Learn it, Master it, Redefine it!

Several years ago I wrote down 3 phrases; Learn it, Master it, and Redefine it.  Whether it is learning a new skill, or starting a new job this explains how I approached new things.  It was frustrating to me that I always felt others would be able to jump into new tasks much quicker then I could.  I often was a slow starter, but would eventually catch up, and often surpassed others in understanding the task.  After reflecting on how I approached new situations I saw a pattern in myself that helped me understand how I work.

I’m a visual learner, so when I first approach a new assignment someone can explain it to me in great detail, but I would not be able to pick it up.  I realized that I have to discover it myself by visually breaking it apart into smaller parts.  It is a joke among my friends that I use excel spreadsheets for everything.  It is an easy way for me to visually lay out all the details, and see how everything relates to one another.  This is also why I like to schedule everything out, since I can visually see my day.  For larger tasks this goes far beyond excel sheets, and calendars.  I break down every aspect of the task, and really analyze every detail until I completely understand it.  This is why it takes me so long to pick up new things, but also why I feel like I might have a better understanding of a task then others that did not take the time to analyze every detail.

Once I truly understand the task I then start to master it.  This often just requires time, and practice that there is no substitute for.  When I start this phase I might not be the best at the task, but I can talk about it like I’m an expert.

Once I feel I understand the task inside and out, and able to perform the task at a level of mastery I start to analyze the process.  After I truly understanding and master something I start to notice the imperfections in the process.  I begin to think of ways that would improve the process, and more efficient ways of completing the task.  I’m never satisfied with the status quo, and I’m often looking for better ways to do things.

This is the process I tend to go through with every new challenge I face.  Currently I’m in the early stages of learning how to run my animation company.  I have never had to find clients, bid on projects, understand accounting, taxes, growing a company, or setting up a production pipeline.  The way I have been learning to do all these things is by looking at my competitors to see how they do it.  I mimic them to get a complete understand of their way of doing it.  I feel this is an important step before I start to redefine the way my company runs.

If you ask me what makes my company stand out from our competitors I would have to say that right now there is not much of a difference.  The more I learn about my competitors the more I will be able to find better ways.  It is at this point the company will start to take its shape, and will become uniquely its own company with its own culture.  This not only gives me a base to start from, but it also helps me under stand my competitors.

This is all incredibly important to me, since I don’t want to simply be a reflection of an existing company.  In order to be successful you have to find a way to stand out from the background.  I know that my process might take me longer, but I feel it will give me an advantage over my competition.  Lets see if my theory works.

Last week I spent a lot of time reaching out to both clients, and reps. I have also been doing a lot of research on the leadership structure of some of the other animation companies.  I’m making a plan for what I feel would be best for my company at its current stage.

This week I will continue looking into finding new clients.  We are starting on a small project with one of our existing clients, but that should not be more then a couple weeks of work.  This Wednesday I will be attending the DreamWorks Animation’s Home cast and crew screening and wrap party.  I’m excited to see how much the movie has changed since I left in July.  It will also be nice to get to see my old friends and co-workers.  I will let you know how it went in next week’s blog post.


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.

Who’s My Target Market?

I finally started working on my business plan which has been helpful for me in evaluating my company.  I have always had a general plan of what I was doing, but writing it down really brings clarity to what my goals are, and what I need to figure out.  One of the things I have been doing a lot of thinking on is who my target market is.

Figuring out who our target market is, and who I should be marketing to will help me focus my efforts in finding new clients.  When I first started I was trying to find new clients everywhere, and my efforts were slit.  I often get contacted by independent filmmakers, small companies, and individuals wanting to make an animation.  Which is great, but most of them have little or no budget.  I spend a lot of time and effort trying to work with their limited budget to make things work, but in the end it is just not possible for me to be involved.

I can only reduce my rates so far until I’m taking a loss on the project, and if it was a great opportunity that would help build my portfolio I might consider it.  Issue is that they are working with such limited budgets that the end project would end up looking cheap, and that is not the kind of work I want to be putting out there.  These groups are often better off working directly with the artist or animator, and don’t need someone like me to produce it.

I realized that my company is best suited for projects that require larger teams and more moving parts that needs someone to keep it organized.  This is why advertising agencies and studios are my target market, since they have the budgets that can support larger projects.

I don’t know much about advertising agencies, so I started doing a lot of research on them.  I wanted to know who hired outside production companies, so I would know who the best person to contact is.  I have been doing everything from contacting people that work at ad agencies to watching The Pitch TV series on Netflix.  Watching the show actually has given me a better understanding of the inner workings of an advertising agency, but I would love to hear from anyone that works at an ad agency how accurate the show is to reality.

I have also started the search for a commercial representative.  They are like an agent for production companies that help bring clients and their projects to the companies they represent.  I’m looking for a representative that does not have a monthly fee, and only takes a percent of the revenue from a project.  That way if they are not bringing any work to the studio it won’t cost me any money.  If they do find clients I’m happy to give them a percent, since it is work I would not have had without them.  If anyone knows of a good hardworking reps please let me know.

These are some of the things I’m working on to help grow my business.  There never seems to be enough time in each day to get everything done.


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.

1 Year Anniversary of Blogging!

Happy 1 year anniversary of blogging to me!  That’s right, one year ago today I started my blog with a single welcome page.  Long before I wanted to publicly announce that I was leaving DreamWorks Animation to start my own company, but I wanted to start writing my story.  A year later the blog has 44 posts, 6,482 total views, and 29 subscribers.  I’m proud of myself(a non-writer) for being able to stick with it, and I’m excited to keep it going.

Thank you for being a part of my journey!  The stage is now set, time for the fun to get started!


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.

Understanding vs Ability

I have been thinking a lot about how my skills have changed over the years, and the difference between understanding and ability. I feel that I now have a much greater understanding of artistry and design, but that I have lost much of my ability to create art.  I have learned a great deal about art from working with and observing such talented people over the years, and this is why I have a greater understanding.  At the same time I have lost my ability to draw and paint, since I have not been doing it.  In the past if you handed me a pencil and asked me to draw something I would be able to do it, but now I would be a bit rusty.

Ability is something you have to constantly work at, and if you stop doing it you might loose your skill.  Understanding is something I feel is hard to loose once you have it.  Once you have the understanding to ride a bike you won’t forget, but you may loose the ability to ride it after a while.

I decided I wanted to regain some of that skill I have lost, and plan to set aside some time each day to develop my artistic ability.  I feel it is important that I keep these skills sharp.  Not only will it be a great hobby for me, but will also be a great skill to have in my line of work.  In the business I will still focus on the management side of things, and leave the art to the extremely talented people I work with.

I look forward to sharing some of my artwork with all of you as I develop my skills, but it might be awhile until I’m once again confident with my work.

If you have not seen them before here are my first two animations that I made in college.  Looking back on these I feel there is so much I have learned, and many ways I could make them better. Things like character design, modeling, story, lighting, and compositing to name a few.  I’m still very proud of them, and they will always be special to me.  I hope you enjoy them.





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.

Judging & Taxes

Yesterday, I did my taxes which was the first time I did them with the business.  The business is still setup as a sole proprietorship, so personal and business taxes are done together.  DreamWorks Animation and my wife’s employer both took taxes directly out of our paychecks, but that was not the case for the business.  As a business owner it is my responsibility to pay the taxes myself each quarter.  I had an idea of how much they would be, so I made sure I set some money aside.  This was the first time I did not get a tax refund, but instead will have to pay Uncle Sam.  It is more obvious how much money you pay in taxes when you pay it all at once instead of having it taken out of your paycheck each week.

I’m looking into changing the business into a S-Corp for the tax benefits, but if I don’t make enough money it will end up costing me more then what it will save me.  I will see how the next month goes before making a decision.  I know there are other benefits to switching to an S-Corp, so I may just bite the bullet, and make the change.

I was contacted by the president of my alma mater’s Film/Video Society about being a judge for their annual Filmmakers Showcase.  When I was a student at the University of Toledo I always enjoyed attending this event, and would often have my own work in the show.  I was honored when they asked me to be a judge, and have been making my way through the 39 entries.  They include film, video, and animation projects that range from a couple of minutes to 30 minutes in length.  To be honest, some of them are pretty bad, but there are also a lot of really good ones in there.  I’m about half way through them, and still hoping for an amazing one.

This week I have still been doing a lot of work on my website.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I started with a website that I liked, and was trying to change it to be my own.  I realized that getting it to a point where I did not feel I was copying someone else’s work would require a lot more skill in web design & programing then what I have.  Although I was making a lot of progress, and learning a great deal I still had a lot of work to get done.  I already have spent more time on this then I wanted, so I needed a better option.

I typically try to stay away from the cookie-cutter website design programs, since they are often very limiting on what you could do with them.  After I had two friends mentioned using SquareSpace I thought I should check it out.  I was pleasantly surprised with the available options, and how simple it made it.  Realizing I was not progressing fast enough on my current course I decided to make a change.

I signed up for a SquareSpace account and started over with my website.  I already planned out the layout of my website, so with the SquareSpace tools I was able to quickly get back to where I was.  I now feel I have a functioning website that at the minimum shows our work, and gives clients a way to contact me.  I will continue improving the site, but the basics are there.  Please check it out and let me know what you think of it so far.


I hope to be finishing up the site this week, and starting next week I plan to focus on finding my next clients.  I feel I might have been dragging my feet on this with other projects, since I’m not sure where to start.  I have a couple avenues I can explore, and hopefully one of them will get me somewhere.


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.

MillerAnimation.com Coming Soon!

I wanted to give a quick update on the progress of things.  I have been spending all my time working on my website, but it is finally starting to take form.  I have also been learning a great deal about web design.  Putting my site together is a slow process, since anytime I can’t figure something out I watch YouTube videos for the answers.  I started with the main page to get that looking the way I want, so I can then duplicate it to the other pages and change the content.

I started from another company’s website that I liked, and then started changing it to make it my own.  That helped me from having to figure out all the coding, but still enabled me to have some cool features on my site.  What this ended up mean though was that I had to dig through the code to find out how to do every little thing.  For example if I wanted to change certain text to a different color I would have to find what CSS code was effecting that text.  It was tedious, but I’m starting to understand all this css stuff.

You can check out my site in its current state at milleranimation.com.  Some of the images and text are still placeholders, most of the links don’t work, and none of the contact forms are working.  My next task is to learn how to set up the contact forms, so potential clients can actually get in touch with me.  Let me know your thoughts on how it is coming along so far.  If you have any cool ideas I would love to hear those too.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I was expecting this January to be my companies first month with a negative net income, but I actually had enough work that the month ended with a positive net income.  It helps that my expenses right now for the company are extremely low, but I will still take the victory. Maybe I will get lucky again in February, but my prediction is that February will be in the red.  I’m OK with that since I’m putting so much of my time and effort into getting the company setup properly.  This is something I did not have time to do when I first set off on my own.  As long as I’m making progress I’m OK with a few unprofitable months.


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.

Thank you, 2000 Times!

Eric Miller Animation Studios Facebook Page has reached 2,000 Likes! Thank you to all those who have liked us, and have joined me on this journey.

26th Annual Producers Guild Awards

This weekend I attended my first Hollywood awards show.  It was the 26th Annual Producers Guild Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.  I imagined it would be an unforgettable night of hanging with celebrities, and dressed impress.  It was an unforgettable night, but I would throw it more in the learning experience category.

Eric PGA Tux

I have a lot to learn before I can consider myself a veteran awards show attendee, but overall I was still glad that I went. Let me share with you some of my experiences, and what I have learned.

I think it all started from the moment I got the invitation.  It said that it was a “creative” black tie event.  I knew what a black tie event was, but it was that word creative that stumped me.  So I did what anyone of our generation would do… I asked the mighty Google.  I found as I expected that it is a black tie event with a sense a whimsy.  Think of the red carpet on oscar night, and all the variety of outfits you see there.

I headed to the mall to find a tux for the event, but one that would not break the bank.  Luckily I was not worried about anyone asking me “who are you wearing”, since I’m not a big time movie star. After looking around I finally found myself in JCPenny’s looking around.  With someone of my limited expertise on fashion I found it very difficult to be creative.  I have a new appreciation for stylists, since everything I tried looked horrible.  I decided to play it safe and go with the standard black tie.

After finding a jacket and pants in my size I was halfway done.  Then I found this cool box that had a white shirt, black clip-on bowtie, and black cummerbund.  All this was a great price, and it made everything a lot easier.  I think this is where things took a fashion downturn.

Everything was in a sealed box, but I thought what could go wrong? When I got home I tried everything on expecting to feel debonair, and sexy.  Instead it reminded me of when I worked at Glenmoor Country Club as a food runner. The collar was the wingtip style, and one side was bent down, and the other was bent up.  The french cuffs were to large and did not fit nicely through the sleeve of the tux jacket without some squeezing.  The shirt was a little big, and the clip-on bowtie looked like it was deflated, and would only face the ground.  I convinced myself that after washing the shirt it would shrink a little, and I could iron the wingtips into shape.  And that was my second major fashion mistake.

I washed everything and ironed it, and although it was a little better it still was not perfect.  I was limited on time, and I decided it was good enough.  On the night of the event I got all dressed, and I was not feeling very confident.  I decided that my biggest issue was this clip-on bowtie.  With this style of collar there was no hiding the clip, and it looked embarrassingly bad to me.  I left a little early so that I would have the time to run to a store on the way to buy a real bowtie.  Luckily across the street from the event was a mall, so dressed in my tux I setoff on a mission to find a bowtie.  This proved to be more difficult then I expected, but was only the start of my difficulties.  Finding a store that sold bowties in the appropriate style for the event was challenging, but was easy in comparison to what came next.  I found myself sitting in my car in the mall’s parking garage watching YouTube videos on how to tie a bowtie.  They made it look so simple, but it was IMPOSSIBLE!!!  I tried for over a 1/2 hour trying to fold the elephant ears and take the fish through the hole before I finally gave up in a fit of rage.  I was now late to the event, and I thought to myself “maybe some there can help me”.

I pulled up to valet and it was a mad house of people arriving to the event.  Of course everyone was perfectly dressed, and here I was looking like a monkey in a cheap tux.  I jump out of my car and headed straight to the bathroom to continue my battle against my archenemy… the bowtie.  Many guys come in and after seeing me wished me luck.  None of them actually tied the bowtie themselves, and could offer me no assistance.

I was finally about to give up when a guy walked in, and said he might be able to help.  He gave his best effort, but was not able to tie it on someone else.  At this point my self-esteem was exhausted, and I completely gave up on the bowtie. I left the clip-on in the car that valet took, so I did not even have a backup.  I decided to go without any bowtie, so into my pocket it went. Luckily this was an acceptable option, since it was a “creative” black tie event.  I undid the top button on my shirt, and walked out into the lobby.

I took a quick look at the red carpet before continuing to the ballroom where I found my seat at the table.  After we finished eating the awards show started with the category I was most interested in… Best Animated Feature.  The Lego Movie won, and the producer Dan Lin came up to accept the award.  I never met Dan, but as he got up on stage I recognized him.  He was the guy that tried to help me with my bowtie in the bathroom.  I think I sank a little in my seat in embarrassment.

The rest of the night was better after I accepted my defeat against the bowtie.  I went to this event by myself, since my wife had prior engagements that she committed too.  Which worked out since I wanted to check it out first to see if it was worth going to again.  Besides my fashion folly I think it would be worth coming again.

IMG_0174It was interesting to see all the big celebrities, and the excitement that they bring.  I think this was the most movie stars that I have seen in-person at one place.  I saw Brad Pit, Reese Witherspoon, Bryan Cranston, Adrien Brody, Matt Bomer, Kit Harington, Eddie Redmayne, and Felicity Jones to name a few.  My favorite of course was Jennifer Lawrence.  She stole the show when she got up on stage.  She was very entertaining, captivating, genuine and of course looked amazing.  She has a great personality and a presence that people gravitate towards.  I’m now a bigger fan.

Normally I thrive in these kind of social events, but with my confidence shaken I was much more reserved.  It reminded me of the first cast and crew party I went to at DreamWorks Animation.  It was before I knew many people, and I walked around feeling more like a spectator then a participant.  In a odd way I found comfort in this.  There has been many times in my life where I have had to start at the bottom, and work my way up.  Where you have to meet new people, and build relationships.  Life is full of these moments from your first day at school to the first day at a new job.  I may have had more of these moments then the average person, since I constantly pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.  When I first got to Los Angeles I felt like an outsider, but I have come a long way since then.  The last DreamWorks party I attended was a completely different experience then the first.  Instead of feeling like a spectator I felt at home surrounded by all my friends.  I feel like this is my next new beginning, and as in the past I will find my place.  It is not a bad circle to be at the ground floor of, and I look forward to making it my home.  I think my first step is learning how to master the bowtie.

I know this post has already gone longer then I planned, but I still have one thing I wanted to touch on.  Last week was a sad time for both DreamWorks Animation, and the animation community.  The closing of the DreamWorks/PDI studio was shocking, and I feel for all my friends that have considered it home.  Many of them have been there for years, and are now being asked to leave.  It is a reminder of the challenges of our industry.  I hope after all the dust settles that all my DWA friends will find themselves in better places.  Maybe one day that place will be Eric Miller Animation Studios.


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.

Animation Industry is Feast or Famine

Today we got the last shot of the Toys”R”Us project approved, so we are finally 100% finished with that project. It was a great first project to have, but now I’m ready for my next challenge.

I did not get much done on the business front last week.  I’m still struggling with updating my website, and trying to get that in working order.  I’m currently working on the design while I also try and figure out how to do the coding. Once I get my website updated I will use that to try and find my next clients.  I plan to go back to figuring out the government contracts, and trying to get some animation work through the government.

I have also been using this time to meet up with a lot of my business contacts.  Checking in with them to see how they finished out the 2014 year, and to see if there is anything either of us learned that might help the other out.  I found this to be a great way to accelerate your learning without having to make all the mistakes yourself.

I’m currently in talks with a few different people about projects they need help on.  They all seem like fun projects, so hopefully everything will work out. It seems like the number of projects out there is rather limited.  Feast or Famine.  I have been seeing a lot of Facebook posts by my artist friends that where busy at the end of the year, but are all now looking for work.

Other then that there is not much to talk about this week.  I wish I could tell you about some amazing new things that are going on, but this blog is about the real life journey I’m on to start my studio.  The truth is that sometimes the real life is not always that eventful.  If this was a “Lord of the Rings” movie this would be one of the many walking scenes.  Hopefully things will get more exciting soon for all of our sakes.


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.

Creating Our Animation Website & Demo Reel

This last week I have been doing a lot of work on updating my website, and putting a demo reel together.  It has been a while since I have used DreamWeaver to make a website, and it is proving to be much more difficult then in the past.  Granted I normally did not try and do anything special or overly complicated with my website design as I am doing now.  I want my website to be simple and clean in the design, but I want it to have some more advanced features under the hood.  For example I want it to look great on all platforms, so no matter if you are looking at it on a desktop or mobile phone you will still have a great experience.

I have been trying to watch YouTube videos to learn coding for fluid grid website designs, and I think my head is ready to explode from trying to understand it.  I was working on it for several days until I eventually had to start working on something else to keep me from going crazy.  I have a new found respect for web designers and programers.  I won’t give up, and will soon be going back to it.

On a more productive note I finished editing the company’s first demo reel which includes some of the work we did for Toys”R”Us.  I included it in this post, but if you want to watch it in HD you will have to watch it on Vimeo.

Currently I’m 6 away from having 2,000 Facebook Likes on my company page.  The momentum I had in previous weeks has slowed down, but I’m still moving towards my goal of 10,000 likes by the year’s end.

As far as outside work, I currently don’t have any new projects lined up, but from what I hear that is typical for the beginning of the year in the commercial world.  The calm is refreshing after the last 6 months, and allows me to get caught up with other things.  I feel in a few weeks I will be ready for my next projects, but I will have to figure out how to get those projects.


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.