CTN eXpo 2017: A Retrospective

Nimble Collective on stage at CTN 2017

Nimble Collective hit this year’s Creative Talent Network Expo with a spring in our step, a song in our hearts, and a gaggle of talented directors. Or is it a “flock of directors”? A “bushel of directors”? In any case, we had brought along all five directors from the Nimble Pilot Program to share their experience of sitting in the director’s chair for the first time.

CTN 2017As always, the amount of sheer talent on display is just overwhelming. As we walked the floor and chatted with animation veterans, freelancers, recent graduates, and independent filmmakers we were just wowed by the passion everyone shared for animated storytelling. Meeting all of these amazing people and hearing their struggles with finding work and getting projects off the ground really underlined the need for our cloud-based animation platform.

Nimble’s recent push to connect freelance animation professionals with paid gigs was met with a great deal of enthusiasm. The opportunity to work on projects with such notable and cutting-edge companies as Lytro brought us just about as many questions as contact information pressed into our hands.

Being Animated Has Its Benefits  

As a side note, Brian Newlin may have had some initial reservations about modeling his main character after himself, but being an animated character has its perks. Fans of Brian’s micro-series, Disrupted, recognized him walking the hallways and stopped him to say hello. Quite a surprise for a fellow who’s used to working behind the scenes.

Panel Highlights

Sunday’s panel, titled “Starting a Studio and Creating Your First Film”, saw all five directors take the stage to a full house. After some quick introductions by host Rex Grignon, the assembled directors shared their stories. This was the first time all five directors had been gathered in the same place. Luckily for us, they had a lot to talk about.

As Rex pointed out, all of the assembled directors had no previous directing ability. The first time directors consisted of a cartoonist, a character designer, a grocery bagger, a software engineer, and a layout artist. With a little guidance from Nimble they were all able to assemble a team and take their project from script to screen.

Here are a few of the questions asked during the panel:

What’s the hardest part of starting a studio?

“Finding a name to call the studio,” answered Nicholas Arioli. “I’m a studio head, now.” Without the need to set up a brick and mortar studio with furniture, computers, software, and all the associated costs, the directors could spend their budget on talent.

What is the most important thing you learned?

All the directors agreed that knowing your story, inside and out, and being able to communicate it clearly to others is super important for a director. You need to keep your story all in your head, but also need to be able to put that vision into someone else’s head.

Nicholas Arioli suggested pitching to friends, family, co-workers. Don’t keep it “secret” or be afraid someone is going to rip off your idea. Get your idea out there, get feedback, and get used to telling your story. See what works and what doesn’t through people’s reactions. Kathy McNeal stressed the importance of getting your “elevator pitch” down pat. Have a short, clear pitch of your idea on hand: something that can convey the scope of your story idea in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

How long did it take to make your short?

All of the directors had different answers, but the average time frame was just under two years. Mike Shiell’s Melon Shorts took about ten months since it was 2D and had pre-existing art whereas 3D shorts like Sunny & Gerd and Roadside Assistance took around twenty months. Nicholas Arioli pointed out that while his film, Coin Operated, was very high-quality 3D and also took about two years of development, only six months or so were really intensive, hardcore work. The rest of the time is pre-production (script, design, storyboards) and post-production (music, sound, compositing, editing). Making sure you have a solid foundation early on and putting the final polish on it is time well spent.

Any advice for first-time directors?

Nimble Collective DirectorsMike Shiell emphasized that you need to have a clear direction, but also leave room for people to surprise you.

Dacosta’s take was that the director needed to be the driver of the vision and the torch bearer. Being the momentum driver means keeping the team energized and motivated.

“Communication is king.” stated Kathy McNeal “The clearer you can communicate with your team and the clearer your artists are communicating back to you will be directly reflected in the project.” Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and “muddy” parts of the story.

“My biggest takeaway is that this is doable.” Nicholas Ariloi added. Being able to take on small, doable tasks is key to moving forward on a project and making it happen.

Brian Newlin chimed in, saying “For me, it was just learning that you’ve gotta trust that once you put a team together that you believe in, they are gonna support you and help you get through it.”

To hear the talk and its full content (and questions), catch the entire panel here:

CTN Play Video

Starting a Studio and Creating Your First Film – CTN eXpo 2017


Barry T. Smith
Barry T. Smith
As Nimble Collective's Content Marketing Ninja, Barry is responsible for bringing Nimble news and goodness to all the animating boy and girls of the world. And he does it through the power of the Internet, and not a rickety 'ol sleigh and tiny reindeer.

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