Hey. Welcome back. Everybody settle. Jerry. I told you last time, do not sit with Bryce. You're disruptive and I'm not having it. Good. Okay. Last time I tried to impress upon you how the clock is ticking on your dreams and goals and also that neither of those is out of your reach. If you're reading this, it means you're well underway towards creating your THING, whatever it is, because the device that lets you read this contains a LOT of the tools you'll need. I also tried to impress upon you that PERMISSION is something other people ask for. People who never actually make anything. We won't speak of them again here. You have stories to tell. You will tell those stories. I will help you. The theme of today's talk should be familiar to most of you. For those who aren't, it's this:
Burn this into your brain. No matter where you are in your career, apex or base, you will have lots of obstacles blocking the completion of the things you want to make. It will come as a shock to many that most of these blockages have almost nothing to do with "the establishment." The biggest obstacle to you making the things you want is YOU. You'll want to argue about this. You'll want to say, "Of course, you would say that, Geoff. You're already successful. You already got yours. Man, it's hard out here for a busker." Nope. Sorry. One: Yeah, it's hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. When any artist does their job well, many people in the audience think, "Wow, that's not so hard. I could do it." Some of them are right; the could do it. Many of those people go on to join the arena and contribute. MOST are not. MOST are just posers unwilling to put in anything like the necessary work. Two: "It's hard" is a complete and total cop out and here's where I prove it. Yep. I have a college degree. It's a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in Theatre. If I've been trained as anything, it was as an actor. I did that for a while, professionally.
I also quit that nearly 20 years ago. Since then, I've made my living as a writer. During that same time I've also been a director, an animator and an illustrator. NONE of the latter occupations are the result of classes or training of any kind. ZERO. I write because I've always liked writing. I draw for the same reason.
So, where did the writing career come from? Where did the illustration jobs come from? Hustle, baby. Grinding. Real success (which is not defined by payment but by making the things you want to make when you want to make them) is the result of desire and work. Mostly work.
Almost entirely work.
But the very good news is it's work you can do as well. That's what we're talking about today. A long time ago, I came up with the idea that became the foundation of the scifi world I called THE OTHER COUNTRY. I can't give a full description because that would step on the ongoing plans I have for the property. Let's just call it the story of two sets of humans, locked in centuries of mortal combat in an exotic environment that may not even be part of our universe. It's big. It's Star Wars, Avatar: the Last Airbender big.
I've already published several stories set in the Other Country, in prose and in comics.
The upcoming REDJACK comic is also set there. But the notion wasn't born as an idea for a novel, short story or comic book. It was always meant to be an animated series.
The problem was, when I thought of it, I had ZERO training in animation or any other form of illustrated art. When I was a kid my parents bought me a copy of GRAY'S ANATOMY and HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY. I barely looked at Gray's (WAY too hard) but I took a good deal of How to Draw to heart. That's the extent of my training as an artist. The rest was just drawing a lot over several decades. And, even with all the drawing, I STILL was in no position to make my animated thing. So, remembering our new motto, I shelved the animation aspect and the comics and short stories were born instead. TIP #1: There is more than one way to tell a story. If your favorite way is blocked– for the MOMENT– find another way to tell the story, one that isn't blocked. Many years went by between the first try at telling a story set in the Other Country and actually getting one to market. Decades. And, while I kept banging at it, there was still no WAY I could make it an animated thing.
One of the prohibitions to making animation, They will tell you, is, Animation Costs Money. LOTS of money. There were times where I built up a little nest egg and thought, "Hey, I'll just partner with some animation company or hire one, and THEY can do the heavy lifting. I'll just write." Nope. That's not how it works, partner. One one level, They are right. But, on another level, the one where you and I live, They can stick it.
A few years ago I stumbled on an app called ANIME STUDIO. The short version of the story is that this package allows amateurs to make fairly sophisticated animations with little or no "talent." Intrigued I bought a copy of the low-end version.
I did some googling about the process of making traditional animation, talked to some guys I know who are in the animation biz (not producers; people who actually draw for a living.) and asked them what the worst parts were. Mostly the response was the tedium of actually drawing all the thousands of incremental moves to get a character across the screen or to kiss or just waggle their fingers. That is some labor-intensive stuff, right there. It's called IN-BETWEENING and it's literally that– drawing all the tiny, little moves in-between the cool poses or KEY FRAMES.
This is why it takes an army of talent to make any animated movie or show. The germans need to hire every digger in Cairo to find the Lost Ark.
Anime Studio promised to remove the need for that work and that army so I dug in. This is my first try.
Terrible. I know. I knew it when I'd finished it. I knew it when I posted it up on Youtube. There's a whole talk I can give about First Efforts being universally terrible and why that's a good thing but that's not what we're doing today. Unlike a lot of people, seeing this Terrible First Effort didn't make me cry, stomp around and give up. Nope. This is a powerful app and I want to #makenewthings.
TIP #2: Trial and error–ERROR especially– are our friends.
Over the next few months (Without ever reading the manual, btw. Because I'm an AMERICAN, that's why. Shut up.) I just messed around with the app, making little test movies.
I did watch a number of youtube "how two" videos, basically every time I wanted an effect I couldn't noodle out myself. Very helpful. Also helpful, for me, at least, was starting to make the little tests part of some story rather than something abstract to test the system. For me, having a story component improves my artwork as it provides focus and a "reason for doing this." Mileage varies. I know lots of artists who just draw left hand after left hand in different positions for practice. Do you, baby.
After messing around for months, I came up with this.
Less terrible in my opinion but not enough improved to get me where I wanted to be. Not even close, which, despite my improvement, was basically where I'd started a year previous.
So I tabled it for a while. I had paying work to do and not enough time every day to really dig into improving this.
TIP #3: NOT EVERYTHING HAS TO HAPPEN RIGHT NOW.
Some months later I got into what I call a "tunnel dive" on youtube. This is where I pick a topic or video and just randomly follow click through to any place the videos connect. I find this fun and relaxing. On this dive I wound up watching this.
And a LOT of other Hanna Barbera stuff from the 196os and early 70s.
By modern standards a lot of this stuff is pretty crappy, animation-wise. I loved it when I saw it as a kid but, while Jonny Quest was and remains a stellar achievement, there's a reason we don't remember shows like Devlin or Shazan. But, the thing was, part of the reason I'd tabled my project was because of the voice in my head that pops up to ask me, "Who are you kidding, Geoff?" We all have this voice. It's the one that tells us we suck even when everyone around sun is applauding for some stellar pieces of art we've just presented.
Some people call it Imposter Syndrome- the idea that what you're doing, where you are, any success is undeserved and any TRY is a function if hubris, rather than moxie. I'm not a big believer in hubris. I like moxie. So I shoved that voice back in the cellar where it lives and ask myself this– "If these shows were put on television and children loved them despite their cheapness, maybe Disney-Quality animation isn't the right goal. Maybe just telling the STORY is the way to go." TIP #4: Telling the STORY is always the way to go.
The thing about those old shows is that they were made by skilled animators working on micro budgets. While I'm not a skilled animator and ALL my budgets are micro, this fact made me rewatch and re-examine those old shorts. Suddenly they didn't seem so crappy. Suddenly they looked like a bunch of folks in not the best position trying to crank out some fun stories they wouldn't be ashamed of in years to come. For my money they did that. They did it by cutting corners. They did it by having excellent senses of design and composition. They did it with hard work. Turned out I could do all those things. Plus, I still had a tool none of those people had. ANIME STUDIO. So I went back to the lab. This time I took my time. I began with a clear story I wanted to tell. I did storyboards for the shots and sequences I couldn't keep in my head. I used trial and error to solve problems as they arose. My target was, "If my thing can get in the ballpark with those PROFESSIONAL animations from the 1970s, I'm doing it right." Here's what I've got, so far on the pilot for the modern version of THE OTHER COUNTRY:
Judge for yourself but, before you break out the snark, I showed this segment to a couple of pro animation houses to see what it would cost for them to duplicate what I've done so far. Five thousand dollars was the minimum price. Over ten was the top. That's for just under four minutes of footage. Y'know what it cost to make this installment? Let's piece it out. 1. Story - zero dollars
2. Storyboards - one bic ballpoint pen and about 20 sheets of printer paper. So... $5.00 ?
3. A computer - this isn't really fair because, if you're reading this, you already have one. So we're calling that Zero again.
4. Anime Studio Debut - $50.00
5. Sound FX- zero dollars. these can be found on the web.
6. Soundtrack music - zero dollars. this can also be found on the web for free.
7. Wacom Tablet & pen - about $100.00
8. FIlm editing software - zero. All computers come with editing software pre-installed.
9. About 80 hours of focused work. (spread over three months, after real work hours.) So, for about $155.00, I'm about 1/6 of the way to making a reasonably competitive pilot for an animated TV series.
At my house.
I have no team. I have no training. I spent less than $200.00. The only thing that has stopped "production" in my case is real life, paying gigs interrupting the flow.
What makes me so special? Not a damned thing. I just got off my ass.
You should too. You CAN too.
Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.