Produced by Conference 2015

This weekend was the Producers Guild of America’s annual Produced by Conference.  This is a conference for producers, and has a lot of really great panels, mentoring, and networking opportunities for members of the guild.  This was my second time going to the conference, and I wanted to share my experience with all of you.  If you are interested in reading about last year’s conference you can do it here.

Paramount-fountain-pga-pbcLast year’s conference was held at Warner Bros. Studios, but this year’s was held at Paramount Pictures.  It was nice to get back on the Paramount lot, and it reminded me of when I worked at DreamWorks Studios(DWS).  At the time DWS was owned by Paramount, so I had my new hire orientation on the Paramount lot.  They also had free weekly movie screenings at the huge 500+ seat theatre that I often took advantage of since I never had the money to pay for movies.

The conference opened on Friday night with a general meeting for the members followed by a really nice Hollywood style party.  The meeting was interesting, but of course it went longer then expected.  They had every committee get up and talk about what their committees where about, and what they were working on.  I think they could have done abbreviated updates instead of each of them taking 10-15 minutes each.  I also did not eat dinner, so I was ready to get out to the party.  When we finally got out of the meeting, and to the party I spent the first half hour just stuffing my face with all the delicious foods they had.

I did not attend the conference on Saturday, and only went to the conference on Sunday.  If you are interested to see what sessions they had you can check out the list here. The conference is open to non-Producer Guild Members, but you have to pay for it.  A member gets one day free, or they can buy both days at discounted rates.  Let me know if you are interested in going next year, and I can get you the information on it.

The sessions that I went to on Sunday were “The art and craft of pitching for television”, “Conversations with: Kevin Smith”, “Creating Meaningful Brand Partnerships to enhance your content”, and “Everything you wanted to know about games, but were afraid to ask”.

The pitching for TV was very interesting, and entertaining.  They had a panel of executives, and 5 producer/writers that took turns pitching their ideas to the executives.  The executives had fun with it, and did things like interrupt them, walk away, talk to people during the pitch, and so on.  The goal was to show you what you might expect to see when pitching to these executives, and how to keep your cool during your pitch.  After each pitch they would give pointers at how to make their pitch stronger.  It actually was very educational.  It was neat to see what worked, and what did not work.  It gave me a lot of great insight on ways to improve my pitches.

Kevin-SmithI signed up for the session with Kevin Smith more for the fun of it.  If you don’t know who he is he is the director/writer for movies “Clerks”, “Jay and Silent Bob”, and “Dogma”.  They had John Horn as the moderator, but I don’t think he got a word in after they started.  Kevin just talked about one story after another, and barely stopped to take a breath.  It was a fun time, and I think I laughed through the entire session.

The session on creating brand partnerships was interesting, but I was expecting something different.  When I signed up for it I thought it was more about creating meaning for brands from your intellectual properties.  Instead it was about partnering with Brands to have them in your TV show, or movies.  Things like product placements where you actor is drinking a coke, or driving a GM car in the movie Transformers.  It was interesting to hear about how much money can be made for adding in these products.  I think they were saying $100,000 for a product in a TV show, and millions of dollars for movies.

The last session I went to ended up being the one I got the most out of.  It is always interesting to hear about the $90 billion game industry.  It is such a rapidly growing industry, and there are so many different platforms for them. There are PC, console, mobile, tablet, and social/Facebook games.  You have the Pay-to-play, In-App purchases, free-to-play, and many other types of games.  Virtual reality is also an up and coming platform that I feel will continue to grow.  I wish this session was longer, because you could tell they were only scratching the surface.  I hope to reach out to some of the people on the panel to continue the conversations.

In addition to the sessions I also met a lot of really great people, and heard some very interesting stories.  The main reason I go to these conferences is to network, and create new relationships, and this year there was no shortage of that.  I will spend most of today reaching out to the people I met this weekend, and finding ways we can work together.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the conference, and if you have any questions about the conference please let me know.



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.

Produced by Conference

photo 1This Sunday I attended day 2 of the Produced by Conference that was held at the Warner Bros. Studio lot.  It was a great experience, and I’m very glad I was able to attend.  The Produced by Conference is a conference for producers by producers, and is put on each year by the Producers guild of America.  This is the 6th year of the conference, but only my first year going.  It is made up of different guest speakers and panels of industry experts, and I signed up for 4 panel discussions that I would like to share with you.

Conversation with Norman Lear:
Norman Lear & Steven LevitanI’m embarrassed to say that I did not know who Norman Lear was before signing up for this session.  I still did not know the impact he had on the industry even after looking him up online in advance and finding out about the shows that he wrote and produced.  I have heard of the shows he made, but never actually seen any of them.  All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, and Sanford and Son to name some of the big ones.  So having this chance to hear his stories was very fascinating. He was so influential that the Producers Guild’s comedy series award is actually named after him.  The person that won the Norman Lear Award the most times was Steven Levitan, and he was the one moderating for this conversation. Steven Levitan created such TV series as Just Shoot Me!, Stark Raving Mad, Stacked, Back to You, and Modern Family. This paring of the two made this conversation even more rewarding. Norman talked about how he felt like he never did anything that was that earth shattering, but was just telling stories.  He said when he was first getting into the industry the biggest issues in TV shows was that the boss was coming over for dinner and they burned the roast.  He wanted to tackle the most controversial issues of the time.  His shows touched on racism, abortion, and sexism.  He had to fight to get the networks to be OK with many of the shows’ subject matter.  His hard work paid off, and paved the way for many shows that have controversial subject matter in them.  Including Steven Levitan’s show Modern Family which has a homosexual couple in it. He also talked about how he is still working on projects, and he is not having any luck on getting his most recent project made.  It is a comedy that’s set in a retirement village, and is called Guess Who’s Dead.  He said “They don’t want to touch the demographic”.  It sounded like it would be pretty funny, and I would be interested to see it made.  When asked what advice he had for producers today, he said the greatest lesson he could pass on came from Jean Stapleton, the late co-star of All in the Family. He said,

“She’s always where she is, always be where you are.”

The Emerging Majors: New Possibilities for Scripted Storytelling:
photo 2This was a panel of four executives moderated by Chris Thomes, VP Digital Media Studio at Disney/ABC Television Group.  The four panelist were; Laura Allen, Head of Production for Yahoo!, Michael Klein, EVP Programming and Content Strategy for Conde Nast Entertainment, Erick Opeka EVP Digital Networks for Cinedigm, and John P. Roberts, SVP Digital Media and Commercial Affairs for Endemol USA.  None of these people were lacking in overly long titles.  It was interesting to hear that 3 of the 4 panelists have cut the cable cord.  They felt cable TV did not provide them with anything they could not get from online.  This was really interesting to me since it was further evidence on the changing landscape of the cable industry. They also talked a lot about packaging scripts and stories from a business point of view.  They want that ideal Youtube star that “writes”, directs, creates, and produces their own content for practically nothing.  They also wanted to find talent that helped with their brand.  “Brand integration” is the key, said John P. Roberts.  It was good to hear what they were looking for, and what was of interest to their companies.  This panel was helpful in the fact it gave me an insight on what was important to them.  If I was ever to pitch an idea to them I would have a better understanding on how to approach each one.

Financing Independent Film: New Business Models:
photo 3This was one of those panels that highlights all that you don’t know about raising financing for movie.  You go into it thinking you know a little about the subject, and walk thinking you know nothing.  Instead of listing out all the panelists I included a picture of the title card with all their names and positions.  It was made up of producers, agents, attorney, and other experts in film financing.  There was a lot of very intelligent, and experienced people on this panel, and they are the kind of people you want on your team when you are trying to raise money.  They talked a lot about crowd funding which is something I have already thought about doing to make my first project, but know I need to get a little more credibility first.  Sky Moore(attorney) talked about other ways that I had not thought of before.  These were; Advertise private offerings, Money from advertisers, and retailers.  Honestly I’m not real sure what he meant about the first one, but it had something to do with talent going out and raising money on their own.  If someone knows more about this please comment below.  The second one, money from advertisers, he used the example of the Lego Movie.  Working with advertisers to fund the project if you put their product in the film.  You have to be careful with this method, since you don’t want your movie to turn into a hour long commercial.  The last one, Retailers, could be money for showcasing products, or products to use in the film for free.  It could be clothing, cars, food, or other products.  He mentioned Netflix, and Walmart being good examples. Stephan Paternot, Co-Founder and CEO of Slated talked about his company, and how it can also help you raise money.  He explained it by talking about a tail, and at one end you have the studios, and the other you have crowd funding.  His company is in the middle of the two.  It is a network that helps connect creators with investors.  While sites like Kickstarter can be for anyone including people with no experience, Slated is for more experianced film makers.  It helps investors filter down all the people wanting to make a project to people with more of a proven track record.  Slated provides tools for investors to see who is involved in the project, and give an idea of the market value of each project.  For example the director could be inexperienced which would lower the value, but it might have other experienced key people and talent that would increase the value.  They also talk about domestic and international options, but many of this was over my head.

Indie City: Finding Your Niche in the Digital Eco-System:
photo 4I attended this panel instead of the conversation with Francis Ford Coppola.  Although it would have been amazing to see him I felt this panel would be more beneficial to my goals.  This ended up being the most interesting session of the day, and I felt justified with my decision.  I have been very intrigued with the power of YouTube lately.  I have seen first hand how quickly a video or channel can go viral, and quickly bring the creator into the spotlight.  This panel talked a lot about YouTube, and YouTube success strategies.  Panelist Tim Street kept making the point that you just need to get started, and that is the best way to learn.  Most people already have everything they need to make a video for YouTube, and you add that with a great idea, and you might have something.  I think the reason I liked this session the most was that it was inspiring.  As mentioned before I plan to get my animation studio started by doing commercial work, but this inspired me to think I could start making movies.  It got me thinking about ways to make fun short animated videos to start building my YouTube audience.  The fact that animation is expensive is still there, but it got me exploring other ways to make inexpensive animated videos.  I always wanted to have highly polished animation, but maybe there is value in making rougher animations to start.  On the other side it kind of depressed me on what kids made popular these days.  YouTube channels like Fred and Annoying Orange in my opinion are horrible, and can’t understand why they are so popular.  If this is what kids are watching then I really don’t understand my target audience.  I have to hold onto the belief that quality animation is still of value.

I had a great day in these sessions, and met a lot of very interesting people.  I look forward to next year’s conference.

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

2015 Year-End Review: Animation Studio

As this will be my last post this year I thought I should do a 2015 Year-End Review of how the year went.  This year was the first full year in business, since 2014 I was only in business for half the year.  I would like to take a look at where I was at this time last year, and compare it to where I’m at now to see what I have accomplished.

At this time last year the business was still setup as a Sole Proprietorship, but as of July 24 my business is now an S-Corp.  This was a big change for me, and the business.  It has been a slow process transitioning everything over, especially all of the accounting and bank accounts, but now the company is setup and ready to go.

Financially speaking 2015 was a loss simply because we did not work on enough client projects to counter what I’m paying to have the animated short produced.  I expected this year to be a loss financially since I wanted to work on building our portfolio, and spent less time marketing and looking for service work.  The company still has money in the bank from last year, so the business is still in good shape and I’m not worried yet.  Next year my focus will be on finding more client projects to work on.  It is a balance between working on our own IP, and doing service work to bring in money.  I will also be looking into how we can make money off our own projects we are working on.

Bink – Animated Short:
Although the short is the main reason we are in the red for this year I’m really excited we are working on it.  I have learned a great deal from the process, and what we have learned will only my make company stronger.  Plus when we finish we will have a really awesome animation to show off for the hard work, and financial investment.

This was a big year for networking for me, and I have made a lot of new connections with people in my industry.  I have attended several industry conferences, and Producer Guild events.  I still have stacks of business cards sitting on my desk I’m hoping to reach out to.  If only I had more time in the day to get things done.

I have also been reaching out to other animation studio founders, and comparing notes.  It is really great to hear about what others in a similar position as me are doing, and what advice they might have.  While we may be considered competitors I have found we are all willing to help each other out.

Social Media:
The company had a lot of growth this year in our social media, and while I might not have all the numbers for how much growth I know it was a decent amount.  I will be putting a lot of information down here partly so I have someplace to look to each year for comparison.  Not all the social networks have tools for seeing what your numbers where a year ago.

Facebook is by far my largest network, and also the network I put the most effort into.  I will bring on someone to help with social media and marketing for next year, so hopefully I will see growth in all areas in 2016.  At the beginning of the year I had 1,659 Likes, and currently we have 4,425 Likes.

In July of this year I started a company Instagram account, and we now have 235 Followers.

I can’t tell how many Followers I had at the beginning of the year, but I think it was around 200.  We currently have 522 Followers, and hoping to double this number in 2016.

While I have not been doing anything with YouTube other then posting my Demo Reels I hope to see my 5 Subscribers I currently have grow significantly in 2016 as I begin to post Bink animated webisodes.

In 2015 on Vimeo I had 1,439 plays, 1,725 Loads, and 3 likes, and currently have only 4 followers.  Similar to YouTube I have not been posting much on here, but will be when we finish with Bink.

This year we had a marketing consultant do some market research and develop a marketing strategy for the company.  I’m now in the process of interviewing applicants for a part-time Social Media Marketing Coordinator position.  They will help in implementing the marketing strategy, and hopefully bring in more client projects.  At the beginning of this year we had no solid marketing plan, so I feel this is a big step forward.

This year I started the Society of Creative Professionals(Temp Name), and so far it has been going great.  We have had a monthly mixer since July, and I have met a lot of really great people.  I have a lot of big plans for the society, and hope to accomplish many of these goals in 2016.

At the beginning of last year my wife and I had an almost 1 year old son, and were trying to do our best to keep on top of our personal lives.  This year I feel like we did not do the best job of keeping in touch with all of our friends, and wish we could have seen them more.  It is challenging with the little one, and with both of us working full time.  This year we also announced we were expecting a baby girl in May of 2016.  I’m sure this will make having a social life even more challenging, but we are very excited to be growing our family.

Our growing family will not only make our personal life more challenging, but will also impact the business.  I will be getting less sleep again(after we finally got our son to sleep through the night), and it will add more financial pressure to succeed.  I would imagine starting a business with less responsibilities would be less stressful, but I feel my responsibilities motivate me to succeed.

I feel 2015 was a year of learning and growing.  While I don’t have a lot of work or profit to show the success we had I still feel it was a very successful first full year.  I have set things up for a very positive 2016, and can’t wait to see how the year goes.

Have a great New Year everyone, and I hope 2016 will be the best year of your life so far.


If you have not already, please join me on my journey by subscribing to my blog.  Also, 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.