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Pitching for Sub-Contracting Animation Work

Sarah Baisley outlines some of the basic concerns when pitching for sub-contracting work.

Put yourself on the map with the things you need to know about getting work.

When one thinks of pitching in entertainment, it usually means the property parties are hoping to get made into a television, film or videogame production. Once the commitment and sale has been made, there is a whole realm of pitching that goes on between the lead studios and subcontractors usually referred to as overseas studios to then get that property made and delivered.

Thanks to government support and economic developments in areas such as China, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and India, the number and technological abilities of studios is ever increasing. Major producers are being pummeled with pitches to attract them away from their usual houses they rely on while some of those subcontracts are becoming first level producers looking to send work to overseas houses.

So to round out our pitching issue, Animation World Magazine asked what are some basic concerns and needs of studios who subcontract work to other studios as well as those who pitch studios for work.

Basic Concerns

Subcontractors and overseas studios should do a test on the production in question if they havent done something extremely similar in the recent past or have a reputation to establish.

Putting aside actual prices, subcontractors/overseas studios should be ready to address the following questions for producers:

What other jobs have they done?

Can they guarantee the price?

Who is the core crew and how do they work?

What are the safety measures implemented for schedule and quality?

How often and how do their production personnel collect and report data to us?

How flexible are they in final deliveries?

What is the studios turnaround time for outputting a show from layout through compositing for example?

What is the capacity of the studio? How many shows is their max to take in?

What is the capacity of each department individually?

How far advanced are they in technology?

What is their pipeline?

What software do they use for compositing, for CG, etc.?

Do they understand Western culture?

Subcontracts/overseas studios should ask the following questions of producers:

Of the four phases, development pre-production, production and post, what exactly are we bidding on inside each of those categories?

How many episodes and the length?

Are there characters designed and approved? If so, can we see them? If not, we need to schedule and budget development.

Is the style of the backgrounds designed and approved? If there is anything, we need to see it immediately.

Who is writing scripts?

Who is casting and voice recording?

What are the complete and final deliverables?

What are the delivery dates?

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Cathy Schoch, vp, development and production at Bardel Ent., says perception of trust is a key factor in landing work.

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Nelvanas Scott Dyer says that a potential subcontractor should not focus on the price.

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Mike Maliani, chief creative officer at DIC, thinks its important that a vendor make adjustments to accommodate all areas.

Who is involved in approvals? At what levels do they approve?

What are we being provided with?

What are the benchmarks for style of animation and overall style?

Is there music? Are there songs? Are we bidding on them?

What are the retake turnarounds for the client... do we need speedy turnarounds?

Do you need a promo?

Do we need to do titles?

Who is the main contact? Who are the cc contacts?

What is the pipeline (CG, 2D, stop-motion, Flash, 3D or a combination)?

Sagely Advice

Cathy Schoch, vp, development and production at Bardel Entertainment, speaks for most in the industry when she said, Well, overseas studios and contractors in general usually boil down to relationships (perception of trust) and of course actual talent either shown in quality of work done, or in the results of a test given.

Typically, cold calls dont work, she said, so subcontractors should see if they know someone in the organization that can help access those in the decision making positions. Some hire reps or agents who know people on the inside to help them get work.

Its also important to attend the same activities (panels, industry meetings) or markets as the potential client. This typically shows longevity (people are always afraid of new studios that havent had enough experience either for talent reasons or cash flow reasons. You also evaluate the clients standing in the industry. You want to make sure they can cash flow the production since most of the payment is made at the end of the contract, said Schoch.

If the contractor can speak the same language, that goes a long way, said Schoch. Those who are comfortable going to China or Korea will go there time and time again. Typically these are producers that are more hands off and trust the studio to produce exactly what they want or expect. Others want more control, or have a show that needs a different pipeline or animation treatment, so communication becomes really important. In these cases its trickier to place in studios that traditionally do things a certain way only. Producers will make different decisions in these cases.

We look for quality and reliability, and these are often best measured by past performance, said Scott Dyer, evp of production and development, Nelvana. It is important to understand the management of the studio and clear evidence that the resources necessary to stay on schedule while producing good work are present; generally this means that the studio is not in financial difficulties and has strong backing. We expect a clear, concise presentation on the studios capabilities (with a focus on FACTS) and examples of work and relationships.

A look at where Nelvana and DIC send work to demonstrates the breadth of areas some studios are willing to work with.

Nelvana has sent work to Korea, China, The Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and India. Weve co-produced in many of these same territories as well as throughout Europe. In the U.S. we have worked in California, New York and Minneapolis, said Dyer.

DIC has gone to Luxembourg, France, China, Taiwan, Korea and Canada. Some of its artists are spread about the U.S. in cities like New York and Omaha, but the majority of them are in the Los Angeles area.

Pitching DOs and DONTs

Make sure not to be in-flexible when it comes to either pricing or creative content, said Mike Maliani, chief creative officer at DIC. DIC properties must fit the needs of many departments, including broadcast, home video, interactive and consumer products, so its important that a vendor make adjustments to accommodate all areas.

Dyer offered, DO tell us what youve actually done, not what youre planning on doing. DO give us a list of previous contract relationships and contact names, along with copies of the work performed. DO tell us about your management and financial backing and your ability to stretch (if necessary) if the work falls behind. DO guarantee that the work wont be subcontracted elsewhere.

DONT focus just on the price, but expect that well insist on fair value. DONT make unrealistic estimates or promise a quality level you cant achieve. DONT hide details or give us the sense that were not hearing the full story; transparency is a requirement. DO give your best price, but DONT put your studio out of business, he concluded.

Sarah Baisley is the editor of Animation World Network.

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