Indie is a mindset

Indie is the mindset of “I am going to make the best thing possible, on my terms, with the resources I have”

Best thing possible – Best for the audience, that means something specific, something well made for the people who care.

On my terms – Made in the way I can be proud of.

With the resources I have – Using what you already have or raising enough to get the job done. It doesn’t mean raising tons of funding, it doesn’t mean waiting around for things to line up.

Indie is the only way forward. The posts I write are for other animators and creators who are hungry and maybe a little impatient. It used to be that in order to get the chance to make things to run a show, direct a feature, make a short film you had to be picked. That usually meant you had to work really hard at a big company and prove yourself. Get to be a good enough animator and you’ll get the chance to be a director. Except it didn’t really work that way in the end. There are no Disney features directed by Ward Kimball or Mary Blair. Andres Deja, and Glen Keane had to leave Disney to really get the chance to make their own work. But beyond that if you want to work at these studios, and who doesn’t, being indie helps. It’s only through making things can we be noticed. The only way to be a creator these days is to create.


I do a post every Friday morning about making animation on your terms

subcribe to the newsletter

Why art challenges work

Today’s November 30th and the end of NaNoWrMo. Individuals challenges themselves to write a novel in 30 days. During this month I challenged myself to write a blog post every 5 days. I’m glad that I did it, and I’m relieved that I finished it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever made it halfway through Inktober. Challenges are hard, they’re fun for the first few days, then they’re just work. I don’t judge anyone for quitting. The challenge is a personal challenge. The people who do it and get through are the people who want to change by the end. People who want to prove something to themselves. Challenges work and create change in interesting ways.

Social Pressure

The first way is social pressure. It works by committing to something in front of everyone. Then when you see everyone’s work around you to get to work yourself. Guilt isn’t a bad thing when it causes positive change. The point of the challenge is to grow, to get better, to push yourself. To often people want it because the attention and status. This doesn’t work very well, the #hashtags are crowded. It’s possible that new people will find you, it’s likely these are not the right people who are looking for your specific work. The social aspect is important. It keeps you honest and engaged.

Time Box

For NaNoWrMo the month of November acts as a time box. This challenge is for everyone who’s wanted to write a book, but never had the guts to try. It says, “Here take a month and write that book, look at all these other people who have done this”. Giving something a deadline helps you actually get it done.

Daily Work

The next reason that these challenges create change is the daily practice. When you start doing something everyday your mindset has to change. You adopt a professional posture. You show up and do the work no matter what. Even when you don’t feel like it. As Seth Godin puts it, “I don’t want an authentic surgeon who says, “I don’t really feel like doing knee surgery today.” I want a professional who shows up whatever they feel like, right?”

The trick of taking on these challenges is how will you keep this going after the challenge is done? You’ve set up this daily practice. You’ve made something in a month. Will you take these good habits and apply them forward.


I do a post every Friday morning about trying to make indie animation

subcribe to the newsletter

Time boxes

Humans are not very good at estimating. We think a task will take 10 minutes and find that it’s taken us 40. This goes double for big projects that have many moving pieces. They also ways take longer than you think. The comic Isaiah and I are working on has taken about 10x longer than we expected. We’re committed to finishing it but we know that we’re going to have to change our process for the next project.

Estimating is hard, budgeting is easier. Instead of trying to figure out how long this project will take figure out how long you want it to last. Or even better what’s the maximum time you could bare. When you’re working on a personal project you have infinite time, as much as you need. The constraints are up to you. Figure out the time box that you want to put this project in. Is it a year, 6 months, 40 days. Then commit to that time and fit the project to the time box.


subscribe to the Indie Animated newsletter

Structure of the Kairos trailer

This is a tweet thread I wrote about the Kairos trailer you can follow me @LukeCoalman

The Kairos trailer was animated and produced by Studio La Cachette and was made for the graphic novel by Ulysse Malassagne

The Kairos trailer is so cool it holds up really well. I wanted to try and break down the structure.

(I haven’t read the graphic novel, only watched the trailer about 100 times)

The trailer starts with a short intro sequence. Establishing shot>guy wakes up> Dinosaur thing comes through the fireplace>he gets thrown around>dinosaur kidnaps his partner


This sequence gets your attention and makes you want to find out more. It ends with this cool transition. The whole sequence is about 30 sec long, longer than I expected.

I’m going to jump to the ending. The ending is a big action sequence. We see the guy who has now become a monster fighting the same Dinosaur soldiers. It’s  super fun and exciting this is probably the part everyone remembers. This sequences is about 40 sec


The reason this sequence works is because it’s set up. We know who he’s fighting for. Guy has wife kidnapped by Dinosaur soldiers>Guy fights dinosaur soldiers to get to his wife. We’re emotionally engaged. DRAMA!

In Between those two sequences we have a bunch of cool vignettes

The vignettes are usually two shot each, what they do is show the scope and scale of the story. They are what makes this feel epic.

When we’re shown these random images our brains are scrambling to fit them into a narrative.

So the overall structure of this trailer is Guy and wife are attacked by dinosaurs, wife is kidnapped> vignettes of fantasy world and random things happening>guy fights dinosaurs to get back his wife> cliffhanger ending

I’ve looked at some other (epic) trailers and they have a similar structure

  1. Overall narrative (something very simple scene or sequence)
  2. Cool vignettes (something to show the scope of the story)
  3. Cliffhanger ending (what makes you want to see more)

The point of the of the overall narrative is to provide structure to the trailer. It’s usually a scene from the film that’s reworked into this format. It’s there to provide a beginning/middle/end

This is a trailer the idea is to tease the story make people go out and see the film or show. That’s where the cliffhanger comes in. Bad trailers tell you the whole story, good trailers give you just enough information and leave the important stuff out.

In Kairos the coolest scene, where the guy crashes through the scaffolding, ends right as he’s about to land in a crowd of Dinosaur guards. That’s an exciting cliffhanger. The story that was set up doesn’t pay off that makes you want to see more.

In school I wasn’t a huge fan of trailer films. There’s something disingenuous about them when their teasing at something that doesn’t really exist. The worst part of the Kairos trailer is that I just want to see the whole movie.

Trailers are also an art form, good ones are really tight and balanced. They play directly with our emotions. End

Why a small audience is cooler

I’ve been continuing to write five days a week this month. It’s been an interesting experiment of what comes to mind when one has to write. I wish more people in animation committed to writing more consistently. There used to be so much great information written in blogs about animation. It costs almost nothing and you can publish whatever you want.

This week I’ve been thinking about the opportunity of the internet. I’ve been trying to share some hopefully helpful ideas about making stuff. My goal with indie animated is to convince more animators to make stuff on their own rather than go the traditional route.

If you pay attention to the development process for animated series they probably take on average about 5 years. For most show 5 years is probably a low estimate. That’s before the show gets made. This is what your signing up for if you want to make shows in the traditional method. If you want to pitch production companies and networks. It takes a long time. (There are definitely exceptions to this rule, I’m working on a show that took a year or so. From what I know it’s not normal. It’s safer to be pessimistic)

I’d rather be making things. We have the best distribution tool at our fingertips. If We want to make things we can just go and start building. I’d rather spend 5 years making things and building an audience. If you want to understand how creative businesses work on the internet read Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans.

“To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.”

 

“A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce.”

Kevin Kelly outlines the pretty simple math. If you can earn $100 profit from each true fan, 1000 true fans is $100 000 a year. This is how the business model of every blogger, youtuber, webcomic artist works. Seth Godin refers to this as the smallest vialble audience. We are seeking the smallest group of people that we need to keep doing what we’re doing. What’s great is that it’s smaller than we think. It’s much smaller than the number that Television Networks need. On television you’re constantly worried if you have the hit show or not. What’s your rating or ranking. What a relief it would be to try and focus on getting a small number of loyal followers.

We’re entering the era of the cult classic. Nothing is a super hit like we used to have. Everything is a cult classic. Difference is now the way to be successful is to make cult classics. We’ve figured out the distribution and marketing of making things for specific niche audiences. You don’t have to make a diluted version for the masses. So go on make something.


subscribe to the Indie Animated newsletter, 

Like this post let me know on twitter: @LukeCoalman

There’s a better tool than demographics

We’re used to the idea of demographics in animation. This show is for boys 7-10. This other show is for girls 11 – 13. As creators I think we all know that demographics are a little silly, and really not that helpful. We don’t know that much about the kind of boys that are 7-10. It makes us make assumptions about them and what they’ll like. We’ve also seen it cause problems when the wong demo likes a show. Artists and creators don’t want to dictate a kind of person will like their show.

Enter psychographics

“Psychographics is a qualitative methodology used to describe consumers on psychological attributes. Psychographics have been applied to the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.”

Wikipedia

Psychographics are about grouping people by what they believe. They might help you find your kind of audience. Only in school do we sort our selves into neat demographics. A good example of this is Netflix’s reboot of She-ra. This show has gotten a lot of attention because it’s not for a lot of people. This show is for a specific group of people. Not a demographic of girls 11 – 14. It’s for a group of people who like a certain kind of thing, who talk to each other online, who share an identity. For the people who this show was made, they will love it.

That means for the rest of us. Will we do the work of finding the people that we’re trying to reach. Can we point to them. The days of broadcasting, of releasing something and hoping it reaches the right people are over. It doesn’t work to make mass market appealing things. It works to make specific things for a specific group. Find who that specific group is for you.

Opportunity cost

Yesterday I talked about sunk cost. On the other side of sunk costs is opportunity costs. What you choose today reduces what new opportunities you can follow. This can be the big project that isn’t going well that you’ve been working on for three months. By continuing to work on it you might miss the chance of a new interesting project.

What’s important is tou anticipate the sunk costs and opportunity costs of every project. Every project has a difficult part where it seems endless. If we know that going in we can anticipate it. Figure out early if the project is worth pursuing before you’re three months in. When you make the choice to commit to a project really commit. Be prepared to weather the opportunity costs and the hard part when they come around.

This is another useful note to myself. I’m in the middle stretch of a project that’s lasted a long time. Every now and then I think about quitting. There’s a part of me that really wants too. But we’ve committed to seeing it through. So I’m going to buckle down and do it.


I do a post every Friday morning about trying to make indie animation

subcribe to the newsletter

Passion projects and falling for sunk costs

“sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered (also known as retrospective cost).” 

wikipedia – Sunk cost

The idea behind sunk costs is that what you spent yesterday shouldn’t really be considered for today’s decisions. The reason I bring up sunk costs is because it’s so easy to fall into this trap. Our brains are wired to prevent losing something over gaining something new.

A common sunk cost for us is time. When you’ve put a lot of time into a project your willing to put a little more into that project to finish it. If a project isn’t going well and you’re not engaged the reasonable thing might be to move onto something new. It never feels that way in the moment, it feels like if we quit all the work we did in the past is worthless. The money and time that you spent in the past cannot be recovered by future spending.

One way out of sunk cost is planning projects around multiple upsides. Find projects were you benefit even if you fail. Maybe one goal for the short you’re making is to become a well known director. You can also make this an opportunity to learn a new skill like working with collaborators, testing a new business model, experimenting with production structure, pushing an artistic boundary. When it looks like the project isn’t going well you can bail, and you’ll know you’re not losing everything.

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.


subscribe to the Indie Animated newsletter

Like this post let me know on twitter: @LukeCoalman

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.