Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Everyone can make an animated film!!

Let's take a moment to brainstorm about how the average person could make their own profitable animated film. Okay, well maybe that is a bit oversimplification. However, for the sake of discussion, let's talk about micro budgeted animated films.

What exactly would be the definition of a micro-budget-animated-film? Well, I'm not sure that there is an accepted one out there. For now, let's pretend it is anything under $1 million.

Huh? How could you create an animated film over 60 minutes for less than a million? That is the typical response from all of us that are used to hearing about $140 million dollar Pixar films, or $270 million dollar Bee Movies. But, if you think about it, most animated television shows are produced for even fewer dollars per minute. If you write the script and design the characters keeping that budget in mind, anything is possible.

Why am I even bringing this up? After all, I'm someone who craps on studios that try to create a feature for $20 million. The reason is that I think that this is an untapped market. Studios attempting features for $20 million often have their eyes so wide that finishing within that budget is laughable. Elaborate sets, fancy characters, a high paid staff of show runners, on and on. What I'm proposing is animated guerilla filmmaking at its finest.

We aren't even talking theatrical releases here. Straight to video is the goal, a theatrical release is unlikely, but if it happens, it would just be icing on the cake. Since we are talking budgets so small, financing starts to become more realistic. Finding someone to put up a million is far easier than twenty. I'm not saying it is easy, just easier. One wealthy person, savings from a few people, or if you were really adventurous - a loan.

Even though this won't be a studio project trying to stay as mainstream as possible and you have the ability to make whatever kind of movie you want; I suggest sticking to what sells. You are entering into a business and you need to keep sales in mind. Don't take chances, make the most commercial product you can and you'll have the best chance at landing a distributor that will give you the best chance at profitability.

Speaking of distributors. I normally think it is a huge mistake to make an animated film without locking in distribution FIRST. However, these micro budget projects are the exception. Honestly, a distributor will probably ignore you anyway until you have a finished product to show them. Frankly, theatrical release is unlikely. However, don't ever count it out. Anything is possible. I just wouldn't go into this assuming it would make the theaters. If you do land a theatrical release, it will make it that much nicer. Far better than expecting it and only being disappointed when it never happens.

If I were about to embark on a micro budget project, here is what I'd do:

My concept would involve few/simple environments and uncomplicated characters. The storyline would be aimed at under 10 years old with some humor to entertain parents. However, my goal would be that baby-sitting-device that sells so well at Walmart. After completion, I'd enter it into appropriate film festivals that are looking for that type of material. If you're lucky, distributors would see it and approach you for a DVD and potentially a theatrical release. At the same time I'd call around to the distributors and arrange to have a DVD sent to them for their review. Not everyone is going to see it at a festival, and you need to get it out there in front of those that can help you sell it. Lastly, I would attend any TV and film markets I could afford to visit.

If none of these work, I'd cry myself into the next decade. Seriously, if you didn't fund this yourself, hopefully you got a decent salary so that even a failure is a success. Meaning, you have learned some valuable lessons and have aligned your career for something much bigger than you would of gotten otherwise.

Some people are just fine sitting at a desk or at the computer working for a studio their whole lives. For others, there is a tremendous drive to be a filmmaker, a director, or something more than just doing what you're told. You want to do things YOUR way. For those people, maybe micro-budget-animated-films are the way to go. And possibly, a profitable way to go.


asa said...

that one is good, done by one person

Anonymous said...

You are thinking along the same lines I have been. Last year I made a new Yeti vs Gnome cartoon each week for 4 months and posted them to youtube. They have a cumulative of 200,000 views. Each cartoon is approximately 30 seconds. If I kept that up for 2 years that's 52 minutes. There's my feature. So I began writing a feature using those very simple characters.
I read the book 'the long tail' by Chris Anderson and now I'm not so sure I really need a distributor. I'll use Youtube and the blog I'll start about making the movie. I plan on posting storyboards, animatics even finished clips as I go to keep interest up. Any comments from the blog will help me to see what people like and what they don't like. When it is finished I'll sell it as a download for $2.99 or so. Check back with me in two years. www.yetivsgnome.com

Staloren said...

Yes, the Killer Bean is a good example. If this guy approaches the right distributors, he could make quite a bit of money.

Anonymous said...

This is a great subject.
What do you think of Bill Plympton's features?
That's one guy doing feature animated films in the same amount of time a bloated over-produced Hollywood lead balloon production takes at a minuscule fragment of the budget.
"The Tune" was hilarious and I haven't seen Hair High yet but did follow a bit of his live cam while he was making it.
Making my own project is becoming more and more something I have to do,

Anonymous said...

Here's a catch-22: It helps to be young-- With no real obligations. Problem is, when you're young you have very little industry experience.

It's tough to have a day-job and work on "your stuff" at night. But those who can do it will have a better chance of success as an independent animator/film-maker.

The "KillerBean" guy has balls. He did it his way and I think he deserves a huge payout. And more work to follow.