Friday, December 21, 2007


Pixar and Blue Sky have both shown new trailers for Wall-E and Horton Hears a Who respectively. Both look nice. I was originally questionable about Horton, however, after seeing this trailer and a few other goodies, I'm more optimistic!

Pixar doesn't deserve as many kudos. You only expect goodness from them. So, this is only normal.

Check for the Horton trailer and Rotten Tomatoes for the Wall-E.

Daily Show and Colbert Report

I just heard that the Daily Show and the Colbert Report will be going back on the air despite the WGA strike. Comedy Central needs shows I guess.

Speaking as a complete outsider to this whole strike. This sounds like a huge blow against the WGA. I mean, basically someone (by someone, I mean writers and everyone else responsible for these shows!) is crossing the lines and saying a big F-YOU to the strikers. I can only giggle.

Budgets again

About a month ago I was tasked with budgeting a would-be CG feature slate. It is a draining process coming up with how much one of these things is supposed to cost. How many people? How much will those people get paid? How long will it take? How many machines, workstations, telephones, chairs, paperclips... You get the idea. The list is insane. By default, you are pretty much required to schedule the process as well. If you don't know how long it takes, you'll never come up with a number.

I've done partial budgets. Meaning, someone asked me to budget and schedule certain aspects of a film. But doing the whole thing is more than I bargained for. Sure, I knew it would be difficult, but I didn't realize how much so.

Someone should do a budget to see how long it would take to budget the film. I certainly didn't. Good thing I'm being paid by the hour, because I'll be putting a lot of hours in. Unfortunately, it needs to be done very soon. Artists and those working in production aren't the only ones put under the thumb!

You won't learn anything from this post. Come to think of it, you probably won't learn anything from any of my posts. I'm just venting. Sorry!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Business Plans

This past Friday my wife and I were invited to New York for a dinner in Manhattan. It was attended by roughly fifty very wealthy individuals. It was put on by a Wall Street group to try and lure investors to place some of their money with them. My invitation came courtesy of a contact I made in Los Angeles almost seven months ago as a thanks for a connection I made for him. He even went as far as to pay for our flights, hotel, and a Broadway play.

The seating for dinner was ten to a table. We each took turns going around and introducing ourselves. I was a little worried about the reaction when everyone found out I wasn't a millionaire about to leave for my Winter getaway on an exotic island. Much to my surprise, people were interested and attentive. For some reason, quite a few wealthy people look at the Hollywood business as a glamorous one that they would like to be a part of. A few of them had even invested in films in the past and although they didn't make much money from them, it was a chance to pretend that they were a celebrity. Whether true or not, none of them really seemed to care whether they made money or not, they just wanted just to buy a piece of all that comes with it.

Long story short, I handed out a lot of business cards to those at the table and those that I met afterwards in the cigar room. A few of them were really eager to talk more about investing in animation, but it was getting late. When my wife and I returned on Sunday, I was surprised to find some of them had already left voice messages confirming their interest.

I'm posting this for a couple of reasons. First off, it was a good time and was rather interesting. Second, if anyone reading this has a project they are trying to get funded. Maybe this is an opportunity worth thinking about. Before you ask, there won't be a fee or any cost whatsoever imposed on you.

NOTE: I will receive a finder's fee from the investor for any money they place in a project. Making an easy chunk of change is not my only interest. I'd also like to see some good projects get what they need.

As with everything else in life, there are some requirements. These people don't mess around with their money. You have to have a business plan prepared that fully lays out the project and all the typical things that go into a BP including ROI for the investor. Additionally, this is not open to anyone looking to fund a studio/business or a slate of projects. This is for a single feature or potentially a DTV.

I've already contacted colleagues looking to get their projects going and have also alerted the company I'm currently consulting for. However, I want to spread the word here as well.

If you are interested, please contact me privately through email. Do not send me scripts, business plans, or anything other than a simple introduction to you and the project.

Monday, December 03, 2007


My head has pretty much been buried in my work lately. However, a few days ago I came up to breathe and spoke with a friend. We somehow got on the subject of budgets and he hit me over the head with something I found pretty insane.

He told me that DreamWorks Bee Movie was close to $300 million when all said and done. I've yet to talk to anyone else about this to confirm or deny. However, if true, wow, just wow.

Three hundred million. We are getting into Final Fantasy numbers here. Let's pretend that prints and advertising were part of that number. Still, that is a considerable chunk of change. I've seen the movie. It shouldn't of been anywhere near that high. While a visually decent looking film, that cost didn't show up on the screen.

Just to give you an idea of what can be considered norm: DWA's previous films are generally sub $100, around $80-$90. Although that figure is debatable when you take into consideration the high cost of voicing some of these films, especially the Shrek franchise. Blue Sky over in New York is in the same neighborhood to slightly lower in the $65-$80 range. Disney and Pixar spend more money, with budgets exceeding $100 and often getting to $150. And even the Disney numbers are debatable because of the often re-working of stories late in the process. The last of the big 5 is Sony, and their films are about the same range as Blue Sky.

If the rumor is true, what led to this seemingly high budget? Good question. I wish I had an answer. I'm not familiar with the production of this film and what they went through in re-writes and re-takes. Whatever the case, it is just a shame that it went this high.

Personally, I think the sweet spot for an animated film is $45-$60. There is enough money to do a decent visual job, yet it isn't so expensive that it can make a good profit with decent returns. The problem is that a lot of these projects are so mismanaged that the money goes quickly and for all the wrong reasons. Resulting in a $70 million film looking like a $25 million one.

Writer's Strike

What makes the writers so special that they deserve better treatment than practically everyone else in the filmmaking process? Shouldn't all of those important to a production be treated the same? I realize writers are an important part of any show, but so are many other people.

Companies and studios should compensate people for their work. However, I'm in the group that believes that if you are paid fairly for your time, then that is it. You are done. Why should residuals keep coming to you? I don't think the designers of a Ford Mustang are getting residuals even though that car is still being sold. Our how about the guy who invented the flavor of a soda or food, should he get residuals? Stupid examples, but you get my point.

There are exceptions to everything out there. And here is my exception. If a writer went to studio XYZ with an already created script and sold it. Then perhaps I can see why residuals should be used. Especially if he wasn't paid standard (whatever that means) rates. However, if the guy is working staff or hired to carry out someone else's idea, I don't believe residuals should come into play. Admittedly, I'm not paying a whole lot of attention to what the writers get and what they want, maybe that is already the case.

I've been keeping quiet on this subject, but I'm sick of seeing the YouTube videos and reading the editorials. The woe-is-me writers are starting to get annoying.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Planet 51

I'm sure everyone has read that New Line has acquired the rights to distribute and market Ilion Studios' upcoming CG film "Planet 51". For those of you out of the mix, Illion is located in Madrid and began production on a (reported) $60 million feature a couple of years ago.

Signing this deal is big for them. Congrats to the people over in Spain. I fully support this company because it was created and produced in Europe and not just outsourced from an American company. Home grown films are great, outsourcing is bad.

The story sounds pretty good and has a lot of potential. The art direction seems to be nice too. The human character looks appealing and much better than some of the other projects I've seen recently from even the major studios.

What I don't really care for are the overuse of Ambient Occlusion and Sub surface scattering. The aliens all look like they are made out of Playdoh. However, that is a small complaint and can be forgotten quickly in a good story.

Congrats to Ilion for getting what many startups cannot - a respectable $60 million for the budget and distribution from a reputable company. I'm not sure what the cost of living is in Madrid, but even by US standards, this is a good sized budget. Especially for a new player.

Now the pressure is really on!

Shrek The Halls

With all my Shrek bashing, I forced myself to sit down and watch Shrek the Halls on ABC a few nights ago. Funny enough, I enjoyed the show. The story was more interesting and even the animation was better than the latest feature. Who woulda thought?

The budget for that special must of been enormous, when you compare it against the usual animated television projects. It was basically feature quality shrunk down to 22 minutes. Too bad there are not more of these things around!

I'm looking forward to Karate Kid, I mean Kung Fu Panda. Let's hope that this next film changes my perception of a declining DWA.