Don’t wait for good ideas

This is a note for myself. I’ve been writing more, what I know is that if I sit down to write ideas will come. Every time I get in my head whether it’s a script or blog post if I sit and write the work gets done. If I wait it doesn’t work. Still I convince myself that I’ll just let a good idea come to me.

We’ve all had the experience of being in the shower or washing the dishes, just before bed when a groundbreaking idea pops into our head. It’s wonderful. I think I’ve made myself believe I can manufacture that moment. If I just make tea, the boiling water will loosen the good ideas. It just never works. So I have to sit here at the keyboard madly trying to type the newsletter.

This is a note to myself to remind me to write early and often. Write even more because it’s only doing the work that loosens the block. We wait for a lot of things. We wait to be better at what we’re doing. We wait for a better opportunity. We wait for a raise, for a new role, for a new city. Those things aren’t waiting for us. Putting in the work breaks the dam. We all have projects that we’re trying to get off the ground.

Waiting is a kind of self sabotage that we create. It’s based on the fear of failing, of not being ready. Being ready doesn’t matter so much, because we can recover from most missteps. The people I know who read this are smart and engaged. They know how to do great work. Start by just sitting down and putting in the work.


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The burden of craft

I was talking with a friend the other day. We were having the conversation if we should make comics in colour vs black and white.More and more webcomics are in colour. But does this really help your work spread.

This kind of making and positioning is mostly a distraction. It’s the stuff that you think you have to do to meet spec. To fit in with the crowd. When what’s really important is standing out. Making something a little different for a specific group of people. When we compare ourselves to others and to everything that’s out there we’ll never match up. We will work on our master work forever and it will never be released.

This is why I love bring up One Punch Man. One Punch Man started as a webcomic. A badly drawn webcomic. Then it got so popular it got released as beautifully drawn manga. Then the manga got made into an anime.

Many of us want to skip the steps and go straight to the anime or the manga. But what those show us is that it’s that first webcomic that matters. Would the One Punch Man anime exist if One hadn’t done those bad drawings. What the stages of One Punch Man illustrates is how to grow a property. Some people judge a book by its cover. They never would have read the story with One’s original artwork. Some other don’t want to read the manga at all and will only watch the Anime.

In some cases our sense of craft is what gets in our way. We want things to be good from the beginning. Fully formed and fleshed out. But it doesn’t matter if it’s in colour. If it’s fully animated. What matters is that you get it done. It matters that your making something that connects with people.

What are quota’s for?

The output for most animators is measured in frames/second/feet of animation. When I started in this business I was a little dubious about quota. It seemed to me to put a lot of pressure on the artists. It also is a rather blunt tool. Not every frame is the same amount of work. On the first productions I led we had no quota. On the productions I run now we barely have a quota. The problem with the quota for most studios or productions is that it doesn’t answer the question, “what is it for?”

The reason that animators need to make a certain amount of animation is to stay on schedule. The schedules are based on assumptions like, 12 animators animating 30 seconds/week, the episode will be done in 2 weeks. This all makes sense, except when an animator can’t make 30 seconds/week. Again not all frames are equal.

While I don’t use quota in my productions. I still follow this reasoning. I make my schedules based on this rate of production. Instead of using it as a quota we use it as a benchmark. We track our rate of production to this benchmark. We track it on an episode basis. It looks something like this.

graph of estimated frames per week and actual frames per week

We like this because it gives us context. It tells us when we’re behind and when we’re ahead. We can adjust accordingly and hit the deadline. It takes the pressure off the individual and spreads it across the team. I hope other people try out this method too.

The Out Sourced Method

Every once in awhile I get an interesting idea for an experiment. Since I don’t have the time to try it out I thought I would share them and see if anyone gets inspired.

This method was based on the ideas from the book the 4 hour work week by Tim Ferriss. One of the ideas from that book is that outsourcing and delegation are available to many more people than ever before. Here’s the rough sketch of how this could work for say a short film. Let’s say you have a cool idea for a short film. But you don’t have a lot of time, but you have a little bit of money. Using sites like Freelancer.com or something similar you should be able to post a job and find talented animators, inbetweeners, or audio engineers from around the world. So spend a few weeks doing your end of the work. Make a good animatic or other preproduction. You can hire a bunch of freelancers to help make a short film in probably a very short amount of time.

The reason most people won’t do this is this isn’t what they signed up for. They want to make animation. We also have a low opinion of their own value. We will always pick the person who will work the cheapest, and most of the time that’s us. There is a sticky question about how the same work in different locations is a different rate. If you feel strongly about this, this method isn’t for you. Not that this isn’t an important topic.

This process is by no means easy. It requires different skills. You need to figure out how to organize freelancers. You’re work needs to be clear, and expectations have to be laid out. Communication will be very important. And things will likely go wrong. You’ll find a freelancer who isn’t able to get the work done. Or they misrepresented what they were capable of.

Here it is anyway. It’s an interesting experiment for anyone who wants to make something.

Zipf’s Law and long tails

Zipf’s law states that given some corpus of natural language utterances, the frequency of any word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table. Thus the most frequent word will occur approximately twice as often as the second most frequent word, three times as often as the third most frequent word, etc.:

Wikipedia

I was just reading an article about Patreon and how most of the people on Patreon don’t earn very much money. This is also true about Youtube, that most videos uploaded to youtube get almost no views. That most things sold on Amazon sell very few units. From what I understand this is partly Zipf’s law or something like it.

I can’t see away out of this. We can try and make these platforms more accessible and equal, and we should. But it might be the case by making them more accessible new people will join and the bottom will fill up again.

Patreon is enterprise and business software for artists and creators. It’s not a utopia, it’s not a rebellion. It’s still an amazing idea that will give money to people who never would have got that money before. But in their own words it’s software for artists. The hard part of being an artist is still building an audience and making consistent work. Patreon, Youtube, Amazon, and what ever are just tools to get in front of that audience and monetize it.

Writing everyday

This month is NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month). NANOWRIMO is a great excuse to start writing. It’s great because it shows you that with a little effort you too can write a novel. All you have to do is write something every day. In the spirit of NONOWRIMO I wanted to challenge myself, for the month of November I’m writing a blog post every day from Monday to Friday. Here are some of the posts from this past week.

  1. We think of marketing starts when you’re finished when really marketing starts at the beginning
  1. Be kind to your past self and share the work you’ve done
  2. – I shared an idea for Live broadcast method to indie distribution
  3. And and I wrote about the Netflix animation division

It’s been an interesting experience switching from weekly to daily blogging. Let me know what you think on Twitter


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How Netflix bought animation

I’m a little floored by the recent Netflix announcement. I’m surprised because I didn’t think they would do it. I didn’t think what they were doing was all that interesting. They weren’t doing what they did with dramas as they were with animation. They didn’t have the creative or the team to compete with Cartoon Network or Disney.

Then Netflix came out with Hilda. Their first show that was really great. Amazing animation and unique storytelling style. Then Netflix did what only a company like Netflix can do. They built the animation team. They offered something that has been missing from animation in a long time. They found the creators and gave them the best deal. This is Netflix’s strong suit. They don’t operate like Hollywood execs they operate like Silicon Valley venture capitalists. The distinction is that they look for good projects from good creators. Then they put the trust in the creator to pull that off.

It took McCracken five years to get “The Powerpuff Girls” on cable. At Netflix, he came in with a pitch for “Kid Cosmic,” and in less than a week he had a 10-episode commitment.

 – Netflix Wants to Take Over Family Entertainment – Variety

It’s no wonder that they’ve been able to get an incredible cohort of talent. To say the least I’m excited to see what happens.