Know Your Animation Tax Incentives!

Coming by way of a tweet from Cathal Gaffney is an overview of production incentives from around the world put together by Entertainment Partners. Since it focuses on every credit in most major jurisdictions and sub-jurisdictions, I thought it would be easier to tease out the ones pertaining specifcally to animation and comment on those instead,

Starting off in the US, there is Connecticut, whose credit was successful in attracting Blue Sky Studios to the state from its cormer home just next door in New York. While the credit has undoubtedly helped the studio establish a home and serve as a production base for some very successful studios, it has nonetheless served to sap some of the talent from nearby New York City. Nonetheless, it has so far allowed a major studio to remain in the north-east US, for now.

Australia has both federal and territorial credits with the former requiring an “Australianess Test”, something that is common in many countries offering credits (although not all apply to all productions). At the lower level, New South Wales and Queensland offer credits as well. Australia was the first destination for overseas animation production all the way back in the day when Hanna-Barbera among others started the practice in order to save costs. Today, Australia is still quite the contender in the animation scene with Happy Feet being the latest film touted on the Australian government’s quite comprehensive animation site. (No mention of Fern Gully though).

Moving on to the credits that American’s will be most familiar with, British Columbia offers, and has offered extensive credits for quite a while, and have been successful in establishing a “Hollywood North” in the state with the likes of Pixar among others being attracted to set up satellite operations there. Otherwise, home-grown outfits like Nerd Corps take advantage of the talent pool. British Columbia/Vancouver is often cited as the local industry that could stand to lose most should the credits dry up as it is relatively close to the epicenter of Los Angeles.

In contrast both Ontario and Quebec offer credits but appear to have a larger indigenous industry that can support production. Even then it isn’t immune to business failures (sorry, can’t find a link to the exact story) but successes have included the likes of Cake Animation and Atomic Cartoons.

Interestingly enough, France also offers an animation tax credit (up to EUR 4million) that will surely have been used by the likes of Illumination Entertainment as well as Bibo Films for their production, A Monster in Paris.

New Zealand also offers a credit but seems to limit it to shorts only. I suppose there is an obligatory shoutout to Mukpuddy who seem to have a lot of fun making animation down there 🙂

Then there is Taiwan, which has yet to stretch its animation muscles to the extent that Korea and Japan have in recent decades. The credit does seem to be quite generous, so it should not be surprising if we see more content coming from the island in the coming years.

Lastly, there is Ireland, which although is not explicitly outlined as having an animation credit, has nonetheless made the technique its own over the last 15 years. Plenty of studios have reaped its benefit (most obviously Cartoon Saloon with The Secret of Kells) but they have also been active producers of their own content as well; an absolutely essential aspect to tax credits if they are to be successful.

So there you go. There are plenty of places around the world where animation is being subsidised.

 

 

 

5 Great Sources Of Inspiration

This morning as I sat down to write the usual Monday list post, I immediately drew a blank. Normally, I would search around for some inspiration (and in reality, I should have it lined-up and ready to go) but unfortunately this morning, I was beaten by the clock and had to rush off to work.

Where does inspiration come from? Well, it can come from just about anywhere. It’s a topic I’ve covered before (not un-coincidentally after I drew a similar blank when attempting to write a post) so I won’t go into it again, but here are a few good sources that you can use when searching for inspiration.

1. The Great Outdoors

Not to be blatantly obvious, but a lot of what I write about is surprisingly enough, influenced by my surroundings. Seeing a sticker on a car or a T-shirt in a shop can turn on the lightbulb in the old noggin’. You’ll surprise yourself; I certainly have.

2. Blogs

I don’t think I can emphasise this one enough. You don’t have to follow a lot, but you should follow a few regular ones at least. There’s nothing worse than finding a great blog and to learnt that it’s only updated once a year, or even worse! Great blogs will do more than give you something to think about, they will cause you to build on the original topic, and hopefully come to some new and excting conclusions yourself. At the very least, they will give your mind a rest from thinking of something on its own.

3. Books

Books, books, books. Yes, if you aren’t a regular reader, you certainly are missing out. They don’t have to be boring books either. They can be fiction or fact. I prefer fact most of the time, but that’s just because I simply don’t have the time to read much anyways (although my claim to fame is reading all the Harry Potter books in  days. Let’s jsut say I haven’t really put 18 hours a day into anything much since).

Books are much like blogs, but they tend to operate at a much slower pace, and they generally afford the mind more time to muse over ideas and thoughts. This can be good too, as you will tend to linger on what you read in a book for longer than you would a blog post.

4. TV

Yes, further down the list is the good ol’ tube. TV can be a good place for inspiration, but only if you vary things a bit. Sure, you could watch Nicktoons all the time, but you would be neglecting a whole host of others. The same could be said for Disney films. Yes, they’re all mostly excellent, but they do tend to stay within a fairly well-defined set of limits. Use TV for inspiration in small doses and you can get some god inpiration from it.

5. Education

Some may consider this a dirty word with no place in the arts, but truth be told, a little education here and there can do you wonders. I’m not strictly talking about formal education, but more the kind that teach specific skills and techniques. Things like photography, live-drawing, HTML, etc. All these are not absolutely necessary for your job or life in general, but they can help enhance it. Say you take a photography class, the practice and techniques you learn could come in handy in other areas, or you may learn about something that you previously did not. At the very least, you’ll mix with a group of people with similar interests to yourself, and that can only result in a cross-pollination of ideas.

 

5 Signs That It’s Time For A New Job

So today is a bit of a momentous day for me in that I start a new job; only my second real one. Yes, I’m still a civil engineer so no need to change the title of this blog just yet.

Changing jobs can be difficult, and for me a lot of it was psychological in that I really did like where I worked but still had to pluck up a lot of courage to hand in the notice.

So below are a few indicators that it may be time for you to do the same.

1. The People You Work With Are Nuts

We’ve all been there, when co-workers and bosses are just not nice people. Unfortunately, there are horrible people all over the place and some are inexplicably in positions of power. However, job satisfaction is hard to come by when there is someone who is making your job a living hell. The bottom line? The stress of dealing with such people isn’t worth it, no matter how much you earn.

2. The Place You Work At Is Horrible

While your office/studio may not be comparable to, say, a coal mine, that doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant place to work in. Cramped conditions, lousy air-conditioning, smelly toilets are all signs of a terrible office, but they are not the limit. You might also have to deal with constant noise, poor maintenance, you name it. If spending 8 hours a day in a building takes effort, that’s a sure sign that it’s time to find a nicer place to work.

3. You’re Not Challenged Any More

Work should be challenging on some level. It doesn’t have to be a constant burden, nor does it have to be a walk in the park. Moderate challenges are part of career growth and should be welcomed by anyone who wants to get ahead. If you feel your job is too easy and you’re not being stretching the brain muscles like you should, then it’s time for a change.

4. Your Over-Worked

Too much work is bad. Everyone knows that. But the funny thing is, people will tend to work longer and longer without thinking about when they should stop. If your boss came to you and asked you to work 70 hours next week, you might laugh. But what if he asked for an extra 5 hours? Sure, you could do that, right? Well if you got comfortable doing that, then another 5 on top of that wouldn’t seem near as bad. Before you know it, you’re up to 70 hours and all your free time has disappeared. Sure, you might make good money, but it isn’t worth it in the long run, as this cautionary tale details.

The standard work week is 40 hours for a reason. Putting in a lot more than than consistently is bad for your health and a sure sign that it’s time to switch.

5. A Combination of All Of The Above

Funnily enough, I learned that you don’t need just one reason to switch jobs. In my case none of the above were an issue on their own. But a little bit of one and a little bit of another combined to give me enough reasons to say yes when the question came along.

This will be the case for most people, and only you can decide when the time is right. Either way, it’s up to you to make the change, very rarely will it come to you.

Addendum:

You’ll notice that pay isn’t on the list. The simple reason is that almost everyone is aware of how much they earn and it’s a natural trait that people want to earn more. The result is that people will be acutely aware when they are being under-paid and as a result, will more than likely look to switch when they are.

Seven Hilariously Bad Rave Flyers

I found the Bad Rave Flyers blog through a comment on Reddit, and although it would be something more suited to typography students, after just a few pages, I noticed it contained its fair share of animation-related stuff as well.

If you’re ever wanted to feast your eyes on some truly horrific crimes against graphic design and copyright infringement, look no further!

Back at the Barnyard

The Nightmare Before Christmas

The End of Evangelion

Unknown anime

The Care Bears

Ikki Tausen

Aladdin

 

Important Lessons From Douglas Adams’ Letter To A Disney Executive

On Tuesday, Letters of Note featured a letter from Douglas Adams to Disney executive David Vogel concerning Adams’ attempt to get his book Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy onto celluloid. While it isn’t related to animation, the letter does bring up some important points regarding communication between parties involved in a project.

Writes Adams:

….I don’t know if I’m right in thinking this, but I only have silence to go on, which is always a poor source of information. It seems to me that we can either slip into the traditional stereotypes — you’re the studio executive who has a million real-world problems to worry about, and I’m the writer who only cares about seeing his vision realised and hang the cost and consequences — or we can recognise that we both share the same goal, which is to make the most successful movie we possibly can.

How are your communication skills? Mine can always use a tune-up and it’s likely that yours do too. Collaborating on a project with a large number of people can result in problems and delays that might well be caused by poor communication.

Just something to ponder as you go about your work today 🙂

 

Can the Toyota Production System Be Applied To An Animation Studio?

Yes, it sure can.

For your reading pleasure and perusal, may I present the draft version of the white paper that aims to introduce you to the production process that is in many ways, revolutionary.

The Toyota Production System has long been used to streamline workflow processes at the Japanese car manufacturer. Since it’s introduction, it has been transferred to many other kinds of business, even a hospital!

Seeing as an animation studio is also a production outfit, I decided to explore whether TPS could be realistically applied to one. The answer is yes, and this paper is the result of my investigation.

Since it is only the first draft, please feel free to write in, comment, critique, criticise and offer improvements.

You can download a PDF version here.

Dan Schier Distills the Essence of a Crafting A Career

You may remember a post by Daniel Schier (a.k.a. Waveybrain) from earlier this year where he talks about how to get started on your career in animation. It’s a very good post and well worth your time reading if you have not done so already.

However, the one part that stuck out for me was the following:

One thing you may learn as I have, is that predicting where you’ll be is futile.  You’re better off living in the moment while aiming for your goals.  But, having goals and taking the right steps to attain them has been pretty key for me.

This is the 100% absolute truth. You can try to map out a career (think Carton Banks’ master plan of his life) but in the end, circumstances are constantly changing, and you may end up spending more time trying to plan around them that you neglect where you’re currently at.

Daniel’s right in that you can’t predict where you’ll be either. I certainly couldn’t. Five years ago if you’d tolf me I would be where I’m at today doing what I’m doing I would have probably laughed at you (in a good way). But that’s the truth. Life has a habit of throwing challenges at us that can pull us in different but ultimately satisfying ways. Don’t be afraid to take those challenges on you will probably surprise yourself with what you achieve.

Having a goal is an absolute if you want to have a career. Saying you’d like to work in animation is one thing, but what if you said you wanted to become a feature film director. Well now you have the necessary direction to know that you first need to get either the education or experience together and then to hone your craft while playing the political ball game. In time, you’ll be well placed to helm a feature.

Without a plan or goals like these, you might well flounder in a lower position, and animation becomes a ‘job’ rather than a ‘career’.

 

What Motivates YOU?

The other night in class, I was quite surprised to see our professor pull up a video on motivation. Not necessarily because that is a rare thing, but moreso because it had the word animate in the title. On closer inspection it’s not really animated but that we can let that slide because it is such a good video.

There’s an entire series but the one I’ll focus on is the one we watched in class. It’s on motivation and how people (read: managers) often confuse or overlook the real reason we show up on a Monday morning. Surprisingly enough, money isn’t as big a factor in all of this as you might think, even for those of us in office environments.

Consider the 10 minutes of this video as an investment. It’s been viewed nearly 7 million times so you know it has some good points.

Puss In Boots is No. 1. So Why is DW Stock Down?

First of all, no need to worry, this isn’t going to be a lecture on economics. I hate those too. What it will though, is discuss how a studio’s stock can move relative to its releases. It’s not something that animators need to be too aware of as it doesn’t have a direct effect on their work, but it can affect how the studio operates on a higher level or indeed how decisions made in light of it can filter down to the lower ranks.

Firstly though, what does a stock’s price represent? If you said how much a company is worth, then congratulations! You’re correct! However, how do you determine how much a company is ‘worth’? Do you simply add up how many buildings it owns or how much cash it has on hand? No. It’s a bit more complex than that.

The price of stock is a complex thing that takes into account how much the company owns, but also how well (or poorly) its expected to perform in the future. If a company is expected to perform well, its stock price is high or is rising. If a stock price drops, it’s an indication that the company is either expected to do worse than it was or it’s simply failing to live up to its potential. Either way, the stock price is always correcting itself as investors either bid or sell at a price they feel is the right value.

In the case of DreeamWorks, the share price is just about half of what it was a year ago. Does this mean the company is only half as good now than it was then? No, of course it doesn’t. It simply means that the outlook for the studio is a bit hazier.

A studio’s stock price is a mixture of the company’s assets, it’s revenue steams (DVDs, etc.), it potential release slate (ever wonder why studios like to announce new projects years in advance?) and its current release slate. DW’s recent slide is the result of the current release slate in the form of Puss in Boots.

Y’see, there are analysts, hundreds if not thousands of them, whose job it is to analyse a company in the finest detail. They pour over company reports, sector reports, market reports, weather data (yes, those winter storms on the East coast can have a real impact), consumer spending, you name it. Their goal is to try and predict how well a company will perform based on the data available to them. They’re the ones who compile it all and sell it to other firms or investors who will make their decisions based on the data within.

Naturally, they paid close attention to the opening weekend of Puss in Boots, and unfortunately for DreamWorks, it came up short. From the LA Times:

With a production budget of about $130 million, “Puss in Boots” generated $34.1 million at the box office over the weekend. Although it was No. 1 movie, ticket sales were well below the $40 million to $45 million that most Wall Street analysts had forecast.

The resulting compendium that Wall Street ‘forecast’ is that with a lower box office, the DVD sales will be lower as will any and all merchandise, TV rights and potential sequels. As a group of pessimists, analysts are about as big as they come.

“But so what?” I hear you say. “Stock prices only have a bearing on investors, not on the studio itself”. This is true, but, a company’s ability to borrow is heavily dependent on their future prospects, and since investors have signalled that they’re not good, DreamWorks will now have to pay more for financing.

All of this goes to the bottom line of a film, where belts might get tightened. This is where the actions of this week will be felt by the rank and file. If upper management decide to scale back budgets, then there will be very real changes made on the ground level. People may be let go, or (more likely) schedules will be shortened and films brought forward to boost takings.

What does all of this teach us? Well, it should say not to pay much attention to analysts. They’ve got it wrong before (UP, anyone?) and they’re likely to get it wrong again. They also tend to focus on the very short term. It’s rapidly becoming the case that the box office opening is unconnected to a film’s subsequent performance in the DVD market and beyond.

DreamWorks (and every other studio) is in the middle of some choppy seas at the moment, and its simply dealing with them as best it can. Having the stock price go down is not the end of the world, not even close. Besides, any real investor is looking at the long term view, and in that regards DW is doing pretty fine considering its still independent.