3 tips for starting your animated production today

I was inspired to write this post after watching Pete Docter’s Oscar acceptance speech for Inside Out. In it he said, “…make stuff, make films, draw, write, it will make a world of difference.” You can feel his excitement knowing what creation does for your soul.

Having had the privilege of working with Pete as an animator on, Monster’s Inc. I was constantly inspired by his attention to detail and openness for allowing creative ideas to come from everyone.

This brings me to today’s topic… 

I’m often asked, “If I want to do my own animated production where do I start?” You feel the excitement people have for wanting to create something they dream to share with the world. They are simply uncertain about which step to take first.

1. Collaborate your way to something great

It’s common to think you have to have the perfect story figured out all by yourself before you start your production. “That’s the director’s job, right?” Truth be told, most every great director starts with a loose idea and work with their team to refine and hone their vision. This refinement happens from day one until the final day you work on the project – it’s ongoing and should be.

With a simple pitch (think Kickstarter pitch video) and a concept image, you have the pieces you need to start engaging a core team of artists and, before you know it, you’re already on your way.

When starting a project, here are some of the positions I look to fill; storyboard artist, visual development artist, previs animator, animator (not that they will be animating right away, but they will bring good ideas to the table).

2. Engage artists when you’re ready – not before

Although this may sound contradictory to #1, I’m talking about pacing your enthusiasm so that you maximize the impact and engagement of your artists at the right time.

I learned quickly with Circus Jam that it’s best to engage one, maybe two key artists in the area you will start next so that you can begin to flesh out that “next phase” of your project.

Many people think it makes sense to go get everyone excited about their project on day 1, but you’re going to lose people along the way as they can only hang out for so long waiting for their area to start production or pre-production. If that happens, you’ll lose them and they may move on.

Don’t make this mistake. Engage artists when you are ready for them. Keep them inspired about the area/s they are contributing too and you’ll have a great experience and will have much more manageable production phases to usher.

3 . Your CG Supervisor is your friend

Even in the best pipeline or production there will be technical challenges to solve. On an independent film, the CG Supervisor is the fuel that makes that car go or stop. When there are issues at any stage of the production/pipeline the CG supervisor will be on the front lines jumping in to get that car in motion.

You may go through several of them depending on the length, duration and complexity of your project. I recommend beginning your search for your CG Supervisor as soon as you are ready to do any work in your pipeline; i.e. previs or asset development – building the characters and sets.

When looking for a CG Supervisor look for someone who has done that role on other project/s. Make sure they are valued, rewarded and give them credit. In Circus Jam our CG Supervisor got the second credit. Thanks, Justin!

I hope these tips give you some healthy insight into starting your own project. Although you might not be on the Oscar stage accepting that great award tomorrow, you’ll start to experience that incredible feeling Pete was sharing with all of us in his speech, and you’ll never want to stop!

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Article By: Bobby Beck – Co-Founder and CEO of Artella

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