get out there and make some GREAT cartoons!!!

As that guy who likes to be in baseball movies said in that movie kind of about baseball, if you build it, they will come.

Part of our responsibility is to promote quality. If you see something good, tell your friends, tell your family, tell EVERYONE. The more people that see it, the closer we'll be to that next level.

Bob Camp said...

Yes Monkeyfeather, everyone should be VERY wary of offers by people you don't know. We all have to make a living and doing stuff for free is risky. I think it is best to work with only people you know and trust.

Thanks for your vote of confidence. I have projects that I am developing right now and want to be very careful about asking favors. I would want to make sure there is some kind of system in place to insure everyone gets what they deserve and nobody gets fucked over. This is why I am putting this thread out there to finds out what people think about all of this.
I know I don't like to work for free and find it difficult to find time to work on my own stuff.

Corey said...

Great discussion going on here.

I think what people can to do is just make shorts with their friends. Put 'em on YouTube. Promote them, get an audience. Stay enthusiastic & keep making them.

It seems like if you have any kind of audience (hits on your YouTube page or website) that becomes a starting point to perhaps turning your shorts into something profitable. The numbers alone could be enough to entice potential funders.

As far as pitching goes, I don't ever hear any GREAT stories about it. It's usually something along the lines of 'well we had this cool idea and the studio jerked us around and changed the whole show'

So in my head it seems better to make some cartoons, create an audience online & let the networks come to YOU.

This is just my two cents, I haven't been in the industry long enough to really know. Looking forward to the rest of this discussion as well as more artwork from you Bob !

Will Finn said...

The main problem is well cited by Nick.

You can make a thoroughly delicious hamburger at home, but how can you compete with McDonald's when they have the biggest megaphone, the most ubiquitous presence, and a massive, 40-year program of pavlovian conditioning on their side?

As for pitching to studios I always advise getting a file of your best work together, sealing it into an envelope, burning said envelope to a crisp and then going out and buying lottery tickets. honest to god, the odds are better.

Bob Camp said...

Ha ha Will,
You're funny. It's sad but true.
I speak with animation students at SVA in NY sometimes and I tell them that it's pretty much impossible to sell a show.

Rick Roberts said...

You would think having credentials such as Ren and Stimpy would get you a job, tis a shame.

Bob Camp said...

Oh I have work. For now. But anybody who has been in this industry for any length of time will find it frustrating. Plus having done R & ST I got spoiled by having the freedom to make really stupid funny cartoons.
How do you top that?

chrisallison said...

I appreciate everyone sharing their insight. As somebody who's just outta college, this is a really important issue to me!

I feel lucky that my generation is the first to circumvent studios and distribute content over the internet. I'm doubly lucky that I'm young enough to have the time, energy, and lack of responsibilities to let me put in the time to make it happen.

To Will Finn: There are tons of studios/net comics that are staying afloat on the internet. Animated content like Homestar Runner and internet comics like Achewood have provided their creators with enough income to solely work on those projects (I'm not super impressed with their levels of quality either). I don't think exposure is the problem as you can get a big enough audience to support your endeavors if they're good enough. The blame shouldn't be on the inability to attract a sustainable audience.

It's keeping the overhead SUPER low by having one person do as much as they can. From my short time working in a big studio, a majority of artists are really compartmentalized in what they do, and these people will never translate to the internet. That's why I'm always really excited when I meet a really well rounded artist who knows how to animate, tell a story, design, and be funny like you and Bob. You gotta be a Da Vinci if you wanna float on the internet.

I think the main problem is changing the dynamic of how things get done to be a lot more efficient. It might take a bit more of my time, but I can clean up my own animation better and faster than if I had somebody else do it. This also MASSIVELY cuts down on costs, making my entrepreneurial efforts a lot more realistic. My films have almost no overhead, all I need is TIME. If one can get a job here and there and save cash up for the snow, it all comes down to being efficient with the time you have if you can do it all. The real problem breaks down to being talented enough to do the work, and getting it done fast.

To Bob: To sound like a devil's advocate here, I think I'd like to reinforce Will's point about getting an audience. I like your idea of a work group but I'm skeptical about numbers. I'm worried that if the staff gets too large then the project might not be sustainable. I'd love to hear more about how you'd like to set up your work groups, as maybe you've got this more figured out! The result of my solution is that you'll probably produce less overall content.

So you've got to start small to build an audience. Advertising money will be pennies until you have eyes (10,000 hits a day the creator of newgrounds.com told me) and your only money will come from merch. Then as you get eyes, you start to get more dough and you can spread out.

Another alternative is creating a central hub for similar content. Instead of everyone having their own website that gets updated once in a blue moon when you finish something, you can share an audience by creating a SINGLE website that updates whenever somebody in the commune of creators uploads something. I guess it'd be the equivalent of an internet network. People watch CNN because they know it'll be a certain type of news, but not each news show is the same shit. Same thing with the internet hub. Everyone can still have their separate websites, but you can share audiences by consolidating the news of releases in one area and you can limit who you broadcast about to ensure it's only quality (unlike some news sites). This squashes the downfall of "I can only release a new film every 3 months, nobody's gonna come visit my site". I might release something here, and David Gemmill releases another one following, then Ryan Khatam releases something, and by that time, I have something else to release. We keep our content to ourselves, but in turn share audiences.

I'm new to all this and this is my wide eyed, dreamer's perspective. I'm exciting to see how it'll all play out.

Later in his life, Stanley Kubrick said the next wave of great films will come from desktop computers. I hope he's right!

Ryan Kramer said...

Ditto, Chris! Well said.

you too Nick.

Zorrilla said...

It's very tough because you need a lot of money to produce an animation.

There are related fields like comics in France where all editorials encourage original projects. There's a number of animators working there.

But that's not animation of course.

A possibility would be to do very low budget, limited animation, and concentrate in character design, interesting stories, storytelling, and risky, bold styles, concentrating in entertainment value and sacrificing technical richness.

Mr. Semaj said...

It's feeling more and more like us younger artists shouldn't even bother trying our luck in television, especially since most of everything out there is either on constant hiatus or just out of steam. Similar to what TV did to theatres back in the 50's, the Internet is making much of the current television system obsolete, only this time, there are more possibilities than hindrances in the newest realm.

My game plan involves getting a piece of different venues (drawing, writing, illustrating, designing, painting, computer programming, etc.), so there will always be something to fall back on.

The next part is finding an audience. One person I know is trying to build an income from working at DeviantArt, where you can set up your own commissions and requests, and place some prints of your art for sale. And there is a lesser headache regarding copyright ownership or any other type of bureaucracy.

Regardless of which web domain you choose, you're always in control of your own product, and you have direct contact with your audience, which neither movies or television seem to offer anymore.

I'd ultimately like to start my own business exactly where I am. No gambling in Hollywood for me.

chrisallison said...

Semaj: I think it's a good attitude to have to want to do your own stuff, but hopefully not at the expense of dispelling studios altogether. As one who was fortunate enough to tricking people into letting me into a studio, I can say that overall it's been a great experience. Through the studio, I've met great artists and gotten feedback on my personal work. The job might not be the most gratifying thing in itself, but the experience I get from learning from these people is invaluable.

So maybe don't pitch, but certainly try to work here! If you're an artist that needs to improve, nowhere else are you gonna get access to such a concentrated talent-pool as LA.

Bob Camp said...

I think Mr. Semaj said it pretty well. Be flexible and develop lots of skills. I'll check out the Deviantart thing.

Thanks for all the feedback everybody. Good ideas and I think it's good to blow off some steam. I feel less isolated and like I'm not the only one out there with his brain on fire all the time.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. Really. I wish I did. Over 50 now and can't get any traction with Flash or ToonBoom. I'm too stupid and have the attention span of a gnat to learn that stuff. I've been playing with Pascal and Patrick's 'Pencil' (http://www.les-stooges.org/pascal/pencil/index.php?id=Home), but so what? I can't sell anything in Philadelphia anyway. I had one NYC contact for one of the screens on a MusicChoice channel during some promotion, but that didn't pan out.

Bob, I miss your old days with John K. I NetFlix'd R&S season one and had tears in my eyes missing what you guys made in the those days.

Best of luck buddy. Looks like I'm going back to school to learn something to get me through till retirement.

Matt J said...

Chris Allison is onto something with his 'central hub' approach. I recently joined the URBAN SKETCH blog-it has a couple hundred members world wide now contributing sketches of their respective cities. The site is updated several times a day by different artists in different time zones making it much more interesting than each artist's individual blog/site. This also gives it a much bigger audience/hit rate & many more dedicated followers than an individual blog. Imagine if his model was used for cartoon shorts as Chris suggests-10000 hits a day would become a realistic target.

David Germain said...

I just finished working on a show called Razzberry Jazzberry Jam last month. Season 2 of that show should start up in April.
I guess I'm doing fine as of now. But yeah, I'd like to et my own stuff going.

Atula Siriwardane said...

I don't know much about the industry, living on the other side of the world. But I know making your past work available in the net would click projects from where you would never have tried..
Check this site
http://www.ersoz.com/index_win.html
Whenever I think of storyboards this is the site which pops in to my head.
Honestly I didn't know Bob,
that you are a Storyboard Artist with so much of experience. The first thing which I wanted to see are the Storyboards you made. (Where can I see them)
If I am a Movie director I would prefer to click a link and see your work before I contact you with probable false hopes, from both ends..
About animation projects also… net is the best place to post them. I think there must be forums which discuss the topics where prospective producers roam around..
I find most famous artists shun away from public.. It may be fine if they are too busy.. But hanging around in the market place of the net may help…
Your message on my Facebook wall brought me wondering what are you doing these days.. I trust in networking and it works…

Dave K said...

I agree with most here. Just make what you can and go from there. Even if it's an animatic. Just something to show to get seed money, investors, extra help finishing the project. I'm starting small and trying to make a series of one minute episodes and I'm designing it so it should take no more than one or two people to crank out an episode on Flash or Toonboom. Then we'll try to get them distributed as cell phone content. Maybe even via iTunes--anyone know the chances of getting something on iTunes?