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Mind Your Business: Still Waiting for the Phone to Ring?

In the debut of a new monthly column about life in the animation business trenches, Mark Simon gives advice to those waiting for that elusive post-first date phone call in the volatile world of client courtship.

Mark waiting impatiently for the phone to ring.

A watched phone never rings. Here I am, late at night, staring at the silent phone. Why doesnt she call? Doesnt she care? Maybe she doesnt want me? Did I do or say something wrong?

The knots in my stomach are only secondary to the knots in my checkbook. Time moves slowly when Im waiting on a client to call me back. Did I get the bid? Was my demo reel good enough? Has production already started? Is the job for real?

The lack of a phone ringing can mean one of two things. One, no news is bad news. Two, no news is good news. The difference is when you are waiting for that phone to ring.

No news is bad news when you are just beginning a courtship. Youve taken your client to a nice dinner, youve sent her flowers and a nice note the next day along with your proposal. Of course you were hoping for an immediate acceptance to your proposal, but she makes you wait. And wait. And wait.

Your mind starts going over all the possibilities. You want to keep calling her to see if shes made a decision. There are only two answers to that question, yes or no. If the answer is yes, and you havent been called thats bad news. At least for you. Then why didnt she call to tell you that she thinks you should start seeing other people?

Maybe she just forgot about you when she chose someone else. Clients tend to be fickle and move on quickly with new beau. Ouch.

Maybe she never intended to hire you. Your bid could have just been a fishing trip for her. This way she has ammunition to get some other poor shmuck who wants to date her to lower his bid.

Maybe she was just too busy. Its not personal. At least its not personal to her. It would be polite for her to call all her suitors and let them down gently, but its far easier for her to just ignore them all.

Timmy on the phone. © 2005, A&S Animation, Inc. Art by Travis Blaise.

Maybe, just maybe, there is no project. There is no answer for anyone. There may be no funding or not nearly enough funding and was wasting everyones time. She may have had delusions of grandeur on a dime-store budget. Reality has a tendency to harsh to some wannabe producers.

If the answer is she has not made a decision, there could be many reasons why. She could be waiting for answers herself. Maybe her parental funding units have not told her what she can do yet. Maybe there are other decisions she needs to make before she thinks about you. Its hard to believe, but you may not be the only person in her life.

In any event, if her answer is yes, shell call. She wont keep her chosen one waiting. Um. Wait a minute that does happen. She may make you wait for half your scheduled time and then still expect you to do the job for the same price with the same original delivery date. Dont worry. The good news is youre not alone. The same thing happens to all of us.

Of course its not all bad news. No news can be good news when youre project is done. Once the courtship is over, youre quickly forgotten. Forgotten? How can that be good news?

Timmys waiting on a lot of calls. © 2005, A&S Animation Inc. Art by Travis Blaise.

At the end of any project clients move quickly to the next emergency. When youve delivered your final shots and everyone is happy, youre quickly forgotten. The good news is everybody is happy; you can charge for the date and start looking for a new conquest. This is the time when getting that phone call quicker than you may have expected would not be good news.

Calls after delivery of a project can almost always mean changes or problems. A problem means you get to spend more time on a project without charging more money. Changes mean they came up with a new concept for the shot and they expect you to spend more time on it without charging more money.

The moral of this story is youre not alone. We all deal with the same issues of waiting for the phone to ring and wondering why it takes so long. There are ways of being polite and proactive in making the follow-up calls yourself. Dialing the phone and saying Why havent you called me? or Whats wrong with you? are neither polite nor proactive, although they may quicken a response to your proposal. Albeit a negative one.

Mark Simons latest book, Facial Expressions.

Is there any more information I can offer you about the proposal? or even I wanted to make sure you received the proposal I sent over, are good excuses to call. They may even be helpful as you could discover that she was still waiting for you because she never got what you sent. You may be able to take a moment to further sell yourself. Any information she gives you at this point just makes the waiting a bit easier, but it still comes down to the fact that usually only her chosen one will get a call.

So here I am. Still staring at the phone. I know it wont speed things up but I cant help myself. And then the phone rings. I pick it up with sweaty palms. Hello? Oh hi Ms. New Project. Sure, I can take a look at what youve got. I hang up and stare again at the phone. Great. Now Im waiting for them both to call.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer and lecturer who is also the author of Facial Expressions, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation and Storyboards: Motion in Art. He can be found lurking around at www.FunnyToons.tv and may be reached at Mark@FunnyToons.tv. Marks books may be found and purchased at www.MarkSimonBooks.com.

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