Seminars and Lessons Applied

4 09 2012

During 2009 to 2012 there were six seminars attended by the production team that were used to improve the output. Of the six, three seminars were conducted abroad and was attended by either Grace Dimaranan or Alstaire Sarthou. The said foreign seminars were all for free, as Grace or Alstaire were  invited by the organizers of the animation festivals.

Local Seminars

For the local seminars, the first one was about game development organized by the KR8V.Asia Master Classes Series and Game Developers Association of the Philippines, which was held last September 17 to 18, 2011 at at the CICT-NCC Bldg., at the University of Philippines, Diliman campus. Foreign and local speakers were invited to talk about the trends, storytelling, career opportunities, starting a game company etc. Alstaire attended this seminar. From this seminar, we got some idea on what type of game is best suited for our property. It took a few months for us to do the game document as we were busy doing other things.

The second locally held seminar was the Animahenasyon 2011 held at Eastwood City last November 22 to 25, 2011. These festival was attended by Grace, Alstaire, Edward and other animators. Some foreign speakers were invited and present was Mr. Richard Morgan-Grenville of Strika Entertainment. He is based in South Africa and is the creator of Supa Strikas television property which has been aired in various countries and prestigious networks. He talked about his experience and lessons on how to make and market a good animation product for television.

Mr. Morgan-Grenville Sharing His Experience (Photo courtesy of ACPI*)

*Animation Council of the Philippines Incorporated

Mr. Morgan-Grenville and Grace (Photo courtesy of ACPI)

There were some general insights that the team got from this talk, but there are many things that we can’t do anything about as the production was on-going already.

Another noted speaker in the festival was Mr. Silas Hickey, based in Hong Kong, is the creative director of Asia Pacific Animation Development at Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, Inc. He is responsible for the creative direction of Cartoon Network’s original content initiatives and acquisitions in the region. He talked about the 50%Fundament and 50%Mental, which is about the fundamentals in drawing, characterization, story telling, creative vision, collaboration, great action, new animation techniques, opportunities and pitfalls in creating animation.

Mr. Hickey Giving a Lecture (Photo courtesy of ACPI)

Mr. Hickey with Grace (Photo courtesy of ACPI)

Like the previous topic, there were some insights gained but a little bit too late to improve the animation as the production was already on-going. It would have been ideal, if we heard these seminars first before plunging into the production of Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors. 

The third local seminar was the 2012 Film, Animation and Gaming Congress (Storytelling to Storyselling) held last July 26 to 27, 2012 at the Little Theater Cultural Center of the Philippines. The congress was organized by multi-government agencies (DTI, PTTC, CCP), Cinemalya Foundation and the private sector to explore the possibilities and opportunities for Filipino content creators in the world market. In attendance was the usual team for Jobert.

Invited was a  producer,venture capitalist, animator and lawyer all from Silicon Valley or San Francisco to act as moderators for Filipino panelists in the game, film and animation industry.  One of the noted presenters and moderator was Mr. Ralph Guggenheim, CEO of Alligator Planet LLC and Co-founder of Pixar. Discussed were the difficulties, pitfalls and opportunities by local film makers, game developers and animators and the lack of ecosystem or environment to have a flourishing creative content industry. Also highlighted were the questions what is unique in the Philippines? What are our strengths and how can we leverage to build and grow our reputation?

Mr. Guggenheim with Some Attendees (Photo courtesy of Grace)

The legal side was also discussed, and it was high lighted that the legal issue for protection and marketing is more complicated in the US compared to other countries. Again the team learned a lot from the moderators and panelists but we can only improve our product so much.

Seminars Abroad

The foreign seminars were much more productive in terms of helping us create a better product for the international market.

The first foreign seminar was the Creative Content Global Network 2009 held in Seoul, South Korea on September 7 to 12, 2009. The host was the Korea Creative Content Agency and the  training workshop was attended by Alstaire. There were 5 to 6 participants from the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan. The project aims to develop a Global Network of Asian Creative Content, which will promote exchange and collaboration of ideas, workshop programs, project leads and human resources around creative content and ultimately lead to multi-party partnership amongst the Asian countries.

Asian Delegates in Korea (Photo courtesy of Alstaire)

It was there that Alstaire learned from Mr. Yu Shin Kang, a representative of Synergy Media, a digital content company wanted to do some Korean cultural animated stories and share it to the world. But they almost went bankrupt before they released any content, as the international and local market was not receptive to the idea. They had to resort to slapsticks and comedy; they also used insects and animals instead of people. This tactic enabled them to survive and have success. This just confirms our position of not getting into highly indigenous or ethnic Filipino themed animation.

Mr. Yu (in front) with Alstaire (in red) (Photo courtesy of Alstaire)

The second foreign seminar was attended by Grace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last April 6 to 8, 2012. The seminar was organized by Kreative.Asia entitled ‘Get Notice’ Creatives Weekend Master Classes.  One of the topics discussed was ‘Developing Strong Character for Animation’ by Leah Hoyer.

Leah Hoyer  has over a decade experience in the entertainment industry and has overseen more than 200 hours of programming for network and cable television internationally. She was a Director of Development for Disney Television Animation and is now Creative Producer at Levity Group.

Ms. Hoyer Giving a Lecture (Photo courtesy of Grace)

She talked about the four elements of a character: the surface level, attitude level, motivation level and deep level. We used this character levels to describe and define our characters further to improve our pitch bible just this 2012. Whereas on December 2010 the pitch bible we submitted to our foreign broker for an international distributor only described the characters on the surface level and we really didn’t really know our characters well. In fact, we didn’t even know what a pitch bible was at that time!

Grace with Ms. Hoyer (Photo courtesy of Grace)

The last seminar abroad was the 3rd China International Animation Copyright and Licensing Fair 2011 at Dongguan, China last September 29 to October 5, 2011. This seminar was attended by Alstaire and about 6 other Filipinos and other foreigners for free with hotel accommodations by the fair organizer. Presenters were from Warner Brothers, Kids Co, Smart Toonz and one Japanese company. Topics discussed were co-distribution and difficulties in a television series, elements of a successful story, Western 3-Act Structure, cultural differences, importance of being different, importance of getting feedback, growing market demands for high definition and others.

Philippine Delegate (Photo courtesy of Alstaire)

The 70,000 square meter Dongguan Exhibit Center had about 1,300 booths with over 200 animation producer/exhibitors from around the world. During the exhibit, one of the speakers and two of his colleagues stopped by at Toppeg Animation booth and watched a sample episode of  Jobert and the Crop Circle Warriors. He watched for about 4 to 5 minutes and commented that the intro should be clarified as it was the first thing the viewers would see and that there was a ‘formula’ for the intro. He also added that our product was something ‘new’ and the audience are always looking for something new among other things. He also added that we are doing the right thing by finishing the production first, rather than just banking on an idea. These days the distributors are interested in co-producing with finished programs rather than working with those who just have new ideas.

Toppeg Booth at Dongguan Fair (Photo courtesy of Alstaire)

Alstaire was aware that the person was the speaker  from Warner Bros. in the conference, but he never knew who he was until he got home in Manila days later when he asked the name  of the speaker from ACPI because I wanted to know who he was. The unassuming person who commented on our project was Mr. Alan Burnett, a veteran writer, producer in the past for studios such as Disney and currently at DC/Warner. He is also a 4 time Emmy awardee at that time – currently he has 5 Emmy Awards according to Wikipedia; and to get tips and positive feedbacks from a multi-awarded veteran is a huge triumph over the  arrogant trolls in the net, who really have nothing concrete or substantial to say.

Without doubt, the advice given by Mr. Burnett is the most important lesson in helping improve our animation project. With the advice, I was forced to think of the origins of the powers in our cartoon, it took me a few months to come up with a good concept and refine it further. It took another few months just to finish it in production. Without the advice, our cartoon will only have a weak foundation on which to build on other products for the property – if ever, because of its vagueness.

The old introduction or Original billboard (OBB) of ‘Jobert’ is just like an MTV type of video, a promotional tool but not as effective in trying to explain what the animation is all about to the prospective audience and distributors. Without Mr. Burnett’s suggestion and insight we doubt it that anyone else in the country would have guided us and we’ll be just as lost as before.  There was a prospective broker before who just wanted to eliminate the comic drawings at the beginning of the OBB because he doesn’t like the drawings. And there are the trolls with their inane comments. Since the Philippines have no experience, training and industry in creating original animation content for the international market; I am sure there is no one here who will be able to guide us to reach our goal at the present and in the foreseeable future. But with all the improvements we have done, I could now say that our project a up to standard for the international market.

Through the years there are many other seminars that Grace attended abroad, but so far these are the ones that we used to improve our project. We are fortunate to get these seminars abroad for free, as there is no way I can afford to attend these seminars. The only thing I can do is to attend the local ones.

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