It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to get done

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There are better artists than me, and I wish I were better at writing. I know I’m not the hardest working or most organized. I worry about these things and it can paralyze me. I get the creeping doubt; do I have what it takes to make meaningful work? Do you have that special something, the secret sauce, that makes great work stand out from everything else?

What I turn to is that great work doesn’t come from nowhere. Great artists aren’t born with anything special. I read and listen to a lot of stuff about the creative process. Probably a bit too much. I can tell you there are no secrets, almost everyone is the same. Everyone starts out making bad work, then they get better and start making good work. The lesson is that no one waits. You have to move forward and create things now. It’s worth more to finish something imperfect that to never get started.

You probably draw better than most people, and you definitely draw good enough to start making stuff now. You might not be the best writer, but you’re probably good enough for now. What’s important is that you can learn. You will develop those skills best by making finishing things. Making finished things takes patience and resilience. Become relentless in your drive to finish new projects. You will have to make work that falls short of your vision, this will hone your voice. Take what you learn from each project and apply it to the next one, and keep going. You will be faced with doubt and you will have to remind yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect it just has to get done.


Indie Animated is best enjoyed as an Email Newsletter. Released every Friday morning. Indie Animated inspires you into the weekend. Subscribe here.

3 constraints on production

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I do a lot a of reading about project management. I hope to learn more, and make my projects better. One great series of videos is from the people at Basecamp. They go into how they structure their work. Basecamp is an interesting company because of how opinionated they are about what they prioritize. This got me thinking about what we prioritize in animation productions. What’s most important? What would it look like if we created culture based on these values?

I’ve figured that there are at least three constraints on production. These are the areas where we put our time and our budget. These are also the areas that cause our projects to become late and over budget. These constraints are like levers. Each production has to prioritize what’s most important, what the focus is, and what is least important. These three constraints are Schedule, Scope, and Execution.

Schedule

Schedule is the first constraint because at some point every project needs to get done. Schedule represents budget, because your budget is mostly how large of a crew you can have for a certain amount of time. While it is possible to raise more money, it is much harder to find extra time. Schedule is what can we get done in this fixed amount of time.

Scope

Scope is the creative constraint. How big will this project become? Scope is not just about deciding is this an epic or an indie drama. Scope can come down to every single shot of a film or show. Scope is about find is there “some version” of what we’re trying to do that fits the other constraints.

Execution

Execution is the craft and the quality we bring to the work. Like all the constraints it is dependent on the other two. Execution isn’t just about making something of the highest quality, because there’s no objective measure of that. It’s about finding the right quality for the project at hand.

All these constraints are dependent on each other. You have to decide what the priorities are.These elements are so interrelated that you can’t have all three. You have to rank them from most important to least important. For instance one production might value Scope, Execution, and Schedule. That kind of project might be a series of fantasy novels. They might be epic, and amazingly planned and well written, but you might die before you finish them.

For example a high budget feature film execution is high on the list. Pixar can’t dip below Pixar standard for it’s next feature. So where execution is the focus they modulate everything to that. They make a big schedule that gives them plenty of time. They make sure that the scope fits what they can do best. They might have a high level of scope but Pixar releases about one film a year. They don’t make three part films, they don’t make 4 hour films. They know the scope of their films. What they care about is telling a great heartfelt story, above all else.

The projects that I work on couldn’t be more different. When you work low budget everything is about schedule. If making the schedule is important than you need to be willing to sacrifice the execution and scope to make that schedule. We are lucky in that we’re working on our own stories. We can make choices to reduce the scope of an episode or scene in order to finish on time. That might be taking out an extra character or location. Having a complicated action take place off camera. These are all tools for reducing the scope. Then it comes to the execution or quality. The way I view quality is that we get the best we can get. I make sure there are no obvious mistakes, but for the large part I leave it to each artist to bring their best work. We lean toward things that are simple but animated well. Everything we do is made with consideration to the schedule.

In animation these kind of things get compartmentalized, it becomes someone else’s job. Managing constraints isn’t just the domain of the leadership. It isn’t up to the directors and producers that make these decisions. Choosing what you value, and what important creates a culture. Culture means that everyone is on the same page, everyone knows what to value. When culture isn’t built deliberately it grows on its own. Getting a team on the same page connects the team. When the team is connected they can focus on the work, and the work gets better. Indie animation isn’t going to be about individual vision, it’s going to be about the team you build, and what everyone brings to the table.


Indie Animated is best enjoyed as an Email Newsletter. Released every Friday morning. Indie Animated inspires you into the weekend. Subscribe here.

Feeling Like a Slow Artist

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Almost every artist believes they are the slow one. That while everyone else is able to fly through their work, for us it’s effort, we slog through it. We expect work to be easy when it’s not. That can prevent us from putting in the quality time with our work. Making good work takes time. Some of us might need to be reminded to take it slow and enjoy the process. Our personal work is where we should work at our own pace. Maybe instead of thinking of personal work, as work that’s just for you, we can think of it that work that suits you. That accentuates all that your good at, and pushes you where you want to grow.

There’s a social pressure to be fast. When we see people post art online we don’t get the sense of time. The piles of rough sketches and unfinished pieces that led to this piece. I like this tutorial by Chris Sanders, what I like about it is you get the sense of time spent. Hours drawing and redrawing. In our world of commercial art, speed is important. The reason that speed is important is that almost every project is behind, so a fast artist is useful for catching up. In animation it’s not speed that we need it’s an attitude of finishing and shipping work. It’s developing a habit of getting things done. Often the way you get things done is putting the time in. So when you work on your personal work, you don’t have to be frustrated by the pace. Enjoy the process, linger in how long it takes. No matter how it feels, it’s not a race.


Indie Animated is best enjoyed as an Email Newsletter. Released every Friday morning. Indie Animated inspires you into the weekend. Subscribe here.