Good Enough


When I "digitally" paint, I give myself a few restrictions.  They are:

  • No undo (I disable this part)
  • Only 3 layers (base paint, undertone, glaze)
  • Use only the number pad to control brush opacity

It forces me to think about every line, shape and tone prior to committing it to the "canvas."  Though I haven't picked up my oil paints and brush in nearly a decade; this is just as therapeutic.  And while I might not always succeed at creating the image that was in my head, at least I tried.  And sometimes, that's good enough.  

Nothing Left


The concept behind this piece is a boxer after he's lost the fight to discover that he's lost a little more than his pride.  It's an "end of the rope" idea that he's given everything he's got left in him and with that defeat, there's nothing left.  It's been a while since I did a painting (of any sorts) and so I thought doing something a bit more emotional was a good way to get back into it.


Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected. - Steve Jobs

For a while, I haven't been feeling as productive as I use to be.  Many years ago, I'd be able to sit down and classically animate a whole 60 seconds (on 2s), sketch 200 panels, do 5 fully illustrated pieces per week.  Working at that consistency for over a decade wears on you.  These days I'm lucky if I can animate a 10 second scene in a month or sketch out a composition for a storyboard in an hour.  Feeling useless and being to no avail is a very overwhelming feeling.  Knowing that you're not as productive as you use to be takes a toll on the old self confidence but then after looking back at all the work I had done previously, it hit me.

All the work I did back than, as productive as it was, didn't really meet up to the standards that I've set forth with myself now.  Sure, it's a large body of work, but is it a large body of work that I could be proud come quitting time?  When looking at the work I do now, though it takes a little longer, things seem to have  more staying power.  The animated work I produce is more refined and it looks like I know what I'm doing.  My camera compositions and actions are a lot more intricate and well composed, illustrations have a lot more thought and craft put into them.  Even my writing has gotten better over the years and I'm pretty happy about that. 

My Thoughts On Animation Today

Sometime ago I wrote about the state of 2D animation.  Nothing's changed since.  I also wrote a piece on what animation is and if motion graphics could be considered animation as well.  I've changed my tune a bit, though I felt like I should elaborate a bit more.

Just from observational a lone you can see just how much animation a seat into almost every platform available to us. From commercials to explainers, from television shows to web cartoons, video games and just regular run-of-the-mill infographics, it's everywhere.  It really hit me after watching Jurassic World (strange right?).  I was talking it over with a friend about how the world that was developed and designed for the film was very intricate and how far we've come in the world of CGI. That everything there was very believable despite more than half of the film being CG. And that's really the case for animation. It's all about creating the illusion of life.  It doesn't matter whether it's drawn, vectorized, or noded out; it's all about the illusion of life.  As a person who's done hand drawn animation for almost two decades, who's aspirations are to continue in this tradition, I've come to terms with the fact that the kind of work that we do is ever shrinking. Things have the appearance of hand-drawn without being hand drawn.  There either CGI or their motion graphics and most of the work and believability that comes into the work is handled via the graph editor and some very skilled people who understand very elements of timing and spacing.  It's not that it will ever disappear entirely, but after surveying the land scape I can definitely see that the fields are looking pretty dry.  Schools have just about phased classical animation from their curriculum, many studios in North America have just about abandoned classical animation altogether. It's expensive to do both in money and time. That's easy to understand. 

It all comes to value. Where do people see the value in the work. Take explainer videos. They're helping to explain complex ideas to their market.  Clients will pay top dollar because they want to ensure that the info that they're passing out is going to be understood and is entertaining, so spare no expense.  Try that same idea with the web short. What kind of value is the individual who is putting money behind it going to get?  What is the return on investment? It's simply can't be about entertaining people with jokes or thrills, there has to be some kind of payback for it.   Motion Graphics are also greatly used for commercial outlets too as they begin to take on more of a classical feel with each year.  When was the last time you saw an classically animated commercial?  

As a business model classical animation for entertainment has always been a hard sell. Unless it's for children you can count out your idea from the running without breaking a sweat.  It's not because the product you're making isn't going to be any good, it's just that as a business the distributors or investors want to make sure they're getting their money back and more.  It with everybody posting their personal work and wears on social media, the concept of how taxing and labor-intensive the work is his overlooked by many individuals who seek to purchase the service from other people. I say this from experience as I continue to watch budgets continually shrink down to 1999 rates, and how little people understand the animation process still.  Where in the 21st-century, there is a plethora of resources and knowledge to pluck from, yet so many people just have no idea how the sausage is made.

Think about it. People who are crowdfunding their project, whether longer short, are you doing a tit-for-tat in order to get the resources to make their project happen. In that instance there's value because however much money you throw down you get a gift or merchandise of equal value.  Unless your name or your studio carries "brand power" you're not going to get much in the way of sponsorship or otherwise.  People want to invest in things that they already know. That already have a reputation. That already has grounds for trust. 

But because animation as an entertainment medium is very niche, its place in the future is still so very gray.  When Windsor McCay brought a vaudevillian act to his short films, and as marvelous as they were during his time, the question continue to linger: what is this good for? What do we do with this?  That question has yet to be answered.

These days, I'm a lot more open to CGI and Motion Graphics.  Just to prove it, here's me trying it on for size:

Valdez MoGraph Tryout


"For everybody in their busy lives, you need to invest in sharpening your tools, and you need to invest in longevity." - Ryan Holmes

I think it's worth investing in the tools you use daily.  Quality tools allow you to focus on doing the work you need to do.  With a little routine maintenance, quality tools can last you quite a bit of time.  If you've got to spend more time fixing and adjusting and tweaking your tools and materials it's taking the time away from what you could have been doing.  

Good tools help you do good work, but they don't do the work for you.  

Vanity Views

Are metrics really the only way to measure "success" when creating content for the web?  Does the sound of 1 million "likes," "followers," and views accurately state that your content is successful?  

Probably not.

Here's a dirty little secret that I learned during the marketing of Mike & Wayne: it's all lies.  Ever wonder how a video on YouTube managed to jump up to 100,000 views just hours after it's release or how someone new to Twitter/Instagram/Facebook could have thousands of followers just days after the account was created?  It's not because of the content, that much can be said without any doubt, it's because it's all paid for.  Pay-per-click, or click farms, are issued out in order to ensure the increase in views, likes, follows, and more.  The idea is that if you can fudge the numbers a little bit, people will feel a little more at easy or comfortable to take the call to action.  It's like inviting friends to a party.  You want a certain someone on your guest list to come because you know if they come they'll bring a whole mass of people with them.  But in order to get that one person to attend, you'll need to show that the party you're heading too is already a happening place.  

So you ask your close-friends, family members, maybe pay someone to be there... and maybe that person will show up.  Same concept when it comes to social media.  

"Among many marketers and agency peers, 'views' have become the holy grail," Solve CEO John Colasanti tells Adweek. "Views offer a seemingly simple and easy way to measure the power of content. This is a false indicator of success, particularly when a video receives a high number of views, but a low level of likes. Often the video didn't truly go viral; the view metric was purchased." - source 

Submitted for your approval, just to show you how superficial the world of social media is, I present to you the Blank Video.  It's a video that has nothing on it for 4 minutes and has reached well over the 100,000 views rank.  

Remember, it should always be about quality.  Not quantity.

Two Paths...

"If you don't drive your business, you will be driven out of business." - B.C Forbes

I was asked two questions the other day:

  1. As a content creating business, what's better for success (keeping the lights on), developing and pitching - or making it and pushing it out online?
  2. Is animation as a service business viable, or is an independent better off pursuing something else (like apps)?

So these questions are really one in the same. It asks that as an independent studio/small business if one should focus on service or product. The question that comes to mind is, “what do you want to do?” What is your end goal if you had one?

Some people are totally cool with being guns for hire jumping from one job to the next. Others are all about making their product and bringing it to market. Both sides are interested in making money, but let’s remove that factor real quick and then bring it back into the picture at a later point. If you didn’t have to worry about money or resources, what would your studio being doing right now?

Whatever you come to a conclusion on, that’s the direction you should go in. It’s not to say that you can’t work on both service AND product, but it’s that end goal, the one you just thought about, that will ultimately dictation your decision making process and the path your business will be moving in. If you’re looking to just work on some really awesome projects then you’ll be traveling down a certain path than if you were to go the product route. For me, the end goal has always been to make our own product. However, because I’m not comfortable with investors or using OPM (other people’s money) we use the profits made from our service work to fund product development. Doing service work for us keeps the lights on while letting us do what we need to in the most independent way possible.

Whether your product comes in the form of apps, episodes, shorts or features on thing is certain; you need eggs before you can make that omelet.

Is the service industry a viable path? Sure it is. Is an independent better off doing there own thing? Absolutely.

To Be or Not To Be Commercial... 

While I totally lean on producing art, animation sits in the middle of the art and business table. To produce games or shorts or what have you, it takes a lot of time and effort. The concept of employing people is to help spread the load and produce - or service - just a little bit faster.

Now, the gray area with product development is whether this is something you’re simply looking to create and release into the world or is it something that you’re looking to make a profit out of. If you’re opening up a business, by my standards, the business should be turning profit on day one. If it’s not, then what you have on your hands is a hobby and not so much a business. It’s not a bad thing, but being able to delineate which side of the table you’re sitting will definitely help in sorting out priorities.

In regards to developing and pitching, again this all comes down to your end goal. What are you trying to achieve by selling your content to say a broadcaster or distributor? Why are you looking to sell your IP in the first place? Going the network route is a very slow process of developing trust and relationships. You could end up spending years trying to sell a show idea and it might not just be the time for or place for it. If you go the online route, it’s about creating the demand for your supply and continuing to feed that demand consistently and being able to monetize off of it. Whether that’s in the form of sponsorship, advertising money, pay-per-click, affiliation or online distribution, you have to find some way to fund the work.

The one question that should always be asked after each answer is “Why?” Ask enough times and you get to the most simplistic and authentic answer. Once you have that, that’s your starting point.

"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless." - Thomas Edison

This was originally posted on Linkedin's Pulse:

New/Old Spice

This is one of my favorite re-branding campaigns that I've seen hands down.  The creative is absolutely entertaining and well thought out.  It's definitely an example of how marketing and creative can play nice together.  Back in the late 90s/early 2000s, Old Spice was having trouble reaching a new generation of consumers.  

"If you told me five years ago that Old Spice would be No. 1, I would have said you were dead wrong," says William R. Geary, divisional merchandise manager at Walgreen Co.  - source.

This is the new ad that came out earlier this week.  

Case in point, with other products like Axe emerging on the market and the grandpa association Old Spice walked away from its own brand.  Labels like RedZone and High Endurance were set to balance the declining market, but it wasn't until Weiden + Kennedy took over the account to give Old Spice a fresh new make over.  

Moorhead also gave the Wieden team creative legroom. The ads were shot in a single cut, without computerized special effects. That's really Mustafa delivering his lines, rolling a log in a lake, cutting a countertop with a circular saw, throwing a cake over his shoulder and then jumping (with the aid of an invisible harness) onto a motorcycle parked in a Jacuzzi. The spot with these scenes took about 67 takes, and Moorhead signed off on the expense of an extra day of shooting to get it right. "You can probably imagine the type of faith and courage it takes for a large corporation to allow you the freedom to do all this," says Jason Bagley, one of the Wieden creative directors on the project. "They do get it." - source 

As a creative, having clients give you "creative freedom" can be the most exciting and daunting experiences you can face.  But when you have a client that not only gives you the freedom to be bold but also supports you in your vision; it gives you the confidence necessary to make great work.

In The Kitchen

I love cooking shows for two reasons.  One, learning how to make something is always a benefit.  And two, it’s always interesting to see how enthusiastic they are as they make their dish.  They’re genuinely excited about what they’re making and that you’re there in their kitchen hanging out.  Plus, who doesn’t like food?

Coming from an animation point of view, I think there needs to be more people willing jump on that level when they share the inner workings of what they do.  Most of the time what you see online is pretty timid and boring.  It’s hard to feel that connection to the animator and their medium.

Check out what’s happening on Vice’s “Munchies” or “Cutthroat Kitchen.”  It’s raw, it’s real, it’s fun to watch and you can see that everyone really into what they do.

What kind of “behind the scene” shows do you find interesting?


What do you get when you mix a group of introverts and a party?  OIAF!

The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) is a place I've been going to since 2009 and people have started asking me whether I'm going to this year. first it was just the festivals.  Had a lot of fun and got to meet some really great friends there.  Then when I started Echo Bridge, I started attending the Television Animation Conference (TAC).  TAC is pretty much a mix between speed dating, a conference and parties.  The conference part I get, though I don't agree with much of what the industry says.  In fact, if you look at what's been done we're actually quite the opposite. 

So people go to TAC to pitch their wares at the speed dates or their going to breakfast/lunch/coffee/dinner arrangements with old friends who happen to also be potential business clients.  If they're not doing so well they jump into a panel or skip out entirely until it's time to party.  I've been on all fronts even though I don't care for the speed or the parties.  However, what I've gained from going there hasn't been necessarily all business.  A good deal of friends have developed over the years and while we're not always seeking to do "business" with one another, sometimes it just happens to come along over a coffee.

What's weird about the animation industry is this: Every single person that goes to these events, that works in the industry is for the most part introvert.  People crave authenticity and especially in the art world, as an artist or filmmaker, nothing carries more weight than being authentic.  Last year I went in a suit.  Even though the look was very sharp it's off putting to the person you're talking too.  People want to connect with people both in life and in business.  Wining and dining works when you're trying to play off that you're bigger than you really are or dealing with the superficial.

OIAF  as far as festivals go is the biggest festival for animation in North America.  I haven't been too keen on the film choices, though when there's a really solid piece you leave a completely different person.

I do recall my good friend Mike taking me on a tour of Ottawa and we stopped at a small café just outside the city.  That alone was well worth the trip if anything else.

If I do go to OIAF it might just be to meet up with follow filmmakers and friends.  TAC... well, the juries still out on that one.

Hype: Why You Don't Have To Be Everywhere

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Social media.  It’s constantly changing and evolving with each day.  There is no one right way to create engagement and despite there being books, videos, experts and gurus; no one ultimately knows.  And knowing that people still swear by it.  People starting their own ventures will often here that they “need” a social media presence and that they must be active in order to engage.

A while back we hired someone to help us out with our marketing side of the business.  The campaigns were creative and engaging and it raised the “awareness” of our Facebook page and Twitter account.  Looking back at it all, while it did raise the number of “likes” and “follows,” the amount of effort that went into and the return on that effort made me wonder - and I say this with complete adoration for the work done - if it was even worth it.  Marketing a business (or yourself) is a job in and of itself with marginal returns.  Is that to say you shouldn’t be marketing at all?  No.  But it should make you raise a brow when someone swears by social media.  

While on my journey to find out what it means to be social, I came across a bit of wisdom from a social media “guru.”  It went something like this: “Not everyone needs to be on social media.  If you are going to be on social media, you have to ask yourself ‘why.”  Simple as that sounds, it immediately got me thinking about that very fact.  Why am I on social media?  Immediately two thoughts came to mind:  What would you lose by not having social media?  And the next one, what would you gain?

After we finished our first short film of 2014 “Mike & Wayne” our focus was to distribute it out to our audience.  In this case, social media was helpful because we’re trying to reach as many people as possible to come and watch our short.  However, with our business to business (B2B) transactions - which also make up the bulk of our business - we have to approach things on a very person to person level.  Our business model is more like a patronage rather than a business competing for market space.  Our work has a very distinct look and feel to it and someone out there has an interest in what we’re doing to commission us to do the work.  The way we network with people is by going to film festivals, conferences, and events.  

So before you think you need to be totally active in the social media sphere, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why are you on social media?
  2. What would you lose by not having it?
  3. What would you gain?

You don’t have to be everywhere.  But do you even need to be there at all?

Originally posted on my LinkedIn Page:

A Year Since "Mike & Wayne"

Hard to imagine that a whole year ago, Mike & Wayne was released into the world.  Those two stupid characters had been living in my head for years and then finally, the chance to produce it came.

When all was said and done, we had submitted the short to over 20 festivals world wide.  We got into 3 of them and took home "Official Selection."  Part of the issue that the film faced was because it was also released online, many festivals excluded us from the running.  

If it hadn't been released online so soon, would it have gotten into more festivals?  Probably.  

I've still got a few more cartoons in the storyboard machine.  Maybe one day when there's time and money again these two might live on to see the next act.