Siggraph 2017 Panel – Online Studios

I’ll be speaking on a panel at Siggraph to showcase our work on The Wrong Rock and talk about working in an online studio environment. http://s2016.siggraph.org/birds-feather Remote Studio Productions: Online Collaboration Tuesday, 1 August, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm, Los Angeles Convention Center A discussion of issues related to online collaboration in production.

The Wrong Rock – New Short Film

2017 approaches and I’m back at it, making another short film. After Devils I was adamant I’d not be taking on such a huge (unpaid) pet project again for another decade. Well, life evolved in ways I couldn’t have predicted and I ended up helping out on two other short films for friends, both of which worked out great (The OceanMaker and Napoleon). I also had a lot of wonderful adventures in my professional working life. But once again I find myself with that craving to make something outside of work, and there’s only so many small projects you can do before the big ones come calling. There’s another project I actually could have started that’s been in development for some time but it needs more time to be the best version of itself. In the mean time ‘The Wrong Rock‘ came to me in a moment of soul searching where I brushed aside everything I’d learned about building IP and focused on the issues I felt the most connected to. Then I worked out how could I explore those issues and send a strong message out into the world worthy of the time it takes to make one of […]

Tips for Making Films with a Remote Team

I contributed some tips to the Artella Blog. Advanced Tips Recruiting – Depending on your own strongest skills it might not be worth recruiting for some skill sets. Recruitment is a commitment in itself and it can be very time consuming reaching out, filtering, vetting and introducing new team members. That might be time better spent working on the project yourself. While some areas are easy to recruit for and benefit the project greatly. Choose wisely. Communication – This is key to every team member, especially when you’re operating a remote project. If a team member lacks the language skills, can’t write responses or even read your notes…. it’s going to be a struggle. Partnership – Find out what your team members want to get out of their involvement in the project, then make sure they are getting it. If people realize they aren’t getting what they want and they’re paid they won’t last long. But if they realize they’re not getting what they want and they’re volunteers, they’ll drop the project so fast, you often won’t even hear about it until you’ve wasted a lot of time chasing them. So make sure both sides are meeting their goals, or […]

The OceanMaker Insider Part 5 – Pixar

Continued from Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. It’s the Summer of 2014… a Friday and I was working on the Fox lot in Los Angeles for Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb when I got a call from my friend, Lucas Martell. We were invited to screen The OceanMaker at Pixar, and while we’re at it could we do a Q&A for them too. Pop! …. that was my brain exploding. Oh, and can we do it on Monday? Argh! So after begging my supervisor, Eric, for a day off, I drove up to San Francisco on Sunday and stayed with some friends ready for Monday morning (thank you Paul and Maria… big hug). I was lucky I was close enough to drive. Not all of the team could make it. Luckily Lucas and Christina Martell were in the area at the time. However Henning Koczy, had to go above and beyond to get there from New York. But there we were at Pixar, with thanks to Colin for setting it all up and giving us the tour (on his day off, I might add. How much does he love that place?). The OceanMaker crew arrives at […]

Panda Pander on Crackle: 2,572,030 Views

I made a random discovery today…. my old student film, Panda Pander, was on Crackle before they changed their business model, and it gathered a lot of views back then but I never had any evidence… until now. I found an old feed that showed a few view counts. I don’t know if the highest one was the final count before it went offline but it’s a nice little memento from the past. I was working in Scotland when this was happening, it was quite incredible and I had no idea what a high view count could do for you. These days a high count on YouTube or Vimeo can get you noticed, but (at least for now) those counts generally stay visible. This one disappeared and I wish I’d taken a screen shot. It was the second highest viewed piece of animation on their site all the way up to it’s disappearance. 2,572,030 Views  

Finish your Film

Kenny Roy’s book ‘Finish Your Film! Tips and Tricks for Making an Animated Short in Maya‘ features ‘Devils Angels & Dating‘ several times. It discusses the making of an animated short film. It’s available at all the usual book retailers.

Annie Awards 2014

I went along to the Annie Awards with Julie and my buddy Dan. It’s the biggest awards ceremony for the animation industry. Still very US-centric but there is some international representation there. It’s still quite an under-appreciated event. Just as glitzy as many other awards ceremonies but you can still buy reasonably priced tickets to get in and watch from the balcony. We met quite a few interesting people in the party afterwards.

Love in the Time of Advertising

Love in the Time of Advertising is online. The fascinating thing is how many people I have come across over the years that had a hand in making this film. It’s been a long time coming, and I was lucky enough to see several early versions. But even then it was really strong… and really knew what it was. It just had to go through production. I guess the earliest versions I saw were in the last few years of production, but I’d have loved to have seen some of the versions way back when it was still in story development. That would have been fascinating, as it’s such a wild idea and getting the tone, the world and the rules of the world working would have been quite challenging. Anyway, it’s well worth checking out. An inspiration to short filmmakers.

Dating for Animation and VFX Artists

It’s hard to openly talk about the topic of dating, but as the guy that developed his short film around the topic, ‘Devils, Angels and Dating‘, I felt it was my duty to expand on it for all the past, present and future lovelorn creatives it was aimed at. The Animation and Visual Effects Industry has been plagued with issues for some time, and many of those issues are only now being exposed and discussed. There are a lot of problems that have compounded over time and there are no solutions that address them all quickly. There are plenty of other better writers out there that you can read up on to find out more on the industry. But I wanted to talk about something that makes a huge difference to an individuals life, that we all can do something about. When I started my first job as an animator I had a 9 to 5 job. To many that sounds wrong. That’s because most jobs I’ve worked in recent years the core hours are either 9 to 6, 10 to 7 or even 10 to 8. This may be a big city thing, a US thing or I suspect… […]

Kickstarter vs IndieGoGo for Animation

Kickstarter is not suited for most animated short films. Ok that is a little bit of an over simplification. What I want to say is that Kickstarter isn’t the right platform for raising money for projects you aren’t prepared NOT to make. Kickstarter is really just generating drama for it’s audience and animated filmmakers are providing the fuel for that drama for free. What do I mean by this? Animation is a staggeringly labor intensive medium so when someone finally gets to the point they are ready to spread the word about a project and potentially impress someone enough to give them some money…. they’ve usually invested so much time, effort and resources that there is little chance they are going to abandon that concept if they don’t make the money they would like to get. This is a pitfall I’m seeing far too many short animated filmmakers going into. They post their projects on Kickstarter because that’s the current popular buzzword and assume their idea is so strong that they will meet their target. But you have to remember that Kickstarter doesn’t take the money if you don’t meet your goal. So you can put in a lot of effort attracting […]

The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 4

Continued from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. The first screening went very well and over the coarse of our production we had a lot of similar screenings. My memory of all the screenings on the island blend into each other. But ultimately there was a lot of cheering, respectful compliments and constructive feedback. Note giving is an art into itself, and so is taking notes. The results can be very different in different settings and mediums. We sent out versions of the film through Dropbox links to key filmmaking friends of ours to get feedback. You get very different responses that way. The remote feedback ranged from solid filmmaking notes to complete mis-understandings of certain concepts, and this was the best feedback of all as we could make sure to address big oversights. If something important was missed by even one of our friends you can bet that a much larger number of people with no knowledge of the animation process will fail to understand the same things, so it was crucial to find those oversights and make sure they were clear.The team feedback was really good as we could see exactly what they did and didn’t understand. Standing in […]

The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2. So the team set to work on the film. As the point man put in charge of documenting the production I was encouraging everyone else to take pictures and videos… to get coverage while I sunned myself in the corner and watched them work their socks off! … Ok, not quite… I actually set myself the task of interviewing each team member so that we got everyone’s initial impressions. Not an easy thing for everyone to do as we’re not all comfortable with the camera and it was something that we all had to get used to. But we got through it and captured a few great conversations as we got to know the team. While I was doing that, everyone else was setting up. Tray went to task setting up a way for us all to share files. Essentially his laptop acted as the server, and we each pressed a sync button on our laptops that sent all our changes to the server then downloaded any chances to our machines. It was a lot more data than we all really needed but on a local network it worked fine. A dirty but […]

The Ocean Maker – The Insider Story – Part 1

The Ocean Maker started it’s IndieGoGo crowd-funding campaign and the Director, Lucas Martell, has been posting videos, news, interviews and much more related to the project giving everyone a sneak peak at the film and the unique production that created it. I thought I’d chip in and tell a little of my story surrounding the film. Way back in 2008, I first contacted Lucas when I was researching my move to Austin, Texas. He was not far from completing his short film Pigeon Impossible while I was simultaneously getting up to speed developing Devils, Angels and Dating. We got to know each other over the years and became firm friends.Jump to 2012 and Lucas was working in the same studio as me in New York. He told me he wanted to have a chat about an independent project and we met to discuss this outlandish concept of forming a team to make a short film in a remote location. He does a great introduction to the concept in his video for the crowd-funding campaign so I won’t go into too many details. Suffice to say, it wasn’t an easy sell initially and there were plenty of problems to anticipate. But he was pretty passionate about the […]

Orson Welles Award

I went to San Diego over the weekend to the California Film Awards to accept the Orson Welles Award on behalf of our film. It was a long ceremony with a lot of categories but it turns out the Orson Welles Award was way up there towards the most prestigious categories, so it was quite an honour. I asked someone to use my phone to shoot video of my speech but unfortunately I forgot to press record when i handed it over, and they didn’t either… so I’ll paraphrase roughly what I said: “This film was made for roughly… zero dollars, so I want to thank the Animation community for putting up with all the begging and grovelling we had to do to get this film made. But mostly I’d like to thanks the one hundred or so talents artists that volunteered their time to make this film. Thank you!” As a side note… the life of an animator isn’t compatible with an award like this. We often have to keep moving around, and this thing is soooo heavy!

Devils, Angels and Dating – One Year Online

So it’s been a year since ‘Devils, Angels and Dating’ was first released onto YouTube where it recently passed a million views, which was a very nice Christmas present! http://youtu.be/rkddkbu-EMA Our film’s composer, Phil Rey, has a great new album out that I’m listening to now… and wow! …. it’s good. Check it out, well worth a listen: http://phreymusic.bandcamp.com/album/age-of-the-fallen The singer, song writer for our credits, Andrea Perry, ran a very successful KickStarter campaign to fund her new Album which passed it’s goal by a significant margin: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andreaperry/andrea-perrys-4th-album-2013 I’ve been encountering a lot of Devils team members over the years. Several popped up at my leaving event in Austin which was a surprise and I worked with a good number of remote animators from the team while I was in New York. Most notably I worked alongside Jamil Lahham for six months or so, which was a real treat and we’ve become good friends. He’s also making his own short film. http://jblogger-animart.blogspot.com/ It really is nice for me to meet all these team members but what’s even cooler is hearing about them bonding over Devils when they cross paths on their own. It’s going to be a go-to conversation piece […]

Cloud Catchers – Short Film

I’ve been working on Lucas Martell’s “Cloud Catchers” short film. We’ve been good friends for a few years now but had yet to work together and I couldn’t pass up this chance to blend our directing styles. I couldn’t do it initially when he first asked me but as my schedule freed up I was able to slip in as the last recruited member of the team. There will be more news on this project later on as it approaches completion over the coming months. In the mean time you might want to subscribe to the blog which will be updated in due time. http://theoceanmaker.com

‘Best Animated Short Film’ – Burbank Film Festival

This is the Award our film won for ‘Best Animated Short Film’ at the Burbank Film Festival  

Devils Angels and Dating – Directors Cut

I had some niggling doubts about the pacing of the first half of the film and I decided it was worth the time to make a few easy fixes for this Directors Cut exclusively for Vimeo. It adds 30 seconds to the overall length and it’s designed to clarify a few things.

Guiding vs Micromanaging

This is a tough balance for any Director. You want to communicate your vision and give your team firm direction as they go along, but if you tell them how to do their job down to the finest detail there’s nothing for them to get any satisfaction from. They’ll quickly realize there’s no point in using their creativity, and problem solving skills, and they’ll lose their personal investment in the task. Then all you have is a clock punching drone, waiting to go home. But that’s in the work place. On a volunteer based film production it can mean you lose their interest entirely, and you lose a team member. Since ‘Devils, Angels and Dating’ was produced entirely online I can’t even be sure when that happened to my team mates. I’m positive it must have occurred on some level for some people, as we had plenty of turnover with team members, like any volunteer based project. But without dealing with them in person it’s hard to figure out where that line is with each team member. Usually in person you can tell. Body language, mood and tone of voice are going to tell you a lot about how someone is taking […]

The Layout Sandwich

I started my first full time job in animation and, along with another person starting the same day (later to become a close friend of mine), we found ourselves being taken into a large room with a cinema screen high up on one wall. We were sat down and told we’re about to see what we’re going to be making for the next six months. What we saw was (for its time) a very impressive action adventure role playing game filled with characters and cut-scenes (FMVs or cinematics as many prefer to refer to them). It was my first day at Rare, a 200 strong, growing company with a very strong pedigree working under Nintendo’s wing. My friend and I were given an outline of what we’d be expected to start working on. He was a software engineer so we weren’t going to be doing the same things but we were going to be working together a lot. I was fully prepared to be doing in-game cycles, when the Director turned to me and casually told me I’d be making the cutscenes. I forget now if it was verbal, but I know that in my mind I went “Wahoooooo!”. It was more […]

The right time to get story feedback

There’s mixed stories about when you should get feedback on your ideas. In animation it’s common for people to say that you should get feedback early and often but I’d argue that’s not always true. If you do that you risk ‘too many cooks’ and you can water down the elements that would make the film what it needs to be to make it resonate with a targeted audience. Better instead to protect the idea, and explore it fully for as long as you can, taking breaks so that you come back to it fresh and with other perspectives filtered through you. Only when you’re returning to it repeatedly from a fresh perspective and you feel it’s gone as far as it can, is it time to get feedback.       At this point it’s time to ask yourself if you have surrounded yourself with the kind of people that can give you valuable, constructive feedback. Whether you recognise it or not, your idea is still fragile and undeveloped and other people will see it. You need to be sure that the next person that sees it understands the fragile nature of an early idea and that they can […]

Devils Angels & Dating at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

I thought I’d kick off my official blog posts here on blogger by showcasing our short film, ‘Devils Angels and Dating’. It’ll be screening at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on the 16th of August at the HollyShorts festival. It’s been amazing to have two articles in 3D World, and two in 3D Artist. http://devilsangelsanddating.ning.com/photo/albums/press Here’s our official website where you can see lots of behind the scenes content. http://www.DevilsAngelsAndDating.com/