2016: A Lesson Learned
2016… It came and it went. Faster for some, all to painful for others. Regardless of the experience, you have to admit, it was one hell of a ride.
- Finished producing 2 TED Talk videos
- We had our first studio layoff, ever
- Restructured the way the studio operates
- Had to endure through some nasty slandering
- Got some much needed face time with our friends and clients in Los Angeles
- Made the switch from Flash to Harmony
- Got a job working on Harmonquest
- Rebuilt the team from the ground up
- Became more active in our local film community
- Gave more talks at colleges and clubs
- Opened a small Los Angeles wing of Echo Bridge
- Started working with acclaimed producer, Carl Jones (Black Dynamite)
- Legendary animator Bill Plympton came to visit the studio
- Produced animation for Desiigner’s music video “Zombie Walk”
- Started working on our space odyssey short film “ALONE”
- Produced animation for a soon to be released Batman VR game
- Teamed up with the former gang of ADHD to kickstart their new online series “AOK”
- Attended the 40th anniversary of the Ottawa International Animation Festival
- Started and finished our first ever online mini-series called “Crimson Carrot”
- Began development of a couple of new studio projects
- Went back to Los Angeles to get more face time with friends and clients
- Produced animation for national brand titan, Toyota
- Produced animation for “Minions” with our friends at 6PH
- Produced animation for HBO’s “Animals” with Big Jump
- And we finished the year by producing animation for NetFlix’s “F is For Family season 2” with Big Jump as well
Looking back at all that we’ve accomplished this year, you wouldn’t have thought that there was so much heartache in the beginning.
I took a risk in 2015. A risk at growing the studio when it wasn’t ready to grow. The books and gurus will tell you that you either get busy growing or you get busy dying. That if you’re too still, if you’re not dominating your space, that you will lose relevancy. It’s also followed by “fail fast, fail often.” And when you follow conventional advice, you get conventional results.
But then there’s age old wisdom that says too, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It's common sense, but in the pursuit of business, we often lose sight of that. I know I did. And when failure came, it came big. And it came mean…
That risk cost me a team that I respected and had loyalty to. It cost me reputation, self esteem and confidence, and it almost cost me my business when it didn’t have too. At the same time, the failure that I experienced showed me a few lessons…
Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.
When we experienced turmoil at the studio, the options were to pack it all up and call it a day or put our shoulder to the wheel and push forward. Despite the slander, despite the financial worries, despite the hardships; we believe in our cause and our abilities. That core belief heads to lead us forward. Acts of confidence come before confidence. While times are tough, it’s only tough for a moment.
Surround yourself with solid people.
Not like minded people or “yes men.” Surround yourself with people who are just as hardworking as you, who are better than you, who share in a similar vision as you. Those are the people who you want on your team, the ones in your corner. They will help you go far and help you realize your own potential when times get rough.
No one knows what they’re doing. No one.
From all the conferences and festivals that I’ve attended over the years - from KidScreen to Ottawa - no one has a clue what they’re doing. Especially in this high-risk industry, it’s hard to know what’s going to be a “hit.” Some have a formula to how they approach their work and projects and partnerships, but in the grand scheme of it all, everyone is feeling around in the dark like everyone else.
New challenges mean new problems.
When someone finds success, often time they want to have a repeat of that success. It’s only natural. In order to recreate that success, we’ll come up with formulas for how we got there and try to follow suit. The problem is that when we start doing that, we get into routine and rather that innovate, we replicate. Replicating then leads to stagnation and at that point the winds of passion die down and the fire is out.
When we’re doing something different, when we embark in new ventures and territories, we’ll find new challenges and problems. And you’ll know that they’re new because the problems become much more challenging and you question whether or not your can handle them. Those new problems are a sign of progress. Don’t be afraid of them, embrace them.
Let things take their course.
We have no control. No matter how much marketing we do, no matter how much data we drive, no matter how much schmoozing we do; when it comes to someone making a decision on whether to work with you or buy from you, that is out of your hands. The most you can do is your best. Do the best you can to represent yourself, your ideas and your studio. Do your best when you interact with people and how you share your experiences. Do that which interests you the most, and be proud of the work you do. The more your try to force or bully or push someone who isn’t ready, the more resistance you’ll be met with. Especially in this artistic world of ours.
For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t trade the experience that is 2016. In fact, I’m very grateful for the moments, the opportunities, the places I’ve gone and the people I’ve met throughout the year.
We don’t need to follow conventions. There really are no rules, no guidelines, to how you do your work because no two people are alike.
Just do your best and be authentic.
That’s all you can ask of yourself.