I’m a control freak. There. I said it. It’s not to say that I enjoy being the fixed point of approval, or that I like to make people’s lives difficult… I just know what I want. Sometimes working with others is a pleasure and other times it’s can be really difficult for me. I have a particular way of setting up projects - from how data is organized to how we communicate, and when it comes to the actual product of animation; I’ve usually set up rules and guides for the team to follow. To the tee… but are more often than not ignored.
On my last short film “Mike & Wayne” I not only went through the labor of creating a production bible, animation guide and reuse library; I also went through the embarrassing task of creating over 18 videos that explained how every facet of production and art production was to be handled. It’s not that I like being this meticulous… I just want to be as thorough as I can be so that my team has all the information and resources needed to do the job right and keep the work looking consistent. That’s the real trick of animation… making it all look like it was done by a single person. It’s not always easy as everyone has different sensibilities, but it is possible. It just takes awhile.
So while I like to have things a certain way, our latest project which we’ll be revealing later this year is the first project that I’ve been more hands off on. And that’s a “yuge” thing for me…
Originally, it was a show that I created for the kids market. I’d pitched it to Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, PBS, DHX and many other kid broadcasters, but the way this creative industry works… you can’t leave room for interpretation. Amazing how that works, but that’s a post for another day. I didn’t want the project to disappear, but after a few tough gigs, I felt that we - as a studio - needed a way to blow off some steam. I looked back at the project and realized… I don’t like kids media. In fact, I hate it. Something about that whole kids media world I find absolutely drab and grotesque and perfectly bankrupt when it comes to the reasons most shows are made, save for a handful.
I decided to take the concept and give it a twist. Make something Ultra cute, but ultra violent… and in some cases, ultra offensive. I created and designed characters and set the world stage for the ridiculousness to live in. From there I left the storytelling up to the team. The rules were simple: no rules. Do what you want. The project was designed to blow off steam from commercial work and let each member of the team express themselves fully.
The team would pitch me storyboards about the episode they wanted to create and I would give a “yay” or “nay.” My feedback would only be given if they asked for it.
The “yays” would move forward into animation. The “nays” would have to go back until it was approved. My role as the “showrunner” is to ensure that the world is consistent and that everything fit within said world, but what I wanted most of all is for the team to be happy with what they were making. If they laughed at their own work, if their team was having fun; it would show in the boards. And that was really the only criteria for the board to pass.
During animation, I’d be hands off unless approached for advice. Part of the reason this is hard for me is that I have a particular way of producing the work. I know where a character should ease in or out, or how high or far the overshoot should go. When it comes to animation, each and every frame that I draw has been planned out until I understand the scene inside and out. So when I’m directing animation on a client project, I tend to be very hands on and paint almost every frame red, so to speak. My job as a director for animation is quality control of the work and with this project of ours… well… it was hard for me to not jump in. It wasn’t until the end, when everything had been put together - a finished product if you will - that I took a look at everything as a whole, focusing only on the major issues. There were some, but for the most part, the work and the final product is something that we’re all really proud of. Something that I’m very proud of.
It’s the first time that I’ve let go of the reigns to leave in the hands of my team. They did an amazing job and I couldn’t be happier.
In a couple of weeks, we’re going to be promoting and sharing our project. We’ve spent the time - and the money - make something of our own. I’m really excited to share it and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.