The old development method has been flipped

Here’s a reminder that the method that things get made has changed. The old method was based on scarcity, that there were only so many time slots. Only so many weeks in a year. There was no incentive for the networks or distributors to want more. Now there’s limitless space.

The old method of starting a project was to collect funding from people who had money. Sell off your idea so that you could get it in front of an audience. This method has been flipped. Now what you do is you build something for an audience, when it catches on and you have their attention the people with money will come calling.

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

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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.


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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.