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Tips To Self-fund Your Animated Film

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As much as we all like our day day to work every animator and studio loves to make short films or at least create something that shows off what we can do. I run Tinmouse Animation and we’re always looking for new opportunities to create our own work, show off what we can do and have a bit of fun. A lot of the time, to get them off the ground, these projects have to be self-funded and hopefully this article can give you some top tips to consider when self-funding your next film.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

It’s advice that we’ve all heard before but I remember ignoring the very same from my uni tutor. He told me to “concentrate on one character and do it really well instead of animating lot’s of characters and animating them averagely.” Turns out he was right but at the time I chose to ignore him.

The idea he tried to communicate was when you sit down with an idea, try to strip it back to it’s simplest form. This doesn’t just help you with a more streamlined project; it will also help you concentrate on what really matters. Make sure you’re showing off what you’re good at. If you’re great at 3D then don’t make the whole film in traditional 2D. Experimentation is to be encouraged but make sure for the most part you’re presenting your best skills. Personal work is your chance to showcase.

A great self-funded example above of a project that was simple and an excellent showcase of talent.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Whether you’re an independent animator, a student or a big studio, ultimately you want an audience for your work. This doesn’t mean you have to make a film with cute fluffy dogs but make sure you have an idea of a market or audience before you start. Think about why and who you want to see it . For example if your making a horror short then are there any horror festivals in the calendar? If so make your deadline for their submission dates. There’s nothing worse than finishing up on your film only to realise that you’ve finished the day after a huge a festival, event or submission date. Error!

My first short ‘The Robin‘ in 2014 was created with the sole intention of gaining me more freelance work so I researched the right people at animation studios to send it to. Also asking for feedback on your work when you send it out is also a great way to make connections within the industry, especially if you’re just starting out. The animation community is small and always willing to lend a hand.

Simplicity is key. Concentrate on what your good at. Animating!

BUDGETING TIME (AND MONEY)

Before we get onto the horrible money side of things it’s absolutely key to budget your time with as much rigour. Time is precious and if you run low, you’ll start to rush, ending up with a film that isn’t what you intended. To make sure you have no regrets, plan dates and milestones before you start, especially if you intend to hit a certain festival. If you’re lucky enough to have others working with you then make sure you know when they’re free. I speak from experience, when you think someones free and they’re not, schedules fly quickly out the window! As Mr Franklin once exclaimed “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” But perhaps we won’t get that dramatic.

Money is also a tough thing to allocate. If you’re lucky enough to be a 2D or 3D digital animator (like us) then costs are going to be relatively low, unless you’re hiring other people to lend a hand. With stop-motion and puppetry there’s more costs involved, materials, etc. This is where it’s important to work out roughly how much you’re going to spend. If the costs start to spiral in an initial budget you’ll have time to tweak the story to make things a little easier on yourself. There’s nothing worse than stressing over money during the production. You want to be doing some of that care-free animating!

Another thing to factor in is distribution. If you’re planning on taking your film to festivals then some of them charge to submit! So be prepared. For my first films I lacked this budget so didn’t enter the costly festivals. Therefore missing out.

Rex Factor The Animated Show currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter

CROWDFUNDING

There is one more option for those self-funded short films. The illusive crowdfunding. It’s something Tinmouse is currently doing with our new pilot Rex Factor The Animated Show and I will say right away it takes a lot of time and effort to be successful. If you are starting as a relative unknown in the industry it can be a risky venture. Support for you and your project needs to be drummed up months before going live on Kickstarter or Indiegogo for example. Its naïve to expect instant results by just placing up your project on a crowdfunding site and hoping people will pledge without prior knowledge. Your film could be the most amazing thing ever but if people aren’t aware of it it can be an uphill struggle.

This doesn’t mean it can’t be done though, oh no. If you have the time to put into a campaign then it’s very rewarding. Make sure you create a audience before the launch. As in the ‘Know Your Audience’ section, target the right people and get them excited about your film. Create an email database to keep people up to date and make sure you create some promo artwork to entice all those pledgers. We are currently a 3rd of the way through our 1st Kickstarter campaign so can’t say too much on this right now. However it is very rewarding and humbling to see people backing your project once you’ve launched and certainly something I’d recommend. You’ve just got to be committed. I will return in a couple of months, to tell you how it all went and give you some tips on creating a great crowdfunding campaign.

Tom is the producer at Tinmouse Animation and they are currently self-funding and running a Kickstarter campaign for their new pilot Rex Factor The Animated Show. A show that is bringing history to life, making it fun, accessible and engaging for all. You can find out more about the project and pledge your support at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1958705267/rex-factor-the-animated-show

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