That’s A Wrap! April Update

You might have noticed that I’m a little late on my blog post for this week.  While I normally try and post every Monday sometimes that is not always possible. This week was an eventful week, and it left me with no time to write a post until now.

On Monday I spent most of the day with a bookkeeper going over my company’s Quickbooks database.  I wanted to make sure the books were in order, and check that I was doing everything correctly.  This is one of those little things that in the back of your mind you worry about wondering if you are doing something wrong that will destroy the company.  Luckily besides a few minor things everything was in great shape, and I got to let go of the stress of worrying about it.

Tuesday I finally got to meet an ex-coworker face-to-face.  I know that sounds odd that I had a coworker that I never met in person, but that is the truth.  We both worked at DreamWorks Animation, and met while we were working on Monsters vs Aliens.  I was at the Glendale campus, and she worked at the Northern PDI campus in the bay area.  We have kept in touch, and a few years ago she moved down here to SoCal.  She is currently working at Disney Junior, and we finally got the chance to meet for lunch.

After our lunch I spent the rest of the day working on my presentation that I will give to Disney Junior at the end of May.

On Wednesday I had a great phone conversation with Everett Downing, the director/creator of The Book of Mojo.  He is currently working on getting his animated short funded on Indiegogo.  It sounds like a really fun project, and we hope to meet and discuss how we might be able to work together on his project.  He already has a talented group of artists that are already on board to help with the project who are working at studios like Pixar, DreamWorks, Disney, Paramount, and others.

The campaign still has a way to go to reach its goal, and time is running out.  Check it out, and if you are interested in contributing feel free to donate. The Book of Mojo

That brings us to Thursday, which is when I finally have a chance to catch up with my blog.  Once I finish this I have to go over my schedule for the next few weeks.  I have a list of people I need to meet with, but I’m running out of time in the week to have meetings.  I have been trying to keep my lunch meetings to no more then one a week, but lately I have been doing 2 or 3 a week.  On the days I have lunch meetings I don’t get as much work done, so I try and not over schedule them.

Tonight I’m going to the ASIFA general membership meeting.  I have been a member of ASIFA since 2007, and this will be the first time I have made on of the meetings.  I normally only go to the free movie screenings that they have.

ASIFA (Association Internationale du Film D’ Animation) was founded in 1957 in France, and chartered under UNESCO in 1960 as a membership organization devoted to the encouragement and dissemination of film animation as an art and communication form.

I thought that it would be a great opportunity to meet the other members, and do some networking.

Last week I met with the founders of Boom Box Post.  I have been looking for different companies to collaborate with on projects to help with the things I don’t know much about.  Boom Box Post is a boutique post-production sound studio, and is co-owned by two really great people, Kate Finan and Jeff Shiffman.  It is scary the similarities we have in our situation.  We each have moved out to California around 10 years ago, and I started my company in July, and they started in August.  They are working with some really great clients, and I look forward to working together on some future projects.

Hopefully this momentum continues.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

It Seems Opportunity Knocks all at Once

Wow, last week was a crazy one!  As I mentioned in my post last week I have been busy working on ways to find more clients and to build my business.  I put a decent amount of effort into networking, blogging, and generally trying to get the business name out there.  Sometimes I wonder if all the effort is just a waste of my time and resources.

Last week I had an opportunity pop up that I was excited about.  How the rest of the week went I was not prepared for.  One opportunity after another started to come in, and I found myself slammed trying to keep up with everything.  I was also in shock that everything was happening at once.

It all started with me getting a meeting setup with Disney Junior to discuss ways my company might be able to help them on future projects.  As far as I know there is no specific project, but instead to get on their list of vendors.  I thought it would be a great way to open up opportunities for my company, and a chance to add a great client.

Then a guy that is working for a team of scientist who are working to solve the energy crisis with clean solar, water, and air energy contacted me.  They are looking to make a 3-5 minute CG animated short talking about what they want to do.  It would be a really fun project.

Then I was contacted by another animation company that was started by someone that I admired, and they wanted to talk about a project they are working on with a very tight schedule that they might need some help on.  It would be a blast to get to team up with them to work together on this project.

Any of these things alone would have made it an eventful week, but there is still more.  A mentor of mine who has been running her own animation company with her partner asked if I could help out on a project that they can’t take on at the moment.  They have been swamped with these other two very large projects, and just don’t have the bandwidth to take on anything else right now.

I also had a very interesting guy contact me, and wants to meet up.  He has been in the industry for years, and I’m very interested in meeting him.  Chuck Jones was his mentor, and he has had a very impressive career so far.

So as you can see it was a pretty eventful week.  All the other projects I was working on internally I had to put on hold while I put bids together, and other tasks to get me prepared.

youtubespacelaThe other thing I was excited for last week was finally getting to check out YouTube Space LA.  What is it you ask?  Well, it is a free production facility for anyone that has 10,000 or more YouTube subscribers on one of their channels.  This gives you access to their 7 sound stages and state-of-the-art equipment to help you make your video content.

I always thought this was pretty awesome for them to provide all this.  The reason I was invited was because there was a YouTube and Producers Guild mixer.  The facility was amazing, and everything seemed so modern.  They had a huge video wall that would display anything with the hashtag #youtubespacela.

I still have a while until my YouTube channel hits 10,000 subscribers, but I’m getting close with my 2 subscribers.  Only 9,998 subscribers to go!  I also have not been doing much with my channel, but it is something I’m interested in doing more with in the future.

They have these spaces in Los Angeles(obviously), New York, London, Tokyo, and Sao Paulo.  Below is a YouTube video that gives a nice tour of the Los Angeles space.

Well, I have a lot of work to get done, so I’m going to wrap this up.  Last week was a great week, and even if nothing comes out of these different opportunities it still shows that my efforts have not been wasted.  I have not even been in business for a year, and people are already thinking of my company, and reaching out to us.  That to me is success in and of itself.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

My 3 Areas of Focus

I have been very busy working on the company, and I wanted to give an update on what takes up all my time each day.  There are 3 main areas that I’m focusing on, and everything I’m doing is connected to them.  These 3 areas are Ad Agencies, Direct to Business, and a GC Animated Project.  I will go over each of them below.

Ad Agencies:
The first area I’m working on is building the number of ad agencies I work on projects for.  Normally larger companies with with an ad agency to create their marketing campaigns, and those ad agencies will hire production companies to do the production work.  For example, the VFX work we did on the Toys”R”Us commercials was through an ad agency.  The ad agency is who hired us, and we actually had very little contact with Toys”R”Us. This is how much of the broadcast commercial work is done.

One ad agency has many clients that they work for, so getting into one ad agency you have a chance of working on multiple client projects.  The budgets for these projects are often higher, and can be very lucrative for the production companies they hire to help.  This also means that it is very competitive to win these projects.

I’m always trying to figure out how to get more agencies that will call me for any of their animation needs.  I still have not figured out the secret to winning these contracts, but I’m putting a lot of time and effort into learning.  One approach is getting a commercial rep, but that has also proven to be difficult.  There seems to be very few commercial reps that are taking on new clients, so I have mostly been trying to reach out to the ad agencies on my own.  This of course can be very time consuming, and more often ends with no positive results.

The one benefit I have is that I already have my foot in the door from the work we did with the Toys”R”Us projects.  I have heard from several people with production companies that getting your first project with an advertising agency is always the most difficult, but once you have worked for one it is much easier to get work with other ad agencies.

I also recently received this great testimonial from Kent, the Executive Producer of the ad agency I have been working with.

There very well may not have been Christmas this year if not for Eric Miller’s steady hand on the reins. Eric Miller and the team at Eric Miller Animation played an invaluable role in putting the magic in our 2014 Toys R Us Holiday campaign. With over 80 spots in 2 short months, each requiring photo real 3d and character animation to breathe life into magic imaginations, the ask was truly immense. Eric MIller’s experienced professionalism, coupled with a talented and scalable team helped us easily and responsibly manage the ongoing flux that defines a mercurial holiday retail environment. From late season offer and product changes to unplanned branding needs, the team was regularly relied on to exceed expectations, and to do so within reasonable budget parameters and under impossibly short timelines. Santa could not have delivered a better Holiday partner.
~ Kent

Direct to business:
The second area that I’m pursuing is working directly with business to make animated videos for their companies.  These could be anything from explainer videos that they can post online, or training videos that can be shown to their employees.  This is why I have been looking for artist that I can work with to make these videos.  I want to be able to offer whiteboard animated videos, motion graphics, cartoon, and CG animated videos explainer videos.  I plan to make a few of these videos to explain my company, and also show the quality of work I can offer.

My first step is adding a section to my website that markets specifically to businesses offering these types of videos. After my website is in place I plan to have a copywriter write scripts for a few minute to minute and half videos that highlight the different types of videos we offer.  Then I will pull a team of artists together that I can work with to produce these projects.

After we make a few of these videos for the company I can add them to the section on my website for small businesses, and start reaching out to businesses offering our services.  The “Selling” of these services seem a little clearer to me then the selling to ad agencies, since there are many more clients to reach out to directly.

CG Animated Project:
The final area that I’m working on is producing my own animated shorts.  I worked with a friend to come up with a basic idea for the shorts, and I have now been working on putting a team of artists together to make it happen.  The plan is to design a lovable character for the shorts, and make several 10-15 second videos that we can post on YouTube.  These will all be high quality CG animated videos to show off what our team can do, since so far I have very few examples of that kind of work.  This will give some great examples of the kind of cg work I want to do with the company.

Unlike the other two areas this one will not bring any money into the company, and will actually require a significant amount of investment to get them made.  I will be using the money I made from the Toys”R”Us project to help fund it.  I had a decision to make that I could either play it safe, and keep the money I already made for a rainy day, or take a risk and use the money to make something great.  I decided that I did not leave my “secure” job at DreamWorks to start a company so that I could play it safe.

There are a few things that I hope to achieve with these videos.

1) Build a team: Creating these videos will help me in finding talented people, and assembling a talented amazing team that works well together.

2) Animation Pipeline: I will need to develop our animation pipeline, and work flows in order to make these shorts.  Creating these videos I will learn what areas need to be improved.  It is better to figure it out on these projects then when we have a paying customers that are expecting the pipeline to already be figured out.

3) Develop the Brand:  By making really great, gorgeous shorts it will help in building our brand.  It will show people what kind of work we can do, and what people can expect from us.

4) Gain a following: Hopefully if people enjoy our shorts we can start to gain a greater following through social networks.  I want to create something that will entertain people, and having a following will make sure we have an audience to actually see our work.

5) Source of Pride:  The idea of pulling a team together, and creating something amazing is very exciting.  Being able to create something from nothing is why I love animation.  It will give me and the company something to be very proud of.

If I can accomplish any of the above with these shorts I will feel like they where worth the money spent on them.

There you have it! The 3 areas that I’m working on to build my business, and creating a brand.  I was also looking into the government contracts, but decided that was not worth the trouble at this time.  Not only do you get buried in tons of paperwork, but often they have a requirement that you have been in business for 5+ years.  So for the time being I will shelf that idea, and focus on these 3 areas instead.

As you can see I have a lot to do, and a long way to go. I often find myself jumping back and forth between working on the different areas trying to make progress.  Sometimes I wonder if I should not be dividing my focus, and find one thing to go after.  I think for right now I feel like these are all working towards the same goal, and worth me splitting my time.  The Ad Agencies will be a main source of income for the business, but those are not enough to keep us busy all year long.  The direct to business will help keep us busy for more of the year, and these two things can help fund the third.  This will hopefully allow me to do what I want which is make amazing animation.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

The Daily Routine of Running a Startup Animation Company

I have had a few people ask me what my daily routine was in running my company, and how I keep myself on task.  I decided to share what my days running a animation startup looked like, and what I do to keep focused on what I need to get done.

Many of the people I talk to have misconceptions about how easy it is to work from home, and to be your own boss. Yes, not having a boss that is constantly on your back about getting your work done is awesome, but at the same time it means you have to motivate yourself.  If you are not a self starter, and have a system in place you can very quickly loose all your momentum.  Another misconception is that working from home you have all this time to watch TV, play with your kids, and to do what you want.  I’m often so busy with work I end up locking myself in my office all day, and only come out for food.  There is a door to our guest bathroom from my office, so I don’t even have to go out into the hallway.  There are days that I don’t even see my son until the end of the day when the nanny leaves.

In this post I will take you through what I do each day, and what I do to keep myself on task and productive.  Lets start with a quick run down of what one of my standard days look like.

5am/6am: I would love to say that my wife and I start our days at 7am, but the truth is our son often wakes us up around 5 or 6 am.  We normally bring him into our room, and take turns watching him as he crawls around on the bed while the other tries to get a little more sleep.  If we are lucky we can get him to fall back asleep, but most of the time he is jumping on our faces.  Rarely does my wife and I make it through this without one of us getting injured by him.  We try our best to hold him off until 7am.

I should mention that the schedule that follows is how we plan out our morning, but often times what is planned and what actually happens is very different.  This is more often a guide then the law of the land.

7-8am: This is my first official start of the day(I start and stop often).  My wife goes in the kitchen to get breakfast for our son, and I start going through my emails.  I also will eat breakfast sometime in this hour.

8-9am: If our son slept through the night, and we are feeling well rested we spend this hour working out.  We run to the park near our house, and then take turns with one of us playing with our son while the other runs laps around the park.  This plan does not happen as often as we would hope it to, but on occasion it is a nice start to our morning.

9-10am: In this hour is when my wife and I take turns showing, getting ready for the day and watching our son.  If we did not get to work out my wife will often take my son to the park to play, and I stay home to get through more emails.  I will also use this time to read industry news to keep up with what is going on in my industry.

10-11am: My wife leaves for work at 10:30, so I spend most of this hour watching our son while my wife gets ready, and eventually heads off to work.  This continues until the nanny shows up at 11.

11am-1pm: This is part one of what I call “Working Time”  The tasks I do during my working time varies depending on the day, and if I currently have a client project I’m working on.  If I do have a client project then it normally takes up the majority of my working time, but if not I work on company tasks.  The things that fall into this working time is often the things I write about in my blog posts each week.  Since this covers such a wide array of tasks I’m going to put this in its own section below called “Working Time”, and continue with my standard day’s schedule.

1-2pm: We will call this time lunch hour although I never actually take a full hour lunch like I did when I was an employee.  The time I take my “lunch” varies each day depending on how busy I am, and when I remember I still need to eat.  My lunch normally consists of taking 10-15 min to throw something together, and then eating it at my desk while I continue to work.  On rare occasions I will eat outside, and post a picture on Instagram that feeds into the romanticized belief that working from home is glamorous.  Don’t get me wrong I love it, but it is in no way the easy life.

Having to eat lunch in the office today. Boss is working me to death.

A photo posted by Eric Miller (@ericmiller333) on

 1:30-5pm: This is the second half of my working time(see below), and the only difference from the first is that I’m no longer hungry.

5-6pm: This is an hour that I block out on a daily basis each day, but more often then not I’m to busy to use it as planned.  This is my drawing time.  I’m always trying to get better at everything I do, so I use this time to practice drawing to improve that skill.  I also listen to business related audio books to further my learning.

6-7pm: I try and use this time as my first and only break each day.

7-8pm: Our nanny leaves at 7, so I watch my son for this hour until my wife gets home at 8pm.  Depending on the temperament of my now tired little boy I also attempt to make dinner if he does not require 100% of my attention.

8-9pm: My wife gets home at this time, unless she had to work late, and I either start making dinner, or finish making it while my wife puts our son to bed.  This normally means we don’t start eating dinner until after 8:30.

9-11pm: At this point we are both so tired that we don’t want to clean up after dinner, and often end up just sitting there watching some TV.  I also use this time to look over my to-do list from the day.  I will push off any tasks I was not able to get done until the next day, and I plan out the day to come.  Eventually we will head to bed to start the process over again.

Working Time (11am-5pm):
My working time is a mix of planned and unplanned tasks or events.  My working time is very limited and very valuable to me, so I want to make the most of it.  I will schedule events, meetings, or block out time that I want to spend working on important tasks.

I start this time by looking over my emails, calendar and to-do lists to see if there is anything I need to get started with. I take care of any urgent things that need my attention right away, but try and get to taking care of items on my schedule or to-do list as soon as possible.  If something does not require my attention right away I will often add it to my list, and schedule it for later that day.

TodoistFor my To-Do list I use and app called ToDoist, and it is the key to keeping my working time productive.  I have a lot of tasks that I have to keep track of, and would be lost without it.  I add reoccurring tasks for anything that I want to do every day, or every week.  Things like “reach out to one client per day”.  This is my way of creating daily quotas to keep myself productive, and working towards a goal.

I will add reminders for things that I might easily forget about doing such as “contact so and so”, or “follow up with person X”.  If I have a larger project I can add sub-tasks that I need to complete in-order to complete the main task.  For example “Make business card” could have sub-tasks of “design business card”, “order business cards”, and “confirm that I received them”

The app makes it very simple to schedule out tasks, and to move them to another day.  I like using this app, and have always worked best when I use to do lists.  I noticed that when I don’t have a list I would sit there trying to remember what I had to do.  Having a list keeps me productive, and keeps my laziness at bay.

Sometimes when I want to make sure that I complete a certain task I will schedule it as a block of time on my calendar.  This way I make sure I use that time for the important, and often time sensitive task.  Other things I put on my schedule are lunch meetings.  I try and set up at least 1 lunch meeting a week.  This is great for networking, but it also gets me out of the office to keep me from going crazy.  Last week I had lunch with the co-founder of Renegade Animation Ashley Postlewaite.  We have talked on the phone and through email, but this was the first time we met face to face.  Ashley has become a mentor to me being a great resource with great insight into the animation industry.  I mentioned her in an earlier post, so to learn more about her check out “You can’t start an animation studio alone, You need great mentors.

Exceptions from a Standard Day:

There are a few things that I schedule on a reoccurring basis that causes exceptions to my standard day.

Monday: Every Monday I write my blog, and it ends up taking up a large chunk of my working time for the day.  First I have to think about what I want to write about, and then actually write it.  I will spend some time either looking for, or making the image I use for the featured image(top of page).  Before I post the post I normally either look over and edit, or rewrite the it after I got a rough outline.  If I was a better writer I’m sure I could knock out a new post in an hour or two, but I often end up spending 3 or 4 hours on it.

Wednesday: I was trying to make this a non-business day to get stuff done around the house.  Things like mowing and laundry, but also larger home project like cleaning out the garage, or organizing my file cabinets.  Unfortunately the business demands to much of my time, and have not been able to keep my non-business days. As of recently, every other Wednesday I will be going to ToastMasters from noon to one.  I wanted to improve my public speaking, and the best way to do that is by practicing.  ToastMasters will not only give me the opportunities to practice, but they will also coach me on ways to improve.   I feel that this is an important skill for me to have for running a business.

Thursday: Once a month on Thursday evenings I have a Producers Guild networking event that I always try and make it to.  This technically takes place outside of my working time, but I do have to quit early on these days to make it to the event on time.

Friday: This is my accounting & finance day.  Throughout the week I keep all my receipts for both personal and business expenses, and on Friday I reconcile all my accounts.  I go through and categorize all the spending, to make sure I’m sticking to the budget.  This also includes sending invoices to clients, and writing checks to any artists that did work for me.  Most weeks this can be done in less then an hour, but some weeks I have more to do.

That is a basic run down of my schedule each week, and how I keep organized and on task.  I would love to hear from all of you on what methods you use to keep yourself productive.  If you have any suggestions for me to improve my workflow I welcome your advice.


If you have not already, I hope you will join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  If you have any thoughts or advice I would love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.