Florida Sues John Textor

Recently news has been emerging and fleshing out a lawsuit where the state of Florida is suing John Textor, who is the former CEO of the renowned VFX studio Digital Domain.  In short, John Textor lobbied and successfully obtained around $80 million in taxpayer "job-creation" money to start a school and partner VFX studio (essentially Digital Domain: Florida).

John Textor and Digital Domain did not fulfill any of these promises and did not finish any of the projects.  Instead, they quickly fell into bankruptcy, and John Textor quickly resigned.  This effected the State of Florida, the taxpayers and even students that paid tuition to attend an up and coming school for VFX which never came to fruition.

The basis behind this lawsuit is that John Textor illegally lobbied and secured this taxpayer money, and used it to prop up the original Digital Domain studio (which was struggling financially, as most VFX comanies are) instead of using it for what he promised in creating another studio, a school and tons of jobs.

This mismanagement of money has long been rampant in Hollywood, and is what gives Hollywood the bad name is has in much of business.  The main issue behind this is the VFX industries poor business practices, making it a constantly volatile and underpaid industry despite its rising popularity in today's cinema.

One day hopefully this business model will change, we can only hope it will not be a result of a massive and systematic meltdown of the entire VFX industry.

Sources:

http://www.awn.com/news/updated-florida-sues-former-digital-domain-exec-john-textor

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/business/digital-domains-legend-of-tembo-shuts-down-production-dozens-of-animation-artists-lose-their-jobs-john-textor-is-ousted-69456.html

Foreign Animation Markets

I read an interesting article today regarding the UK.  According to a report by the British Film Institute, in 2013 animated films were the highest grossing and most popular type of film in Britain.  In fact, animation accounted for a whopping 21.4% of the box office sales!  I must say this is a wonderful thing for the world of animation, as we learn the true power of the art, as well as its popularity.

The same must be said for emerging markets.  Lately we've seen the animation industry reaching out into many foreign markets (china being one of the largest emerging markets).  Dreamworks recently released renderings of a $2.4 Billion complex to be opened in Shanghai called "Oriental Dreamworks."  Originally intended to be a live-action animation feature complex, they have recently expanded their strategy to animated TV and web content, due to the rising popularity of the art form in China.  Recently a lot of production has been moving to the UK and other European countries such as France (the home of Illumination Entertainment, known for "Despicable Me"), and Canada (Sony Animation has been methodically moving all of their operations to British Columbia to take advantage of tax incentives.)

This emergence in the global economy is heartening and exciting for the entire industry.  It does remind me that I must be very open to travel in the future for some of the more exciting projects.  I must say, while it is exciting for animation to have such success abroad, the global industry has been driving jobs away from the US.  While I am willing and excited to travel, I do hope to make my home base in the US (and hopefully LA), though it is daunting as much of the work has been moving abroad (mostly due to tax incentives.)

What the future holds will be interesting, exciting and perhaps a bit scary.  Still, the effects of animated films around the world is certainly heartening.

 

Sources:

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/animation-was-uks-most-popular-type-of-film-in-2013-102433.html

http://www.cartoonbrew.com/business/first-look-at-2-4-billion-oriental-dreamworks-complex-in-shanghai-97679.html

http://www.awn.com/news/animation-revenue-china-rises-14-billion-2013

http://variety.com/2014/film/news/sony-imageworks-shifts-jobs-from-l-a-to-vancouver-layoffs-feared-1201066205/

Wage Fixing Scandal Thoughts

Lately more and more information regarding a large wage-fixing scandal in the animation world have emerged.  It began with large companies such as Apple and Google, but it was revealed that the entertainment industry, and in particular the animation industry were very much going along the same path.  The biggest studios such as Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar were involved, whereas the only studio seeming to not follow this illegal activity was Sony Animation.

Companies involved

In reading up on this, I quickly became very disappointed in some of the industry leaders that I hold to such high esteem.  Ed Catmull, famous for pioneering much of the 3D animation world that we know today, as well as helping to lead Pixar to become such a success, was at the center of this scandal as revealed in many emails he sent.  Having such an innovator and idol involved in such a large and damaging wage fixing scandal was extremely disappointing.  He has actively worked to create a no-competition environment, meaning less pay and less work for animators like myself so that the studio can incur less financial strain.  Were free capitalism allowed to reign, wages would likely go up, and price points would eventually even out.

This has been a large issue in the past in the film industry, and this is why such strong unions emerged within that industry.  Does this mean unionization of animators will become stronger and more aggressive?  It's always a fine balance, and I must admit unions often overstep their bounds when they get power-hungry, but the same can be said for the large corporations as is evidence in this scandal.  I can only hope that this coming to the forefront will work to rectify this issue, and hopefully bring about some freedom and fairness in the workplace.  The big issue: these agreements are not written in contract, and the large companies can continue to "not compete" if they actively make that decision.  Will this lawsuit actually change the business side of things, or will it only bring awareness to the problem at hand?  Will unions have to become aggressive and step in?  Only time will tell!

Some source material: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/business/pixars-ed-catmull-emerges-as-central-figure-in-the-wage-fixing-scandal-101362.html

1 Week Until Picture Lock!

AHHHHHH!!!!

Well, it's do or die this week.  Picture lock is on April 2nd so there's no time to waste.  Animation is coming along.  I have about 1/4 of the film fully animated, the rest will be timed out for picture lock, and finessed afterwards.  I'm excited to be working on all of this, but of course I wish I had much more time (and less classes... this would be much easier if I was an MFA.)

Lots of coffee and no sleep for me.  Wish me luck but otherwise don't bother me!

Some Teaser Frames

Animation is in full swing at the moment (yay spring break!). So while all my roommates enjoy a 7 day cruise to Cabo and Puerta Vallarta, I'm doing my best to make some progress on my film.

 

here is another teaser frame, and some texturing development.  Nothing is finalized, such as compositing, textures, lighting, etc.  I figured it would at least be nice to show SOMETHING. 

 I promise, the rest of the film doesn't look so daunting!

I promise, the rest of the film doesn't look so daunting!

Some quick texturing tests from the talented Graham Oyoung.

 A first pass on texturing.  More to be done!

A first pass on texturing.  More to be done!

Happy Fishing!

Rigging has progressed thanks to Lisa!  Facial is a WIP at the moment, but I thought I'd show it off a bit.  I also got my feet a little wet with some very basic rigging.  I modeled and rigged the fishing pole shown in the scene with a bend modifier and some basic rotation.

 

Blocking on the lake scene is about done, now time to move on to "Freeze Tag" and "Dodgebomb", which I think you will all enjoy.  More to come soon!

 He's so happy to have facial controls!

He's so happy to have facial controls!

New shot list

Apparently the new story cuts down the old shot list from 36 shots to 11!  Granted the shots are a little longer as I'll be using handheld camera movement, rack focus, and more continuous scenes for reveals and "transitions".

Still, I like keeping the number of shots here for now.  If I can complete things ahead of time, I have some ideas of fun things to add! 

It's also worth noting assets have been cut down dramatically, but there are still a lot of scenes.  The scene layout I have in mind shouldn't be difficult though, I want to keep them nice and simple.

heres the shot list! 

 

Another Quick Story Overhaul

Really!? Again!?

So my biggest worry and issue during this whole process has been locking down a strong and definite story.  I think I've finally worked myself up into enough of a panic, that I finally decided to cut down length of the story which really helped set me in the right direction.

I've overhauled the story for the how-every-many-th time now, but this time I finally see something that will stick.

Fine you jerk, but why?

My basic thought process began with the obvious realization that I needed to cut down the film if I wanted to be realistic about finishing this bad boy and graduating on time.  This worked to my benefit, because all of the story ideas I really loved couldn't be contained in 3.5 minutes.

I then, after going through a number of thesis films, and even short films, finally convinced myself that I didn't need to create a narrative story with beginning/middle/end and all the fun story archs etc.  Instead, I could do something short and fun.

Drawing from a mixture of the Monster's University "Imagine You at MU" video, as well as other commercial spoofs, bad infomercials, crappy  homemade ads, etc.  I came up with my latest story.

Summary:

Meta, camp counselor at Camp Villa,IN creates a promo video to attract new campers to his prestigious super-villain summer camp!

I also see this as an opportunity to promote the idea behind the film, being a super-villain summer camp, which I believe would make an awesome movie, while keeping the time down, and not trying to create the "perfect story" in 3-5 min.

I plan to do this an a "home video" style as if it were filmed in the 80's (film grain, washed out colors, handheld camera motion, mullets?)

Yay!

Script Download

Kid Chaos Body Rigged!

Rigging of Kid Chaos is going great!  All-in-all, that means the very talented Lisa Anderson (who happens to be kicking ass as Lead Character TD at Nickelodeon!!) is doing an amazing job for me.  She is incredibly professional, and works at blazing fast speeds.  It's really awesome stuff.

Anyways, enough praise I guess, here's a quick shot of Kid Chaos posed as a little teaser, it's getting me excited for the animation!  He is fully UV Mapped, so texturing needs to commence ASAP.  Anyone know a good texture artist?

 "Excuse me, teacher?"

"Excuse me, teacher?"

Test & UV Mapping

This is a quick test to try posting directly from my phone on this blog, also a quick update.  I've been finalizing UV Mapping for Kid chaos which will finalize things for the characters to be rigged.

The amazing Lisa Anderson has been helping me with rigging, she works faster than I do and is so professional and helpful with everything.  I'll post pictures soon!

 Hollywood at night

Hollywood at night

here's a quick pic from Hollywood the other night.  Great friends and food.

Blocking has commenced!

 

 Shot 01 Initial Blocking

Shot 01 Initial Blocking

Voice actor is locked in.  I will be using Stephen Bailey, who sent me a great reading after I received a number of readings.  We got a number of readings from members of LA Casting, but his was by far the best for the character I'm trying to portray.  I'm currently splicing the Audio into my Animatic, and will be working vigorously on composition and general blocking.

 

As for rigging, that has been a worry for a while.  Both of my models are finished, but I now need to get them rigged.  I contacted Lisa Anderson, who is now a Character TD at Nickelodeon, and she said she may be able to help.  I have sent her wireframes and I am now just waiting to hear back from her if it would be possible.  She says they're a bit bogged down at the studio, but depending on my timeframe she could likely help.  I will continue to pursue other leads at the same time so that I have a backup or two.

 

It's not very pertinent that I design the sets.  I have a few of the objects modeled, but the set design is paramount at this point, so that I can get the composition and blocking on point.  I have a number of things to focus on at the moment, but everything is looking more and more plausible.  I'm about to meet in terms of scheduling with my Producer.  He is on his way to the lab at this very moment.

 

As a side note, I will be here in LA for most of winter break so that I can focus strictly on catching up with my thesis work, as I feel behind at the moment, and want everything to run as smoothly as possible.  I can't wait to dive into animation, I'm hoping that will really get me motivated!

Fun with Expressions

Fun with Expressions

Just having some fun messing with the Morpheus rig based character since he's basically good to go now! I even got his clothing UV mapped today! I'd like to add a bit more texture to his body, but I'm having weird issues with the textures applying to his body... so that will require a bit more troubleshooting. I'm excited! I can start animating as soon as I get that audio.

I think it's time to focus on set design.

Shot List

Just to show that I have the shot list/locations/assets all lined up for the different shots.  The last few shots are currently missing, as I'm currently reworking the ending.

 

https://docs.google.com/a/usc.edu/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvWXyhPhxT8DdFV2LTVFWk9UdVhNeDJlSDhJdUdQV2c&usp=sharing

Kid Chaos Model Progress

Kid Chaos Model Progress

Here is my current progress modeling Kid Chaos! He's certainly getting there. He looks a bit strange at the moment without proper hair, but that should be next up! Then I can finish the goggles and add the underwear.

I will be redoing the hands as well, likely using either the morpheus hands, or the ones from the model my friend Graham is creating for me at the moment for the "Bratt" character