Social Entrepreneur Conference by Esteban Valdez


This Saturday, I've been invited to speak the the Social Entrepreneur Conference in Sarasota. I've never heard of this conference before until the co-founder of the conference, Emiliano, made contact. 

The first question that comes to mind is "what the hell is a social entrepreneur?" I have no idea, it just sounds like another label people use to market and sell themselves with. I was skeptical at first, but Emiliano made the offer to meet in person to talk more about the conference in depth. This is not something that I usually do, but in this instance, yes, OK, let's do it. 

We meet up at a restaurant in downtown Sarasota. Emiliano starts to tell me what the whole conference is all about. In his own words, it's about entrepreneurs who are conscious of their surroundings and environment and how their business affects the global community. He mentions the catalyst that sparked the conference in the first place, but more importantly, he spoke about how it's trying to provide resources and tools to young entrepreneurs who are trying to start their business. 

As we sat at the restaurant, I explained to him that I think the idea sounds noble, but in practice isn't business. It's activism. He's taken aback. I'm not surprised though. I suppose I have a reputation for being extremely candid in that "doesn't hold back his punches," kind of way. Look, your time, my time is valuable and we don't have enough of it. The last thing I want is to waste someone's time, or for me to waste theirs. After the initial shock faded, Emiliano pressed forward with more questions about what I meant. 

I told him that essentially, from my experience, if you're business is open and you're not making a profit on day one, when you open your doors, you're not a business. Emiliano sat and listened. Continuing on, I mentioned how for some reason or another, the entrepreneurial culture of the 2000s forgot about how to earn money. They were focused on spending money. Most entrepreneurs, especially in the tech area, spend the first 3 years of business fundraising, prototyping, and creating a business which they intend to sell off. The product or service they're making isn't the product or service they're working on. The business is the product! Acquisition sales are way more enticing than earning profit. That profit has such a negative reputation, it just doesn't make sense to me why anyone would want to get into business to run at a loss. Though some businesses, operating at a loss is the point, but I hesitate to even call them "businesses," for the sheer simple fact that it sounds more like a scam.

My only business experience has been the one that I've forged thus far this last 10 years of business ownership. There's been a lot of hard lessons learned. A lot of ups and downs and trials and errors. Experience is a university degree you can't buy. 

Saturday, I hope to share a little more about what I've learned on my journey from being an artist to an entrepreneur.

Richard Williams by Esteban


Richard Williams has been a huge influence over my career. 

It started in 1988, when my parents took me as a child to go see Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I was already heavily into animation, learning to animate myself, and after seeing that movie, I really wanted to become an animator. 

When I started my career in early 2000s, someone at the agency I worked for told me to look up The Animator's Survival Kit. Funny enough, I never knew the name of the person who directed the animation of Roger Rabbit, and low and behold, on the front cover, was his name: Richard Williams. 

I studied the book, cover to cover, for years. I brought the book with me to whatever job I was on and did my best to apply the skills and principles that Richard Williams had acquired over the decades of his career. The thing about the book, is that it wasn’t just his experience, but the experience of the greatest animators in history. From Grim Natwick, Art Babbitt, Ken Harris and more, his book was like the bible in that it was information gathered through the generations.  Over 60 years of experience, not including Richard Williams’ own.


During the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to meet and work with some of the people who use to work at Williams’ studio.

They’d tell me some stories about what it was like to work with him, the good and the bad.

For better or for worse, Richard Williams’ life and career has made, and still makes,  a very deep and lasting impression on me. 

Here’s to Richard William’s and all his accomplishments and contributions.


Sugar and Toys Wrap Up by Lexi Schmidt

That’s it! We’re all done! The final episode of Sugar and Toys will be airing this month, and in this post, Lexi (one of the interns who was hired on during SNT) chats with Echo Bridge’s Head of Production and Producer, Omar McClinton about the project that was Sugar and Toys.

What were your first steps in proceeding with this huge project?

Production in three easy steps… 

  1. Get a proper scope of work versus the delivery schedule. 

  2. Divide and conquer. Take the shows, segments and steps involved in each and every shot and assign them to the right crew members, fitting their talents. 

  3. Get it done. No matter the size of the project, 7,000 shots or 7 shots, it can be terrible if either one of the steps above is not done in sequence or not properly executed.


What methods did you use to gather so many animators?

We did the traditional job postings, but you never know the type of designer or animator you’ll get with that, so I called [ToonBoom] and told them that Echo Bridge is doing a high profile show using their animation program [ToonBoom Harmony] and if they want it to look as good as it could, they should send me some of the best animators they can recommend for the rate. They did, then I hired them and gave them a chance to prove themselves.


How did the studio change and grow throughout SNT?

Every project, no matter how long you’ve been in the industry, is a trial by fire. Meaning they are all the same and they are all different. The biggest hurdle we had to overcome is getting ramped up quickly, finding the right people for the right jobs and then managing the production and the client/legal and network requests. Everyone in the Echo Bridge studio learned to adapt, learned how to work smarter and continued to build on the success of the day before.


You mentioned bringing on a handful of interns this year, how does transitioning students into work life usually go in animation?

If an intern is truly worth keeping around and one day hiring as a full-time staff employee, then he/she will be nervous, scared and make plenty of mistakes. This is because they care so much about losing the job or making such a good impression, that they inevitably screw up. The goal for a producer is to find the right person for the right job. One good intern is greater than 3 intern ‘bodies’ there just taking up space. Then being patient with them while they find their groove. Then encouraging them and keeping them excited about their job by either showing them other positions that are better or that truly suck. This way they can then go back and do their jobs better or switch positions, which then ties back to point number one of finding the right person for the right job. A good intern finds a way through this path every time, a bad one gets lost and never asked for help to find a resolve.


What is  daily life like inside Echo Bridge?

For Producers - long, stressful and never ending. You never have the same normal sleep schedule as when you started working on any episodic shows, known worldwide as the toughest production schedule of any media. We work together and do our best. We’re there for each other and try to always keep it professional, always remembering that the client comes first. Our art yes, but the client’s dollar. You respect the client, and the client will respect your art. We then have a nice wrap party and then laugh and socialize, but work first.

What does the rest of the year look like for Echo Bridge?

It looks promising. We’ve been approached by many clients, both old and new, that have heard about our accomplishments on Sugar and Toys and have begun speaking to us about projects that would require production services or financing of our own internal properties. Nothing is constant in this business except change, and you never know what to expect until it’s already happened, so right now I can say Echo Bridge is truly looking to continue to do great work.

Breakdown: Pink Youth - Part 2 by Esteban Valdez

When it comes to writing for animation, the script is usually more of a framework or guide for the story.

The Hollywood "industry standard" believes scripts are everything. However, for us at Echo Bridge, storyboards and animatics are where the gold is. What works on the page might not work on the stage (screen) or in the cage (editing). If we're going by industry standards of "one page equals one minute" then for every line of text written comes a cost of dollars and screen time. Some of the time, a Writer writes for the page but not necessarily for the screen. Unless the Writer has had some experience behind the camera, or in animation’s case behind a pencil, the idea or story is guaranteed to get lost in translation.

In the case of "Pink Youth" a treatment was written, but Esteban essentially wrote the details of the script AS he storyboarded, jumping back and forth between script and boards. The bigger idea is that the script should inspire the storyboards and the storyboards inspire the script.

The storyboarding and animatic process was done in Toon Boom Storyboard Pro 4 and took roughly one week to get an initial first pass. Rather than submitting a script, Esteban submitted an animatic to show Yuna and Carl. Notes were given and on the second pass of the animatic, the animatic was approved for pre production.

If you missed part 1, click here.

Breakdown: Pink Youth by Esteban Valdez

Part 1. Development

Over the next few posts we're going to show you a bit of the behind the scenes work on the animated music video project "Pink Youth."

The word "development" is a very loose term, thrown around in the industry, like a beach ball at a concert. How we interpret the term comes in two forms:

  1. Developing a sound and solid story.

  2. Developing the business aspect of producing said story.

We were approached by Carl Jones to produce a music video for Yuna Sinclair, a rising star in the R&B genre. The song is titled "Pink Youth."

They sent us the song, the lyrics and a pitch deck for the kind of mood they were looking to achieve for the video. They wanted to go with a late 80s/early 90s anime in the vein of Akira, BubbleGum Crisis, and Ghost In The Shell. We had a few more meetings over the phone regarding the feel of the story and the look, after which Esteban went to work drafting a script and sketching concepts for supporting the idea.

Scripting and concepts moved rather quickly, and it even gave Esteban some time to talk to the Echo Bridge team to help come up with a few sample post production tests too.


We presented to Carl as well as Yuna and company for feedback and made some adjustments to the script and designs. It was a very collaborative process, but not in the stereotypical way of people sitting around a table spitballing. Yuna had an idea. A vision. Carl brought his strengths as a creative producer to execute ideas. Compounded with Esteban's creativity and experience as a director, and Echo Bridge's award winning animation production services; the project really began to take form from the very beginning.

We resubmit the script and concept art, making small adjustments, until we're all comfortable to move into the next process: storyboarding.