Concept to Creation: Crewing Up

Mark Simon continues his series of twelve excerpts from his new book Producing Independent 2D Character Animation: Making and Selling a Short Film. Every independent needs helpthis month Mark runs down ways to obtain a crew that wont just help, but excel.

This is the third in a series of 12 excerpts from Mark Simons book, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation: Making and Selling a Short Film. This book is a full-color concept-to-pitch guide that teaches animators, students and small studios the art and business of producing short, cel animation films. Animation producer Mark Simon has detailed the process in an accessible how-to manner using his award-winning series, Timmys Lessons In Nature, as a guide. This 432-page book contains over 600 full-color images, interviews and a CD-Rom containing sample animation, animatics and sample softwares described in the text.

One of the tricks to doing independent production is attracting enough people to help. The other trick is completing all the work and accomplishing the desired quality. This is where the producer has to be both a salesperson and a motivational speaker. You need to be able to inspire people to believe in your vision and to feel that they are an important part of the project. People tend to do better and more creative work when they feel responsible and have a sense of pride in what they are doing.

T.J.s designs and drawings were inspirational and instrumental in getting artist help on the Timmy series.

T.J.s designs and drawings were inspirational and instrumental in getting artist help on the Timmy series.

Medium to large animation houses have staffers who can work on in-house projects between paying jobs. It often inspires staffers if you allow them the freedom to work on their own projects at work, as long as it doesnt interfere with delivering to clients. Smaller animation houses and independents do not have this luxury though, and they will have to make deals with outside artists to get the project done. Even larger companies may not have staff available for every aspect of production, such as custom music and sound effects.

Audio and music are extremely important in helping make animations come to life. You can produce these yourself with available programs, or you can try to make a deal with a person or company to help you out.

Enoc Castaneda was an intern on one Timmy episode, but was subsequently hired by A&S Animation to work on other projects.

Enoc Castaneda was an intern on one Timmy episode, but was subsequently hired by A&S Animation to work on other projects.

Create A Win-Win

Every negotiation should be a win-win situation. If everyone benefits, the final product will always be better and more fun to work on. Every project has different benefits it can offer people, and each person may have different motivations. Its up to the producer to figure all that out and make it work. Following are general motivations to entice people to work on your project:

Pay them. (Everyone likes this choice the best.)

Give a crew person his first stab at a higher position to help his career. People will often offer their time for free or a deeply discounted rate to further their career.

Use the project as a training ground for someone who hasnt worked professionally in the field and needs experience. Interns from schools fit this category. (Figure 13-2)

Give them, in writing, a percentage of the project that is equal to the amount of their invested time. Their percentage is calculated from a complete budget; divide the dollar amount of their invested time and resources by the total budget to get their percentage. (This is back-end participation with ownership.)

Give them, in writing, a percentage of income from the project. This can either be open-ended or up to a certain amount. (This is also back-end participation, but without ownership.)

Partner with other people who also need to prove themselves and who have a desire to build a portfolio. Share the project and profits as needed. Just make sure everything is in writing.

The remaining chapter contains more crewing contract offers/options and explanations of how the crew was assembled for Timmys Lessons In Nature, Lesson 3. To learn about other topics, check out Producing Independent 2D Character Animation, published by Focal Press. It can be bought at any bookstore or online.

Producing Independent 2D Character Animation: Making and Selling a Short Film by Mark Simon. Burlington, Massachusetts: Focal Press, 2003. 432 pages. ISBN: 0-240-80513-5.

Mark Simon founded and owns A&S Animation, Inc., an award-winning cel animation house in Florida, which develops and produces character animation for commercials, TV, training videos and the Web. He also owns Animatics & Storyboards, Inc., the largest storyboard house in the southern United States, which has provided work on over 1,200 productions. Mark's accomplishments include owning an award-winning advertising firm, being a syndicated cartoonist, production designer of film, TV and animations, and writing entertainment industry books and lecturing on both animation and storyboards. Having won over 30 animation awards for his efforts, Mark has directed Timmy's Lessons In Nature (which he sold as a TV series), My Wife Is Pregnant, numerous commercials, training videos and television series special effects. Read more about A&S Animation and the author.

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