Hello, people! Here we are again. This time I’m going to talk about the biggest fuck-ups in the world of animation vol. I. And not to be less, we’ll start with us, HAMPA STUDIO, because I’m a member of the famous and private Brownderberg Club (for those of you who don’t know what it is, you can check this post where I explain it), and also to give an example to the other members, to see if they’ll tell theirs. This section is going to be a real laugh, I tell you!
Biggest screw-ups in the world of animation vol.I
LET’S START FROM THE BEGINNING
I go back to the year 2011/2012. At Hampa Studio we were discouraged and tired of trying to get funding and co-productions for our series “Laika” and not succeeding. The reality is that we weren’t doing well and now, looking back, I realise that I’ve seen more realistic role-playing games than that financial plan. But back then we thought there was a conspiratorial plan against us, a black hand. Come on, typical dumb-as-ever behaviour!
So we came up with the brilliant idea of making a series by skipping all the orthodox channels of fundraising and co-production, we were going to show the animation world that it was wrong and that we knew how to do things… This is promising, eh?
- Conceive a super-mega-mega-hyper-low-cost TV series that is beautiful, good, nice and cheap.
- Look for private investment, we don’t need TV stations and co-productions! Olé!
- Lock ourselves in the studio with sleeping bags and have the series in a year.
- Give it a lot of visual quality, so that you don’t notice that there is misery!
- Once the series is finished, start selling at a bargain price, with little investment and a lot of profit!
- With this money we can self-finance the following less low-cost projects and thus gradually make money and in the end have enough money to make a feature film, like the big American studios do. And with the profits from the first film, continue making more films. Pixar, get out of the way, the smart guys from Hampa Studio are coming!
…AND WE SET OFF
- Low cost series idea. If there’s something we have plenty of at Hampa Studio, it’s ideas (I won’t go into whether they’re good or bad…, I can see you coming!) and the desire to tell stories. In 1 month we had the series perfectly structured and conceived. It was going to be called The Shadownster. (Done!).
- Private investment. We found a private investor who, although he came from another investment world, found the animation sector attractive. (Done!).
- To have the series in 1 year. We formed a very cool team and started working very hard. People were super motivated and our producers had a seven-pronged whip. Everything was on schedule! (Done!).
- Visual quality. For the series we did not deprive ourselves of anything, beautiful animation, bestial lightning, Fur (hair), Cloth (clothes), Fluids, Fx… Hey, everything, so that nothing is missing here! (Done!).
Everything was going great, and I already looked like Uncle Scrooge McDuck!
… NOW REALITY COMES ALONG AND GIVES YOU A HULK HOGAN-LIKE FLYING PAW
The private investor did not know our sector and suspended the financing. (For the ESO students; we ran out of money!).
The worst thing was to have passed the halfway point of production, then a thousand doubts arose: do we continue even if we have no money or do we stop production, everyone goes home and we resume it at another time?
If we continued, we ran the risk of getting a huge crash, although on the other hand, if it worked, we could make a success of it.
If we stopped the production, we didn’t run any risk, but the most likely thing was that the production would never be resumed and would remain in a drawer forever and ever, like my mother’s tupperware.
HERE BEGINS THE SUCCESSION OF EPIC SCREW-UPS…
Screw-up #1 – Faced with the problem of running out of money we had a general meeting with all the people in the studio to tell them about the situation and we asked them if we would continue for 4 more months, which is what was left to finish, or if we would close the production. They were told that if we continued we would not be able to pay for these four months and they would be paid later with money we expected to receive in 5 or 6 months (We were too optimistic. We didn’t count on the fact that coming from the administration, it could take like… 1 year?) The team decided to go ahead, one of the greatest gestures of generosity I have ever seen. We finally finished the production and on schedule.
Screw-up #2 – If there was no money to pay the people, there was no money for Montoro (for the ESO students; I mean taxes), social security and loans from our friends the banks. But as we are like that, we didn’t care, in 5 months everything would have been solved, everybody would have been paid and we would have a lot of money and we could even start our new series (thought the milkmaid on the way to the village).
Screw-up #3 – The series didn’t sell, why? Well, it’s very easy, as we were doing the series alone, without co-production and without any television as a partner, we were totally isolated. TV stations either broadcast their own co-productions and thus get a return on their investments or they buy other people’s series, but they have to be really powerful and/or with a long run. Of course the assholes at Hampa Studio were not in either case.
… THE SHIT BALL STARTS ROLLING
After these 3 screw-ups of note, it was only a matter of time.
The big ball of crap in actionThe money to pay the team never came. The IRS, social security, banks and creditors harassed us on a daily basis. (If you’ve never thought it was a good idea to drink baileys and coke when you wake up, you’ve never known the true meaning of “harassment”). We sold personal belongings to pay the taxman; we melted our families’ savings to pay the social security and the banks; week in and week out, meeting with the labour inspectorate to explain why people had not been paid for 4 months; and to top it all off, the expected sales were still not coming in.
We needed to make animation services urgently to be able to face a total and imminent seizure by the tax authorities, but the biggest joke was that having spent a year behind closed doors making the series, we no longer had any clients! We had nothing!
Total ruin (personal and professional). It was all about problems, lawsuits, lawyers, threats, notaries, inspections, people cursing me (and rightly so), and the odd court case. All this without a euro in my pocket and the little money I had, I spent on Almax.
As I’m such a tiresome person, I kept on working non-stop, looking for clients, looking for a new distributor for the series, etc. I refused to let Hampa Studio die.
With a lot of effort, during two hard years I was getting new clients, doing everything. We became the whores of Spanish animation, and I would say that also European (with all due respect to the ladies whores/men whores, for the sake of equality), and in this way I was solving all the problems that came every day.
Suddenly, one day, I don’t know why, but when we least expected it, the series The Shadownsters was a “success” and several possible clients started to be interested in it: Disney, Cartoon network, Nickelodeon…etc. The series began to sell: Finland, Arab countries, North Africa, Portugal, China, Hong Kong, Israel… And then came the super news, the all powerful HBO loved the series and bought it. We were saved! Although we have not yet recovered the money invested in the series, we are now in a good situation.
- I will never again skip the normal channels of looking for funding, it’s a pain in the ass, I know, because it can take me years to raise the funding, and if I get tired of it, I will dedicate myself to socio-cultural animation (with the utmost respect for socio-cultural animators).
- I will always look for co-production, if possible with TV stations, to ensure the broadcasting from the beginning.
- I will use public aid for production, that’s what it’s for, I will NEVER mortgage my life 3 times for a project.
- I will NEVER involve part of the team in my own screw-up. It’s not their fault.
- I will never again start any production without having at least 70% of the financing closed.
- And this, by way of advice, without you asking me for it: Be persistent, it can take many, many years to get a production off the ground, but if the project is cool and you’re getting good feedback, be patient, because it will come in the end.
I hope our screw-ups are of some use to you and don’t even think of emulating them because in that case “…I’ll come back and kill you all, you sons of bitches“. – Clean Eastwood – Unforgiven.
…AND THE FINAL MORAL (Get lost, you big bore!)
Faced with such a succession of huge screw-ups, the normal thing was to have died. We were saved by the support of our families and friends, and of course by the beastly effort we made, but above all by the infinite generosity of the series team.
The most important thing when something like this happens to you, since you’ve screwed-up, instead of regretting it, it’s better to open your eyes and learn from everything that happens to you and why it happens to you.
Right now we are working on our new series, called COLORICS, with a normal budget, nothing crazy low-cost.
We started with a teaser (a couple of years ago). With this teaser we got money to make a pilot (less than a year ago), with this pilot we have started the search for funding in a normal and orthodox way. In fact, after trying last year and not succeeding, we have improved the project and this year we have already secured TVE (Spanish Television) as co-producers, the new Valencian Television has also entered into co-production and we have obtained a public aid from the IVAC (Valencian Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts) for production. We are also negotiating with other European countries to finalise the financing and shortly with Latin American countries. At the rate everything is going we hope to close the financing this year and start production in 2018.
CHIN PUN! and so far, Great screw-ups in the world of animation vol. I (I hope to bring you more volumes, but this time we’ll tell the miseries of others!)