More Tough Choices Ahead for Independent Animators

This time last year, I speculated that the ‘You’ part of ‘YouTube’ was about to become as irrelevant as the ‘Music’ part of ‘MTV’. As it turns out, that speculation has turned out to be correct. Unfortunately, the future looks even more gloomy for independent creators for an even more troubling reason.

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The Significance of ‘The University of DIC’

Over at Animation Magazine, Michael Mallory has a rather informative post about what he refers to as the ‘University of DIC’. As you should be aware of, DIC was an animation studio responsible for such shows as Inspector Gadget, the various Sonic the Hedgehog series’ and a whole host of other, primarily low budget animated shows. Despite being bought up a few years ago, the company’s influence continues to live on.

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Yes, Animation Still Has A Stigma Once You Reach A Certain Age

Fred Seibert re-blogged a post by Megan, a.k.a. animationbits over on tumblr in which she goes into detail about how much she loves animation and how she’s hard at work on becoming a fully-fledged animator.

As inspirational as that post is (and you should definitely read it), what struck me was that while she drew and doodled from a very young age, something happened:

Then, like some of you, I hit an age where suddenly it wasn’t appropriate anymore. At this point I was living with my father and stepmother and suddenly im in a world where it was weird for me to create fantasy worlds and draw cartoons.

She was 18 at that point, and as she mentions, at one point, her father had something taped to the table which read the following:

THIS , this is whats keeping you from growing up – all these cartoons

Thankfully, Megan overcame all of this, but the fact remains that moreso than being a professional stigma for a lot of people; the old “all artists are starving” and “you’re not famous till you’re dead” notions continue to proliferate among society unfortunately. As Megan herself says:

Most of the time this talk comes from people who don’t KNOW of the art industry but base things on very surface conversations or stigmas like ‘starving artist’ .

The fact that this seemed to happen when she reached a certain age is exemplary of the continued stigma that grown-up animation fans continue to encounter here and there. Oh sure, it is much more acceptable now than in the past, but you could say that outside of conventions and industry circles, my Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends T-shirt is not nearly as appreciated.

The thing is though, the whole reason my passion for animation was re-ignited was because I realised that it is grown-ups who are making it and that they are people with real jobs, a real education and life-goals. Until that point I’d always thought of animated studios like Bart thought of the offices of MAD Magazine; a fun-house kind of scenario. Of course that was partly me being, like my father says, a stupid kid. A dose of the real world changed that mindset substantially.

Far from peer-pressure being the enemy of teenage animation fans, it is people who think it’s a profession for perpetual children. Nothing could be farther from the truth and here’s hoping that the stigma will someday be a footnote in history.

 

“Why don’t more animators use tumblr?” Is The Wrong Question to Ask

 Via: The Rauch Bros. Tumblelog

Fred Seibert has opined that more animators should be using Tumblr as a platform for their art. I do not disagree with this statement. In fact, I agree, the Tumblr platform has a lot of features to offer and has proven itself to be a great tool to build a community around your work in addition to discovering new stuff.

However, Fred’s post misses the mark when it comes to its reasoning.

Yes, Tumblr is a social platform, but so is any blog (so long as certain features are engaged).  Fred points out the Adventure Time tumblelog as an example, stating that:

 Very few of the posts get fewer than hundreds of notes (you can see the number at the bottom of each post.) Regular readers will recall that very, very, very few of our posts got even one comment on our old blogs.

This is true, except that comments and “notes” are mutually exclusive. One is a tool to provide feedback or opinion on a post, the other is simply a statistic on how people have responded to it (either likes or reblogs).

Comments are a truer measure of social interaction in that they indicate that people have thoughts or feelings on the post, not merely that they liked it or were suitably enthralled enough to post it on their tumblelog too.

This is not to diss the notes system. Indeed, you can implement Disqus commenting in Tumblr, just as Frederator have done, if you so desire and get the benefit of both worlds. I just don’t see the point in proclaiming the benefit of one over the other.

What Fred is right about is the ease at which Tumblr allows you to share content. One or two clicks and you’re done. Compare that to even twitter, where you often have to click, login, edit the tweet and click again to post. That can get tiresome, especially if you like to post multiple times a day.

A post Mark Coatney proves to be the inspiration for Fred’s post, and although it also focuses on numbers, it lists three things that are essential to building a community on Tumblr:

  • Be Engaging: Have interesting things to say, and don’t talk simply about yourself. Respond to other Tumblr users, ask questions, etc. Remember that Tumblr is a visual medium (more than half of the 25 million things posted on Tumblr each day are pictures), so look for compelling images to tell your story whenever possible.
  • Be Social: Tumblr is above all a social sharing platform. Use this space to show off your best stuff, encourage others to share it with their followers, reblog posts from other Tumblrs that you think your followers will enjoy.
  • Be Yourself: No publication has to fundamentally change who they are to connect with people on Tumblr. The audience responds most to a personal, peer-to-peer connection with you; embrace that.

These are all great points, except that that they are applicable to any platform, not exclusively to Tumblr. This very blog is an example, I engage with commentators, I’m socially active through Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ and I am myself, right down to popping in a ‘u’ in places American’s find weird.

What Fred should have focused on was what he mentions in the very first paragraph:

Some young artists are using it [tumblr], but for some reason a ton of animation blogs are on Blogger, some on WordPress.

Yes, they are using Blogger and WordPress, and I dare say that the biggest mistake they make is not in choosing these platforms, but by neglecting to maintain them! I can easily say that of the 300+ artist blogs in my reader, well under 10% are updated on a regular basis. In fact, I recently went through and deleted any blog that hadn’t been updated in over a year. The numbers were depressing to say the least.

These animation bloggers can’t blame the platform for their failure, they can only blame themselves.

Instead of asking “Why aren’t more animators aren’t using Tumblr?” we should be asking “Why aren’t more animators taking blogging more seriously?”

Why Animators (and You) Need To Create A Network

Last night I attended a networking event put on by Loyola University here in Baltimore, where I currently undertake an MBA course of study. Now I’m not one to readily go out and ‘network’, I can be tremendously shy and nervous at events like these, however, I did find last night a great help insofar as persuading me that I need to attend more events like this (if that makes sense).

The most important lesson I took away from the evening was that relationships can matter a whole lot when it comes to business. Although this is kinda sad in a way, it is the truth, and thankfully, there is plenty you can do about it to help yourself get where you want or need to go.

For animators, creating a professional and personal network should be one of their highest priorities. You’ll likely already have one from school, but it is important to create one outside of that, either from the neighbourhood you live in, organisations like ASIFA or the Animation Guild, a drawing class, or even just the folks you work with.

One of the points that was hammered home last night was to build and maintain relationships. One of the panelists put it like this:

It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

That’s a great quote and pretty much sums up how you can determine your place in the labour supply pool. If no-one knows you, then there’s a good chance that you can become isolated professionally and that can have detrimental consequences when it comes time to look for a job or even climb the career ladder.

ASIFA-East President and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, David Levy, often mentions networking over on his blog, Animondays. His reason is more practical than most. As a New Yorker, the tight-knit animation community flourishes because of personal relationships. There are no really large ‘faceless’ corporations operating in the city so a fair amount of the time, he is working directly with an individual or small studio. In such a situation, personal relationships can (and do) count for an awful lot. Animondays has plenty of advice so check it out (if you don not do so already).

Relationships are also something that can slip away easily. I know myself that I am a horrible communicator. If you ever get an e-mail from me, I can come off as whiny, needy, hyperactive or just plain ignorant. If you don’t receive a reply from me, I more than likely neglected to take the 5 seconds to reply.

I know these are things I need to work on, and it can be hard when you’re working or going to school full-time to justify spending an evening or afternoon schmoozing with other people in the field. However, once you create a relationship, it is imperative that you take the small amount of time to maintain it. E-mails now and then, or even the occasional lunch can work wonders.

However, it would seem that the benefits are well worth the time put in, and like a couple of the panelists were saying, the more people who know you’re out of work, the greater the chance they know someone with an open position that needs to be filled.

So quit making excuses for yourself. That TV show or computer game can wait this evening. Head on out there and meet someone in the same boat as yourself! You’ll be surprised at they great kinds of people you’ll come across.

What Do Animators Get Up To Outside Of Work?

You mean besides hitting the bars? Hahaha, no seriously, animators can do much more than just animate. In fact, animators are often fully fledged artists in their own right! That’s where Too Art 4 TV comes in, it’s an exhibition of artwork by a collection of some very talented animators in the New York area and beyond.

This will be the show’s 5th year and it continues to challenge the perception that animators can only animate. I attended the 3rd exhibit and wrote about it at the time, being somewhat pleasantly surprised at the range and scope of the work on display.

I admit it was kinda fun to learn that animators often have differing tastes when it comes to their personal and professional lives. Of course, that can be true for anyone in the creative field, although the fact that an animator could make awesome robots from odds and ends in his spare time had not entered my mind at all.

Too Art 4 TV 5 begins this Friday (25th of March) at 6:30pm at Erebuni in Brooklyn. The opening evening features a whos who af folks from the animation world, so if you can make it, I highly encourage you to do so.

The exhibition runs until April 23rd. Full details (including an exhibitors list and the gallery’s address) can be found on the website.

Joe Murray is Moving In New Directions And So Should You

Via: KaboingTV.com

Joe Murray (erstwhile creator of Rocko’s Modern Life and Camp Lazlo) has announced that his fledgling online TV network, KaboingTV, will make its grand premiere on March 11th. In case you didn’t know, KaboingTV is Joe’s attempt at creating an online TV station devoted solely to cartoons and also passing more moolah back to the creators.

Why is all of this important? Joe, for all his track record in producing hit TV shows, is moving in an entirely new direction. Heck, in one sense he is being a true pioneer. Some people have tried to do what he’s done (and been successful too) but none have done so with the specific aim of mutual benefit and comradeship.

Joe is not resting on his laurels and has actively searched out new ideas and potential sources of income when he hasn’t been making cartoons. There are tons of people out there who would never in their right mind take on what Joe has. It’s just not in their nature, and that’s fine. We can’t be an entire nation of Warren Buffetts (although I sure could use the kind of money he has).

I’m not saying that you need to go out and repeat what Joe’s done (for starters he’s already beaten you to it), just that actively toying around with new ideas, any new idea, will reap rewards. Maybe not initially, but down the road. It’s kind of like me and the MBA. I’m not going to see the payout immediately, but I do expect to see a difference maybe 10+ years down the road, when I am in a better position to use the knowledge I’ve learned.

On the flip side, you don’t even have to come up with a new idea at all, just engage in something you don’t normally engage in! For animators, this could mean attending a life drawing class, learning a new computer program, exploring the fun (or serious) side of your creativity. You have no excuses for not doing so, and in the end, there are great benefits to be had.

Animators I Follow on Twitter

As a twitter user, one of the joys of the service is the ability to interact with people you otherwise might not be able to. Yes, you could listen to the random ramblings of various celebrities, but there are plenty of normal people on there too, and they are immensely more interesting.

There are plenty of animation folks on there for a start, and if you are looking for a nicely curated list of the best, look no further than the Cartoon Brew Twitter Directory, which contains dozens of noted, famous and otherwise talented animators, producers and studios.

What I’m posting today, however, is a list of people I follow. Now I will admit that even though I’ve been on Twitter for almost two years, I’m still learning and constantly discovering new people to follow or people who I didn’t know were on Twitter. Some are famous, most are not.

However, following people is not about how famous they are or are not, it’s about what they have to say, and I think I can safely say that the people below represent a diverse section of the animation industry, from the big boys down to the independents, so I get a pretty wide view of the happenings in animation on a daily basis. OK, sure, there are some people who don’t update very often, but that should not discourage you from following them. They might say something interesting someday, and you will want to be listening when they do; there’s no disadvantage to be had by adding them to your ‘following’ list.

Of course, if you’re already on twitter, all you have to do is follow my animators list, or my animation industry list, which features the studios.

Here is the list, presented in absolutely no order whatsoever, although while it most likely approximates when I began following them, it in no way represents what I think of them or how important I think they are. One note though, I have not included people who have protected their profiles as they’ve done so for a reason and the last thing they need is a whole bunch of invites they didn’t ask for.