MR. BRAY

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A boutique design & animation shop that dissolves the line between studio and agency.

🤬The Three F's word of Marketing

"Secrecy is the mark of false doctrine" - The Buddha


Continuing my rabbit trail from our Animated Kids Show series I want to get real with you guys.

Today I'd like to talk about exposing three nasty nasty lies in marketing: that unfortunately trick people all the time. These lies keep us from being truthful, sincere and downright good people. I know this sounds preachy but please understand this is coming from someone that has seen how the sausage is made: this could save yourself a lot of pain and suffering and avoid being fooled. I call these lies the three F words of marketing (though they're not limited to just marketing by any means): Fear, False, and Formulas 

Fear

Firstly, and I deeply resent this one: the "fastest way to sell an idea is through fear". This was the first tenant I learned in a marketing course in college and it totally popped my naive bubble and deeply sours my stomach.

Fear is a tactic people use to make others respond in the most impulsive and scary ways. From triggering speech, to religion to politics and beyond it really draws out the worst in people. I can't stand fear based idea sales, no matter what the subject!

An obvious example is FOMO (fear of missing out). Every year here in America we celebrate a tradition that I personally find shameful. The night of Thanksgiving is the bargain savers hay day - Black Friday sales begin! The Simpson's recently did a hilarious bit comparing Black Friday to the Purge films.

You might be wondering but Jesse you work in marketing how can this bother you? Well as a person that has had earlier career points in retail I know first hand how ravenous those discounted items can turn sweet old grannies into bloodthirsty gladiators! This fear of missing out on a fantastic sale morphs people into animals. Side note if you're working in retail I consider you a saint of the highest order. If you can work in retail and have not become jaded you're a wonderful human that can endure anything! Fear based decision making transforms you into the anxious decision maker - frankly it makes you a nervous idiot. You'll never make quality decisions being pressured by fear and anxiety.

False

The second lie in marketing I can't stand to the core is when people use "false hope" to sell an idea! Claiming they have a cure all for your problems but they never have to stand up to the legitimate pressure to deliver. Promising a nirvana like results that breeds strange lotto-minded behavior. There is no such thing as luck even though we say it constantly. Luck is just an archaic word for wishful random acts. Wishing won't solve your problems! Yes there is always room for hope, hope is a beautiful thing. Yet when you deliberately use false hope you're actively injuring people in some way.

Let's examine this further, I'm not a fan of lotteries or gambling. I know I must sound like I'm a lot of fun at parties haha. The house always, ALWAYS wins! There's no system to beat the odds. If you enjoy gambling for the fun of it, hey that's totally cool but it's still logically speaking money you're handing over. I understand there are always risk vs reward decisions you must take in life - however that isn't the same as the predatory behavior of using false hope to prey on desperate and weak willed indiviuals. This one heavily ties into the first lie where someone uses fear to catch your attention then selling you false hope as the solution. From selling salvation, or cure all oils, to a silver bullet product your company needs "or your leaving money on the table". Garage! We shouldn't be motivated by unproven products or services.

Formula

Lastly the cruelest lie in marketing is the lie of "secret recipes" or secret formulas. These are always lies. First and foremost if something is always a secret formula that mean you must not bring anything to the table! It's all in the sauce so to speak! Wrong! If there was a real formula to success it would be public knowledge. There's just strategies or ideas or an ever growing silly lists of books pretending to offer it at a price.

Dont get me wrong a recipe for success sounds great! It's not using fear like the first lie or immediate false hope like the second it's say "you need to follow these instructions"  that's really seductive. And granted don't we all enjoy being seduced by advertising? How many times have we seen a commercial for a product or service and you've thought that's exactly what I need! Or a commercial for a cheese burger and said "that looks delicious!" That's the nature of marketing - they're constantly trying to seduce you into purchasing something! Heck I'm doing it right now! I'm trying to persuade you to see my point of view which will hopefully challenge your decision making. And you don't need to travel far on my website to see that I'm trying to sell people on the talents and services that I offer.  But there's a bigger reason I have than exposing these lies - that's sharing a greater truth! These lies disconnect us from people. There's a quote by Bridgette Devouse I absolutely love - "I'm starved for connection not attention". 

Creating relationships and connections with people isn't about controlling others out of fear, false hope or perceived "secret formulas". it is about you being so uniquely you that nothing could be anything other than you! The greatest reason an artist tells a story is to attempt to connect with you. It means taking the time to get to know your clients or audience as a real people. To empathize with them. Really listen to them. It means telling the truth - the radical truth and how you can honestly add value or enjoyment to them, not trickery or gimmicks. I’m sure theres people out there that’ll bawk at this idea but that’s honestly an indicator that they’re so used to lying to themselves or so greedy they’ve lost sight of what really matters. People! People will always be what matters most!

Well how do we detox from all these marketing lies that are making it more difficult to just be you?! This is a difficult process. Why? Because we're so busy that unfortunately we take a lot of decision short cuts. Statistically speaking we are more likely to tell the truth earlier in the day because as decision fatigue takes a hold lying isn't always about being deceptive it's about not having to work at a decision. So I've put together three tips in how I've helped myself detox from these lies (if they're helpful to you that's wonderful but they're by no means a cure all or a recipe to fix all your problems): Recognize, Remove, and Restore!


  1. Recognize: attempt to recognize the lies! Is a product or idea or speaker or organization offering something that seems untruthful?

  2. Remove: remove yourself from this equation. Stop using these ridiculous marketing F words yourself! Sometimes the best way to change things for the good is to not allow yourself be apart of the problem.

  3. Restore: restore your self worth! Your job is to help serve others. Not move the imaginary needle by looking busy, saying silly jargon and pretending you have it all together. You're a person with wants and needs and it's ok to distinguish the two! You're always going to bring an experience that is uniquely you. Don't try to change yourself into an idol of success. Allow yourself and your personal passion and story to connect with people on a real level. Honestly and integrity are things that should always be priceless and never be for sale.

Thanks for listening,

-Jesse

💪 My Hero


I'm discovering taking these breaks from the animated series posts might become a bit of the usual. Mostly because this blog is really more therapeutic than anything else. Also I probably spend more time editing them than I would a normal entry so it's nice to shift gears a bit. However if you're following along it's my heart to eventually unpack all the lessons I've learned and hopefully make some friends along the way.


Today I'd like to talk about my hero, my (grandpa) Papa Neil. The older I get the more thankful I am to the people that loved and nurtured me growing up even if that was for a short time. Regardless of how sweet or unkind your childhood was hopefully there was someone or something that made you feel special. This is a very personal topic but I find a great deal of comfort and release sharing this with you. Growing up I had very few positive male role models in my life. Up until the age of ten the most important male figure in my life was my Papa Neil. He would make us grandkids the most elaborate pancakes: from Mikey Mouse shapes to even adding food coloring and creating ninja turtle pancakes. He had a strict rule of only allowing PG and G rated films in his home which meant there was always an array of Disney and animated content in his house. He encouraged me to draw and read. And he always made me feel loved and important. From my earliest memories I loved walking in his shadow. He was the closet thing I had to a loving father in my childhood. My Papa Neil listened to me, took interest in me and inspired me like no man has ever done so. As I grew older our relationship changed, for many reasons, such is life yet looking back at this wonderful, yet at times this imperfect man I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to have been loved by him. My Grandpa Neil passed away in May of 2016 and was buried during Labor Day weekend. Sometimes life gives us people who we never will truly understand the power of their relationships until they're gone. It's also why I'm so encouraged looking back that I know that much of who I am today is because of him. While I may of had very few positive male role models growing up my Papa Neil taught me how important it is to share that you love someone. I don't have funny hang ups about sharing intimate truths, life's too short! It's this radical freedom to express my hearts desire that has brought forth the greatest relationships and experiences in my life. Because of him I believe I should love the friendships I have, and wholeheartedly love the work that I do. For that he will always be my hero. I'm forever thankful and I miss him so very much.


-Jesse

✏️ The Animated Kids Show: Part Four

Developing a Pitch & Creating a Two-Sheet: Part A

Hopefully you're finding these blog posts about the behind the scenes of developing an animated kids show insightful or inspiring. Today is a big post. I might need to break it up into a few smaller pieces if I'm being honest. We'll see. 

So you have a great idea for an animated kids show! Awesome! Before you're ready to pitch this puppy we need to make sure you've got your ducks in order. We're going to breakdown developing the pitch and then finally creating the two-sheet. If you're curious the term "two-sheet" is your entire project on two sheets, sometimes plus a cover. A two-sheet contains: 

  • Branding: A logo, color palette, theme song
  • Title: The title of your show/project  
  • Logline: Your idea in one catchy sentence
  • Story synopsis: A continuation of your logline that details your project. Still brief and still catchy.
  • Audience & Format: demographic info such as age group and style of animation such as 2d, stop motion, 3D, etc... 
  • Character Bios: The name and short bios of your characters
  • Your World: Explain the uniqueness of the world your characters and story live in
  • Sample Storylines: If you're pitching an episodic show you'll need least a half dozen or more potential episode ideas and what they're about. If you're pitching a feature a two-sheet isn't the best approach since you'll want to create a pitch bible. We'll eventually talk at lengths about what it takes to create a pitch bible. 
  • Cast: The actors and actresses you've signed on for your project. If you don't have this step that's ok but it will be more difficult to pitch your project  

You see a tried and true way to pitch your project is to attract actors and actresses to sign on to it. Which in turn can help you get sponsors to sign on. Since sponsors can sometimes pay for up to 40% of a production this makes it a far less of a financial gamble for a platform to pickup your show. Lastly you pitch your show to platforms. By platform that could be Disney, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, etc... There's no perfect order in pitching a project. Many people say you only get one chance to impress. I disagree! The squeaky wheel gets the oil! If a platform says no to you but you're convinced your show is perfect for them try and refine your pitch and pitch it again. Heck if you're agent says they've  passed on your project unless your agent details why and forwards you a rejection letter don't take their no for an answer without them slamming the door in your face! Agents are middlemen and middlewomen they're unlikely to be as invested in your project. If you do find an agent that really is invested in you appreciate the heck out of them. Just know that if you can't see the work they're doing what proof do have that they're working at all? Always be polite but remember these platforms need what you have to offer or they'll go bankrupt. Don't let them get all Hollywood or big time on you. You're providing a product that they need and it's their job to develop content for their audiences. 

Ok so now there you have it a breakdown of a two-sheet. Next post I'll give some visuals examples of our two-sheet from our show along with expounding on developing a pitch. The important thing to remember is that a great idea is well thought out. Before I go remember there's quite of ingredients that go into a production, especially in animation. Creating fun one off animations are exciting but in the end animation is about storytelling, world building and originality. Next part of this series will be much longer hopefully. 

 

talk to you soon and thanks for following along. 

 

-Jesse

 

p.s. From time to time I'll try and share some random resources if I can. The following is a link to a current channel to pitch directly to Comedy Central (maybe tell them I referred you haha). 

https://viasignup.viacom.com/ccanimation/Pages/PitchSubmission.aspx 

🍇 Sour Grapes 🍇

How I Handle sour grapes

Just a brief detour from our current series on “The Animated Kids Show”. I want to address a very real and very personal topic, that of sour grapes. Or to use a term that makes more sense to those that didn't spend a lot of time with their grandparents just plain "disappointment”. We have and will encounter disappointment in our lives theres just no escaping it. However it's important I believe for us to aim high and keep on reaching! There are no honest formulas for success, anyone who says so is selling something, and they're most definitely lying. In life along with disappointment there are strategies and opportunities. Strategies can come from learning from others that came before you, suffering through your own hard lessons or good old fashion innovation. Opportunities on the other hand are far more random. You can look for opportunities, you can make your own opportunities (some would call this strategies) and you can be offered opportunities. No one can control the cards you're dealt yet you can choose how you play them. If this is sounding like some sort of bootstraps post you're mistaken, please hang on while I continue. Why am I saying all of this? Well I know lots of people including myself when faced with disappointment sometimes turn to sour grapes over a lack of opportunity or failed strategy. Some call it a lack of affluence or privilege or nepotism and granted these are real things. However, it's important to remember even if you've had all the money and opportunities that your little hearts desired it still takes a collosal amount of work for an idea, especially in animation and film, to come to life. It's by no means my interest to police peoples emotions. I just want to be down to earth. This is why I'm trying to unpack all these stories to share the road I've traveled as I walk it. Side note I'm a firm believer in sharing resources and knowledge. The last thing I want to be is the gatekeeper to someone's dreams. If we were all given a fair share in my heart of hearts the world would be a much better place. Furthermore the creative world can be very petty and very cutthroat. I'm not sure why it's just something I've encountered time and time again, which I hate by the way. This became a compelling reason why I started my own company. I felt their needed to be a better way. And I also believe that sometimes you need to create the things you want to be apart of. You see animation, for not unlike many creative ventures, you can easily spend a 1000 hours pouring into a project and it can never see the light of day. Or worse you and a team could spend countless hours, resources and money into a project and it can never gain success. The creative world is very entrepreneurial. A great idea or product takes years to develop but it may never fly off the shelf. This might be where the marketing gurus come in and say they can sell anything, haha! That's a lie! In animation you're trying to connect with people not solve problems. Granted you might use animation to educate people about your product or service ultimately you're hoping the story in your animation makes an honest emotional leap to your audience and ties those warm fuzzies they have for the animation with your brand. If your story can't connect regardless of the pacakging you're gonna be the one stuck with it, no matter how smart, or beautiful it looks. It's a gamble! No one is entitled to success. Success in our world, and that's the creative world I'm talking about specifically is random! So what's the point of this whole post, that we're all going to have sincere disappointments? Yes, and!!! Yes the temptation or the stage of sour grapes 🍇 will happen and sometimes set in. However, in my opinion you're left with two things: vinegar or wine. 🍷 What do I mean by that?

Well I'm no fermentation expert but I do understand some of the process. Eventually sour grapes can turn into vinegar. You've let your disappointments sour you as a person. That zest for storytelling has been crushed into a nihilist beverage that smells up the joint. Sure you've got all the reasons for why you've felt raw, mistreated or missed opportunities, or heck you're just tired of the industry games. You've let your disappointments sour your disposition. Perhaps it's made you fall out of love with storytelling all together. Hey if you're there right now that's ok. Just remember living in vinegar will spoil your senses. Now the other option is to make wine! Turn those sour grapes into a deep and full bodied wine! Allow yourself to see the industry games for what they are. Use your God given heart and brain to look for opportunities or develop strategies. Learn and don't stop! Wine is delicious and it's something that is also medicinal. Turn your sour grapes into sage advice. Warn others, reach out to those in need, try to tighten your strategies but don't let your sour grapes stop you from creating! An excellent way to turn your sour grapes into wine instead of vinegar is to share your stories with those you know will listen, or heck start a blog. It is my heart that this can encourage you no matter where you are in your journey. Last thing before I go. When you're facing sour grapes it's often helpful to remember why you're even creating in the first place. If all you're after is riches this is the wrong industry. And if all you're interested is fame then you've never truly been trolled - be trolled once and you'll have a different opinion of fame, also fame is silly and fickle. I don't want to be a flavor of the week I want to be a staple in people's diet. I'll confess this here since few know this - while I'm no Walt Disney and I most definitely am quite far away from this dream: for as long as I can remember it's always been my dream to be considered the next "Walt Disney". The kind of animator that creates lovable instant classics that the whole family can enjoy. Keep your dreams ahead of you, your passions around you and your failures behind you.

 

Thanks for reading until next time, and yes we'll for sure be talking about developing a pitch along with a "two-sheet". 

 

Sincerely, 

-Jesse

✏️ The Animated Kids Show: Part Three

Dealing With SAG

Disclaimer: To quote Ned Flanders I get pretty "negative Nelly" here. I'm a human just like anyone else and SAG makes me grumpy. Haha... 

Before we dive into my first time experience with SAG I want to recap a little bit. In the world of film and television they typically revolve around unions. To go into the history of unions is a tad boring in my opinion however I'll glaze over some important details. What a union does is they provide a sort of advocating services for their clients. Meaning they make sure certain standards are met on set and people are paid correctly, including royalties. This all sounds good right? Well yes and no. On paper having a union being involved gives there a since of official practices that this project has done all it needs to be a legit production. But here's the thing none of the paper work in the world unless it's a script is going to improve your project. Just because you've decided to hire SAG actors doesn't inherently make them more hardworking, organized or committed to your project. SAG is just apart of the Hollywood beauracy. Lots of red tape that is in itself boring and expensive stuff. SAG takes a large bite out of your profits too! Last I checked 17.5% of a bite and that's before taxes. So SAG tells you how much you're paying everyone and they get a substantial cut of your project. Which is a redundant organization when you already have to sign a laundry list of contracts when you start a project anyways. This gets more complicated if you're in animation when outside the voice actors and maybe the writers everyone isn't union. So it's very much like getting an extra tax. Additionally if you're a small business like my studio you're paying approximately 40% of your income on taxes. In a future post I'll breakdown budgets and what to expect via costs. My point I want to make is SAG isn't your partner as a studio they're there to serve themselves and their clients (sorta haha). SAG is just something that you have to learn to work with or around. I need to address this because there's a lot of gaslighting in Hollywood - people that might try and make you feel bad for not agreeing with them, especially if you're not a fan of unions. Here's the thing if you pay your people industry standards and perhaps a bit more if you're unable to offer certain benefits (if you're a small studio your profits are honestly razor thin) you're more than ethical in my opinion. But here's the rub when you join SAG you're technically not allowed to take on work that isn't registered with SAG. That means if you did a commercial for a non union project you can lose all your benefits from SAG. Because SAG is supposed to provide you with healthcare benefits (which to my knowledge you have limited say on the provider though I could be wrong). Furthermore if you're working and SAG tells you to strike you have to stop working and go on strike no matter what your financial situation. If people in Hollywood have ever been criticized for an interest in politics they're clearly unaware of how political Hollywood is by nature. This is why I said SAG is there to serve themselves first. Don't get me wrong I'm sure many writers and actors enjoy the benefits of SAG I just find it another gatekeeper that prohibits productions and a bit old hat. I'm all for paying people well and giving everyone a fair share, I'm actually very transparent about money. As you'll see SAG is just something that's currently apart of the process. Nonetheless my first time dealing with SAG went like this...

An actor I wanted for this animated kids show, John Dimaggio specifically  asked if the project after reading the script and being interested was a SAG project? Well having zero experience this side of production dealing with SAG it was time for me to educate myself. Much of the resources are available on their SAG website. You'll need to complete a registration for your project and sign lots and lots of contracts. However if your project falls outside of SAG/ is a low budget or non union project you'll have to be sure to sign a new media contract. The reps I spoke to bounced me around for a good week before I was finally assigned an official rep on my project. These people work slow in my opinion, like people that run on bank hours slow. Don't expect to hear back from them quickly and do expect to have to be on top of them. If you're sensing my frustration you're correct! It's hard enough to run a smooth project, wrangle talent, keep track of artists, animators, budgets and clear lines of communications with agents that this extra layer of administrative babysitting is just draining. Granted I'm sure there's veterans out there that would love to say otherwise and praise SAG but from my experience SAG is like a behemoth DMV, except not always necessary. Ok so you've filled out your SAG paperwork, including giving them insurance and business license info for the project - As I mentioned earlier I'll eventually break down all this financial stuff in a future post so you're better prepared than I was. So now you've filled out your SAG paperwork which involves submitting your actors/actresses SAG numbers once they've agreed to your project. Looking back this sounds so simple as it slips off the tongue but now you're ready, right? Maybe? Because after you've negotiated a rate with your actors/actresses agent and signed them you're going to need to cement a production date. Without a proper production date your SAG paperwork will expire and if it expires there's a large chance you'll have to pay higher fees to the actors and SAG. See what I mean by paperwork. In the normal commercial and marketing world if a project goes long and a start date changes it's a simple change order but with SAG it's three times the paperwork, emails and phone calls. This is why personally I recommend you try and keep your productions as absolutely small as possible. And if you're paying for it, which most likely you are go non union if possible. At least for the pilot. Honestly looking back if I had the resources to pay a third party to handle the SAG stuff I would of jumped on it. Also and this is obviously very personal I see this layer of administrative junk as counter to my creative nature. SAG from my opinion is a very corporate and stuffy structure that just makes it more difficult. Hollywood loves their gatekeepers and they like to make things feel elusive and inaccessible. Not me! I believe this path should be clear and easy to follow. We should know the standard and what we need to be prepared. I truly believe if Hollywood was more forthright about the processes in developing your projects monsters like Weinstein wouldn't have thrived in shadows constantly killing dreams and harming people. I know that might seem like a far cry from SAG but understand this Hollywood loves holding people back and making the path to success political and difficult to understand. Luckily Hollywood has been taken a real blow from Netflix & Hulu that the game has begun to change!

In my next post I'll talk about how to create a compelling pitch and creating the very important "Two-Sheet" for your project.

 

Thanks so much following my ranting until next time. Take care! 

-Jesse

✏️ The Animated Kids Show: Part Two

Finding Voice Actors

Animation is a communal art form. Much like music or construction it takes a village so to speak to bring your vision to life. While we'll eventually go into great details the process of the art work for animation however one of the most crucial pieces to the production puzzle is voice actors. So important is quality voice talent that, second to writing, a voice actor/actress can make or break your project, especially in comedy. Certain examples that come to mind: South Park, AquaTeen Hunger Force, The Simpsons, Futurama, Family Guy, & The Venture Bros; these shows vary wildly in the production and process yet they all have rockstar voice talent! In many ways the writing and voice talents can even supersede the art and animation within the shows like AquaTeen Hunger Force and South Park. I just want to say this here while we're on the topic: I consider the most critical thing in production to be the writing; that's why shows like Rick & Morty while brilliantly written can get away with not having as an array of voice talents. I understand I might upset people that enjoy Rick & Morty but let's be honest here Justin Roiland is no Hank Azaria or Maurice Lamarche but there's no questioning his amazing writing abilities or the shear creative genius of their show. The point is voice talent not only elevates a productions success it can almost assure it. 

So how do you go about finding voice actors and actresses? There are quite a few routes to approach and I generally like a mixture to my madness. You call go with union or nonunion voice talent. We'll cover dealing with the union/SAG in greater details in a later post. However for many not aware most of Hollywood follows union rules. It's quite a confusing landscape of red tape but what it boils down to is if you're going to hire a union voice actor it's going be cost more money, require several contracts and dealing with union reps. I'm not necessarily opposed to what unions do just as a business owner unions cost more and when you're a small studio those costs can be quite high. For example a union actor might cost you between $600-1000 for a session. This is a difficult pill to swallow when you're given that the voice actor might spend a few hours on your project while your self, writers and animators spend hundreds of hours on the project. It needs to be said I don't by any means disrespect or under value what voice actors/actresses bring to the table it's just expensive and their time contribution is quite short. The short window a voice actor spends on a project in comparison needs to be understood because typically very little in the animation process is quick. When you can slowly perfect a background painting, a clever joke, story arch, or a character design you're given the luxury of time. So word of advice have a crystal clear idea of the voice you're looking for because seldom will you have the finances or relationships with a voice actors/actresses to keep recording take after take. Over the years I've developed some really great relationships with some wonderfully talented voice actors but it's important to understand their bottom line if you work with them and want to attract them to your projects. Also the spirit of this blog series is to give you to the best of my ability a very transparent look at what it takes to develop an animated kids show. So I'll be talking about money a bunch. Additionally since currently much of my bread and butter relates from commercial and marketing work you're going to see many lesson through that lens.  

The following are the three most successful ways I've attracted amazing voice talents:

1. Pitching

Have a finished script, with a nice two-sheet (your Show in two sheets which I'll break down what that is in a later post),storyboards, character designs and possibly a theme song. Now you approach an actor/actress - that simple! Meet them at a ComicCon, email them through Facebook or LinkedIn, try and reach out and befriend them. They're creatives just like you and they're always looking for work. Seriously though most of the actors in the world are in between gigs. So they’re always looking for new projects. Ok now what if approaching the actor/actress if difficult or you're not sure how after trying all listed above?  Time for a formal approach.

2. Agents/Agencies  

Typically the kind of actor or actress that isn't easily accessible has an agent or an agency that represents them, unless they're Bill Murray.  For example we tried to see if Jack Black would be interested in a project of ours which for multiple reasons you can assume why he doesn't want just anyone to contact him. So we had to research who his agent was - how do you do that? Finally an IMDb pro account has some use haha!  With IMDb pro you can look up those details, agents, producers, etc... Once you've got an email you're ready! Now just follow step 1 "Pitch" your project via email to the agent to see if their client might be interested. I've gotta say this right here - don't feel odd about contacting these people. It's their job to find their clients work, it's literally what they're paid to do! If an agent isn't finding their client work then they're not a very good agent, that or the client is in some sorta hot water. Ok so back to Jack Black. We discovered who his agent was went to contact them but we had to get through the assistant to the assistant of his agent. Yeah crazy right?! Jack Black’s agent has an assistant who has an assistant that screens his pitches. Which means you've got to impress tier upon tier of people that your project is worth looking at. Makes me wonder how many amazing project these artist miss out on? Nonetheless when you get through to these "A-List" artist don't forget they're just people like you and me. They deserve your respect but they're not gods. They might bring a certain clout that can garner attention but you're the one that has more to risk and more to gain unless they're financially backing your project. I say this not to sound like sour grapes I just think when people insulate themselves to a certain degree they lose sight of the craft. This is by no means a dig to Jack Black, I love his work. You'll also discover some actors a just a single agent to inquire and they're incredibly delightful people, Rory I'm look in your direction (Miranda Hart's agent). For example John DiMaggio (voice of Bender) is a surprisingly accessible guy, perhaps not through social media but through his agent at Vox Inc. Why am I telling you all this information? Because these tips would have saved me so much time to know! Also when you discover people you like that want to work with you, you want them to continue to be successful! It’s not just Hollywood that opens doors through relationship build. Which brings me to my last point or step, not sure if I’m detailing this correct. But nonetheless…

3. Referrals  

Just like how much of business relates to people sharing a positive review a referral is my absolute favorite! You can put your feels out into the universe/social media and ask for people to come to you. It seldom works this way but when it does it's GREAT! Or through developing relationships - flat out FRIENDSHIPS! Tiny rabbit trail here. If you’re always hustling and trying to movie your needle/networking your friendship comes off cheap. Really like people that you want to work with and really try and connect with people. Case in point I became friends with the amazing and super cool voice actor, Carey Means (voice of Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force) through my good friend Kevin Blue (we used to host a podcast called Go Forth & Nerd). Kevin introduced me to Carey and the rest is history and hopefully future with oodles and oodles of more projects! 

 

Conclusion:

Remember voice actors/actresses are just regular people looking for creative and meaningful work. Don't feel silly reaching out to them and letting them know you love their stuff  and would love to work with them. If they don’t respond or reject your project keep your chin up. You’ll eventually find your crew as you continue to build friendships, collective supportive creatives and share your passion for your project!

 

Thanks for reading along. In the next post I'll be talking about dealing with SAG (screen actors guild) and what to expect. 

 

Take care! 

-Jesse

✏️ The Animated Kids Show: Part One

Developing An Animated Kids Show

The following series of posts I'll be sharing behind the scenes details of developing an animated kids show.  From the ups and downs of this process I by no means have all the answers, heaven’s no! What I do have is personal stories and lessons I’ve learned along the way, which perhaps might be of use to you.

Over the next several posts I’ll be covering topics such as everything from first time dealing with SAG( Screen Actors Guild), finding brilliant voice actors, contacting agents, sponsors and what it takes to develop a pitch. I’ll also be detailing this story in a way that assumes you are as clueless as I was about this whole process. I'm embarrassed to admit for a long time I had always thought if you make the art the rest would fall into place. Well from my experience you've got to have more than a "if you build it they will come attitude". The creative world much like many other industries it takes strategy and opportunity.

While I’m presently typing this our kids show hasn't officially found a home yet, however we have collected some really talented people on the project, the voice talents of Carey Means(voice of Frylock from ATHF), John DiMaggio(Jake the Dog from Adventure Time/Bender the Robot from Futurama), Kate Miller(Sealab 2021/Law & Order), & Miranda Hart (a fantastic Brititish comedian) - plus great insights, & stories along with "Name Brand" rejection haha(which I’ll go into greater detail). As I'll be sharing these stories on my blog please feel free to ask any questions you might have about this experience. My heart is perhaps this can help throw open the gates for as many creatives as possible.

I’ll start this journey with a funny rejection story. But first a tiny bit of backstory. Here in America cartoons have historically been funded by sponsors. Think of a sugary cereal and you’re for sure to bring to mind an array of animated mascots from “Lucky Charms” to the Trix Rabbit the list goes on. That’s because an important strategy to selling your animated show is to have buy-in with sponsors. Now this strategy has been drastically evolving as companies like Netflix and Hulu dominate more and more peoples broadcast attention - this is both a good and a bad thing. Good because it’s opening new doors to creators, yet also more difficult because the tried and true methods are becoming less and less effective. It takes more to sell an idea to a sponsor when they’re painfully aware that the old ways are less successful. Netflix and Hulu also keep their analytics under lock and key which for creators makes the task even more difficult to try and cater their projects to potential clients. We’ll dig deeper into this ambiguous minefield later on. For now one of the strategies I’ve pursued was the classic one: finding sponsorships.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way reflecting any ill will or disdain for the following brand. The following is just based off an experience I had inquiring about a sponsorship. Also I will be telling quite a bit of details now and eventually that relate to “the animated kids show”, the project is copyrighted and I'll be revealing the name of the show and other details organically throughout the posts. Ok so without further delay:

Turning Hormel’s stomach

 To setup this story you need to know our project is about these animated insects. One characters name is Kafka and he is a beetle. In our pilot episode Kafka dives into a culinary Hawaiian inspired meal and begins to eat some "canned meat". Since we wanted to use SPAM I thought why not see if Hormel Foods might be interested as a sponsor? Now there's no special trick to reaching out to sponsors just so you know. They all typically have a marketing department or portal on their website you can contact. And it never hurts to ask. The worst they'll usually and I mean usually is just say no thank you or they'll ignore your request. It's important to get comfortable with rejection because lots of people won't see or understand your vision. That's ok. However also be sure to use good etiquette and have a fantastic pitch going in. Never be a jerk and remember several publishers passed on "Harry Potter"! If you don't think your project is the next big thing then you're not ready to pitch it! Ok so I contacted Hormel Foods and many weeks later I hear back from them with a detailed rejection letter. I was like win! Finally a reason or reasons they're saying no. But what surprised me was the details - firstly they told me that Hormel Foods typically only sponsors programming that caters to soap opera watching stay at home moms. I was puzzled at first then I realized well Hormel clearly knows their audience. Then came the humor part, at least humorous to me. The Hormel Foods rep continues to say that furthermore they find the idea of our animated insect eating a can of SPAM repulsive at best! I couldn't help but laugh out loud! I was taken back by this statement. I get it we don't want bugs in our food but I've never once thought there was bees in my Honey Nut Cheerios or cat hair in my Frosted Flakes. This comment seemed earnestly outrageous! Personally I don't mind the no and this story of turning Hormel Foods stomach warms me deeply. And if you're reading this Hormel again know I have no bad taste about this experience. It was memorable and that's a win in my book.

 

Thanks everyone for reading... if you have any questions please ask below. 

Next post I'll be talking about finding voice actors. 

 

take care! 

 

-Jesse

🍽 Full Plate, Empty Stomach

Perhaps I'm alone, though I'm hard pressed to think otherwise I believe being busy is a nasty badge of pride in my American culture. Looking or acting busy is almost to the point of psychosis these days. As if busyness is a catch all phrase to excuse for failing relationships, lack of personal time or just general unhealthy or unhappiness. So I'd like to ask you a question - is your plate full but your stomach empty? Currently mine is.

I have blanket excuses; like trying to move the needle at my company, project deadlines, responsibilities,etc... However much of it comes down to just bad habits for me. I'd rather a bit more sleep, or a convienent fast meal, or just another episode of my favorite tv show, or I've just got to much to do to meditate, journal, pray or get out of the house. Ultimately if I'm being honest I'm being lazy by saying I'm busy. Busy is a frame of mind - sure some days can just feel like they're filled with endless tasks. Yet for me the more work I have on my plate often the happier I am. Not because I love being busy but because I love being productive. And I've also discovered being productive is meditative. Working at a routine to clear your distractions or balance your life is amazingly cathartic!  I know I'm using sort of a nebulous phrase here. Yet perhaps what I'm saying resonates with you? Or perhaps this is just a stream of consciousness post. Either way I choose today to not allow my full plate let my stomach go empty.

 

thanks for listening, 

-Jesse

🥴 Cooties

Tonight Katie and I had an evening in date night. Even though it's only Tuesday it has already felt like a long week. Sometimes life is like that you're having a rough week and could use a bit of an escape. I made us dinner and we watched a sorta scary movie, being so close to Halloween and all. We watched a horror comedy called "Cooties" starring Elijah Wood & Rain Wilson. The film turned out to be a good time, though I don't normally enjoy zombie-esque movies.

Several years ago I read a really interesting article from one of my favorite directors Guillermo Del Toro - it was on the subject of Horror movies. Apparently according to reasearch in times of high anxiety scary movies increase significantly in popularity. There is something about a safe outlet for the worst possible scenario that alleviates problems or feelings of being overwhelmed.

 

While if you're just reading this post you might need more convincing so please look into it - from my point of view it makes a lot of sense. Films allow us to vicariously experience all sorts of emotional releases. I'm no one to shy away from a romantic comedy for example I saw "Crazy Rich Asians" on a whim by myself. I know that might sound odd, my wife had a book group at our house so I randomly picked a film to see. I loved it so much I ended up taking Katie to see it again - all said I saw the film three times in the theaters. To me a good romantic comedy is all about characters and fantastic settings. I love having the emotional arch's that they so powerfully depend on. Take Pride and Prejudice (Kiera Knightly one) while a romantic drama, the film is a masterpiece! You fall in love with the characters as you peek inside there fascinating and sincere lives. There's something so raw and vulnerable about a good romance film that other genres have to squeeze in or undermine. The point is be that horror or romance to me a good movie can be as cathartic as a session with your therapist, as insightful as a zen meditation or meaningful as mindfulness journal entry. Releasing anxieties and confusion with helps us with connecting with others or universal experiences. To me the narrative is a sacred task driven by the intend to be shared by others. I know kinda preachy or poetic. Yet if you're reading this you're actively interested in trying to connect with me, if even in a subtle way. So let's enjoy this time here of this blue marble and release our anxiousness or unrest through a good or not so good shared story. 

 

Take care! 

-Jesse