Have a happy and animated Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

I hope you are all enjoying your Halloween today.  It is my wife’s favorite holiday, so we always have a great time celebrating it.  This will also be my son’s first Halloween, so this year it is extra special.

This has been a pretty eventful week for the company.  Our biggest client has asked us to deliver some commercials earlier then we originally planned, so we had to start staffing up.  We now have a team of 9 after effect artists(maybe 1 more), and 1 CG animator.  This team is now bigger then my modeling team I had at DreamWorks Animation.  I’m excited about bringing on our first animator, since my company has not actually done any animation work yet.  So getting to do some animation is really exciting for me.  I’m also really enjoying the VFX world, so it is great getting to work on something that combines the two worlds.

Also because of the size of the team I’m bringing on a production coordinator to help support the growing team.  I met with one of my interns from when I was at DWA, and she agreed to come on and help until we finish the project for a month or so.  It will be a huge help having her on the team, and she will help free up some of my time.

I also talked to a good friend of mine that is interested in doing more producing for animation.  He loves the creative part of producing, and working with artists, but not as excited about the business side of things such as dealing with contracts and taxes.  We talked for a while, and came up with an idea that would help both of us.  He will work as a producer for my company, and will help find new clients.  When he brings new clients in he will produce and manage the project. My company will hire all the artists, deal with all the contracts, and provide production support for the project.  It will also be done under my companies name, and when looking for clients he can use my companies name and reputation to help bring in bigger clients.  Then after all project expenses are paid we will each take a percentage of what is left.  I think we are going to give this a try to see how it works.  I’m excited for the opportunity to work with such a smart, driven, and genuinely great guy.

Well, that is pretty much it for this week.  I currently have the one big project that we are about half way through, and two other projects that are still in the negotiation stage.  Speaking of if you are or know any great motion graphic artists please send me a message.  I’m looking for couple motion graphic artists for one of the projects I’m bidding on.

I have a new comment system on the blog, so please take advantage of it, and leave me some comments.  Let me know what you think, and give me any advice you might have!

I hope everyone has a great Halloween.  Stay safe, dress up, go to a party, or watch some scary movies.


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.

Another day in the exciting world of Animation and VFX

I’m starting to run a little behind on my blog posts.  Finding the time to write these are becoming harder and harder to do lately.  It is important to me to continue writing posts, so I will keep trying to find the time.  This week more then other weeks I have had a lot of people mention to me that they enjoy reading my blog. I sometimes forget people are actually reading them.  Sure the site will tell me numbers of how many people have read them, but it is easy to look at that as just numbers.  When people tell me they are reading my blog it makes it seem more real.  So thank you everyone for taking the time to read my words.  I promise I will keep getting better at this writing thingy.

I do have to say that even though I work way more hours then I used to I love what I do.  I sometimes feel like the only time I’m not working is when I’m sleeping.  I have the one client that takes up 90% of my non-sleeping time, and the other 10% gets filled up by trying to find more projects, thinking of ways to grow my business, and eating(often eating happens at the same time as work though).  Everything is new and exciting right now, and I hope to find ways to keep things that way.  It will be a challenge for me to constantly find ways to take my company to uncharted waters.

Last week I was bidding on VFX work for a low budget horror movie.  They had almost 200 shots that they needed some work done on ranging from turning eyes black to removing wires.  You know your typical horror movie stuff.  I thought things were going really well in the negotiations, and there was a price on the table that was low, but still doable.  The gentleman I was talking to said he needed to check with the director and would get back to me. A few days later I heard from him, and he told me that they decided to split the work between my studio and another.  The other studio got more shots, but the easy stuff, and I got less shots but the harder stuff.  Work wise he was offering my studio around 75% of the work, but was offering 23% of the total budget.  As much as I wanted to take on this project I knew it would be very difficult to find artists that would help me on the project for the rate that was being offered.  So unfortunately I had to turn down the offer.  Hopefully in the future I will get to work with this guy on another project, but it was not going to be this one.

On Tuesday of last week I finally got to meet up with Manny Fragelus.  Manny used to work at DreamWorks Animation(DWA) as a modeler, but eventually left DWA to focus on his newly started company Cgma Art Academy.  The company is a provider of online digital art education.  They offer online classes and workshops for anyone wanting to learn how to do Concept Art, Illustration, or Entertainment Design.  When I heard about what Manny was doing I wanted to meet with him to hear all about it.  We originally made plans to meet the first week after I left DWA, but I ended up getting so busy with the Toys’R’Us commercials and watching Kelton that I was not able to meet up until last week.  Manny is a very bright guy, and has done a lot of great things with his company.  His company seems to be doing really well, and now has a good amount of students and growing.  All his professors are industry professionals, and if you are interested in learning any of these crafts I recommend checking out his website.  Within the first few minutes of talking with Manny it was very clear how much he cares about our industry and the people in it.  He has dedicated a great deal of his time and effort in teaching students what they need to know to be successful in this industry.  Things they don’t always learn from the traditional schools that many of them are still in financial debt to even years after graduation. It was great getting to talk to him about his company, and reminisce about our days at DWA.  I look forward to watching what this guy does, and if I’m lucky we can find a way to work together.

This week Hashi, and one of my artists came over to the house to shoot toy characters on green screen that we will be adding into some of the commercials we are working on.  This was a new experience for me, and we had a lot of fun doing it.  Well at least I did, and hope they shared in my excitement.  I hope it all turns out once we get it edited into the commercials.  It is just another day in the world of animation and VFX!


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.

The Art of Bidding on Animation Projects

I mentioned before that when starting your own company you end up wearing a lot of different hats.  I thought I would talk about one of the hats that is very important, and that is my bidding hat.

Bidding is the process of looking at the work a client needs to get done, and giving a price to them that you are willing to do it for.  Seems pretty simple, but it actually is very difficult.  If everyone was willing to pay a fair price for the work then maybe it be simpler, but the truth is everyone wants it cheaper, faster, and better.  So you have to be creative to find other ways to make your bid work with your clients goals.

In an ideal world we would be able to get what we want immediately, in perfect condition, and for free.  Unfortunately the real world of business does not operate this way.   Have you ever heard of the project triangle?   It is a simplified way to show how things work in the graphic design industry, but also holds true for many other industries.  It shows how at best you can expect to have two of the properties, but not all 3.  For example you can have it fast & good, but that will be more expensive.  Or you can have it good & cheap, but it won’t be done very fast.


This approach makes it seem very straight forward, but this is only a part of the bidding process.  I work with very creative people every day, and as the “business guy” I’m often not looked at as a creative person.  Which seems to make sense since I’m not the one creating the artwork.  I still feel that it takes a lot of creativity to run the business.  Sure there are those administrative duties that don’t take a lot of creativity, but there are also a lot of decisions I make on a daily basis that does require creative thinking.

Not every bid is the same, and you often have to think outside the box to craft an agreement with your client that creates a win win for both of you.  You can agree on a set amount for the entire project, or you can set it up on a day rate with no limit.  It all comes down to what both parties are comfortable with.  I have seen some bids that work on a day rate, but it is capped at a certain point.  For example they will say that the project won’t cost more then $2,000, but they will only charge for the actual work done.  They might have a day rate of $100/day, and if it takes 10 days it will only cost the client $1,000.  On the other hand if it ends up taking 30 days the client will only pay $2,000, and the animation company will loose $1,000 worth of potential pay.  This is one reason why bidding is so important.

If you bid to high then you might not get the project, but if you bid to low you risk loosing money.  If you are working alone you only loose time and potential income, but if you are a business and hiring people to do the work your risk is greater.  Lets say I have 3 artists that I pay $100/day, but in order to close the deal with the client I bid the whole project at $2,000.  If it takes my artist less then 6 days I will actually make money, but if it is over 7 days I will be losing money.  If the projects goes for 10 days I will end up paying my artists $3,000, and will have lost $1,000 on the project.

As you can see the limitlessness of designing these deals with clients has a great deal of creative freedom.  Trying to craft a deal that will get your client to agree with, and will also be beneficial to your business requires a great deal of creativity.  This is also why bidding is one thing I often worry about, because if done incorrectly it can cost you a great deal.

This is not only an art companies should master, but also for anyone who needs to negotiate for anything.  Whether it be talking to your boss about a raise, or when buying a car from a salesperson you need to be skilled at this art.

I’m still learning the art of bidding, but here are some tips I would give to someone starting out.  Get as much information as you can from the client, so that you can give the most accurate bid possible.  Also try and build in some safety nets.  For example you can include a limited amount of notes, and anything over that will increase your bid.  Or you can make it very clear that any additional work added to what was previously agreed upon will increase the bid.  Work with your team to double check your thinking.  You don’t want to miss a small detail that can cost you a great deal. It is not all about money.  If you really want to work on a project because it would look great on your demo reel then offer to do it for less, but make sure you get them to agree to letting you use the work in your portfolio.  Think outside the box, and be creative when making a bid.  It can be a scary world out there, but if you are smart about it then it won’t seem as frightening.  Like with any art form,  it requires skill and a great deal of practice to get good at it.  Don’t give up, and continue to fine tune your skills.  Don’t be afraid to step away from the traditional way of doing something, and taking a risk by being different.

“When I’m old and dying, I plan to look back on my life and say ‘wow, that was an adventure,’ not ‘wow, I sure felt safe.’ ” —Tom Preston-Werner, Github co-founder

Best of luck to anyone that is out there bidding on projects, or negotiating pay for their time and services.  Please share your experiences in the comments below.  I would love to hear about both bid successes, and biding disasters.


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 for Uncle Sam through government contracts

Since it’s a Federal holiday I thought it was appropriate to talk about one of the avenues I am exploring to find work.

The United States Government is the world’s largest purchaser of goods and services, spending over $536 Billion in 2011.  In addition to that through legislation such as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act and the Small Business Act the Federal Government is required to set aside at least 23% of all contracting dollars exclusively for small business.

Owning a small business myself I thought it be worth it for me to check it out, and see if there are any contracts for animation.  It took about a week for me to get through all the forms they require you to fill out, but I’m now able to start bidding on contracts.  Now I just need to figure out how to do that…

You may be asking what government projects are there in animation?  Well I thought that myself, but learned that there are actually a bunch.  For example, in California there is a commercial that is currently airing for Flex Alerts.  I would imagine this was one of the contracts that was bid on by different animation/motion graphic companies.

I’m often looking for animated commercials as I watch TV these days, so I might notice them more then others.  I’m always looking to see what is out there, and find out who is doing what.

I will keep you all updated on if anything ever comes out of these government contracts.  It could be a good source of income if I can figure it out.

Hope you are having a great Columbus Day!


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.

Shooting Week Done, Now We Add The Magic

The week of shooting is now over, and I think it went really well besides my feet being a little sore from standing all day.  We shot Monday thru Friday, and the hours were roughly 7am to 7pm each day.  So that is a lot more standing then I’m used to, since lately I have spent a lot of time on my butt in my office chair.  My office now looks like a toy store from the toys we brought back to use for the VFX work, and I have a lot of paperwork to sort through.

Although it was very tiring, being on set was a lot of fun, and I learned a great deal more about the live action side of things.  It was also a very productive week, and from what was shot they will be able to make somewhere around 40 different commercials using different combinations of the vignettes we will be making.  We are now waiting for edit to finish the first few vignettes for us to get started on with the VFX work.  Hopefully we will have something as early as the end of day Monday to jump on.

We have some pretty intense deadlines this time around, and I have been working all weekend trying to rough out a schedule.  There will be a lot of moving pieces, and they all have to fall into place to make sure we deliver everything on time.

I’m excited to see how this round of commercials go, and I expect they will turn out even better then the last round.

In addition to shooting all week I was also able to make it to the Producers Guild networking event that was on Thursday evening.  With being tired from the week, and between babysitter drama, and having to wake up early the next morning for the final day of shoot I did not stay very long.  It was still nice to get out for a little, and meet some new people.

This week will start our post work, that we are expecting to last until December.  I’m excited to get a start on everything, and still a little stressed from the tight deadlines.  I just want to do the best job we can, so everyone is happy, and proud of the work.


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.

Getting ready for the next project to begin.

Get Ready

This has been another very busy week for me.  I have spent most of my time putting a team of artists together for my next project.  Shooting starts on Monday, and we will start working on the VFX as soon as mid next week.  This time around we have a bigger team, at least double the size of last time, and it takes some time sorting through portfolios looking for the gems.  Often when you find someone they are busy working on other projects.  I think we have a great team so far, and I’m still looking for a few more people and I think we will be good.

Next week I will be on set for the shoot, which is always exciting.  Being in animation for years the live action side can be somewhat very foreign to me.  I tend to feel like a fish out of water on a live action set.  Luckily I only have one job, and as long as I focus on doing a good job with that I can sit back and enjoy the show.

As odd as it might sound I’m also really excited for the food.  They have the best catering service, and it is some of the most amazing food!  I have found that a lot of my life revolves around food.  While working from home and watching Kelton I have not always had a lot of time to prepare meals, and often eat like a college student.  Mac&Cheese, Ramon Noodles, and most things that have “instant” in the title.

Hopefully my meals for this next project will be better since we are hiring a nanny to help out with Kelton.  We asked our last nanny to come back, but she has limited availability, so we may need to get a second person to cover the other days.  That is what I spent the other half of my time on this week… looking for a nanny.

Depending on how next week goes I may or may not have time to write a post. I will do my best to give at least an update on how things are going. Have a great weekend everyone, and a great week next week.


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.

Parent’s Visit

My parents were in town this week, so I did not have time to write a full blog post, so this will be quick update.

The Toys”R”Us project we have been working on has finally come to an end(for the most part).  Not all 15 commercials are posted yet, but if you missed any of them you can watch them all here.

This project started the week after I left DreamWorks Animation in July, and went on for about 2 1/2 months.  It could not have come at a more perfect time for me, and gave me a great head start for the company.  It was a great experience, and had a lot of fun working on them.

I’m very excited to announce that I have already started another project this week, and will go until the middle of December.  It will be commercials for the company’s holiday campaign.  Hopefully this will be another fun project, and it should keep me busy for the rest of this year.  I’m always looking for additional projects to take on, so please let me know if you have anything for me.

It was great having my parents out here this week, and getting a break from the routine of everything.  The timing worked out well since the Toys”R”Us project was pretty much finished.  We were able to go to the beach, the Autry National Center, and just hangout.  My son Kelton also really enjoyed his time with his grandparents.

Next week everything goes back to normal.  Except we will be starting a search for a nanny.  When I first left DreamWorks I thought I could watch Kelton, and running the business at the same time.  That was when I thought it would take me some time before I had a project, and it would be a slower start.  With this new project picking up I’m going to need help, since this last project proved to be difficult to work, start the business, and watch Kelton at the same time.  We will be looking for help during the times I have active projects, so if you know a good nanny please send their info our way.


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.

You can’t start an animation studio alone, You need great mentors.

I’m a strong believer in the importance of having great mentors.  No one has all the answers, and to have someone that has more or different experience then you who can help guide you is an absolute must.

A big part of leaning is making mistakes, and if you can have access to other people’s mistakes you won’t have to make them yourself to learn the lesson.  A mentor can also provide you with things that have worked well for them, and give you an understanding that you previously did not have.

I have been very lucky, and have had some great mentors in my career.  I plan to continue to find more mentors that can guide me on my journey.  These people might not work with you, but are still very important members of your team. They help you make the right decisions, and plan a well thought out strategy.

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” —Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn co-founder

You often hear about industries that are cut-throat, and how it is everyone for themselves.  I have worked at a few of those places… “coughtalent agencycough“.  I’m sure the animation industry can be cut-throat , but from my experience there is a lot of great people in this industry.  People that will bend over backwards just to help and mentor others. This is why I always try and do the same when someone comes to me for advice.  I don’t always feel I have all the answers, but if there is any way for me to help, I will.

I feel that the mentors I have had have all helped me get to where I am now.  I want to talk about two people in paticular who have mentored me on starting my company.  The reason I want to put a spotlight on these two mentors is because they have actually started their own animation studios.  To me their advice has been invaluable, and I have a great deal of respect for them.  Not many people start their own animation company, so it is great to get to talk to them, and get their advice on what to do, and what not to do.

James Baxter
James Baxter and Eric MillerBefore leaving DreamWorks Animation there was one thing I knew I needed to do.  That was to sit down with animation legend James Baxter to talk about his experience in running his own company.

If you are in the animation industry you should know who he is, and if you’re not in the industry you will at least know his work.  He has been an animator for years and has worked at Disney, and then DreamWorks.

In 2005 he left DreamWorks Animation to start his own company James Baxter Animation, where he directed the animation for the 2007 film Enchanted, and the 2D opening credit sequence to Kung Fu Panda, for which he received an Annie Award. In 2008 he closed his company, and returned to DreamWorks.

I have wanted to talk with him about his company for a long time, but never got up the courage until it was my last week at DreamWorks.  I wanted to pick his brain to find out what challenges he had, and how he got his clients.  I also wanted to know why he closed his studio and came back to DreamWorks.  That is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to speak with him, and talk about his experiences.

He did not have to agree to meet with me, or answer any of my questions, but he did willingly and talked with me about starting an animation company.  He gave me some great advice, and even offered to help on future projects.  Besides being extremely talented, he is also a really nice guy.  It was a joy talking with him, and he even agreed to take a selfie with me.  Out of respect for him I won’t share everything we talked about, but I will say it was reassuring to hear how successful his company was doing, and that his decision to dissolve the company was not because of failure.

Below is a clip that shows some of James’ work on Beauty and the Beast (1991).  The ballroom was done in CG, but the Beast and Bell were hand drawn by James.  It is impressive the emotion and weight he can show with pencil lines.

Ashley Postlewaite
Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Ashley Postlewaite.  Ashley is the co-founder & executive producer of  Renegade Animation.  Prior to starting her animation studio she worked for both Disney and Warner Brothers. In 1992, her and her partner Darrell Van Citters started the traditional animation studio, and have been in business ever since.  Renegade Animation might be best known as the producer of cartoon series Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi and The Mr. Men Show for Cartoon Network. As well as co-producing The Tom and Jerry Show, a show featuring Tom and Jerry, that is currently airing on Cartoon Network starting in 2014.

While Darrell leads the company creatively, Ashley serves as the executive producer leading the company on the business side.  I was excited to get to talk to her since I see myself more as the business person of my company.  We talked about many different subjects from the state of the industry, and the struggles they, like many companies, have been going through, to tips on what to do, and what to avoid.

Her company has a small core staff of full time employees, and based on the needs of their current projects will hire additional staff or independent contractors. She emphasized the importance of being smart about how you spend your money, and to save for a rainy day.  It was strategies like this that she was able to keep the company afloat and strong during the recession.

She is an extremely busy person, and I was impressed with her dedication to help and mentor others.  This is another example of the generosity of the people in this industry.  She told me that if I ever have any questions to not hesitate to reach out to her, and who knows, maybe we will get to work on a project together someday.


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. 

A quick update on this week

This week has been a pretty busy, so I was not able to finish the article I was working on, so instead I thought I would give a quick update on this week.

Last night I went to a Producers Guild networking event in Hollywood that was hosted at the Den on Sunset.  As always I met a lot of really great producers, but I also met a guy from the U. S. Coast Guard Motion Picture and Television Office.  We were talking about the services the different military branches offer to production companies at no cost.  Some of the stuff does have a cost but mostly if it is going to be additional expense to the military.  If you want solders running around or doing military stuff it is free, and they calk it up to training.  He said he can even get helicopters and tanks, and I would only have to pay for fuel…  Who wants to get a helicopter with me?  I’m sure the fuel is not cheap, but really awesome the military offers these things to production companies.

Tomorrow I’m attending another Producers Guild event that is an Associate Producer Council Master Class: “Comps: How Comparable Films’ Financial Info Can Make You a Better Producer”.  It will go over how to get people to invest in your projects by making your numbers look good to potential investors by using comps.  I will let you know if I learn anything interesting.

This week I also registered for the Creative Talent Network 3-day Animation Expo in November, so I’m looking forward to that.  Has anyone gone to this expo before?  What is it like, and any suggestions on what panels to see?

I wanted to give a big congratulations to my friend Hashi for his Streamy Award win for “Best Visual and Special Effects” for his YouTube channel Action Movie Kid.  And a even bigger congratulations to him and his wife who are welcoming their daughter into the world today.

Well, that is all I have time for today, but keep following for future updates.  If you are interested to hear about anything specific please feel free to leave comments below.


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.