Sunday, June 17, 2007

Financing Animated Films -- Part 1

Now that Box Office returns for animated films are coming down from stratosphere like heights, reality is setting in for many studios. The days of money being thrown around left and right have slowed. Those that missed the boat during the frenzy are going to have a harder time making a go at it.

When decent films like Surf’s Up and Meet the Robinson’s aren’t getting a lot of attention from potential audiences, you have to wonder what some of these people are thinking that invest in projects like The Missing Lynx.

I can’t see movies like this doing well in the theaters at all. As a direct to video, it may have a chance. But come on, that thing is going to bomb if released to theaters. It reminds me of another hard-to-watch CG film, Happily Never After that I recently sat through. I could be wrong though. After all, I hated Happy Feet despite how many people enjoyed it.

With all of the bad films doing poorly, combined with the good ones doing moderately, you have to wonder what the investors and distributors are thinking. It is really difficult to get an animated film going right now. I recently heard about the antics of a studio in San Francisco that is trying to get a CG feature off the ground. They are an established company with a proven track record (in commercials), financial backing, and developed stories. They just cannot find a distributor. It is just another example of people being more apprehensive. If they were this prepared a few years ago, it would have been much easier.

Occasionally, I get an email asking me exactly what I do for a living or what I’m currently working on. While I won’t go into details, I’m involved with a film fund. This investment vehicle will co-finance more than a dozen movies. Worth several hundred million dollars, it is mostly geared towards live-action. A while back I was asked to consult on it to see if it was worth including an animated film or two in the mix.

While this fund is currently in limbo, I’m given a ring side seat to some of the financing action going on around Hollywood. It is more than obvious that the money for animated films is slowing. Now that investors are starting to see that it may no longer be the golden ticket, they are choosing to be more careful about their choices...

In part 2, I will discuss current financing schemes that studios are using.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how this current climate will effect the new studios that are supposedly opening up in LA - Universal and the one you have been talking about for months.

Speaking about the changing global climate in Anim and VFX...

There is an interesting studio started by some folks who have been around the VFX industry called the

I don't work for this company so don't think of this as an endorsement. I am just writing about my opinions.

The Wishing Net is a cooperative community - a vfx subcontractor - with each team member given full responsibility for the groups’ success. As an artist cooperative they are not aiming to ever build a company reel or compete with vfx houses.

..." enjoys the luxury of operating solely as a communication infrastructure and billing service that facilitates your collaboration with some of the world's most experienced artists..."

It is located in the Carribean on the Turks and Caicos Islands.

There mission statement

..."There is no such thing as job security, it's a myth. We are all "at will" employees at best. If we can't become more competitive in the long run we can kiss that mortgage payment goodbye in a couple of years.

Do you want to drop your rate to compete in the global economy?

Do you think the government will subsidize the post business or just subsidize production industry?

How many artist do you know that have been sent abroad to train new staff?

This is a global market and we cannot stick our heads in the sand. We think it's time to control our own future, that's why we created We see this as our last chance to become more competitive, not a whimsical fantasy but a necessity for our future..."

Pretty interesting.

As we are all competing in a "global" marketplace we do need to rethink our lives and careers by asking ourselves questions such as "What am I working for?" We should be thinking about Quality of Life vs. the Rat Race. Are you just looking for more money? Work should never be just about the money if it is then you shouldn't be in Anim or VFX.

other anonymous said...

You breifly mentioned Surf's Up, how did you feel about it?

Staloren said...

I've heard about that "Wishing" thing. I respect them for giving it a go. However, I don't imagine it will get very far. Not because of the people involved (I'm not familiar with them), but it just seems like a long shot.

How are they going to get any work done with the breathtaking beauty of the Carribbean?

Anonymous #2,

I haven't seen all of Surf's Up yet. Only bits and pieces. While I think it is probably a high quality piece of film, I don't feel excited to see it.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the wishing thing...

I admire what there are trying to do but I am not sure it will have legs.

..."We defiantly do not work long hours. This is a company created by artists with wives and families as a reaction to the employment policies of companies in the US and UK. Our work week guide is 1pm - 6pm. This is obviously only a 25 hour work week so we do allow some teams to work a 7 day week or modify their hours..."

A 25 hour work week in theory is nice but I question the reality of their statement. They say they do allow some teams to "modify" their hours. Common folks this is VFX not a bank. There is no 9-5 or a 1-6pm. There are deadlines that have to be met. Me thinks they will be "modifying" their hours alot.

I wish them luck.

If they can prove that you can work mostly under 40 hours a week I would go there.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

Anonymous said... sure sounds sketchy...or could it be possibly illegal? Funny, aren't these guys all here in Los Angeles so how is it that they mention that they are working in this location of "Provo". IRS frequently busts companies off of the Florida coast that are trying to escape paying US taxes and it may not be today or tomorrow but they eventually catch up with them and make them pay either with their pocketbook or jailtime. In addition, aren't we all complaining about too much U.S. work going overseas and forcing us to charge less for our services in the U.S., well, what makes any different in adding to this trend. unbelievable!