Monday, June 8, 2009
All Things Being Equal
(image above: more of my spec designs created for The Electric Company. These designs were not picked, but helped the client to visualize my range of techniques or styles.)
I've heard that some studio owners revel in the game of scoring jobs. There is an excitement to the process, since a single job can be the difference between being in the red or the black. Certain job opportunities have brought out a strategy in me that has worked two out of three times. When I hear of a juicy project that needs animation and the style is not fully set, it activates my curiosity and sense of competition. Since I know the client is going to look at several bids, naturally the thought is how to set myself apart.
When a studio (or a single freelancer like me) is considered for a job, it can be for many reasons. We might have a personal connection to the client from a preexisting working relationship or friendship. They may know us strictly from the work we have done for ourselves or for another client. We may have been recommended to them by a third party. Or we may have gotten in the door through the efforts of a rep or an agent. But the means of entry is not usually enough to land the job. There are so many factors that define what opportunities are a good fit. But, if all things were equal between all the studios bidding, what could win the bid for one of them?
Shortly before I started my at-home freelance period in 2007, I had an interview to direct a Nick Jr pilot that was going to be animated in-house. The creators were not artists or directors so they especially needed to feel safe and secure in their choice of director. In this case, I knew the other two directors that they were considering. Each would have been a strong choice, and would have brought something different to the mix. Before our interviews, we were each given the pitch pack that won the creators their pilot.
Once I saw that the designs exactly matched the signature work style of one of the director's, I knew my goose was cooked. A client tends to feel most comfortable when you have already done exactly what they are looking for. Sure enough, the other director won the bid. It’s not possible to always have the exact style a client is looking for already on your reel. But, there is a way to create the materials that can win the job.
Less than a year later, Nat Geo Kids had a pilot project and were in need of a director, for which they were considering four people (from New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco). Once I had an interview scheduled, I asked the producer if she could send me any art or music from the project so I could check it out before the meeting. She was happy to do so, and I think each director may have been given the same materials. Once the character art and soundtrack was in my hands, I spent a day animating a finished walk cycle to the music. The day before my meeting I e-mailed a Quicktime of the animation to the producer so it could work its magic. There were practically squeals of enthusiasm when I got to the interview. A good sign, no?
Of course, anyone would enjoy seeing their character move, but there was more value to the process than that. Because I had already tackled some animation of their character, I could already discuss that process: how long it took, what programs I used, how the art should be prepared, etc. I'm sure each of the other director's could have intelligently speculated on that too, but I was speaking from actual experience. Perhaps most important, because I had taken this initiative, I had proven my sincere desire to do the project.
I hinted a few posts ago that I was about to embark on a large new freelance job with an assistant. The job was won in a very similar way to what I described above. With so many factors out of your control on the job hunt, why not give yourself the best possible odds for success?