This was one of the best threads I've read, and I reckon some of us probably will not get tired of talking about it (even though some others may!) so consider this another attempt at instigating some relevant discussion...
Like many others, the thought of starting a studio (I'm based out at the Far East) has been going on in my head for a while. The difficulties of doing it have kept me grounded, and I am quite aware of the issues involved, being currently in a job where I finance animation projects (for a 3rd party organisation) and assess animation proposals on a weekly basis.
I've also seen studios start up faster than they should have and bleed to the death. Others have taken the hard road, starting with a service-based model (including doing corporate videos, animation and commercials) and slowly branching out to original content creation after a few years. It's still a hard road though, and they are constantly looking for cash injection in case projects get delayed or stalled.
I don't believe in starting an animation studio from day 1, simply because it is not a self-sustaining business model - not until many years later when you may see profits coming in in the form of sales or merchandising, and that is if your pilot even get picked up for full production. The investment is simply too high. The only way is to get your bread-n-butter model sorted out - that means competing in a thin-margin, service market (either corporate work or commercials etc) - before moving into original content.
If I have a choice, however, I'd rather not build a studio but work with co-producers who have the studio facilities and animators to take care of the production work. They must be sold on my concept proposals, of course. I'd need a full bible and at least have the resources to undertake a chunk of the pre-production work as well as writing. My outfit will be small, consisting of a core group of producers / business developers, writers and artists / designers. I keep rights as creator but the broadcast rights (and indeed all other rights) can be shared equally depending on how much cash my co-producer(s) put in. If they put in 80%, they get 80%. I can't argue much since they're actually doing most of the work. As one of the producers I will help do the leg work and pitch to broadcasters and distrbutors and even investors.
What I will not be running is a production facility with animators. What I need to sustain are the cost of my (lean) team, time, energy and resources needed to build a network of contacts of animation studios and strong relationships with broadcasters.
Is a model like the one I described above workable?
Kez, what do you bring to the table ? i mean you want to be a co-producer but you probably dont have production money. you are going to be bringing ideas and storyboards? in this case there are plenty of people in that queue.
what you need is to be able to provide production. have an idea, pitch it, get your feedback and be able to produce it as well.
this is the model that will work right now. everything else is straight vertical climb
Skinny, what I don’t have is a lot of production money (so you’re right). I’m hoping that if work-in-kind plus creators’ fees (may not be much, but is subject to negotiation) can be pumped back in (together with some of cash) it’d make up some percentage of the production budget, and that could be consider an equity investment. If my team is focusing on pre-production, it is possible that’d make up something like 15-20 % of budget (on average for a production based out in the Far East).
Of course, there need to be production studios willing to undertake the majority of production and perhaps post as well. The value my team (hope to) bring are full bibles that are well developed with feedback from the market and ready to go. Development takes up significant resources and for many studios deep into production often the development process (for new projects to add to the pipeline) suffer. Maybe there’s a gap to fill in here.
The intention is not just to bring ideas and storyboards, but fully developed bibles (complete with art and possibly test animation) as well as writing capabilities. A producer will also be attached to help the co-production pitch at markets and seek further investment as well as contribute to marketing and cross platform licensing efforts.
One obvious problem is that this model also does not have a ‘bread-n-butter’ component. Meaning if no project is picked up, the team runs on empty as there’s no real production capability to take on service work.
I’m exploring different models here for a start-up so all comments are welcome. Hopefully there’ll be some informative exchanges.
my problem with this is 2 fold
1) like you said the bread and butter problem. but more on this later.
2) the issue is how do you get to be taken seriously by producers, broadcasters, agents. how many bibles (detailed ones as you put it) will you be able to pitch at one time? there is also sometimes significant lag time between pitch, acceptance, refinement and then ultimately production.
i like your concept in theory. work with coproducers, get ideas to X point and then leave it to beaver. problem is unless you have money to spend on production its going to be hard (not impossible by a longshot) to get a deal.
the thing is y ou need to have something to set yourself apart from a regular guy who makes a pitch(and lots do) in essence there is little different between you and random gentlemen making pitches other than maybe the level of detail you will provide.
when i started my studio, the plan was always to pitch my own show with the rider that i will have it completed within 12 months max. i count on this to have people consider it in different light.