Michael Sporn (whose blog I’m sure you all read daily) recently posted an article from Making FIlms in NY in which Lew Gifford discusses his small studio and some of the history behind it while discussing some of the business behind it all. Even though it was published in 1975, this particular quote is just as relevant today as it was then:
That’s the reason there were periodic breakup of shops. You’d be sitting in your office and you’d hear, “Temp bit the dust,” out of nowhere. There wouldn’t be any sign, but they would have gone quietly overboard, using all their suppliers to death. Suddenly they couldn’t meet the tax call or something like that and everything would cave in. It encouraged bad business habits and I don’t think anybody in animation has been a big businessman anyway. We’re basically artists, but you have to be practical to survive.
It’s as true then as it is now. Plenty of people start up their own little shop only to see it shine brightly for a while before fading away. Running any business is hard work and sometimes its easy to think that simply being good will cure all ills. True, it can help, but creating a brilliant film won’t exactly pay the bills. Do your really think Walt Disney would have been as successful as he was if it wasn’t for Roy guiding him along the way?
What about the future?
The business aspect is bound to encroach on the artistic side as the way revenue is generated changes. Sure, making an independent film for fun won’t change much, but if you want to make money from a project, knowing all about costs and revenue, even on a basic level, will help out a lot. Gifford is right insofar that artists generally like to make art, and leave the number crunching to someone else (or sitting in the pile instead). Joe Murray has a great quote that deals with it.