Found a study? No balls!!!
Hi people!… Here we go again. After the last and provocative article, directed at the new generations:), I upload this post (with a typical war cry) to encourage all those who are deranged and want to set up an animation studio … No balls/ovaries!!
Important Note: I will speak under the experience of setting up a studio without helping and without any initial investment. Here you will not find magic formulas for making your studio project work, only some actions that we have worked and learned based on blows!. All that you are going to read are not rules of fire of Hampa Studio, we have implemented some things, others that we have wanted to do and others, we have not been able to do. But, I think that all the medium and small studios (that we are the great majority), we always should consider them😉
WHY DID I WANT TO CREATE MY OWN STUDIO?
I do not have business training, like the Amancio Ortega style. I am an artist in the most artisan and lowly sense of the word, not in Pantoja plan (although, we have the sideburns in common). I just like to draw and tell stories, and since I did not find anyone who was so crazy to pay me to do my own projects with their money. Thus, I created my own studio.
AT FIRST,… LEARN!
The most advisable thing to begin to work in studios. At first, begin to be employed at a very small one, to live the passion and the illusion very closely, you will have to do everything because in small studios is the most normal. Then, if you can, try to go to a large studio to learn processes, organization and management.
This is BlueDream Studios, one of the great studios in Spain and where things are doing very well.
All this learning will help you if you want to create your own studio, keep the best of some and avoid other bad practices of the others.
Hampa Studio: I was so eager to learn everything, that I worked for free in a studio for almost a year, then I was in another that they paid me a little, but without any insurance or anything …for what!. Later I went to one where I did get paid, and finally I saw something that looked like a contract or something, but nooo! … almost! … they were my freelance papers and with another fundamental requirement was that I had to take my own home computer (and it was not usual to see laptops, so you can imagine the mockery). With all these shits, and then after going through these working conditions, I learned all the things that I have not to do if I ever had workers. But I also learned very positive things, like there is a bar in the Plaza de España that some sandwiches are really the best, Yhee! and only to 3 €!
HOW TO START A STUDIO WITHOUT AN EURO
The logical and normal order is first to have your own projects or clients, then after a while, if you see that the work is more or less solid, mount the studio, never the inverse way. That of catching machines, a local and waiting for John Lasseter through the door, “to sweat” with a briefcase shouting. I’m desperate! Can you make me Toy Story 4?”, … mmmm … doesn’t happen.
THE FIRST AND THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE
The company is NOT you, the company is yours, yes! .. as your child is yours but not you. The money of the company is NOT yours, the company pays you, but the money belongs to the company, and if you need a play it does not mean that the company needs a play. Please be very strict with this rule, it is very likely that at some point there will be many families that depend on the money of the company, do not waste it or spend it badly, in fact, it is a corporate crime that is paid with jail!
ALONE YOU CAN WALK FASTER BUT ACCOMPANIED YOU CAN GO FARER AWAY.
Look for someone that accompanies you, in your successes and your hardships, but when you look for a partner, make sure that he or she has the same passion as you, the same dedication and the same illusion, let’s go! If you don’t share the same illusion society will not last long, and you will end up, in an epic battle!
Hampa Studio: Javi and I, we met in Arts and Crafts and decided to created Hampa Studio (Formerly called Lex Lutor, until many years later we were sued by DC comics from New York, to use the name of their character, this I will tell you in another post, …, I was very scared, but you’re going to laugh out loud! hahaha you are very bastards, don’t you?).
Well, that’s it! Everything started in my room at my parents’ house, at 20 years old. Our office was the same place where I slept, imagine how that smelled, … it smelled of compulsive adolescence. We started doing some advertising jobs and when finally came a project more or less large and with my mother really tired of the two children locked in the room (I think that she came to think we were even couple, she knocked on the door before entering, with that I say everything!), we searched for a flat and moved to Cuba Street in Valencia, that looked like Big’s horrible apartment where Tom Hanks cries inconsolably, but it was our first office.
This was the front of the studio, let’s say the best part where we put the customers to look good. Some customers went out for the back part, they never came back, and we never more knew about them.
DO NOT THINK ON MONEY
When you have your first projects/orders, do not think about money (just enough for drugs and alcohol). Think about the quality of everything you always do, and even more so with the first clients/projects, they will be your reel and the presentation letter of the study. Do not worry, do not hurry, doing things well the money will come.
Forget to improvise, it’s like that! maybe you win on that road… but come on, is not normal! When you make budgets, try to be as fair and honest as you can, count on your development, indirect and infrastructure expenses and add between 19% – 21% of industrial profit. If your customer is strategic and you are really interested in him and he does not adapt to your budget, reduce your own benefits but never do it on the salaries or rest of the infrastructure expenses.
When you are starting to, you have to re-invest All the benefits, that enter. In that way you have a small mattress to withstand the months of drought, you could buy computers, furniture, or what you may need to continue growing.
It’s really important don´t raise the prices, you have to be a good fellow with the other studios and always keep up decent salaries.
Hampa Studio: We invest all our money in our own projects, we spend a year doing services, on publicity or for other films, series or whatever, and then a year we develop our projects. The following year, while we collect the fruits of the project, we return to doing the animation services to re-capitalize and we return to do the same next years … and so until one of our projects become a SpongeBob.
First, get a counter, otherwise, you‘ll mess up!!
One thing you have to know is that if you are going to have a small studio or medium (PYME) you will be jaded to pay taxes, .. but good! Do not invent tricks to pay less. The Pymens and the self-employed are the most punished by taxes, and even the largest companies, this is true! … get over it or go out and burn containers !! … but do not be weeping !!!
Look at the Montoro (Former Minister of Finance of Spain) laughs out loud!. Recently, somebody tells him that there is another who will be rich with a study.
Hampa Studio: The first time that I saw the taxes we had to pay, I told to Paco Ramos (the first manager we had) … “Paco, we have to pay a lot of taxes, there is no way to pay less?” Paco told me with the wisdom and peace of mind that he has … “Alex, a company is to earn money and pay taxes, do not touch my balls !!”. That’s where the conversation ended and I always keep in mind!
NEW MEMBERS IN THE TEAM
If both of you work hard, that day will come the day when you and your partner do not give enough, had been exhausted and the entire batch of annual redbull nationally was finished. At this moment, is time to hire someone.
Be careful! With the first person that you contract, at this moment you will be inexorably close to that fine line, you can go from being a sympathetic and empath to becoming a shitty businessman.
Normally, in the big studios, they have a human resources department with very smart people who already do the recruiting work, but in small and medium studies we have to do it ourselves together with someone of production, in the best of cases.
It is very important to be careful with the personnel selection because if you choose the wrong person, there are not doing any favor to this person because not reaching the objectives and will generate frustration. And neither you will not be doing to yourself. Because you would not find the results you need.
Therefore, although you don’t have any time, take your own time for the selection alike, it is very important! Steve Jobs said “take your time to hire and fire quickly” (first, cool! .. apply it, but is a little bastard with the second !! … no?
And as the last recommendation, use the correct search animation channels, in this way you will not waste time and efforts with non-specific cv.
Hampa Studio: Many years ago, when there were no websites specialized in animation or forums or groups on facebook etc … In Hampa, when we were looking for people, we put an ad in info jobs (flipa!), We look for Flash animator, with illustrator knowledge “And they wrote us an uncle saying that we had a 15-year-old animator and that he looked like an illustrator without much control, but that was bachata, mambo, and tango without problems”.
This is what any mortal thinks in Spain when you say that you are looking for people for animation. (Beware with the young man of the wig that is giving it all!)
Hampa Studio: we use facebook, twitter and some websites like (https://www.animatedjobs.com/) or animation forums .. to post a job offer. Also, we usually ask for help from other studies, and it is very common that they ask us too. Of course, it is the best way to get 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.
Yes ….yes…I know!! … this image is a little weird to illustrate the subject of extra hours, but Pixar’s Day & Night is nice at least!
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