Credibility: the quality of being trusted and believed in. Getting my first client will be one of my biggest challenges due to a lack of credibility. Most people want to see what you can do, and in this field that normally means your portfolio of past work. Starting a new studio I won’t have a portfolio to show prospective clients. Yes, I have 6+ years of experience working at a major animation studio, and in that time have worked on 4 animated movies and 3 animated shorts in different production capacities. The problem is I can’t use these projects to show what my studio is capable of. Sure, I can use them to give credibility to my experience in managing a project, but I won’t be able to show what we as a new studio can do artistically. I will either need to get a client to blindly take a chance with my studio, or find a way to create a portfolio. I like a challenge, but I’m not going to set myself up for failure by believing anyone will blindly take a chance on me. I have talked with some artists that know of companies in this situation that had used work from the artists they will be working with to make a demo reel from the collective body of work. After all if the studio finds work that also means work for those artists. This brings up a new set of challenges, but this seems to be my best option. I will need to check with the artists I’m working with to see if they are comfortable with this idea. After the studio creates its own work we will be able to update the demo reel with work done through the studio.

Credibility will be extremely important in getting the studio up and running, but it will always be important. We will constantly have to prove our ability to deliver high quality work with the best customer service. I feel this will be one of my main responsibilities that will help in building a positive reputation for the studio. When people hear our studio’s name I want them to trust and believe in us.


I hope you will join me on the rest of my journey by subscribing to this blog. This can be done by email via the prompt on the sidebar, and also please leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

So Far

Now that we know what the journey is, let me tell you where I’m currently at. In order to do this I will have to rewind a little first.  I mentioned earlier I went to school at the University of Toledo to study animation.  Although I’m very happy with my time there it might not have prepared me as well as a school here in Los Angeles might have.  The animation program was really just one animation class, and it was saved for seniors.  The rest of it was graphic design and web design courses.  After my first semester I was able to prove to my instructor that I was ready for the senior animation class, and took it my second semester.  For the classes final project I made my first animated short called “ChessMate“.  It was a story about a chess pieces that came to life after the people left.  The king did not appreciate what he had (his queen), and after seeing the other queen and her fallen king he got an idea.  His greed to have more then he needed left him with nothing.  After taking the only animation class my first year I ended up with nothing to move up to.  I talked with my professor, and he basically created a class for me.  It involved me coming up with another idea for an animated short, and then spending the semester working on it.  Since I was going beyond what they taught I ended up having to teach myself.  This turned out to be very valuable to me, since it forced me to figure things out on my own.  I had to think outside the box to find better, faster ways of getting it finished.  It also taught me to set my own goals, and milestones.  At the end of the semester and many hours of late nights, and many computers rendering my shots for weeks I was left with my second and final animation I would do in college.  I called this animation “Mediocrity” and it was about a creature that was not happy with his current life(I’m only now starting to see a underlining theme in my projects).  He imagined his reflection in the mirror had a better life then he did, and thought if he could only get to that other side of the mirror things would be better.  In the end he realized that he has to make his own life, and take action in improving the life that he has instead of trying to live someone else’s life. After college I moved back home to Canton, Ohio with my parents to get things in order before making the move out to Los Angeles.

I mentioned in the first post how after I got to California I found out I was heading down the wrong path to become an animation producer.  It turns out that my education in animation was not a waste, and would only help me in becoming a producer.  I feel it gave me an understand of animation that would help me be a better producer.  As you already know I have this job at an animation studio.  Getting this job was my first goal, and was key because I was able to learn so much about the industry.  The last 6 years I have learned as much as I could.  I wanted to understand how they did things inside and out.  I worked in different departments, and the departments I did not work in I met with those who did to learn about them in my free time.  I have met some incredible people along the way, and built lasting friendships.
In 2013 I had worked on enough animated films that I was able to get into the Producers Guild of America (PGA).  Realizing that networking will be vital for me to start my own studio the PGA gives me a way to continue networking after I leave my current position.

I wanted to setup a social presence for my studio, so a few years ago I started creating accounts on the major social media sites.  I once heard that casting directors on smaller budget projects have been known to choose talent based on the number of twitter followers.  The idea is that by casting one of these actors or actresses with a large number of followers that they would instantly have a following for their film. This made me realize the power that having a large social media fan base can have.  I now have accounts on TwitterFacebook, Google+Vimeo, and YouTube.  Some are more developed then others, but I also been trying to keep it a secret that I plan on leaving.  This makes it challenging to build followers from people I never met, and not promote it through my established personal networks.  In addition to social network sites I have also setup a website for my studio.  There are a lot of little things that I have done, and I’m always looking for new ways to get my business out there.

While I spent a lot of time setting up the ground work for my studio the hard part was actually figuring out how to get an animation studio up and running.  I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to start without a lot or any capital.  At first I thought I would start up other companies to raise money that I would use to invest in getting my animation company going.  I thought of some crazy ideas for companies that did not require a lot of work that I could make money from.  A few of these ideas included setting up gumball machines in different place, or starting a business making those road side advertisements.  Each time I ran into issues that would require more work I found I was not motivated to continue. I had many other ideas, but I started to realize that none of them would succeed.  Mostly because I was not passionate about any of them.  They were just a way to make money for what I really was passionate about.  I soon realized I needed to stick to what I was passionate about, and what I be willing to put my sweat and tears into.

I went back to focusing on animation, and trying to figure out a way to start with little to no capital.  I stumbled across a small animation studio that was out of Washington DC that was making commercials, and seemed to be doing well.  I was able to get in touch with one of the guys that started the studio, and talk to him about how they were doing it.  I got a lot of great information from him, and it really got me thinking. I could do commercial work, and I would not have as many start-up costs.  I could spend my time finding clients, and once I have a project I would bring on the needed freelancers.  I would get paid by the client, and in turn would pay the freelancers.  I have been building a list of freelancers in different areas of expertise that are interested that I can call when I start a project.  It is beneficial to them since it is one more source for them to get work, and saves me the time of having to find people after I get a project. Once I’m on my own I plan to start with this approach first, and see how it goes. My next big challenge is finding a way to build my portfolio.


I hope you will join me on the rest of my journey by subscribing to this blog.  This can be done by email via the prompt on the sidebar, and also please leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

Sink or Swim

You have made it to my third post, and by now I’m sure you have realized I’m not much of a writer. Most my friends would be shocked to find out I’m even writing a blog. As much I would like to believe that my words are poetry, I know that they are not. You have to start somewhere, and I know as I continue to write my writing will improve. I feel this is true with many things in life, including this adventure I’m about to take. You see… I have also never started an animation company. Not many people can say that they have, and there is not a wealth of books out there on the subject. Most of the people who have written about it has not actually started one themselves. I do however have over 6 years experience working at one of the major animation studios, and have been researching everything I could on this topic for at least 15 years. I can read and learn as much as I want, but I feel the best way to learn it is by actually doing it. Sink or swim. As with writing this blog, this whole process will be a learning curve, and hopefully I will get better at both along the way. You will get to see me grow, as I figure all this out. Please be patient with me, but I also encourage you to be an active member of this journey. Share your thoughts by leaving comments, and help me along the way.

The animation industry is one of the most competitive industries out there. There is defiantly a need for animation, and the number of animation positions have grown over the recent years in the US. The problem is there are many animation companies to fill those needs. With all this competition it makes it very difficult to be profitable, and to stay in business. You hear stories about companies like Rhythm & Hues Studios going bankrupt even after working on a big budget film like “Life of Pi”, which won four Oscars from eleven nominations. You also hear about so many jobs being outsourced to places like India and China since studios are trying to be competitive. I fully understand that the odds are stacked against me, but I know I can make this work.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
~ Robert F. Kennedy

I truly believe that if you don’t take chances, or try something new you will never get anything more than what you already have. That might be fine for most people, but there is so much more I want to contribute to the world. I need to forge ahead no matter what the odds.  I’m stubborn and I never give up on something once I set my mind to it.  Most importantly, I love animation. I live and breath it, and can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I’m not starting a company just to make money. I’m doing it because I want to create magic, and bring things to life. I want to entertain others, and make them feel something, and be touched by my work. No matter how prepared I am I will also need a lot of luck. The stars will have to align perfectly, and I have to be willing and able to spot the opportunities that I might not be aware of now.

The stage is set, and the stakes are high. I will either achieve my goals, or fail greatly. I know that no matter how many times I fall, I will keep picking myself back up to try again. My next post I will talk about where I’m currently at with my plan.

Thanks for Reading! I hope you will join me on the rest of my journey by subscribing to this blog.  This can be done by email via the prompt on the sidebar, and also please leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

A Boy and His Dream

Glad you are still with me for my second post! Now that you know a little about what the blog will be about let me tell you a little about myself, and where this dream of mine came from. I was born in Canton, Ohio on June 23, 1981, and was the 3rd of eventual 4 sons. My father was a salesman, and after loosing his job started his own company selling golf course products. My mother was a nurse working in labor and delivery for many years. I have fond memories of my childhood, and I have my parents to thank for that.  As most kids, I did not know what I would end up doing when I grew up, but as most kids I had some crazy ideas. What I wanted to do changed throughout childhood, until my dream finally turned into what it is today. Let me explain how my dream evolved over time.

Early on my parents noticed I had an interest in art when I started drawing animal heads on paper plates. I ended up with a very tall stack of plates with all my drawings. I have no idea why I used paper plates, but if I had to guess it was my mother’s idea. When I was a little older my parents got me into private art lessons. I remember very little about the different instructors I had over the years, but in 1993 when I was around 12 I started with a wonderful woman named Judy Hertzi. Her and her husband Joe ran a small private art school out of the basement of their home. I took classes from Judy until I left for college in 2000, and in that time I was able to cultivate my talent. I loved art and it was always my favorite subject in school. At least until my High School art teacher kicked me out of class my junior year, and told me I would never have a future in art. She would not allow me to take any art classes my senior year hence ending my art classes in high school. This did not bother me to much since I was still taking private lessons from Mrs. Hertzi. I considered the idea of doing art for a living, and the idea of becoming an animator started to surface.

My other passion early in life was Kung-Fu. It was the summer of 1988 when I was 7, when my brothers and I started taking lessons. It turned out that our neighbor across the street of our new house was a Grandmaster in Shaolin Kung-Fu. On warm summer evenings he would have class outside in his front yard, and my brothers and I would go to the edge of our yard and look across the street to watch. The one night they were learning how to use a bo staff, so we ran and got some broom handles so we could imitate what they were doing. Grandmaster Morris saw us, and after class walked over to talk to us and our parents. He knew that we were interested in learning martial arts, and tried to talk my mother into letting us take classes. She agreed, but with terms. It would only be for the summer, since we had to stop once school started. It turned out that kids’ class was every Friday, and before long all the other neighborhood kids were taking lessons. It was the big event of the week for me, and I could not get enough of it. Before long I was leading the class through exercises at the beginning of each lesson. When school started my parents let us continue taking classes. One evening Grandmaster Morris asked me to start coming on adult classes to help teach, and before long I was going to class 4 times a week. I was also getting free classes, and even making a little money for helping to teach. I quickly moved up the ranks and by the time I was 11 years old I was a black belt. In 1996, my freshmen year of high school, I was inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame as the “Instructor of the Year in Kung-Fu”.  A new dream was emerging, and I wanted to open martial arts schools when I was older to teach Kung-Fu. A detail I left out was that Grandmaster Morris held the highest rank in the Shaolin Kung Fu Lung-Fa system, which made him the head of our system.  In the entire world he was the top guy, and he named me as his successor to take over after him. It was an incredible honor, but also a huge and scary responsibility for a kid my age.
It seemed I had two very different paths, and you may still be asking how it came to be what it is now. The exact date of when everything came together is a little fuzzy, but it was around 1998. I was continuing to learning more about Walt Disney’s story, and was reading everything I could find about him and his company. I started to want to do what he did. One of the articles I read was by Augie Ray called “The Disney Story”. It talked a lot about the business side of things, and some of the struggles the Walt Disney company went through after the deaths of Walt Disney and his brother Roy. I remember one section where it talked about Roy(Walt’s nephew) who was trying to buy up stock to gain control of the company, and how when the dust settled Michael Eisner was in charge.

“When the dust finally settled, Disney was saved–at least temporarily–but was being run by two men who had never worked for the company for even a single day in their lives: Michael Eisner and Frank Wells. Neither was well known outside of Los Angeles and New York, but both brought solid reputations to their new jobs at Disney.” – Augie Ray

I could not stop reading it, and wanted to learn more. I realized for the first time I was extremely interested in the business world. I remember a long car ride with my dad where I was asking him questions about the stock market, corporations, the hierarchy of leadership, and even about hostile takeovers. Everything about the business world fascinated me. I started to think I could be a businessman when I grew up. Then, everything came together for me. As soon as the idea hit me it was as if my whole life was finally clear. I would combine my love of art and animation with my love for business. I would start my own animation company. Since making that declaration I have never altered or swayed from that course. I knew with such certainty of what I was meant to do that everything I did from that point was with this ultimate goal in mind. I wanted to find out how to make it reality. It was not long until it was clear to me that I would not be able to start an animation company in Ohio. I knew I needed to move to Los Angeles, and that was a hard pill to swallow. The idea of leaving family, friends, and the comfort of my home in Ohio was heart wrenching. Another thing was that I felt I would be letting Grandmaster Morris down by leaving. By following this dream meant I would have to give up another. This weighed heavily on me for several years, but I knew in every bone in my body that this was my passion. In 2000 I graduated from high school, and moved to Toledo, Ohio to attend an animation program at the University of Toledo. I continued taking Kung-Fu classes each summer when I was home, but I knew the time would come when I would need to leave Ohio, and Kung-Fu for good.

Thanks for Reading! I hope you will join me on the rest of my journey by subscribing to this blog.  This can be done by email via the prompt on the sidebar, and also please leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.

Start Here!

It took me several years, and a lot of hard work, to land a job at a dream company, but now I plan to leave. It was almost 9 years ago that I packed up my 1999 Toyota Camry with as much as I could fit in it, and left my home in Canton, Ohio for my new home in Los Angeles, California. My plan was to get a job at an animation company, and I knew this journey I just set off on was not going to be an easy one. I did not have a job, and barely had a place to live.  The only thing I did have was a hope that it would all work out. Within that first month I was able to find a less temporary place to stay in a spare bedroom of a friend’s sister’s apartment, and a job at an Apple Computer Store as a sales specialist. I wasn’t having any luck getting a job at an animation company, or even getting an interview for that matter. I was beginning to realize that my training in Ohio left me ill-equipped to land a position, and the reality that I knew nothing about this industry was starting to set in. In Ohio, where I went to college, my professors told me that if I wanted to become a producer in animation I would have to become an animator, and work my way up. After taking additional animation classes out here in Los Angeles at UCLA my professor asked me what I was trying to do. I replied “an animation producer”, which he replied back with “then why are you trying to be an animator?” He explained that I should be trying to get a job as a production assistant, and move my way up that way. This was a real eye opener for me, and I had to completely change my strategy. I now was trying to get a production assistant job, but that did not seem any easier than getting a job as an animator. To make things worse, my limited savings were starting to run out.  There was a few times I feared I would run out of money, and would be force to move back to Ohio. I would have to put my hunt for animation jobs on hold to take work that was not in the industry to pay the bills. I had several different jobs out here from cold-calling home owners trying to get them to refinance their mortgages to an assistant store manager position at Walgreens. I actually was making great money at Walgreens, but hated the job.  I made the decision to leave my position there to continue on my journey and take a risk of running out of savings.  Eventually I was able to get a position at a large production company, and that eventually lead me to my current position at a major animation studio. How that all worked out is an interesting story for another time, and a later post. I have now been working at this company for almost 7 years, and as mentioned I plan to leave.

Now that you know some of the difficulties at the start of my journey let me explain why I plan to leave this dream job. If I were to divide my life into three main areas they would be; personal, social, and professional life. Out of those three I feel I’m on track with all except one. I should mention that I have always held myself to a very high standard, and maybe if I would just lower my expectations I would feel more successful. I know that having such high expectations has added a lot of unnecessary stress, but it’s also given me a passion to follow my dreams. So, lets start with something personal.

My Personal Life:
I could not be happier with where I’m at in my personal life, and know I have been very fortunate. In 2009 I met a beautiful girl who instantly became my whole world. I knew right away that she would be someone special in my life, and in 2012 she became my wife. In 2013 we found out we were expecting a son, so we accelerated the process of looking for a home large enough for our growing family. We found a house we fell in love with, and luckily got our offer excepted. A few months later in January our healthy and happy son came into this world. I could go on and on about my wife and son, but that is not what this blog is about. Don’t let my summary mislead you.  We had our challenges along the way from a very competitive sellers housing market to difficulties with the pregnancy which caused my wife to spend a good amount of the pregnancy on bed-rest. It was just enough challenges to make us appreciate what we have, but not force us to give up in defeat. It also showed us how amazing and supportive our family and friends are. This brings me to the next facet of my life.

My Social Life:
We have been very blessed with the amazing friends and family we are surrounded by. They make life so much more enjoyable, and fulfilling. These are the people we want to spend our days off with, and enjoy life with. We have shared many of life’s big events from personal and professional successes to life changing struggles. They have been amazing and supportive for us during good times and bad. We know they will always be there for us even when things get rough, and they know they can expect the same from us. When my wife was on bed-rest, our friends stopped by to keep us company, and to bring us meals. We could not ask for a better family, or friends.

My Professional Life:
OK, so we finally get to the part of my life I feel I’m behind on, and also the main subject matter of this blog. Professionally I’m not where I thought I would be at this point in my life. I mentioned I have a dream job at a large animation company, and I have worked my way up to a production supervisor position. It is a great job working at an amazing company with outstanding people. I have learned a great deal about the industry, and have made some amazing contacts and friendships. Anyone should be happy with this job, so why do I plan to leave. My position on the project I’m currently working on ends in July, and instead of moving onto a new project, like I have done for the last 6 years, I plan to not pursue another position. What you should understand is that this “dream job” was never intended to be the end goal, but instead a stepping stone along the way. The problem is I got comfortable, and maybe even a little scared to take the next and biggest step. I ended up spending way to much time, and stopped moving forward. Sure I learned a great deal, but the time has come for me to take this next step. The dream I’ve had since I was younger was to one day start my own animation company, and that day has come. I know, I know, it is a pretty big dream, and they say you should set goals that you are able to achieve.  I’m more of the mindset of shooting for the moon, because even if you miss you will be among the stars.  I also feel this is a goal that is attainable, and I have a desire and dedication to achieve my goal. Everything that I have done has been to get me closer to this goal. This next step is a risky one, and now I have more to loose then ever before. I’m leaving what is safe and secure to continue down the path of the unknown that I started on many years ago. That is what this blog is about. It is about my trials and tribulations in starting my own animation company. I will write about what I’m doing to get this company started and off the ground, and my thinking behind the decisions I make. I realize that I will make mistakes on the way, but hopefully I will have more success than failures. How this all will end is not yet known, but it will take my readers on a journey into my thoughts as we head towards the unknown of the future. I hope you will help encourage and motivate me, while at the same time challenge me to rethink every decision that I’m considering. I hope you learn from my successes and failures, and able to apply the experiences to your own lives and businesses.  I have no idea how this story will unfold, but it will no doubt be an interesting adventure. So please join me on this journey, celebrate in my successes, and even share in my failures. This could be the greatest success story, or the most public failure.


Thanks for Reading! I hope you will join me on the rest of my journey by subscribing to this blog.  This can be done by email via the prompt on the sidebar, and also please leave me any comments below. Otherwise, be sure to stay connected with me on Twitter (@MillerAnimation). Only Time Will Tell.