What Kind of Challenges Does the Independent Producer Face?
Although I tend to focus more on larger industry matters here on the blog, I’ve an interest in smaller issues as well. For instance, what kind of things affect the independent animation producer. Frshta Mangal currently serves as producer of the animated series Library of Horror. She took the time to answer some of my questions on some of the unique challenges that she’s faced as the project came together.
1. In coming up with the original concept, did you decide to do a series or a single short? Did the decision change as you progressed through production?
Library of Horror’s was always meant to be a horror animation series. I have a very diverse community around me. I was always fascinated with the fact that every culture has their own witches and ghouls stories that have been passed down for generations. Initially, that is where the inspiration started from but Library of Horror’s was inspired by a Japanese show called “Yamishibai” (Japanese Ghost Stories). The animation was simple but the horror was gruesome. Again, I noticed all the horrifying stories from the Japanese culture.
During the production of “the Grim Reaper”, there was the possibility of change. First off, Library of Horror’s is supposed to be short horror stories from different cultures. The first episode, “the Grim Reaper” was inspired by an old Mexican folk tale. Unfortunately, the Mexican culture was lost from the story because of many different complications. Fortunately, the grim reaper can be identified in any culture, which was definitely a relief because it can be considered an American Ghost Story. Also, we decided that even if we don’t identify the culture completely, the story would still be interesting. At one point, I thought about making Grim Reaper into an eight episode season instead of one episode. There was just so much to tell and there were questions not answered for the audience. But, we decided to keep to the original idea and leave the rest to the audience’s imagination. Maybe we will revisit some stories later down the line!
2. Did you consider what kind of audience you wanted for the series, or were you more focused on making great art instead? Do you believe that great art always finds an audience, or that you need to create the art with a particular audience in mind?
That is a great question. I was asked that question many times amongst my team. I never felt confident with any of my answers that I gave. Sometimes I would say definitely teenagers and over but other times I thought that children can watch our episodes too! At the end of the day, I focused on the quality of the production instead.
Sometimes great art is never seen because it did not reach the proper audience. There is an audience for everything that is great but the goal should be to get the greatness to the audience. Without a fan base, there is no show. People are always looking for interesting things to engage their time in but if they cannot find it then it will never be seen. I think it takes an effort from both sides!
3. What kinds of challenges (creative and otherwise) have you faced in making the series?
– The problem from day one was finding a talented artist to join my low-budget team. The artist has a huge responsibility and without an artist there is no show. I fell in love with the artwork of Kathy Leon. Although she was not savvy in computer animation, she was extremely talented by simply putting her pencil onto paper. I have known Kathy since we were in middle school but we had lost touch. Luckily, I was connected with her through social media. Fortunately, she was interested in the project! At first, I did not know what to expect but I knew I made the right choice. She was on board and finished the very first episode in three weeks! She had brought the story to life by using her imagination. It was very simple and she wanted to add more background but I fancied the simplicity.
The issue was that our opening theme song was not the easiest to pump out. Kathy worked on the opening for months and it was taking a very long time. I tried to find another artist to work on another episode. I found many candidates but none of them would stick. It was becoming very frustrating because I kept bring a new artist every month but it would never worked out. At one point, Kathy was becoming to frustrated with the opening and wanted to give up.
This was a big less for my team. We nearly fell apart and everyone’s hard work was going to be a waste. The lesson was COMMUNICATION. I ended up reassigning the opening to Anthony Lewis, editor of Library of Horror. Anthony is a self-taught computer genius. Although he has not art expertise, he accepted the challenge and results were spectacular. Kathy had drawn out all the images but was not able to apply the watercolor to every drawing. Anthony took over and finished the opening. Hence, it was a team effort. We all agreed that if something is not working to communicate that with one another because someone else on the team might be able to take a load off your shoulder. I think Kathy is an overachiever and I put so much pressure on her that it all got to her. As a leader, I learned to tone it down a bit as well.
Since then, we have blossomed for the most part. We conduct production meetings every two weeks. During these meetings, I provide some type of meal for the team. Then we discuss what we have accomplished in the last two weeks and our goals for the following two weeks.
Every Friday, we have a group text. Everyone is required to check in and give some type of update for the week.
This type of structure has definitely been more helpful. Before, we would only meet once a month, which would not keep the synergy going for the team.
4. You have a plan for promoting the series and establishing a fanbase. Was it created from scratch or did you follow a template/example?
Promotion is a big part of my job and it is very difficult. I wish I had some type of example to go off of but I don’t. I have been researching online and I made of list of different ways I want to gain fans. First, social media is our main platform. There is a Instagram page for @libraryofhorror and a twitter @libraryhorror. Also, I am trying to reach out to different blogs or websites that can possibly feature Library of Horrors. It has been difficult because some might not take our work that seriously other times it is just hard to find the right outlets. Also, word of month is important. We have reached out to all our friends and family and asked them to spread the word.
There is a GoFundMe account set up. The money that is going to be raised will be used to make posters, business cards, and entry to competitions.
Once we have the promotional material, we plan to host events at different outlets. For example the Last Bookstore is high on our list for an event but unfortunately, they have declined us. We won’t give up! We are hoping to convince them to sponsor us!
5. How has technology like computers or the Internet helped or hindered production?
Computer and Internet has been a blessing to the world in general. They have helped our production. For example there is a google drive that has everything we need. It helps everyone stay in the loop of things. Also, there are so many animation and editing programs, which have been very helpful. For example Kathy can draw an image and there might be something on it that she made a mistake on. Anthony can go in and take out exactly what she messed up on. This saves us an abundance of time because she won’t have to redraw the whole entire drawing.
The Internet has helped with getting out work seen. Social media has us connected to so many different people who might be into our show. Needless to say, the Internet and computers have been a big support and is definitely a loved member of our team!
6. What news skills and/or knowledge have you acquired since starting work on the series?
Animation completely new to me and I never thought I would be running an animation show. I have learned so much and I love this art form so much. I have worked in management and production and that experience has definitely helped me but having my own production has been very educational. I have to keep my motivation when things go wrong and remember what the goal is. I need figure out different ways of funding the project as well. There is just so much to think about when you’re running the show. There is promotion and marketing, writing and directing, audio and editing. I need to keep my team motivated. I am involved in every aspect of the creative making of this show. Honestly, I love it. It is amazing to be creating something that I am passionate about to be involved in so many different ways. One of my biggest challenges is to make sure everyone stays on board. I have a pretty awesome team but I know it gets very difficult. All the members have their own jobs and lives. I know it gets difficult trying to balance. Eventually, I hope I can compensate every member of my team. Kathy Leon is the artist behind the show. Also, she helps with marketing! Andrew Serrano is upcoming musician. Anthony Lewis is a self-taught editor. He is the genius behind all of the technical aspects of this show. Check him out at @collision28 via Twitter. William Garibay is the co-founder of Library of Horrors and is involved with the writing as well as creative directing. Every member of the team juggles many different hats because that is what we have to do in order to get the project going. In conclusion the knowledge I have obtained is priceless.
Thanks to Frshta for taking the time to talk about her series! You can check out Library of Horrors here.