Friday, July 9, 2010

Meredith Gran, and the Savvy Generation

Gosh, a lot has changed in a very short while. When I graduated from SVA in 1995, it was such a different professional and media landscape than it is today. Back then, if you were lucky enough to get a job, you worked hard to keep it, growing your skills, and cementing important work relationships one at a time, so that maybe over the course of five years you'd have a large enough network in the community to ensure a steady flow of work opportunities.

For today's generation, whether still in school or recently graduated, it's a very different world, one where community networks and connections are not necessarily the product of years-long in-person build up. Instead, savvy young individuals have already built up huge social and professional networks, reaching both fans and colleagues while creating career opportunities.

For example, my wife and I were in a downtown restaurant last week when she spotted well-known 15-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, The Style Rookie, (she has her own Wikipedia entry). It was the right week for the "young and successful" because only a day prior we attended the Brooklyn launch (at Bergen Street Comics) of Meredith Gran's first published book, a collection of her self-penned comic Octopus Pie. Note: Gran and her work pictured above.

Less than five years ago Meredith was a member of my SVA animation career class, as well as my thesis student. It was a joy to work with her on her charming film Polar-oid, and watch her progress on it week-to-week. Shortly after she graduated I was able to enlist her to work with me on Cartoon Network's Assy McGee, (co-created by Carl W. Adams for his Boston-based animation studio Clambake). Gran was a key player on the series, using her considerable talents to craft terrific animatics for nearly every episode that season, later jumping aboard as an animator.

Long before I met her, besides being a crackerjack animator right out of the gate, Meredith had been making her own indie comics, first photocopying them to spread around, and then launching a web-based serial comic strip Octopus Pie. She updated her online strip three times a week and developed a following. Linking to other like-minded cartoonists with web comics, she fostered a community of contacts, friends, peers, and potential publishers and distributors.

But, Meredith's efforts at promotion weren't all of the virtual kind, she never missed renting a table (with other comics art friends) at San Diego's Comic-Con, and she frequented many other major comics gatherings around the country, such as NY's Mocca Art Festival. Recently, all her talent and hard work caught the attention of a publisher, Villard, which just released a paperback collection of her strip titled Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn.

I think it's wonderful that Meredith and the generation behind her have figured out how to forge careers, not by relying on the whims and tastes of gatekeepers (network execs, studio bosses, etc.), but through self-promotion and community building (both online and in-person). They are changing the rules of the game, making them up as they go along.

I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn, and make this witty, personal, and expertly drawn book part of your summer reading.

I can't wait to see what Meredith achieves next. She's already hinted that she's begun animating the characters in her comic, so we'll just have to stay tuned.

When my wife and I left Meredith's book signing we couldn't stop smiling. Maybe it was the complimentary champagne that Bergen Street Comics provided, but more likely it was simply inspiring to see such talent, drive, and understanding of the new media landscape sprouting up in the next generation. That provides a lot of hope and inspiration to this "thirty-something." Congrats, again, Meredith!


Francisco said...

I have not read Octopus Pie yet. I'll add that to my list. I've only just begun to read web-comics regularly. Wait, that's a lie, I would read Penny Arcade once in a while (since the late 90's actually).

One particular favorite of mine is Diesel Sweeties, and he's actually going to be on a book tour with Meredith (I missed him at Bergen St Comics, damn!)

I love that the internet has allowed the opportunity for people to self-publish and gain worldwide attention for relatively so little money.

Question for all people leaving comments:
What's your favorite(s) web comic?

I like:
Diesel Sweeties
Cyanide & Happiness
Penny Arcade

But I'm interested in reading more.

Michael Sporn said...

Great post, Dave. Meredith 's POLAR-OID is excellent. A thoughtful well-made animated short. Lots of thlent there.

allen mez said...

David, this is a great post. In a climate of industry cutbacks and less than inspiring network animation this is a truly positive example of creativity at its best. The tools are out there and we all have to realize that this is a very exciting time. People like Meredith (and yourself) are showing us the possibilities.