Saturday, August 10, 2013

Uprising motion

It all started back in 2003 Matt machine and I had just graduated and were under employed, Matt was working at a shoe store and I was doing dispatch and CS at a a/c place, we decided that since we have both finished school and were having no luck in the lady's department  it would be good to put our time to use by renting a small studio space and work on our portfolios. Matt heard of a cheap office space for rent in the old half abandoned hospital downtown, so we rented a small office for $50 bucks

a month and met there after work to draw and put things together in our portfolios, and keep each other awake after a full days work to work some more. I don't know how it came about but we thought it would be better if we combined forces and made a website as a studio together, after making up a million names and voting (Don't ask me how we voted because there was only 2 of us) we came up with "Uprising motion", we made a website with a bunch of drawings and animations, (some borrowed from Mike and Jon that would come by and visit once in a while but did not want to join our studio 100% just yet) I took care of the paperwork to get a business license and bank account to make a legal partnership between Matt and I we split the cost for the licenses and Bank account (about $75 total) Matt worked really hard on the website until it was done and then we
were ready for business or for something to happen, after a few months and hard work with nothing really happening, people started hearing about us, -I don't know how because Matt and I were terrible at socializing and networking although Matt prove better at it in the long run-, we had tried without success to get work from freelancing websites, but one day my brother Oliver whom is a graphic designer mentioned us to his boss James Holmes at Cue Media integration, he visited our website and was very impressed with our work and animations, he wanted us to work on an animated short that he wanted to direct, Matt and I were very exited about this news, and wanted to go do it, but at the same time Matt got a job offer at the sweep which was kind of troubling for us, James insisted that we go work with him and that he would provide office space for free for us (that was part of the "integration" model of Cuemedia), I wanted to refuse to give up our independence but when Matt decided to take the Job at the sweep instead of working on the animated short I realized to my horror that I was mostly on my own, although Matt kept coming once in a while to help, even though he had been hired to help with crunch time at the sweep, so we moved with Matt's stuff and mine (mostly DI furniture and old computers) and just me as a full timer, but somehow I convinced James my new boss to let me keep the name of the studio and its independence, meaning that if I got job offers through the UpRising Animation website, I could keep them as mine and pay a fee for office space as long as I did it on my own time on not Cuemedia's time (which proved very helpful later).

With this agreement we brought all the computers and furniture from the hospital and we started working on the short (working title "Hush") now known as Beneath the Sky, Matt worked on pre-productions for as long as he could before having to go to the sweep full time. I soon realized that James plans were a lot more ambitious that what one guy could accomplish so I suggested to him that we would need more people to get it done, things were going good at Cuemedia at that point so he said he would consider it, they hired a writer and I would work on the storyboard as the writer would give me pages to read, James tried another guy to do storyboards with me but he only did like 4 pages, he also got Matthew Armstrong to do character design on his spare time (Matthew is a concept artist at Disney and very famous in the art world). but soon it was obvious that I would need a lot of help to get this done, I told James that I knew a guy that was really good at character design and animation, and that is how Mike came on board to Cuemedia, Mike really kicked butt at designing backgrounds and character thanks to his gigantic brain collection of anime cartoons and good draftsmanship. we kept working a few weeks but Mike said that it was impossible to finish this just the two of us so he went to SLCC and asked for help from the other students of the animation program, Mike is a lot better than Matt and I at socializing, networking and getting people to do what he wants. which is a extremely useful skill to have, thanks to his constant stocking and visits to the students we got;
-"Iron Intern to the Death Joseph Pearman"
 -"Pen Master Jon Clark"
- "Mr. Fat Erik
- and "Animation Extraordinaire Brandon Bolander interested, all of them great in their own way, they would come in their spare time to help as they could.
  I insisted that from the story boards we got a scene each and finished it to the end with coloring and animation so we had actual progress on the film, but Mike insisted that we did all the layouts and backgrounds first, and since I was in charge of the animation department we did as Mike said.
 Things were going pretty well for a while and since for the first time in my life I was feeling successful and got some confidence in me, some seƱoritas noticed that confidence and I went in a few dates, but at the same time that my confidence grew so did my head and I think that bothered Mike and the others a little (well may be a lot).
 By that time MattMachine's job had a company trip to E3 so Pat and Matt invited us, I decided that I wanted to go so I asked James if I could go it was just a few days,  he said it was OK, Mike asked me if he could go too, and HERE COMES MY FIRST REGRET : I told him that I didn't know if he could go since he was just hired a few weeks past, and someone had to stay and work and that if he wanted to go he should ask James not me.
 Instead of encouraging my friend to come and have fun with us I made him stay and gave him a to do list (sadly I learned afterwards that animation shows come and go,  so does popularity, jobs, positions and money, but time that could have been spent with friends or family does not comeback)
 After I came back Mike had been working in a bunch of layouts and was pretty angry at me, as is was to be expected, he said that if this job kept him from having fun with his friends he was going to leave and that I couldn't just give him a bunch of things to do and then just take off (thing pretty common on badly managed animation departments), I can't remember what I said to him but things didn't improve for a few days,
 One day he told me "if I don't like it here I am going to grab all my drawings and leave" I lost my patience too and answered " are you threatening me? if you want to leave go, if you want to be here just go, I gave my word so you would get hired but if you don't want to be here go!" Erik and Joe were present at the time and they asked us to calm down. We were both young and stubborn and I regret arguing with a good friend that has been with me in the good and bad ones, arguing is not a thing that I am good at or like doing and it is a sore memory, besides if Mike would have called my bluff and taken off we would have lost a large portion of work and James would have probably wanted back the money he payed in salary to Mike for those drawings. which all would have been a disaster. luckily we both didn't do anything but lowered our heads and kept working.
 Somehow we stop arguing and decided to concentrate on working instead, with the Sundance film festival at park city fast approaching I insisted that we should start animating, and from working a few days animating we deviced a production line of animation, including scanning, time with interns, job assingments and corrections with James, James decide to help us with background painting and compositing himself in after effects, and he was awesome. after a few months we finished the Trailer  which would be all that we would have time for the Sundance festival.
the Production line went something like this:
 -Meeting with James and writer to talk about story boards done and story
then the grind work
-storyboards (pen and paper)
-scanning (by office intern not animation interns)
-timing storyboard in premier
-pencil test check in avi format with camera(which allowed us to make a play list so we could see a secuence)
-clean up after scene approved
-scanning of clean ups by office intern
-coloring in retas and rendering with alphas
-replacing scenes of the storyboards in premier with fully animated ones
-addition of bg and effects in after effects by James
 we tried acting out the clips in groups before animating but this usually didn't work too well because it wasted a lot of time and my camera broke also, it was way more productive when each animator acted out his own clip in his own time.
 we also had some problems with the scanner not working all the time and not having the camera anymore to do pencil test, but having to scan the pencil tests to time then and look at them. but we overcame most of those technical obstacles that are always present.
 You might have seen the teaser

But as with any good thing there is always opposition and we were no exception and when sometimes we are too proud God makes things happen so we get back to our senses, James wanted to finish the whole movie which was great for us, but some of the content was a little over the top for us, and we were a little doubtful about those scenes. By this time Cuemedia also got  a new sales woman that quickly gained power on the business, she even got the position of one of the owners that got fired, (the owner that got her hired). I am not sure how it all went down, but she saw the animation department as a big expense that needed to be cut off, and James dream of a short film as irrelevant for the the business, specially now that the money was starting to become scarce.
 I realized we needed to do something to secure our future and quick, this is when good old Matt came through for us, he sent me an email of a guy that wanted to have an animation done for him and had contacted him through the uprising website, Matt directed him to contact me and talk about the details since he was busy at the sweep, his name was Jeff and he had a script that he had trade marked and sounded very serious. I started talking about the scope of the project that he wanted to get done and about costs, he send me an email saying that attached was the a sample of the script and a few pictures that he had drawn and the wanted a proof of concept (or a few drawings proving we could do the project for him) he was very specific and demanding that he wanted his characters to look exactly like his drawings. I was going to open the attachment but was called to a meeting with James so I asked Joe and Mike to open the attachment to see what he wanted. when I came out of the meeting I found Mike and Joe laughing their heads off, the pictures...  ...there was no other way to put it, were hilarious, they had sausage arms and fingers and looked like a 10 year old had drawn them, Men! I wish I had a copy so you could see them. they were so funny.
 We didn't know if someone was pranking us or if a 10 year old was writing to us, Mike said jokingly that if the guy payed enough he had no problem on animating the cartoons exactly how they looked, which although it may sound funny I considered for a bit, it would certainly make easy money. But thought better to send him some pictures of the redesigned characters instead. He was impressed by our drawings and said that he would move ahead with the project, after talking to him about what it costs to produce a short he decided to make a 3 min. trailer to promote and sell his cartoon. the actual costs of the trailer had not been decided yet so we made a cost sample sheet (way too late we should have done that at the start of the business) it basically has the same character drawn with 3 levels of detail and shading and on the bottom it has the cost per minute of animation on that level of detail I later learned that I should have made those numbers bigger because every client is going to want the best paying the least amount possible so I should have set my prices with room to negotiate. (kind of like when you sell a car, you know they will offer you less so you set your price a little higher).
 This back and forth process took a few weeks and to be honest, they were nerve wrecking days, because at the same time Cuemedia ran out of money for salaries, and James was pushing us to finish the film and the new owner lady wanted us to fork over the new client as a Cuemedia project and take most of the earnings to help cuemedia pass through the rough spot, I had to remind James of our agreement that if we got clients through Uprising motion they were ours, we also helped them move to another building at the same time. This was a time of much prayer and reflecting for me, and I am not sure how it affected Mike and Joe you will have to ask them, I am sure they were no happy with the no money part, who would be?. I decided that if God gave me this new chance I would try to be better try to make the other artist more like part of a group of equals and not as employees, I would even pay myself the same, even if I had to work more with all the legal mumble jumble of being one of the owners and taking care of the other expenses and stuff, I knew that the others were worried about working "for" me with all my shortcomings, but I wanted us to be friends again not "work for" or worry about position but "work with".
 Lucky for us our prayers where answered and after much back and forth, the mysterious client agreed to pay $20000 for the short (down from the original $50000 for the level of detail he wanted) which would be enough to take us back to the hospital for office space and give us rent for a few months and salaries for a few months. WE WOULD FINALLY GAIN OUR INDEPENDENCE BACK, so we moved...

next time the golden days of animation, and meeting the client.

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