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

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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.


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Development is not really a job

If you feel strongly about doing work for free than developing a show for broadcast is probably not the best path. I’m not an expert I haven’t been involved with a lot of development. If producer or creators say different go with their recommendations. I’m still learning.

From what I’ve gleaned much of development falls to the creator. You work on your own time on pitches. You might get a bit of development funding. That funding is better used to commission new work than pay your salary. Many producers defer payment on the productions they work on. The idea being when the show gets made when it’s a hit then you make back the hard work you put in.

This kind of system favours the well off the people with resources. Only some people can afford to spend months out of the year not making a paycheque. Fortunate people have the space to work evenings and weekends on creative projects.

I’m probably wrong about a lot of this. I’m not calling for a big change in the system. I want to talk with you the creators and animators. If you knew that the process would take years and you wouldn’t paid out for it would you still do it?


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

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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.


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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.


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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.

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.

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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Be kind to yourself

We are makers. We like to build things, tell stories, and draw pictures. To many of us the idea of selling the thing is foreign. As soon as we’re done the project we move onto the next thing. The problem with this is that someone needs to sell your show. Imagine that your past self is a good friend who’s made something incredible. When your friends make something it’s easy to talk about. We want to help them and share their work. We know how hard they worked. Be kind to your past self who did all that hard work.