Monday, December 31, 2012

Animated Thoughts: The Year in Review - 2012

As the saying goes, we learn more from our failures than from our successes. 2012 was a mixed bag of successes and failures for me.

To recap, what were my goals for 2012?

1. Get Certified
I didn't do it. After figuring out the price of upgrading my computer and then migrating to Adobe CS6, I put this goal on the back burner as it was going to take longer than I had originally estimated. Stage one was upgrade my computer. This was accomplished when my old computer's motherboard shorted out and one of my friends helped me build a new computer beefy enough to run CS6. Next is to either save up enough cash to upgrade to CS6 or make the jump to the Creative Cloud--though while Adobe's Creative Cloud affords me the fastest route to CS6, I'm not thrilled with using software that I don't own free-and-clear.

2. Get Animated
I didn't accomplish this goal either--other than organize and review my previous workshop material (and pick up supplies, like blank flipbooks). This goal was a victim of time, not money. I did offer to teach kids how to animate at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum during their open house, but I was one of the artists who didn't make the cut. Not a big deal, I'll apply for it next year. I've streamlined my animation setup to be a lot more portable so that should help me out in the future. In the end, billable, freelance work 'in the now' won out over possible revenue from teaching workshops in the future.

3. Produce a film
Here's where most of my free time was spent. At Ottawa 2011, I was inspired by NFB Animation Producer Michael Fukishima's words during a roundtable discussion. Michael said, make a 30 second film. Then, once it's done, make a one minute film. Then a five minute film, and so on. So, that's what I did... sort of. I started with a 10 second film for the TAIS Summer screenings. After that was done, I made a one-minute and 38 second film, which was submitted to Ottawa--hey, if you're going to dream, dream big! And while it didn't make the festival, it was included in ASIFA's International Animation Day screening. Both films can be viewed under my "Selected Filmography" page.

In the end, 2012 left me with one and two-half goals accomplished out of three. I can say that I overestimated the amount of time and resources that accomplishing these three goals would take--especially in light of my current workload of day-job, freelancing, and my duties as ASIFA/Central's Membership Coordinator. I can point towards emergencies with my house and financial setbacks with my car. And while those would all be valid explanations as to why I didn't accomplish more in 2012, the fact is that I didn't manage my time as wisely as I could nor did I use the tools learned during grad school as well as I could have. My biggest mistake was that, while I wrote down my goals, I didn't break them down into sub-tasks. Nor did I schedule realistic deadlines for each sub-task.

I'm a list-maker. I carry a spiral-bound memopad and a fountain pen with me whereever I go. Whenever a task comes to mind, I write it down so it's not forgotten. Then I try to assign a date when I'm going to do the work. During graduate school, I discovered early on that keeping track of my deadlines wasn't enough--I needed to schedule out what sub-tasks were necessary to accomplish the goal and enter them into my calendar. It's a system that I wish I had discovered during undergrad--I probably would've done better. Unfortunately, while the notepad system works, it does have some significant flaws--most notably, it doesn't lend itself to long-term goals that consist of multiple sub-tasks.

Another issue is accountability. Since I work on my projects alone, it's easy to slack off or let the urgent short-term tasks preempt the longer term goals. Needless to say, I need to find a peer who can keep me accountable. But, until then, I'll be sticking with my task scheduling system.

So, what did I learn from 2012? That setting goals is useless unless you are diligent in scheduling your tasks and tracking your progress. And that's the next step for this coming year. I'm going to stick with the same goals as 2012, with minor modifications.

My goals for 2013?

1. Produce one animated film for for the 2014 festival circuit. This time I'm going to submit my film to more than just Ottawa. And I still plan to produce one short ten-second film for the TAIS annual Summer screening--once they tell us what the topic is.
2. Get Certified: I'm still going to chip away at this one. Now that the computer is upgraded, it's time to save enough cash to purchase CS6. I just have to put together a dollar amount and a deadline, then break it down on how much to save each month--unless I bite the bullet and jump onto the Creative Cloud.
3. Get Animated - Now that my previous workshop material has been reviewed, it's time to start writing a new workshop.

And those are my stated goals. There are a couple other irons that I have in the fire at the moment, but best to keep quiet about them until they are more than just ideas floating around in the ether.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Animated Inspiration: "Una Furtiva Lagrima"

Saw "Una Furtiva Lagrima" by Carlo Vogele at the Ottawa-International Animation-Festival this year. Was easily one of my favorite films of the fest!

Una Furtiva Lagrima from Carlo Vogele on Vimeo.

Yep, Carlo animated a dead fish for this film. You can read all about it on his production blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Animated Inspiration: Simon's Cat - "Nut Again"

Since it's the Christmas season, here's an additional animation that I find inspiring: Simon's Cat in "Nut Again".

One of Preston Blair's famous examples of secondary action, found in his books on animation, is the squirrel as he picks up a nut and flips his tail. While this animation has the usual mixture of dry wit and slapstick comedy, it's the timing, weight, and motion of the squirrel's tail that I find most interesting and worthy of further study.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Animated Inspiration: Havana Heat

Since we're rapidly approaching the end of the year, I'm burning through as many animated short films that inspire me as possible. It's been a good year for animated shorts! This one is an advertisement for "Good Books" and is a touch NSFW, but has really good character design, perspective, and storytelling.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Animated Inspiration: Moleskine

Here's a cool stop motion animation produced by Stop Motion Portugal for the favored notebook of Hemmingway and Picasso: the Moleskine.

Worthy of note, the animators have followed the welcome trend of producing a "Making of" video and posting it online.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Animated Thoughts: The Annie Awards

Well, the nominations have been announced for the 40th annual Annie Awards. Hosted by ASIFA Hollywood.

While there are many other categories (which can be viewed on Jerry Beck's Cartoon Brew website), these are the entries for three main categories that I follow:

Best Animated Feature
Brave — Disney
Frankenweenie – Disney
Hotel Transylvania — Sony Animation
ParaNorman — Laika
The Pirates: Band of Misfits — Aardman Animation/Sony Animation
The Rabbi’s Cat — Autochenille Production/GKids
Rise of The Guardians — DreamWorks Animation
Wreck-It Ralph — Disney

Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 – Warner Bros. Animation
Before Orel – Trust – Starburns Industries, Inc.
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem – Illumination Entertainment
Disney Tron: Uprising – Beck’s Beginning – Disney TV Animation
Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury – DreamWorks Animation
Justice League: Doom – Warner Bros. Animation

Best Animated Short Subject
Brad and Gary (Illumination/Universal)
Bydlo (NFB)
Eyes On The Stars (StoryCorps)
Goodnight Mr Foot (Sony Animation)
Kali The Little Vampire (NFB)
Paperman (Disney)
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare (20th Century-Fox)
The Simpsons – Bill Plympton Couch Gag (20th Century-Fox)

Something that I encourage all ASIFA members to participate in is the "Member's Choice Award". This award allows for all ASIFA members in-good-standing to vote on their favorite nominated feature-length animated film. The winner is then presented a special award at the Annies.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Animated Quotes: George Elliot

"It's never too late to be who you might have been."
~ George Elliot (1819-1880)