Web series? TV? How do I get this story out there?

2010-06-10 10:12:41 by larkinheather

Thanks again for everyone who watched "Kanook" and gave comments. If you haven't seen it, here's Part 1/2 and Part 2/2.

I wanted to get out some of my thoughts, ideas, plottings ... so you can tell me if I'm crazy or not ... (warning: long!)

So, I have this story, Kanook, that I've been writing for a long time. I really want to make it into a series. My first thought was to make it into a web series. When I made the Kanook animatic over a year ago, I fully intended to replace the animatic shots with fully rendered animation, like you see in the beginning. The animatic took about a week to make, but fully rendering shots took SO long. I had to do research, paint the backgrounds, rough out the animation, put in the key animation, breakdowns, in-betweens, and then color ... It was taking me about three days per shot. And there are 100+ shots in the 9 minute episode. A year an episode? That won't do ...

So, next I thought about pitching the series for TV. When I went to the Ottawa International Animation Festival in October, I prepared a pitch of the Kanook story. At OAIF they have a pitching session thing called 'FastTrack.' I got to pitch my idea to like 10 different companies, including Disney channel and Fox and Cartoon Network. I learned a LOT about TV animation by going to the OAIF and the TAC (Television Animation Conference, part of OAIF).

My general impression was that networks were looking for shows that were mostly comedies, and cheap to produce ($250-$300,000 per episode)... which mostly means using the 'cutout' or 'puppet' animation style. (There are a lot of great shows that use that style, but personally, I love doing traditional animation and that's what I want 'Kanook' to be in.) I asked someone about the show 'Avatar,' which has really nice animation ... and she told me that Avatar was an 'anomaly.' It's very expensive to produce (most of it being animated in Korea) and was originally pitched by two guys already trusted in the industry, having directed Simpsons and Family Guy episodes. Also, sequential, dramatic storytelling seems to be on the decline overall; there's been talk that shows like 'Lost' and 'FlashForward' will not be greenlit again soon. For animation, series that have long over-arching stories almost never get produced in America.

Moving on! So, I put Kanook on the back burner for a while ... I focused instead on applying for jobs in Animation. I went over to Disney in April and got a lot of great feedback on my portfolio. I'm also planning to apply to Pixar, Dreamworks and BlueSky (as soon as I finish my freakin' cover letter!! Why are they so hard?).

Recently, I started to think that maybe I could go back to the web series idea. I remembered that the Kanook animatic, even though it only took a week to do, was understandable and had emotional impact. I really want to practice cinematic storytelling. And I want get the Kanook story out there. So, I was thinking that I could make a web series in the animatic style.

One concern with that idea is that episodes won't be visually exciting enough to watch for 10 minutes. I want to add more actual animating. I want to make episodes in the animatic style, but with about 10% more animation, 10% more visual energy. (I am very concerned, however, that I won't be able to work quickly and make an animatic-styled animation if I think it's going to be the final product. I'm obsessively judgemental of my work ... I need to work on that.)

I'd also like to add music, sound effects and voices eventually ... which I'll need help on. A few people have already offered their help in various arenas, so I feel hopeful about that. Also, if I can find a way to make the actual animation part more collaborative, that would be great to.

So, that's my idea. I guess the next step is to start production on the next episode. (Which will actually be the first episode, because I've completely rewritten episode 1.) What do you think my plan? Comments? Questions? Concerns?

A side note: I was also wondering if, in addition, I should be working on a short film, something short and polished, that I can show at film festivals. Win awards. Get recognition. I started writing and boarding a story I could do ... but I'm not sure if it's what I want to be doing. In general, I feel torn between my desire to work on writing, storytelling, crafting better and better stories and creating polished artwork, with the painted backgrounds, the animation, the coloring...etc. TORN, I say.

Yet another side note: My computer is getting old. I need new software and hardware. Basically, I need a Macbook Pro, a Wacom Cintiq (21ux) tablet display, Adobe CS5 Master Collection, and Painter, for a grand total of $7100. eep! I'm saving my pennies. Commissions anyone?


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2010-06-10 10:36:50

Do you want to get recognized so that you can get Kanook funded? Or would your prefer to have more of Kanook to show to people who might fund it? Or do you just want it to become something more? It seems like a toss-up to me. Having to choose comes down to what your end-goal is with the whole idea. I would suggest having a list of pros and cons for each thing you want to do. Maybe even rate each pro and con because some things are more important than others.

larkinheather responds:

Hmm ... it's true .. what is my end goal? I guess, I really want to work on and manage collaboratively making the Kanook project (and other projects). I enjoy working on projects. What I want is someone to give me money to keep doing that so it feels more legitimate. Anyway, I need to think more about my goals ... thanks for commenting!


2010-06-10 11:37:07

There exists in places like Newgrounds a strange entity that I've never found anywhere else. Its teams of people, working for free towards a singular vision of animation and sound, and you could very well take advantage of that.

I've had issues gathering support for my own joint projects in the past, but I'll tell you that if your story speaks for its self, if it sells its self, drawing in the right people should be possible. It helps to have something that really sells the story. I think I got close when I was trying to gather animators for Evangelion: Con Gran Delore. I took everything my team of two had done over the last year and put it together in a last ditch effort to draw the support needed. It was very close, but just not quite enough. Enough for portal awards, thousands of views and a 4. something score, but still not there. Had I done it again, I'd push even harder.

Its very hard to sell someone else on YOUR vision as I'm sure you know. Especially when you're asking them to help simply for the joy of bringing it to life, but there are people out there who will buy into a good story.

I'm about as proud of an American as you'll find (Heck, look at my occupation), but I'm growing more and more disappointed with the American audience. It seems my interests are more commonly found in Japan when it comes to story telling, as I've seen but a VERY few works of American animation that are worth a damn. Sure, American animation has a lot of frames, and big budgets, but the people behind them don't give two shits beyond the cash flow, and it shows. Even the simplest Anime seem to have some heart behind them, but best of all, they don't tailor to an expectation that their audience has a 5 minute attention span.

As for your animation, I agree with everyone else that the finished scenes look fantastic. I also agree with you that keeping up with that level of quality would be impossible on your own. Had your chosen story taken place anywhere else, I could suggest the aid of CGI to help cut down on the grunt-work, but you've chosen the single most challenging environment for CGI; open natural vegetative places. I can get away with a LOT in my animation, because its a hell of a lot easier to render a 7 mile long space ship then even something as simple as a field of grass.

As for your hardware situation, I'm sure its hopeless to try to turn your from the dark side, but you could slice a few GRAND off of that total if you'd switch away from iCrap Mac. You are getting ripped off. When my hardware begins to show age, I buy just what I need - more ram, a new vid card, whatever - not a whole new system, and I actually have my choice of hundreds of brands, not Apple's hand picked overpriced crap.

I'll stop there. I could go on for days on these subjects, as I can relate to your situation a little.

larkinheather responds:

Wow man, thanks for the thoughtful response! You're absolutely right that there's a large network of people who are willing to help out to build something cool. I'm starting to realize that. It's not an easy thing to do, as you know, but I'm going to try.

Like you say, good animated storytelling is hard to come by in America. I'm trying my best to make something decent. And it's true, I chose a difficult setting, and 2D animation in general is labor-intensive ... these are the challenges, I guess.

Not a mac fan, eh? I've never owned one, though I've worked on them for years. I'm not sure how I feel about it. I might be able to upgrade my dell laptop with more ram and a bigger hard drive ... I'm just afraid that if something goes wrong and it crashes, I don't have any of the cds for my graphic software. 0_0 I'll investigate anyway ... thanks for the idea!


2010-06-10 12:43:30

Probably wouldnt take a whole year to animate. You'll get faster with experience (the first month animating a new project is like a car getting to full speed). And even if it did take a year....so what? A year is nothing.

larkinheather responds:

It's possible that it would get faster ... but that estimate is also assuming I'd work on it full time. I like the spirit though, that a year is nothing. It really is.


2010-06-10 15:06:22

you could budget that a lot cheaper, i think the software thing is obvious ;)

you could just buy a mini mac and hook it up to the cintiq unless you just want a laptop to carry around or stick with a wacom tablet

larkinheather responds:

The budget probably could be cheaper ... but I figured, what the hell, might as well set the goals high! :) A laptop is nice since I travel a lot ... Anyway, thanks for the comment!!


2010-06-10 15:11:39

I'd shoot for the "polished animation to show at festivals to get recognized" idea. Maybe not immediately, but I think thats a good way to get noticed.

I don't think Disney Channel, Viacom or Cartoon Network will get you what YOU want in the end. Avatar is a good example for exceptions though. Maybe you should do something other than Kanook that earns you the thrust of your future employees to do something bigger.

larkinheather responds:

Sounds like good advice. A short would be a good start. Film festivals seem to really be the way to attract the attention of the industry. Thanks kmau!


2010-06-10 16:04:27

In terms of making the animation aspect more collaborative, I feel there are a number of things you could do. You could have someone handle keyframes, another person on in-betweens, person for coloring, etc.

There is definitely a decent amount of people on here who would be willing to help you with anything you could possibly need, I feel.


2010-06-11 20:59:44

Hi. In response to your response, yes the Latin names seem really cold. Oh and thanks for explaining about the kid having the injury. I missed that by a mile.


2010-06-13 13:27:52

Very interesting, personally i loved the storyboarded animations, i wanted to do that with the collab animation i'm currently working on (it took only a week to animate too) but it wouldn't be acceptable to most users.
So with your example of the quality of the series through your animatic, i'm sure you can find a team here on ng that would help you polish it up, you could get maybe two colour artists, an 'inker' and of course everybody wants to act for an animation so that'd be no problem. If you post something up on the bbs or frontpage, i'm sure you'll get alot of volunteers and with the ad revenue system, you can share earnings with each artist and don't have to worry about paying them out of your own pocket.
lool btw, coincidence, i just recently got myself a macbook pro too, took 2 weeks of working caricatures on the street everyday to get the £2000 i needed, but it's certainly worth it, it's extremely fast and handles my huge flash file no problem, on my old pc if i selected a frame on that animation it would crash, so yeah, BIG contrast there.
I hope you can get one soon and good luck!
P>S you could maybe (big maybe) try pitching your series to channel 4 in the uk, they take independent producers all the time, infact they have an online submission form, dunno if you can access it from America, but it's just a thought. (They promise to always get back to you with a yes, no or maybe answer within 3 weeks.) I'm gonna try it myself in a couple years :D http://www.channel4.com/corporate/4pr oducers/resources/production.html