Friday, April 27, 2007

Pretending


It has been my experience in the animation industry that there are basically two types of studios. There are artists pretending to be businesses and businesses pretending to do art. In general, I do not have a problem with businesses pretending to do art because I have accepted that the animation industry is just that. An industry. It has it's own economics and rules that business people are well suited to take advantage of. My problem is when business people (executives and managers included) have the delusion that because their business is rooted in art, that they themselves become artists. This is usually manifested as using one's personal taste as the determining factor in making decision about the likes and dislikes of the audience. A business person is generally not suited for this kind of decision making because there are a plethora of other factors (budgets, timelines, corporate directions, wrangling talent, test scores) that they need to worry about that work against the clarity vision necessary to connect with an audience. For the artist, connecting to the audience is the only goal. This makes the artists the most qualified to make the most important artistic decisions. This sounds elementary but it is rarely the case in most studios.

The small studio is the realm of the artist pretending to be a business. Most artists start studios as an outlet for their passions. They see something in the industry that needs improving or they work under conditions that are not the most creative and they think that they could be more creative on their own. Wonderful intentions, but the artist that does this is stepping out of the comfy world of art into the shark infested ocean of business. Artists are good at collaboration, hiring like-minded friends and developing original concepts. They are not good at sacrificing ideas because it is better for the business, demanding proper business practices from employees and firing friends. Artists will also tend to hold on to the thing that they love about animation in the face of obvious change. An example of this are artists who refuse to accept that traditional 2D animation is no longer a dominant form. They believe that 3D is a trend that is spiking right now but 2D will recover. Do not kid yourself. 2D in feature animation will take its place right beside stop motion as just another niche player. If you are a 3D animator your are not safe from progress either. In not too many years key frame 3D will take its place right beside 2D, as motion capture becomes dominant and so on.


In the next post I will promise to say something nice about the industry.

13 comments:

Andre Barnwell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andre Barnwell said...

Thank you for the good read. It was interesting to see how you view the industry. But as a young artist how can I seperate the real from the fake, those who use the business to create products to connect with their audience vs those that want to make a hollywood buck?

kevin said...

thanks for this, you expressed elements about industry that have been driving me crazy for the past 2 years(that i didn't think anyone saw).

its sad when you have to come to these conclusions about things that you love so dearly(for me 2d animation)

GOGOPEDRO said...

I work in that small studio.....the man who runs it IS A LAWYER. Nuff Said.

Thanks for sayin this....The grind has been particularly tough lately...and It helps to hear someone else say this...

P

Anonymous said...

Well...interesting thoughts here. As an artist who opened his own service shop, because I found myself on the street when two big companies collapsed, I have had the opportunity to do some really nice contracts, and some not so nice ones. This is a commercial industry. If you want to make pretty films go to the NFB. When you run a service studio, you may be dependent upon taking some uninteresting work to keep the bills paid and to keep your core group on staff...all the while you work towards working alongside your business partner to sell and market the kinds of shows with the kinds of characters and stories that make you bounce outta bed each morning or stay up till the wee mornings to work on. That's what everyone of us longs for. That's what every student in any of the superb animation schools across Ontario, wherever, longs to do. Animation as is art is subjective. Just because someone can't hold a pencil doesn't stop them from knowing what they like or don't like. I often bounce my development off my production crew, business associates, biz partners, bankers etc to get an overall sense of how they feel on the property. I appreciate all those opinions.So here's my two cents for those in school coming out and dreaming about running your own shop...absolutely split your partnership in a company with 1/3 top notch sales person(s) and 2/3 creative (writers/designers). To those in shops with lawyers at the helm...ask him why he chooses certain properties and passes on others. The dude will tell you the truth and you might be enlightened.H of C has some of the BEST design work coming out of a Studio. Can I ask a question? Do you have a passionate sales team to push your properties and exploit them? Do you have access to groups of fresh new writers who are not formulaic? The best writers are the artists/production crew themselves, in my opinion. Anyhoo...great thoughts and comments.

Man of the House said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

Andre, the only way I know how to separate the real from the fake is to experience it. When I came out of school I thought I was a good judge of character but after a few years it was clear to me that I didn't have nearly enough knowledge to determine who was fighting for good or evil. It is clearer to me know but by no means am I right all the time.

Anonymous, I feel that you and I have had similar experiences. In this post I wanted to highlight some of the negative aspects of the current state of the industry but I am an optimist at heart. The art will always shine through in the end because money cannot make itself. It has to exploit something in order to grow. In this case it is the art of animation.

I have spent most of my career working in 2D and I love it more than the other forms. Unfortunately that love will not pay the bills. I have to use whatever technique, trick or method I have at my disposal to reach as close as I can to the ultimate goal.

Long live animation.

Lee Williams said...

Anonymous here...hey Ricardo...yes, we have had similar experiences. I used to carry around my soap box at the previous Studios I worked at telling them how to run their biz's from an animator's p.o.v. Surprised I didn't get fired more. Ha. Then I stepped into their shoes and burned my box.
With the 18 to 35 audience markets opening up, we finally have a niche to push our own stuff...just a matter of time. Keep up the great work Ricardo and Cool Team. You guys rock!
Cheers,
Lee
Boomstone

Scott Wright said...

Sounds familiar... I'm sure that doesn't apply to anywhere I've worked :)

Cory Wilson said...

I've got to disagree a little bit with Lee about artists being the best writers. I find that artists tend to write in all the stuff they want to see animated and find some way to string it all together instead of focusing on good storytelling.

roxxykristen said...

As someone who suffered the fallout of executives trying to make artistic decisions I really appreciate your enthusiasm and hopefulness for the future Ric.Those guys at HoC are lucky to have a leader who has an optimistic view of things to come.

SHANE PRIGMORE said...

Ricardo , you are awsome! I know House of Cool will be kicking some ass in whatever medium it chooses.I am so tired of executives it's not even funny.Shannon and I are engulfed in the "creative" executive nightmare at our current Studio job.We'll tell you the stories some time. It seems like every six months I have to escape whatever studio project I am working on just to be able to tackle our own projects in peace. It is so tiring, but like you said..."Long live animation!"

Pedro Daniel said...

Beautiful!

Golem said...

In Portugal where i live and work is exactly the same...i guess some things will never change...its up to the artists to try and have a better understanding of how bussiness works in this industry...our survival and respect for the profession depends on it.