December 11, 2012

8 Signs You're Working in a Remarkable Animation Studio

1. The Animation Industry is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.

Average Studio Owners/Animation Producers see the animation business as a conflict between studios, departments and groups. They build huge armies of "troops" to order about, demonize competitors as "enemies," and treat clients as "territory" to be conquered.

Remarkable Producers/Studio Owners see the animation industry as a symbiosis where the most diverse studio is most likely to survive and thrive. They naturally create teams that adapt easily to new production and can quickly form partnerships with other clients, studios... and even competitors.

2. A studio is a community, not a machine.

Average Studio Managers/Producers consider their studio to be a machine with employees as cogs. They create rigid structures with rigid rules and then try to maintain control by "pulling levers" and "steering the ship."

Remarkable Studio Managers/Producers see their studio as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They inspire employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community–and company–at large.

3. Management is service, not control.

Average Directors want artists, animators, and employees to do exactly what they're told. They're hyper-aware of anything that smacks of insubordination and create environments where individual initiative is squelched by the "wait and see what the director says" mentality.

Remarkable Directors set a general direction and then commit themselves to obtaining the resources that their employees need to get the job done. They push decision making downward, allowing teams form their own rules and intervening only in emergencies, to answer questions, and to guide the animation artists on the same consistent path; always ensuring the story themes and artistic components of the production are executed as per the creative vision.

4. My employees are my peers, not my children.

Average Producers see employees as inferior, immature beings who simply can't be trusted if not overseen by a patriarchal management. Employees take their cues from this attitude, expend energy on looking busy and covering their behinds.

Remarkable Producers treat every employee as if he or she were the most important person in the studio, from Directors and Supervisors, to Animators and Painters. Excellence is expected everywhere, from the storyboards through to final compositing. As a result, employees at all levels take charge of their own destinies, and take pride in the work they do.

5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.

Average Directors see fear--of getting fired, of ridicule, of loss of privilege--as a crucial way to motivate people.  As a result, employees and supervisors alike become paralyzed and unable to make risky decisions.

Remarkable Directors inspire people to see a better future and how they'll be a part of it.  As a result, employees work harder because they believe in the studio's goals, truly enjoy what they're doing and (of course) know they'll share in the rewards.

6. Change equals growth, not pain.

Average Studio Owners see change as both complicated and threatening, something to be endured only when a studio is in desperate shape. They subconsciously torpedo change over and over again... until it's too late.

Remarkable Studio Owners see change as an inevitable part of life. While they don't value change for its own sake, they know that success is only possible if employees and the studio embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business and animation.

7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.

Average Studio Owners adhere to the old IT-centric view that technology is primarily a way to strengthen management control and increase predictability. They install centralized computer systems that dehumanize and antagonize artists and animators.

Remarkable Studio Owners see technology as a way to free human beings to be creative and to build better relationships. They adapt their back-office systems to the tools, like pen displays, tablets, appropriate software & plugins that people actually want to use.

8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.

Average Directors/Managers buy into the notion that work is, at best, a necessary evil. They fully expect employees to resent having to work, and therefore tend to subconsciously define themselves as oppressors and their employees as victims. Everyone then behaves accordingly.

Remarkable Directors/Managers see work as something that should be inherently enjoyable–and believe therefore that the most important job of manager is, as far as possible, to put people in jobs that can and will make them truly happy. Animation production is an intensely collaborative process, any efficiencies and techniques to push progress forward and opens up lines of communication amongst the crew will always be advantageous.

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