Monday, February 2, 2009
Working in NY animation, one can't help but notice the thriving indie scene. This city has more individuals making indie animated shorts and features than any other place in the world.
A year ago I was doing a Q and A after a screening of my film, Good Morning, at the BAMkids festival in Brooklyn. Sharing the stage with me was a filmmaker named Barbara Parks, who co-owns a sound studio called Splash Studios. A man in the audience asked me why I would make a film like Good Morning if I wasn't being paid for it. "Indie films are made for self expression," I said, before adding that they can also have commercial results. How true that was. Just this past Friday I finished animating/directing a pilot for Barbara Parks. That Q and A at BAM was our introduction, of which I owe to my film Good Morning.
I'm going to assume that most industry folk know how many benefits there are to making personal films. So, why aren't more animation artists doing it? I would suggest that too many people are stuck. To get past being stuck, one only has to be creative with their approach. Here's some suggestions for how to get started, no matter what group you belong to.
1-you're not a writer:
(By "writer" ––for the purpose of this discussion––I want to focus in on traditional dialogue or narration for narrative storytelling)
Okay, you're not a writer. No problem. Why not try a documentary approach? Base a film around an interview or use some found audio and repurpose it. The Rauch brothers are doing amazing documentary style films based around interviews from StoryCorps. Other filmmakers (such as Paul Fierlinger and Signe Baumane) have done great films based on their life experiences, narrating the tracks with the honesty of their own voices. Or, why not make an experimental film by starting with a strong music track that does not require any linear storytelling? Why not animate to a pre-existing song? That's what I did when I animated to Bob Charde's song, Good Morning. Need more examples? Buzzco Associates, Inc. and Debra Solomon have based their entire filmic careers on animating to songs.
2-you're a writer, but you're not an animator.
Barbara Parks fits this category. She works as a sound designer by trade, but she co-wrote a script that she wanted to see animated, so she hired me to collaborate with her to make a film. This city is filled with animators to partner with...and it doesn't always have to involve an exchange of money. Potential collaborators have a way of finding each other, but only if they take a look around or are (at least) open to opportunities that present themselves.
3-you're not a writer nor an animator.
Maybe you're a designer, an illustrator, or a painter. If so, your talents could set the visual style of film. My newest short, Owl and Rabbit Play Checkers, was initiated not by a writer, nor an animator, nor a visual artist. The project was suggested by my composer Bob Charde, who enticed me to collaborate on another film by creating the film's score and voice track and emailing it as an Mp3 to my inbox.
***However, the biggest obstacle one may have to face (whether making a film on their own or through collaboration) is to have enough courage to take the public risk of making a film. Films are for sharing with an audience and there's a chance the film could be lousy. Let me be the first to tell you that I have more than one lousy film to my name. At least two, in fact. Oddly enough, I believe those films both helped and hurt my career to date. I know how they helped because they were partly responsible for landing me some important jobs and promotions. I am also fairly certain that they hurt me. They might have cost me credibility as a filmmaker with some, which could have damaged my chances with selling certain pitches.
The truth is that films don't lie. Instead, they tell stories. They tell the story of where a filmmaker is at––in terms of maturity, level of craft, and authenticity of inspiration. Yes, there are risks to making a film. But, I'd say that if you believe in carving out a long term career in this industry, it is a risk worth taking.