Found a study? No balls!!!
Hello people… Here we are again. After the last and provocative article addressed to the new generations ;), I upload now this post (with a typical war cry) to encourage all those of you who want to start an animation studio… There are no eggs/ovaries!!!
Important Note: I’m going to speak from the experience of setting up a studio without help and without any kind of initial investment. Here, you are not going to find magic formulas to make your studio project work, they are just some behaviours that have worked for us and that we have learned the hard way! What you are going to read below are not Hampa Studio’s rules by fire, they are some things that we have implemented, others that we have wanted to do and sometimes we have not been able to. But all studios, medium and small (as we are the vast majority), should always keep them in mind. 😉
WHY DID I WANT TO SET UP A STUDIO?
I don’t have a business background, or even the vocation of Amancio Ortega, I’m an artist in the most artisan and humble sense of the word, not like Pantoja (although we have sideburns in common). I just like to draw and tell stories, and as I couldn’t find anyone so crazy as to hire me to do my own projects with their money, I set up my own studio.
FIRST OF ALL… LEARN!
The best thing to do is to start working in studios. Start in a very small one to live the passion and the illusion very closely, besides, you’ll have to do everything, since in small studios that’s the most common thing to do. Then, if you can and if you make the effort, move on to a big studio to learn processes, organisation and management. All this learning will help you when you set up your own studio. Copy the best from some and avoid the bad practices of others.
*This is BlueDream Studios, one of the biggest studios in Spain and where things are super well done.
Hampa Studio: I wanted to learn everything so badly that I worked for free in a studio for almost a year. Then I was in another one where I got paid something, but without any kind of insurance or anything, “what for?”Later I went to one where I did get paid, and finally I saw something that looked like a contract or something similar, but nooo!…almost! It was my self-employed papers. In another one, the fundamental requirement was that I had to bring my own computer from home (and it wasn’t usual to see laptops, so you can imagine the laugh).With all this shit, after going through those working conditions, I learned what NOT to do if I ever had workers, but I also learned some very positive things…, like that there is a bar in Plaza de España that makes great sandwiches, and hey! for only 3 euros!
HOW TO START A STUDIO WITHOUT A SINGLE EURO.
The logical and normal order is: first have your own or clients’ projects. Then, after a while, if you see that the work is more or less solid, set up the studio, never the other way around. This plan of getting machines, a place and waiting for John Lasseter to come in the door, “all sweaty” with a briefcase and shouting “I’m desperate! Can you make Toy Story 4?”, …mmmm…it doesn’t usually happen.
THE FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT RULE
The company is NOT you, the company is yours, yes…just like your child is yours, but it is not you. The company’s money is NOT yours. You are paid by the company, but the money belongs to the company, and just because you need a Playstation does not mean that the company needs a Playstation. Please be very strict with this rule. It is very likely that at some point there will be many families who depend on the company’s money, do not waste or squander it, in fact, it is a corporate crime that is punishable by imprisonment!
ALONE YOU GO FASTER, BUT WITH SOMEONE ELSE YOU GO FURTHER.
Look for someone to accompany you in your successes and your hardships, but when you look for a partner, make sure that they have the same passion as you, the same dedication and the same enthusiasm, that is to say, a passionate person in every sense of the word. If you don’t share the same enthusiasm, the partnership will be short-lived and you will end up in a slanging match.
Hampa Studio: Javi and I met in Arts and Crafts and decided to set up Hampa Studio (first called Lex Lutor, until many years later we were sued by DC comics from New York, for using the name of his character. I’ll tell you about that in another post. I shit my pants a lot, but you guys are going to laugh! hahaha, you’re such bastards). Well, it all started in my room, in my parents’ house, when I was 20 years old. Our office was the same place where I used to sleep, imagine how it smelled… it smelled like compulsive adolescence. We started doing some advertising work and when a more or less big project finally came in, and with my mother fed up with the two kids locked in the room (I think I even thought we were a couple, she knocked on the door before coming in, that’s all I can say!), we looked for a flat and moved to Cuba Street in Valencia. It looked like the horrible flat in the film “Big” where Tom Hanks cries his eyes out, but it was our first office.
This was the front part of the studio, let’s say the poshest part, where we entered the clients to make ourselves look good. Some clients came out of the back of the studio who we never heard from again, one of them were the people from “Cacao Maravillao”.
DON’T THINK ABOUT MONEY
When you have your first projects/assignments, don’t think about the money (just enough for drugs and alcohol). Think about the quality of everything you do, always, and even more so with your first clients/projects, because they will be your reel and the studio’s letter of introduction. Don’t worry, don’t be in a hurry, if you do things well, the money will come.
Forget about the big bucks. Coming from someone from Valencia it’s strange, I know! But that’s how it is… well, maybe you’ll get it just like that!… but it’s not normal. When you make a budget, try to be as fair and honest as you can, count your development, indirect and infrastructure costs and add between 19-21% of industrial profit. If it’s a strategic client and you’re interested in taking it on and it’s not in the budget, reduce your profit, never salaries or other infrastructure costs.
When you are starting out, re-invest ALL profits between: A small cushion to get you through the dry months, purchase of computers, furniture, or whatever you may need.
It is very important not to throw away prices, out of pure comradeship towards other studios and to always maintain decent salaries.
Hampa Studio: We at Hampa invest all our money in our own projects. We spend a year doing publicity services, for other films, series or whatever, and then, a year later, we develop our own projects. The following year, while we reap the fruits of the project, we go back to doing animation services to re-capitalise ourselves and invest again the following year… and so on until one of our projects becomes a SpongeBob SquarePants.
First of all, get an accountant, otherwise you’re going to make a mess!
One thing you need to know is that if you are going to have a small or medium-sized business (SME) you are going to be “fed up” with paying taxes, that’s for sure! Don’t invent tricks to pay less. SMEs and freelancers are the most punished by taxes, even more than large companies, that’s the way things are! Get over it or go out and burn containers!!!…but don’t be a crybaby!!!!!
Hampa Studio:The first time I saw the taxes we had to pay, I said to Paco Ramos (the first manager we had): “Paco, we have to pay a lot of taxes, isn’t there a way to not pay so much?”, to which Paco answered me, with that wisdom and calmness he has: “Alex, a company is to earn money and pay taxes. Don’t bust my balls!!!”. That was the end of the conversation, and I burned it into my heart!
NEW TEAM MEMBERS.
If you work hard, the day may come when you and your partner can’t cope with the work any more and you’ve used up all the annual nationwide redbull shipment, so it’s time to hire someone.
Be careful, with the first person you hire, you will be inexorably approaching that fine line of going from being a nice entrepreneur to becoming a shitty businessman.
Normally, in big studios they have a human resources department with very smart people who do their job, but in small and medium-sized studios we have to do it ourselves, together with someone from production, in the best of cases.
It’s very important to be cautious with personnel selection, because if you choose the wrong person, you’re not doing that person any favours, as not achieving the objectives will lead to frustration. And you won’t be doing yourself a favour either because you won’t achieve the results you need.
Therefore, no matter how tight the deadlines are, take your time for selection, it is very important. Steve jobs used to say “take your time to hire and fire quickly” (the first one is cool, apply it, but what a bastard with the second one, right?)
And as a last recommendation, use the proper animation search channels, otherwise you are going to waste time and effort receiving CVs of all kinds.
Hampa Studio: Many years ago, when there were no websites specialised in animation or forums, or facebook groups, etc…, in Hampa Studio we were looking for people to hire and we placed an ad in Infojobs (awesome!): “We are looking for Flash animator, with knowledge of Illustrator”, and a guy wrote us saying that he had been an animator for 15 years and that, although he didn’t know much about Flash and Illustrator, he had no problem with bachata, mambo and tango.
Hampa Studio: Apart from using facebook, twitter and some websites (like https://www.animatedjobs.com/) or animation forums…, to post your job offer, what we usually do is to ask for references to other studios, and it’s very common that they ask us for them too. Of course it’s the best way to find the profile you need.
HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Now, something important thing about this topic! I would say that it is the most important part. Remember! we don`t do make cars, or screws, or anything like that, we are in an intangible industry, therefore, our human team is who makes possible the work and is the only important in the study.
A study is what the artists are!, take care all those as good as you can, like they are your own family members (not in the style of Los Pajares, nor of Los Sánchez Vicario, I mean, try to be good with them!!)
Our profession is artistic, therefore I do not recommend rigidity in the schedules or in the working days, and the less rules is better. You have to be very flexible and understanding, with the team leaving a lot of freedom to talk and be have fun (always making it very clear that anybody can not neglect work, the people know limits). We are not machines, we need the creativity, the good vibes and the predisposition of all.
Hampa Studio: In Hampa Studio, depending on the project, we put some conditions or others. When they are short services or our own projects we set objectives if they finish before they get home, if we see that the artists arrive very hurried with the times in a recurrent way, we review the plan with production because it is very likely that the problem comes from the planning.
Don’t impose on a standard schedule, like there are the 10 commandments, keep an open mind and adapt it to each project. Even you can talk to the workers and ask them what they think.
Hampa Studio: At this moment in Hampa, we do a working day from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., and with an absolute flexibility of inputs and outputs, (except when there are a deadline or something important), in this way we can all enjoy what it calls family conciliation. Currently, we are testing work 32 hours a week, that is, we work from Monday to Thursday (if it is true that the jobs are still on Skype from home and work if necessary). I’ll tell you how this is experience is going! 😉
Nobody should do the overtime work! only on a specific case, when the people are staying work time to take out the projects, you have to keep in mind that they are being generous with their free time, because they can dedicate it to their families, to themselves, their pets or their beer barrels, and they left all these things for the project. You must correspond to them, at least, in the same way, and without waiting for them, … and also pay for the pizzas, do not be miserly! This compensation can be in many forms. (no man!, no sex!).
Hampa Studio: In the Studio, many times, due to budgets, we can not count on contingency expenses and there is no budget for extra hours, what’s more, the first thing we say to people is that we do not want them to do extra hours (unless it is force majeure), so when people do more hours is because it has been a complication from production, thus, as we can not pay the overtime, we calculate them like free time adding a little more than they have done.
SALARIES AND CONTRACTS
Do not be stingy by the money, stretches the wages more than you can, always than the budget and the profit forecasting allows you.
The manager already will tell it to you, but prepare yourself to pay social safety(security) at the tip shovel, for a thousand – eurista salary you are going to pay 500 € more, of National Health Service, it is to say to the study it is going to cost 1.500 € and this way proportionally), in other countries this expense is not so a beast and because of it seems that they pay better because they can give more to the worker and less to the condition(state).
Never think, on doing strange things with contracts !!!, like for example; freelancers working in the studio or making contracts an internship to pay 2 cents of social security or to bring Chineses and put them inside a container in the port (saying like that, it is not so wrong…they could have their water bottle and look the sea of pleasure…).
Always, make normal contracts and agreements with the worker the salary, that is more or less money is something already among you, but always legal and fair contract. We want to do industry and we have not done studies on the shoulders of workers, the industry we do among all.
Hampa Studio: In Hampa everytime we budget a service or a project, we have a meet with the supervisors and production and we try to raise, the salaries first. Sometimes we do not enter into the budget … well… We almost never enter into a budget when we put good wages, so sometimes the client or the producer obliges us to go down the wages, but we always set a decent limit. Come on, we always try to raise wages, sometimes we can and sometimes we can not do it, but it’s not because we do not want to!
The Hampa’s chiefs never have a wage better than the salaries of the moment, be a senior, a supervisor or a department director, if we increase our salaries we increase those of all.
About the wages concept, I Want to do a personal reflection at this time: It is spoken that in Spain, in the sector of the animation, the wages are low, but I do see it in another way. I believe that salaries are charged in other countries such as France and the United States for example, they are lower in comparison, if we add the price of life and the benefits that the studies receive. To put it another way, a standard film made in Spain with a price of € 1500 – € 2,500 – € 3,500 approx, with a price of 8-15-20 million and obtaining a return of 6-10 million euros (as exaggeration !, if remove the money that the distributors take out, etc.), we are paying the best salaries for the benefit and the risk that it has to produce in Spain, that a movie in the United States with a profit of 600 million and with a presumption of 100, paying 7,000 – 9,000 euros a month to their workers.
Here, I give you an example of Dreamworks where you can see the movies they have done, with the budgets they allocate and the benefits they get https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamworks_Animation. I think that in some movies on this list, even paying a junior 10,000 turkeys a month would be paying less in proportion to what is paid in Spain, (seeing the difference between benefit they get for what they invest). But hey, this is a very personal reflection, and this is another issue !! .. that everyone will surely want to comment !, but from here I take the opportunity to say that all Spanish producers, (Illion, Lightbox, Bluedreams, Thinklab, Kandor, Conflictivos Productions, Keytoon, Clay Animation,3D3, Paso Zebra..etc..etc..) They, who encourage to produce are heroes and would deserve statues like the fucking Colossus of Rhodes.
LEAD YOUR STUDY
To have a study and especially if it is not a very big one, the people have to believe in your project and have to believe in you. Being a leader does not impose with squeals or fights or threats (good! Pablo Escobar if you could!, Fuck is that you spin fine). Being a good Leader is achieved by winning the respect of the people. (I talk a lot here but I still have not gotten it! Here they teasing me yet:)
You have to know how to listen, accept opinions and ideas for any member of the team.
You have to be sure about your way, you can not doubt and you have to have your ideas very clear. All these things will help you to win security and confidence in your team.
It is necessary to give the example, you have to be the first to arrive and the latest go away from the study and never ask something to anybody that cannot do.
PLANNING AND PRODUCTION
It is the least pleasant and most evil part of the animation. We must be very careful when planning work, we have not to overload the team or waste time. It is very difficult to make a good production plan without cracks.
I highly recommend is to get in touch with authentic production professionals to help you assemble your plan. I recommend to Mr. Cohl they are the best! if you can not doubt it! (Take subliminal Publicity, with this already done the month!).
Hampa Studio: What we do in Hampa Studio, we not only hiring to Mr Cohl, 😉 we meet all the team that is going to get involved in a project and together we calculate the times, we ask the artists how long it will take to do this and the other. It is very important to involve everyone, since they will be the ones who will do it. (This is another advantage of small and medium-sized studies). Evidently in large studies (from 80 people onwards) it is impossible to do this and the responsibility of deciding the times of realization falls on the directors and supervisors of departments together with the producers.
Try to know well to your team, with their strengths and weaknesses, do not load all the work to those who stand out or burn them. Be joust with task distribution of work and also bet for those who don’t stand out, although it takes you more supervision work and retakes, everyone deserves help and all the training you can give them, it is better for the studio in the future too.
However much you have a good plan, sometimes the deadlines could not be done at the original time (calculation errors, inexperience, technical problems, diarrhea … etc). Be positive and look for solutions. The animation is a team effort, if everything goes well it is thanks to everyone and if it goes wrong, the mistake is of all includes and especially you, therefore do not go mad or dismissing people like Jonah Jameson.
Take advantage that you have a small or medium studio, do not put limits or firewalls between people and you. All the people have to be confident to enter in your office to talk with you, tell their topics in your face 🙂
The communication between the latest member and the higher have to be direct and clear. This will avoid bad understandings and suspicion.
Hampa Studio: In Hampa Studio everyone can come and tell me what they want, I accept all kinds of criticism, it helps me to improve the study and as a person. In addition every morning we make a daily, we see the team progress and at these moment the people can speak with total frankness about any topic.
If you do not know how to do this, I recommend that you hire a coaching specialist, I suggest one of the best national and almost international say, Rubén Turienzo, he will help a lot to create good communication and good work. Very Important in our sector!
Say to everybody that you exist, make a web, twitter, facebook..etc and write a polemic blog!
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SECTOR
Get it through your head!!!… It is better to collaborate than to compete.
In this sector, and especially in Spain all the studios we know and we get along generally, the odd stabbing with a handful of Col-erase, but it does not happen of there. In general, you have to play clean, do not steal people from other studios, clients, or slander (it’s hard to maintain a small/medium-sized studio so that you can be prejudiced by colleagues).
If there is a business path, a subsidy, distribution, customers … that has gone well for you. Do not keep it, share the information with other studies if they ask you. The better we go to all the best for the sector. Collaboration YES, Competition NO.
MARKETS AND FESTIVALS
Go whenever you can to all the festivals, markets and animation shows, it’s a good opportunity to murder canapés and since you are there you can do networking with workers, studios, schools, distributors, channels, software people (that, I do not know … but these poor people are always the ones who are in the corner and nobody talks to them;).), you can even meet the people of the organization … etc. It is also a good time to see if all the policies mentioned above are working.
If you enter a party with old workers and other studies and they don’t beat you up is that you are doing things well and you have not dedicated to fuck anyone, which is really the most important of all!
I highly recommend 3Dwire, it is a good meeting point with the whole sector, besides being the best festival at a national level, they are very good people and if you hit a Segovian breakfast, then for what else?
PRODUCE IN SPAIN
Try as much as possible to do everything in Spain, you will have fewer benefits, that’s for sure !, but if we want to create industry we have to push together, and it is our responsibility to retain national talent.
AND AS A FINAL REFLECTION …
Be very ambitious but do not be hurry, The things happen when they must be, as long as you are working hard, treat everyone very well and give maximum quality. You have to be careful if The Big Wave (the Great Wave) comes, but if you lose it, nothing happens, do not sink, always come more.
Hampa Studio: A few years ago, Manuel Cristobal asked us for a quote to make the “Wrinkles” movie by Paco Roca, we were super excited but in the end he did chromosome. We felt blue to not be able to do the project, it was hard because we thought we lost our chance. When I look back, I realize that we did not do it because it did not touch us, we were not prepared,… Right now, years later and also thanks to Manuel, we are co-producing along with Dream Team, Moonbite and Lady Bug the next movie by Paco Roca, “Memories of a man in pajamas”. If you work hard and when you fall you get up and continue surfing … there is always another great opportunity.
Alex Cervantes / Ceo -Director / Hampa Studio[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]