I want to share some encouragement for aspiring independent artists, filmmakers, video game developers, musicians, writers, and so on.
Having single-handedly created a number of animated films including City of Rott (77 min), Dead Fury (82 min), Shock Invasion (71 min), Gnome in the Haunted Castle 2D/3D (42 min), City of Rott 2 (85 min), The Chicken Chop Shop Series (128 min) and more, I’m currently planning out City of Rott: Otherworld while developing City of Rott: Streets of Rott the video game for PC, Mac and Linux. Past games included the epic Tomb of Twelve and the arcade blaster Robotic Downfall, both available now, along with the prior films.
With those large project accomplishments in mind, here’s my best advice checklist that has helped me push through every movie and project I’ve made so far…
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ARTISTS, FILMMAKERS, ETC:
-Use an idea, story or concept you enjoy and know a lot about to develop your movie with. What about it inspires you? Develop a basic outline for it, then make it happen. If you have a vision to express, believe in your project even if no one else does. It has to be exciting enough so when the roadblocks appear, you’ll be determined enough to push right through despite the discouragement.
-Take one small step at a time and set deadlines to meet. Few giant undertakings get done in one day, but often take months or years of work. It’s best to test everything out first with a sample scene to get a good idea of how long everything will take to produce on your own. Then find one task you can do daily, and work on it. Chipping away at it one day at a time, you’ll eventually finish it. If you keep putting it off, that says everything about how you feel about the project. Start a new one, or shorten this one if necessary so your efforts aren’t wasted.
-Finish what you started. Starting a brand new movie is always exciting till one set back after another starts popping up as you attempt to progress. Keep it going!
-When you hit an obstacle or set back, try again or approach it from another angle if necessary. It’s not what happens, it’s what you do that matters. Try to have fun with your project even when things go wrong. If one thing is giving you great frustration, set it aside if you can and work on something that will work and progress forward. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” all the time as I’ve learned. With some time away and a fresh view of the challenge, re-approach it with a new strategy. If you did your best and it still isn’t working, step back and think it over. But don’t let it sit for more than a couple days or a week if you can help it. If you don’t want to go back to your project regardless of how far you’ve progressed, does it mean it’s a worthless project because you’ve lost interest in it? Sit yourself down in front of your movie and find one small thing that you can do each day, no matter how boring or frustrating it may be. Work on it for an hour instead of all day if it helps, but work on it to keep it alive if it’s something you believe in.
-Give yourself a break, but don’t let spare time distractions get in the way of completing your movie. What’s more important? This movie or the distraction that is taking you away from it? Try balancing it in favor of completing your movie. Would you rather complete this project in one year or spread it out over five years? Concentrate your efforts at the cost of an outside life if you want it completed asap. That is the sacrifice you have to make if you want to achieve this goal in life. When you look back at the end of life, you’ll know you gave it everything you had and will have no regrets, win or lose.
-Your new movie will gain fans and critics. If the critics are being constructive and not just saying, “This stinks!” while giving feedback about why they don’t like it, then learn from it if it will help you improve. Remember, not every movie is made for everyone but they still might see it anyway. Don’t worry about it, but if it bothers you, think about what they’re saying and pretend you had no attachment to this project you gave 110% to complete. Detaching yourself and viewing it as an audience member can put a new perspective on things.
-There are people out there who will appreciate what you’ve done, people who understand your film and its target audience. On the other hand, if the sting of being criticized is painful, let go a little of what you’re trying to protect so much instead of letting Time ease the grip you have on your project. Don’t take it so personally if you can help it. Yes, you’ve given this project everything you had and they still don’t like it, but realize there will always be critics out there who just do not like what you do. Your project will reach an audience you didn’t make it for and they will criticize it from their point of view. How would you feel if someone who mostly prefers romance movies and hates horror, watched your horror movie about monsters and said it was the worst piece of junk they’ve ever seen in their entire life? Keep things in perspective and you’ll be able to take criticism much easier. Don’t be afraid to laugh it off. The less you care, the simpler it gets in many aspects of life, including taking criticism. The key to detachment is letting go of the thing you want so much. You wanted a great review from every critic? You wanted everyone to like your project? Let go of that idealistic idea or it will only give you grief. Of course if the majority of your target audience isn’t enjoying what you’ve done, then examine their criticism so you can learn from it and improve. You don’t have to feel bad just because they do, but you can learn from some of what they’re saying if they’re knowledgeable.
-How will you lead your audience to your work? Where are they? This is probably the toughest step without a big marketing budget, simply because the endless talents out there are highly skilled. There are artists who may be better than you, but its your unique vision and way of expressing it that can make the difference. If you still haven’t found your movie’s audience, keep searching for them where it matters.
In the end, try and keep trying, adjusting your strategy as needed. Nothing gets done till you do it. The project won’t complete itself. Keep it alive and complete it. Feeling discouraged and disappointed is normal when tackling an immense project over many months, but find what is troubling you, solve it as best as you can, and move forward with what you have left. Things rarely go according to plan, so the real test is to keep going when things are at their worst. Make the best of a bad situation, don’t give up and eventually, you’ll solve the problem, move on to the next challenge, and finally complete your project! Congratulations when you do!
DIGITAL TOOLS FOR THE INDIE ANIMATOR, FILMMAKER:
–Audacity is an exception audio editor for improving your sound and music as well as exporting it in many formats for your projects. I couldn’t work without it, and it’s free.
-For video games, you can try Game-Editor for 2D games, or Unity 3D for all kinds of games including 3D and 2D. Both programs are a real challenge if you’re just starting to learn, but Unity 3D is currently updated all the time and with the ability to export to many formats.
–Papagayo lip sync software is very useful software for matching your phonetics (Ah, Ee, Oo, Oh, T, M). For perfect lip syncing, it requires a lot of manual adjustments, but is a great tool regardless.
–Anime Studio Pro 8 is great for bitmap or vector 2D graphic animations, with great character rigging set ups and a wide choice of tools with an intuitive interface and perfect for lip syncing also. This is currently my favorite cut out style animation program of all time.
–Cheetah 3D animation software is very affordable but also very user friendly, with a nice range of tools and features. It’s mainly an editor, modeling program most of all, so may not reach your animation goals like Blender can. Blender is a very complex but free program for aspiring computer animators.
-If you have a Mac, IMovie and Garage Band for music creation and audio editing are useful tools, the latter especially for adding sound effects and music tracks directly aligned with the movie, going beyond the feature limitations of an older program like Final Cut Express. Depending on your version, IMovie can export larger file sizes, so you’re not limited to the default of 960×540. I have been able to export 1920 x 1080 with it, which is HD format. 4K is the new goal for manufacturers, but I’m not aiming for 4K since I’m very satisfied with 1080p and 4K isn’t in big demand at this time.
–GIMP is in my opinion, just as useful as Photoshop, only free and great for editing your illustrations and 2D art work. I’m a big fan of this free software program.
-For new script writers, I recommend searching for William C. Martell’s website for hundreds of pages of screenwriting tips at, Script Secrets Revealed at scriptsecrets.net . He has experience in the industry as a professional screenwriter and has a great way of teaching about writing.
I hope that helps a little bit. More later.