One of the things that both exited me, and terrified me in starting my own business was getting to be involved in all aspects of the company. When you are first starting out you have to wear many different hats. Some seem to fit really well, while others never really fit right. When you are the only employee everything is your responsibility, and you end up being the CEO, producer, coordinator, production assistant, and in my case the nanny.
Have you ever thought about how much life can be like a strategy game? You are constantly faced with choices that require you to make a move. Sometimes a move is just a move, but sometimes a move can determine a victory or game over. What you don’t want to do is just react to what happens in the game, but instead have a strategy. Sometimes luck is on your side and it moves you forward two spaces, and sometimes it is against you and you have to skip a turn. If you are only reacting to what happens you are at the will of the roll of the dice or the hand you are given. When you have a strategy you can better withstand the obstacles that the game throws at you. You can’t win the game purely on luck, since you luck will eventually run out.
The exciting news for this week is that the first 3 Toys”R”Us: C’mon Let’s Play commercials that I’ve been post supervising are now airing on TV, and online. You may have already seen them on TV, or if you are following me on Facebook or Twitter you might have seen them there. If you have not seen them in either of those two ways I included the videos here(click play all to see all 3 spots).
It was exciting to see the first one on TV, since I was not expecting to see it so soon. They posted them on their Toys”R”Us YouTube channel on Saturday, so I wonder if they will be posting 3 more this weekend. We have been delivering 3 commercials a week to them, so that seems to make sense in my head. It is also really cool that these all came from the fun videos my friend Daniel Hashimoto did of his son, and posted on his YouTube Channel Action Movie Kid. Toys”R”Us loved these videos(like many), so they asked Hashi to direct these 15 commercials for them. I owe Hashi a big thank you for bringing me on to help out. It has been a fun experience, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of them turn out.
This last Tuesday marked my “Ninth California Anniversary”. On July 29th nine years ago I drove into the state of California starting a new life in The Golden State. Every year on my “California Anniversary” I reflect on where I was at in my life then compared to where I’m currently at. When I moved out here I did not have a job, and only had a temporary place to stay on the bedroom floor of a friend from high school. I had no experience in animation, and none of the studios I applied at would even give me an interview. It was very scary back then, but also invigorating. I left everything that was familiar and safe to start something new, and it was an adventure. Those feelings I had 9 years ago, are very similar to the feelings I’m having now. This last year has been a huge change for me, and nothing is familiar or safe. We bought a house, had a baby, I got a new car, left my job, and started my own company to name the big ones. I hope that this year will be another step forward, but I know that sometimes you have to take a step back to get a running start.
Being someone that has always wanted to start their own animation company I have always had a respect for those entrepreneurs that have already done it. There is of course Walt Disney, but there is also the less known people such as Will Vinton. I learned about Will and his studio a few months ago, and was surprised I never heard of him before. Starting your own company there are so many decisions that you have to make on a daily basis, and any of those decisions could be the one that causes your company to fail. Will made a wrong decisions that cost him his studio. Will Vinton is credited with coming up with the term “Claymation”, and was even trademarked by him. He won an Oscar, and several Emmy Awards for the work that his studio did. Even if you don’t know him you might know his work. His company Will Vinton Studios made many classic claymation feature films, TV series, TV specials, and short films. His commercial work is what I remember the most, and it includes the California Raisins, the Domino’s Pizza Noid, and the M&M’s Red, Yellow, and Green characters. Will’s company was doing really well, and taking on many more projects. Many felt his studio was growing to fast, and that is how he lost control of it. By the end of the 1990’s the studio was seeking funds for more feature films. One of the key investors was Phil Knight, the owner of the shoe company Nike, Inc.. Part of the deal for Knight to invest more was that he would require a larger stake in the company. He also got his son Travis a job at the company as an animator. Travis previously had a failed career as a rapper under the name Chilly Tee. You might be thinking I’m getting off subject, but this is where things went wrong. In 2002, Will Vinton ended up losing control of Vinton Studios when Phil Knight became the majority shareholder in the company. Eventually they decided that Will was no longer needed, and he was fired from the company he started. Phil Knight ended up putting his son Travis in charge of the company, and the company was later renamed to Laika. You may know Laika for their feature films Coraline, & ParaNorman. This story sounds very similar to the story of Steve Jobs with Apple computers, but the difference is Steve was able to come back and retake over his company. When I read about this a couple of months ago there was no happy return for Mr. Vinton, but I read an article this morning about how he is trying to make a comeback. His new company Vinton Entertainment announced a co-production deal with Gnosis Moving Pictures for a series of animated features directed by Vinton. You can learn more about these projects check out this article, but this is not the focus of my post.
The end of last week was really busy, and I did not have a chance to write my blog post until now. I was on set for the commercials I’m post supervising on, so that took up a lot of my time on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. It was a great experience to see how everything worked on the live action side, and I was surprised at the number of people on the crew. You would think I would’t be surprised coming from the animation world where there are around 300 to 400 people on a crew, but I guess I thought it be a smaller crew since it’s a commercial and not a movie. I was trying to remember back to my film classes in college to remember what all the different positions on a film crew did, but things have changed since then. For example the focus puller did not stand next to the camera to adjust the focus. Instead he had a monitor that he watched with a handheld device that remotely adjusted the focus. Many of the positions were the same, but they never introduced me to who was doing what, so it was all a guessing game to figure out who was doing what. I tried to meet as many of the crew that I could, and find out what roll they played on set. It was a very good crew, and a great group of people that I would love to get to work with again. The footage turned out great, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like after all the effects and SFX are added. This week my focus is on trying to make sure we hit all the deadlines for the After Effects work we are doing on the commercials. It is a very quick turnaround, but as long as we don’t get a lot of notes we should be able to hit our dates. We are working on a few clips each week, and this will go on for the next few weeks until we finish all of them.
When I thought about how my first week after leaving my job at DreamWorks would go I envisioned a much less active week. I figured it would mostly be me trying to get some of the basics in place so that I could eventually start finding clients. In reality it has been a pretty active week, and that gives me a lot of hope for the future. I was hired on as the Post Supervisor for a series of Toys R Us commercials my good friend Hashi is co-producing/Directing and doing his After Effects magic on. They are in the fashion of his Action Movie Kid videos that he has been doing with his son. If you have not seen them yet you should check them out. It will be exciting to get to work with Hashi, and see him take his craft to the next level. There are 3 shooting days at the end of next week, and then I will mostly be working from home making sure we get all After Effects work done on time and delivered to the client.
Happy 4th of July!
I’m now officially independent from DreamWorks Animation. So not only will I be celebrating the United States’ Independence today, but also my own. This week has been great because for the first time I have been able to be open to tell people what my plans are, and I have been getting some interesting reactions. Some people look at me like I’m crazy, and you can see the eye roll and thought bubble saying “never going to happen!”. On the other extreme are the people that get really excited, and start talking about exchanging contact information so that they can come work with me. Most people seem to fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. I guess these reactions are to be expected, since most people do not try and start their own animation company. I also ran into some people that opened up to me about their own entrepreneurial efforts that they are secretly working on.
I started this blog by saying that I have a job at a dream company, and that I planned to leave that company. Well, that time is upon us, and next week will be my last week working at DreamWorks Animation. I have been keeping the name of the company I was working at a secret until I made them aware of my intentions. Now that they are aware, and my end date is official there is no longer a reason to keep it a secret. I have worked at DreamWorks Animation for over 6 years now, and in that time I have worked on the movies Monsters vs Aliens, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 3, Home!, and several shorts. It has been an amazing experience that gave me the opportunity to work for a great company with some of the most talented people in the industry. It is these amazing people that I will miss the most… closely followed by the free lunch. I’m currently working on the feature film Home! as the modeling and surfacing production supervisor. Home! was scheduled to be released this November, but was pushed out to March of 2015. I knew when I started on Home! back in March of 2012 that it would be my last film I would work on at DreamWorks, and have been planning around that these last few years. It always seemed so far away, and it’s hard to believe that I only have 1 week left.