Monday Blog of Accountability Part 3 – Encouraging Focus

  • On May 20, 2024 ·
  • By ·
Letter Board on Light Blue Background says "Start Doing"

Today I want to discuss proper care and feeding of creative routine as well as little tricks I use to keep myself on track. My unique flavor of distraction might be different from yours but most of us struggle with it in some capacity. The goal here isn’t to take what I say as gospel but rather to start being more aware of your own habits so you can guide them intentionally.

Pregaming

Before you can start it’s a good idea to properly end what you were last doing. This might seem obvious but life expects us to juggle a lot. Phone alerts, website notifications, everything wants to ping your attention these days. If you have the luxury of enabling Do Not Disturb mode while working, go for it, the results can be life changing. It’s also a good idea to disable things that don’t need to instantly reach you, since honestly those can easily be abused and they eat away at time you could be using. Open your inbox and unsubscribe from emails you don’t read. A good newsletter can be a joy to go through. Bad ones simply want to sell something. If you’re worried about disappointing the people you subscribed to, I’m giving you permission to let them go. You don’t owe anybody your engagement. (Save a few entities like the government we all have to interact with) Somebody who guilts and shames users to keep them around is being manipulative and not worth your time. If there’s critical updates and they don’t push that information out to everybody then they won’t be in business very long.

Typical self-care rules apply. Get a proper night’s rest, wake up with the sun if you can, shower and get dressed in clothes that feel like you’re getting to work. Take breaks, get up and stretch, remember to hydrate and eat. This can be a good time to check email or any other messages that have some in. Give yourself a good stopping point to be done and decompress. Permitting yourself time to relax and focus on anything you want that isn’t your current project prevents burnout. It also allows for inspiration and new ideas to form.

Multitasking

There’s plenty of evidence that multitasking is bad. Doing more than one complex task at a time impacts our effectiveness, resulting in working slower and leading to making mistakes. It’s important to distinguish tasks by brainpower involved. If you find yourself having to make conscious decisions it’s probably complex. Carrying on a conversation is a complex task. Folding laundry largely isn’t. Most big projects will have a mix of both. I find it’s best to treat complex tasks like outlining or framing. Once the heavy decisions are made it’s easier to relax and appreciate the busywork. Having to concentrate for too long can be mentally or emotionally draining. It’s possible to get worn out by something even if you love it. Likewise, your mind wants to escape if you’re bored doing tasks with no thought behind them.

One of my biggest problems is switching tasks. If I’ve spent a considerable amount of time doing one thing, like writing or researching, it can be hard to pivot to something else like drawing. I usually take physical breaks to get up, do some quick chore around the house, and start fresh. It’s also good to batch similar tasks together. If I’ve been drawing character designs all morning it’ll be easier to move to layouts or any other type of drawing than going from writing to drawing. These are the different hats to wear during a production and some have very different fits from each other.

I recommend starting projects with a session to define goals. Setting expectations like what you’re making, in what kind of state it needs to be delivered in, and a rough idea of the timeline will help you narrow down your approach instead of trying to figure all that out off the cuff. As mentioned earlier, there’s a time to look for inspiration and a time to save things for later. Of course being a creative type with ADHD means there’s going to be days where I sit down to work and can’t make myself do the thing I’ve penciled in. When that happens I let myself switch to another task on the project I can get excited about. As long as the work serves the the bigger goal it doesn’t matter which part gets done when.

Unplugging

Richard Williams tells a story in his book “The Animator’s Survival Kit” about asking Milt Kahl if he ever listens to music while working. Eduardo Quintana animated the exchange of Kahl exclaiming he’s not smart enough to think of more than one thing at a time.

UNPLUG! via Eduardo Quintana

While an amusing anecdote, this bit of advice is often discussed and contested. Personally I go in and out of wearing headphones throughout the day. Sometimes I need music to relax. Sometimes I’m blocking out irritating noise or trying to be courteous to others in the house. I believe the broader point Williams and Kahl were making was to be deliberate in your actions. If what you’re doing deserves your undivided attention, give it your undivided attention. Not everything does entirely all the time. Occasionally you realize the beats pounding in your ears are making it harder to think. You might also find yourself sitting across from Nina of Corporate Accounts Payable in Office Space (1999).

Misc. Tips, Tricks, and Advice

  • Give yourself earlier deadlines to finish than the real ones
  • Design projects with sections so there’s a minimum viable product to deliver even if you can’t complete all the sections
  • How do you achieve 3 things in a day? Try to achieve 5

Monday Blog of Accountability Part 2 – Sharing Concepts

  • On May 13, 2024 ·
  • By ·
Title Screen of God Mode: Quest for the Cool Pilot Pitch

So today I’d like to discuss some of the projects I’ve been working on specifically. I tend to avoid specifics because I’m a bit afraid I’ll lose interest if I share too much while things are in the conceptual stages. I’ve decided to do the opposite of that hoping to narrow my focus.

Librivox Audiobook Adaptations

I’ve mentioned this before but Librivox is a community of volunteers reading public domain works and releasing the recordings for anybody to use. (I particularly appreciate their collection on the Internet Archive for searching) They even have dramatic readings that are basically audio plays to work from.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Aligheri

This is an epic poem following the author through Hell, Purgatory, and eventually Heaven. It’s full of commentary on religion and the church of Aligheri’s day. Obviously because it’s so large I would need to break it down into manageable chunks. Librivox has both the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation and a dramatic reading translated by Courtney Langdon. I really love the idea of adapting it but know it’d be a long-term and drawn out project.

A House-Boat on the Styx by John Kendrick Bangs

Bangs wrote a number of stories where famous figures from history get together in the afterlife (hence named Bangsian fantasy) and this one was actually turned into a Broadway play in 1928. Charon, the ferryman of souls, gets hired on as janitor to run a houseboat. It’s a cute idea if you like the notion of supernatural characters being regular folks simply doing a job. It’s a short and fun read but I’d have to change things to make it appealing to animate, which kind of defeats the purpose of not using an original story.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I’ve been a fan of this story since reading it in high school. The last entry in Short Story Collection Vol. 050, it tells of a woman going mad while her physician husband imposes bed rest as treatment for postpartum depression. My main issue with adapting it is I don’t feel it’s my story to tell, as a man. I relate to it on a human level, obviously, but don’t think I would be doing it complete justice. That’s a reason I’m linking the Librivox version read by ashleighjane.

Original Ideas – Books

    Futureproofers

    I’ve had this thought for a while about agents tasked with protecting the timeline. (Think Men in Black with time travel instead of aliens) Ultimately I think it would make a good series of Amazon KDP books. It’s pulpy with lots of twists and turns so I wish I could try it publishing it episodically with Kindle Vella but that’s still US-only.

    Paranormal Investigators

    As a kid I of course loved the Ghostbusters, especially the Real Ghostbusters animated series which expanded on the world. I also enjoyed Disney’s Lonesome Ghosts short where Mickey, Donald, and Goofy run Ajax Ghost Exterminators. Most ghost breaker media tends to be setup for slapstick shenanigans, which can be fine if that’s what you’re wanting out of it. I lean more towards the supernatural fantasy genre and I like old-timey settings so I started creating my own ghost hunting team. They work under cover as a reputable private detective agency in the early 20th century, our entry point being a medium alerting them to a rise in otherworldly activity. The visuals make me really want to draw it but currently I’m unsure what format it will take.

    Original Ideas – Animated Series

    God Mode

    Originally intended as a series pitch to Snapchat, a group of friends realize they’re in a video game. The vertical format is a unique beast that presents issues with repurposing footage for elsewhere. IGTV required it until 2019. The majority of Reels, TikTok, and Shorts use it today. I’m still using an iPhone 8 so, while I use mobile content, I wouldn’t say it’s my preferred way to consume it. (Even on desktop I tend to roll a different resolution than most folks. Properly sizing my webcomics was always an issue) I really should spend some time studying the mobile experience if I want to better design material for it. Hank Green made a video comparing the various platforms in terms of revenue and what their goals seem to be. I’d like to revisit this project, though my home office setup right now isn’t the best for recording dialogue. I want to work on the designs a bit more and see if I can refine the voices a bit.

    Title Screen for God Mode Pilot Pitch

    Blues Man

    Back in 2016 I made my first short for Quickdraw Animation Society’s Animation Lockdown, Bottled Spirits. This was meant as a standalone entry in a series I wanted to do around a roaming blues guitar player. I had to cut a lot of it due to production time and some time ago decided to remake it as Bottled Spirits (Uncorked Edition). I intended it as a pitch to a studio I saw looking for new projects, throwing in a pitch bible with details about the other episodes I had planned, and at one point I tried rolling them into the reel which caused things to go off the rails. This idea became like the Divine Comedy: an oversized epic where I didn’t realize I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

    Original Ideas – Animated Shorts

    Sun Up Gunned Down

    I take a lot of inspiration from music. This time I even yoinked the title from a piece by Bryan Teoh. A small Mexican town in the wild west is being terrorized by a murderous bandit. The ghost of a gunslinger returns seeking revenge. Currently I think this is the project I’m going to spend my attention on since it’s self-contained, I can play with all the spooky elements, and hopefully get myself into a solid production routine.

    Dispirited Spirit

    This was another vertical animation experiment. The premise is a depressed ghost becomes frustrated he can’t kill himself. I was influenced by Chuck Jones, specifically a trio of comedy horror shorts he made starring Porky and Sylvester; Scaredy Cat (1948), Claws for Alarm (1954), and Jumpin’ Jupiter (1955). I know suicide is a serious topic, though there’s an entire argument to be had about the place for cartoon violence and horror in general. I have no desire to be an edgelord. I think relegating cartoons to children’s fare and expecting them to avoid any potentially questionable content is reductive. I’ve asked the question on Twitter a few times, why is it ok to consider kid stuff mindless? When a movie review praises the fact that parents won’t be bored out of their skulls sitting in the theater, that’s an incredibly low bar to set.

    Monday Blog of Accountability

    • On May 6, 2024 ·
    • By ·
    Screenshot of a production board in KanbanFlow

    This post is going to go a bit different. Whereas others focus on things I’m doing, today I’ll be concentrating on how I’m doing. I try to journal and do a check-in with myself regularly, usually at the start/end of a week or month. It helps whenever I feel I’m going off-track or need to find direction.

    Journaling

    Screenshot of my journal entries for April, collapsed for privacy
    Screenshot of my journal entries for April, collapsed for privacy

    I believe my folks gave me my first journal in an effort to practice my handwriting. Or I simply saw a book with a lock on it and thought it was neat. Either way, writing things down privately was extremely useful growing up. There are two distinct halves I want to highlight:

    • Getting stuff out of your head
    • Processing what comes out

    Everybody carries around a decent amount in their minds through out the day.

    Some of it is straight memories. “First this happened, then this happened, now this is happening.”

    Some of it is plans for the future. “I need to remember to do this, then I can do the other thing.”

    Some of it is observations mixed with emotions. “I have to talk to so-and-so today. Ugh. They never shut up about themselves.”

    If you’re actively carrying around these thoughts and feelings all day it can weigh you down. I like to dump them out so I can organize, realize what’s on my mind, and deal with them properly. There’s the concept of the internal monologue, or intrapersonal communication. Different people experience it in different ways. Some folks don’t have one. When I was younger I used to narrate my imagination to myself when I played. At some point I got concerned talking to myself would seem weird so I moved it internally. I remember this being a conscious decision and taking effort.

    You may be nothing like me and my exact quirks but I still recommend journaling to everybody. (I do mine digitally now, though it’s a whole other conversation about which app/tool/system is the best) Writing encourages us to think about what we’re feeling and stewing over. Journaling specifically is nice because it’s for your own purposes so there’s less need to worry about formatting or making narrative sense for readers. Normally I’m taking steps to plot out my goals, what I have to get done for the household as well as personally and project-wise.

    There are weeks where I haven’t had time to physically sit down and write. It’s very therapeutic when I finally do, letting out any frustration or getting to ramble about my latest obsession. It’s not often I realize something I haven’t considered before but I attribute that to writing often. If a lot happens between entries the more I mentally need to wade through to make sense of it all.

    Logging

    Page of my log book from February, 2018
    Page of my log book from February 2018

    When I started renting office space outside of my home, I decided to keep a book of dates and times I checked in and out of my desk. Before that, I’d been using an AT-A-GLANCE wall calendar to follow the Don’t Break the Chain method of good habit building. At the time I was working on growing my focus, concentrating on a project for an extended period. That carried fairly well until the pandemic, where time seemed to slow down and compress all at once. There were months where I was the only person in the office. Then suddenly other people started coming back in and the place got busy again.

    The US-Canada border was closed so my girlfriend and I couldn’t visit each other. I also had to renew my passport while everything was shut down. The official website said they could be sent in but gave no guarantee of when they’d be returned. (To me, this translated to “lost”) So we waited. Once I knew when to expect my passport to be renewed it was off to secure a test for travel. I remember presenting my results on entry but still getting selected for further testing, requiring a follow-up call or email if results were positive. Then my mom announced when she was retiring and selling her house. Suddenly our timeline for planning my move became very real. The dentist told me I needed my first root canal, necessitating an appointment at another location and a rush order for the finished crown. My cat Hope needed to be cleared for crossing the border with proper paperwork. In between those two things I flew out to meet Solange and we drove our little U-Haul van to pack up my Ohio life before driving back with Hope.

    I’ve tried using the log book once after I was moved in and settled. It made me incredibly anxious. I suspect because of the hectic memories associated with the last time I used it. Plus it’s designed to make me feel like I’m on the clock, which can be unnerving if I don’t have a healthy routine set up.

    KanbanFlow

    Screenshot of a production kanban board in KanbanFlow
    A production board in KanbanFlow

    The Kanban system is popular in lean manufacturing and software development. It’s good for tracking different phases of a project. I particularly like KanbanFlow as it lets you customize multiple boards and has a built in Pomodoro timer with time-tracking. It’s incredibly satisfying to see what you’re working on move towards completion since so often creative work is abstract.

    Source Material

    • On April 29, 2024 ·
    • By ·

    Today I’d like to talk about source material. Specifically works in the public domain.

    Steamboat Willie

    Steamboat Willie (1928 Film) – 4K Film Remaster via Did You Catch This?

    Steamboat Willie (1928) is an important film for a number of reasons. It’s the first released (3rd produced) appearance of Mickey Mouse and one of the first cartoons with synchronized sound. It includes the 1910 song Steamboat Bill. A clip from the short with Mickey whistling a verse of the tune has been the production logo of Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2007. The title is probably a parody of Buster Keaton’s silent comedy Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928).

    4K Restoration trailer by Cohen Film Collection, watch the entire film in 4K via Annictive Public Domain

    Steamboat Willie entered the public domain in the US on January 1st, 2024, AKA Public Domain Day 2024. This meant that anybody was able to use that specific version of the iconic mouse for their own purposes, with certain restrictions. This led to a slew of Steamboat Willie horror video games, horror films, a puppet music video by NOFX, an animated music video from Green Day, overdubs, and the list is still ongoing.

    This is all to be expected, you might say. The average person probably doesn’t see the value in an almost century-old video of a cartoon mouse. The Walt Disney Company, however, cares very much. In fact, their interest in holding onto the rights to Mickey for as long as possible has influenced copyright law. For a breakdown of the various extensions over the years, Cartoon Research has a list of dates.

    Adam Ruins Everything – How Mickey Mouse Destroyed the Public Domain via truTV

    Disney has quite the storied history concerning copyrights. Mickey Mouse was created after losing their character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to Universal Pictures. (If you’re a fan of Drunk History, an amusing recounting of the tale can be found in Drunk History – The Creation of Mickey Mouse on editor Charles Breiner’s website) They’ve since been known for obscuring artists who’ve worked on their productions, selling the image that everything that comes out was made by Walt Disney himself, or at the very least the work of a few skilled hands instead of a creative army. Here’s a list of at least 50 Disney works based on sources in the public domain. As an animator, there’s plenty to learn Steamboat Willie.

    Mouse of Madness playlist via Animate with Dermont

    Why Use Sources in the Public Domain?

    Some folks may object to the idea of using sources at all. “You’re a creative, you should be making everything up entirely whole cloth!” The reality is most concepts don’t emerge fully formed. Even the rare times something feels like it comes completely out of the ether it often has roots in inspiration an artist has absorbed. Think of Shakespeare in Love (1998) and the parody short George Lucas in Love (1999). Original ideas come easier when our minds are allowed to play and adapt. Fiction is so powerful because we’re anchored in the real world and can imagine new things. If stories become overly unmoored from reality and what we know we start to lose the ability to relate.

    The public domain holds many interesting works yet a lot of people find it inaccessible. Old, black and white, silent or foreign films; myths and legends from different cultures or history; things viewed as outdated ephemera or hokey and old-timey. The more distance between us and what we think a work embodies, the harder it may be to appreciate. That’s why simply colorizing images can make them feel more real. It’s why Peter Jackson took such care with They Shall Not Grow Old (2018).

    How Lord of the Rings director brought colour to WW1 – BBC via BBC

    Dangers of the Public Domain

    Cartoonist Nina Paley produced the film Sita Sings the Blues (2008) using 1920s recordings from Annette Hanshaw. She believed the songs were in the public domain but ran into issues, due to a messy web of state laws that existed before federal copyright reform, rights to the compositions, and synchronization rights. There are very few truly public domain audio recordings in the United States, because copyright is still such a mess. Understandably creators want their work protected, but when anybody originally involved in the creation is long dead, and the physical materials they’re recorded on literally break down, who really benefits?

    Inspirational Sources

    When I’m looking for ideas, one of my first stops is the Internet Archive. There you can find uploads from libraries, institutions, and regular users like yourself. Collections include books, magazines, newspapers; software, video games, hardware manuals; music, podcasts, old time radio recordings; movies, TV shows, music videos… as well as the Wayback Machine that preserves snapshots of websites.

    The source that spurred me to write today’s post is Librivox. Volunteers record public domain writings and release them for free. Their collection is also on the Internet Archive.

    Project Gutenberg offers free ebooks for download and online reading. Their collection is also on the Internet Archive.

    Lastly I want to mention Itch.io. Originally designed as an indie video game storefront it’s grown to host game dev assets, zines, comics, soundtracks, and honestly a little bit of everything. Creatives can set up profile pages and ones for individual projects as well. They often have bundle sales raising funds for good causes.

    Mental Health

    • On April 15, 2024 ·
    • By ·
    Mental Health on Scrabble tiles

    I considered titling this one “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” but that’s a lot to take in all at once and probably why my therapist didn’t lead with it.

    Disclaimer

    I’m by no means an expert on mental health. If you’re dealing with issues, please seek out a professional. And if that professional isn’t a proper fit, seek a second opinion, just as you would with any healthcare provider. This is my own experience looking for answers and what has worked for me.

    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

    I’ve written before about my ADHD. Growing up I went undiagnosed for various reasons. Being a good student didn’t fit the image most people had at the time. Also the stigma against having something “wrong” with you, especially mentally, is very real. My family haven’t had the best experiences with doctors, to say the least, and actively distrusted counselors/therapists. I don’t really hold this against them as the American healthcare system is broken and mental health services are abysmal. It simply made navigating this all as an adult difficult. Especially when so many resources these days are about treating your ADHD child. :V

    The CliffsNotes are I have attention regulation and prioritizing issues. If something isn’t engaging I can literally blank it out. (When I was younger I tried several times to watch the movie Batman (1989). I’d get as far as the hoodlums saying “they call him The Bat” and next thing I knew it’d be at the credits rolling.) On the opposite end, if something is engaging and new I can hyper-focus. Meaning I’ll lose track of time, forget to eat, be unable to sleep, completely consumed until the novelty is worn off.

    Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

    Asperger’s Syndrome has actually been phased out in favor of rolling it into Autism Spectrum Disorder. Johann Friedrich Karl “Hans” Asperger, the Austrian physician who first identified the condition in 1944, had problematic ties to Nazi Germany and eugenics. For our intents and purposes, Asperger’s is viewed as less severe symptoms than Autism, with little to no language or cognitive troubles, (some testing even higher than average) but issues with social skills. It’s gotten the nickname Little Professor Syndrome due to those afflicted having intense special interests they can often have one-sided conversations on. This short video by Danny Raede of Asperger Experts is a good introduction:

    I also want to share this one he did on the sensory funnel, which addresses issues of overwhelm and getting somebody with Asperger’s out of Defense Mode.

    When I originally asked my doctor for help and started seeing a therapist I thought I had an anxiety disorder. I would have panic attacks, an ever-present feeling of stress hung over me like a flickering florescent light. There’s a scene in Man of Steel (2013) where school boy Clark Kent has to process and make sense of the world around him as he becomes overwhelmed by his super powers. He has a meltdown and hides in the classroom closet until his mother helps him focus. I’ve dealt with similar situations, lately when I experience a meltdown I think of Ironside from Kill Bill (2003-4).

    Medication helped quiet the internal noise so I could begin to address outside influences more closely. I started journaling, becoming more aware of my environment while also trying to better read and understand my own responses. Mindfulness has become a buzzword these days but it is an actual thing we sometimes have to practice. Raede also has videos on panic attacks and dealing with stress I recommend watching. He mentions realizing he was more comfortable being stressed than being relaxed and working to change that. How stress doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, that we can let sensations and emotions go through our bodies without feeling like we’re going to die.

    What It’s Like Having Both

    It’s often multiple similar conditions can occur at the same time, i.e. comorbidity. I recently stumbled upon this video by D.S.A. Threads Costuming which really hit close to home in a lot of ways.

    The problem I’ve been struggling with most recently, I think, is getting out of Defensive Mode. That’s where I de-stress, listen to myself, and make decisions going forward. I’ve had a lot going on in my life the last couple years. Moving to another country, getting married, sorting out immigration matters, on top of regular daily concerns like household chores and worrying about finances. It can be very difficult for me to switch gears when I’ve been doing something consistently. I’m not renting separate office space to work outside the house anymore so my ability to isolate isn’t what it used to be. Plus I have trouble letting myself enjoy drawing for fear I’ll lose track of things. It’s important to allow myself time to play creatively so the ideas come out.

    Making an Animation Demo Reel

    • On April 9, 2024 ·
    • By ·

    So you’re an animator looking to show what you can do. Maybe you’re looking for work, applying to get into an exclusive program, or for some other reason you need to introduce yourself and demonstrate your skill level. There are plenty of guides, tips & tricks, and advice articles out there.

    What Goes Into a Reel?

    The Demo Reel Formula via Ron Doucet
    The Demo Reel Formula via Ron Doucet

    Consider the purpose behind making your reel. If you’re a student highlighting what you learned in a course, you’ll want to show clips of your best exercises. Studios want to see examples that match the job listing and the type of material they produce. (There’s the off chance of starting a totally different project, or maybe a recruiter will like your random submission, but it’s a safer bet of staying within their wheelhouse) Freelancers will probably have more general reels, showcasing their range. It’s a good idea to personalize for specific use cases. Somebody looking for a lighting specialist isn’t going to get much our of a reel full of whiteboard videos.

    Examples of the types of jobs in the animation industry, including some for non-artists:

    Animation Jobs Explained by Laura Price
    35 Types of Jobs in Animation by mewTripled
    Non-Artist Jobs in Animation: Production & Post-Production (Part 1) by Eric Bravo

    Do I Treat It as a Short Film or a Clip Show?

    “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

    Donald Rumsfeld

    You won’t often see me quoting Rumsfeld but he made a point. If you don’t have much to show and time is short, spend it practicing exercises instead of crafting a narrative. This is where I share my own weaknesses with you. It’s very tempting to always be chipping away at a project, wanting to make it perfect, just taking a little more time. Eventually you look up from your work and realize years have passed.

    The Animators Who’ve Spent 40 Years on a Single Film by Atrocity Guide

    I don’t say this to scare but to encourage recognizing reality. Your reel should serve a goal of getting you somewhere, wherever that may be. Consider Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. There’s a time for everything. Your demo reel shouldn’t be your master work. It should be the thing you use to get the opportunity to make that next masterpiece.

    Credit Where Credit Is Due

    Slap your name and contact info at the beginning and end of your reel. Don’t make it harder for people to get ahold of you than it needs to be. Nobody wants to miss out on a job because they didn’t include an email address. Don’t expect others to track you down when you’ve already got their attention.

    Follow directions. You’d be surprised how many folks forget to check requirements. It’s easy to accidentally miss details. Other times it’s a matter of thinking rules don’t/shouldn’t apply to you. If you’re asked to include a resume or shot breakdown for your reel then do so. If asked for links, send links. If asked to send physical media, send physical media. (Just not originals!) Some advise nothing more than a bare bones title and contact screen. As an artist I feel this is a chance to show a little personality and stand out. That said, be careful not to shoot yourself in the foot.

    Use clear, legible, properly sized fonts and lettering. Nothing should be difficult to read or hard on the eyes. Don’t waste time with complicated title sequences, they’ll annoy anybody waiting through them to get to your actual footage. Music should be minimal unless it’s important to the animation. If you’ve been online long enough you’ve probably seen videos and unmuted only to wonder why somebody put something totally out of place behind it. Imagine the poor soul going through the stack of submissions who has to deal with a bunch of those to get to you.

    How Do I Talk to People, Again?

    • On April 1, 2024 ·
    • By ·
    Angry woman holding a bullhorn and raising her hand into the air

    How Did We Get Here?

    I’ve had my own website, in some form of another, since 2002. In that time span I’ve graduated college, been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), moved countries, gotten married, even grown a salt and pepper beard. The online and IRL world have changed a lot since then, too. For lots of people the internet is a handful of apps probably run by the same couple of companies. These apps tend to aggregate content without providing anything themselves, save access to attention. (I suggest reading the articles on Stratechery’s concept of Aggregation Theory for further thoughts on the differences between platforms and aggregators)

    There’s been a lot of stuff people don’t want to mention for fear of being too topical. Use the wrong phrase and suddenly people on both sides of issues will brigade you as opportunistic. Or you get shadow-banned; flagged as unfriendly to advertisers, regardless of your stance on something, your posts and comments having zero reach because you mentioned something verboten. Or maybe you’re simply tired of hearing arguments from the squeakiest of wheels.

    We had a global pandemic that largely shut society down for years. Most of us couldn’t physically be around each other from ~2020-? Reddit saw site-wide protests over API changes. The changes still happened, shuttering many 3rd party apps. This led to an exodus for those seeking alternatives. Elon Musk bought Twitter, changed its name to X, and continually muses about getting rid of the block feature. This also led to an exodus as users scattered to alternatives, where some of us learned about the Fediverse. They then got frustrated trying to understand it, confused by everything being decentralized and yet still able to be connected.

    (Toot from @Ciaraioch@mastodon.ie via Mastodon.ie)

    What Does All That Mean?

    Communicating with people is complicated. Trying to communicate online is even more so. Blogging feels like walking around with a bullhorn wearing a sandwich board sign. Comments become a cesspool of spam and GIFT. (True story: Even after disabling comments on this site spammers still got in. I literally had to get a plugin that nukes that functionality to stop it)

    Podcasting is fun but requires so much effort to assemble, format, post, troubleshoot… not to mention it still feels like I’m talking mostly to myself. I have no interest in hosting a group show again as that becomes herding cats.

    I’ve considered taking YouTube or one of the other video platforms more seriously, though that tends to result in falling down rabbit holes, researching and trying to figure everything out before ever posting anything. Putting the fate of my work in the hands of the various algorithms does worry me, I’m not gonna lie. But I’ve still got this site if a host limits what I can do with something.

    Web 1.0 was average people putting stuff online. Web 2.0 was supposed to be more interactive and user-based. We’ve accepted the retroactive argument that this meant social media. Now we have doomscrolling. Web 3.0 tentatively includes tech like the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, NFTs, cryptocurrency, and metaverses. Personally I don’t like the vision of the future large companies seem to be pushing. It feels like we’re being sold stuff nobody really wants in the interest of making a select few tech bros very rich.

    So What Do We Do?

    I’m going to embrace the spirit of the small web. That means intentionally focusing on my presence online. I’d like to start blogging here regularly again as I properly build up my portfolio and demo reel. Hopefully that means getting myself organized on projects and sharing them as I work. I’m always apprehensive about announcing things and failing to deliver. But I’d rather be failing regularly than disappear because nothing ever had a deadline. So check this space next week to see how I do.

    I’ve also been tinkering with building an HTML5 animation site since Flash died. I think I have the technicals sorted out. Now it’s mostly a matter of creating content.

    On Monoliths

    • On September 26, 2023 ·
    • By ·
    Astronaut on Mars standing before a monolith

    Hey there. How are you doing? I’m doing alright today. Apparently it’s been 477 days (or 1 year, 3 months, 20 days) since my last post.

    Yeah, I’m not proud of that.

    The short answer is I’m a bit intimidated by blogging. It feels like writing a note on receipt paper and once I’m done it’s ripped off and handed to somebody else. I never seem to have enough to update with or there’s too much going on to know where to start. It doesn’t help that I have a habit of making mega-posts that require lots of research and links.

    It’s no surprise the guy with ADHD has trouble making and sticking to a schedule. Consider the New Years resolution to get in shape and how many fail to follow through because magically on the 1st they’re supposed to be an entirely different person. We can’t just tell ourselves “I need to get in shape.” We need to block out the time, say no to the rest of the world for a while, and physically start moving. Most of us, if we miss days, we feel like we’re never going to crawl out from under the disappointment. I learned with webcomics not to see updates as pages that have to be accounted for eventually, otherwise the backlog will brew resentment.

    Another issue probably linked to my neurodivergence is perfectionism. I keep giving myself unrealistic expectations and then get frustrated when I don’t meet my own arbitrary standards. Didn’t make a post on Monday? Obviously I’ve failed for the week. Got an idea to write about? Must be branched out into a multi-part series. Gotta maximize effectiveness! Can’t let one slip by without burdening it with the Ghost of Blog Posts Yet to Come.

    Catching Up

    The biggest news I have to report is Solange and I got married! ❤️ :3

    (The Simpsons: The Thompsons via Tumblr)

    She always told everybody she’d elope but we decided to have a small ceremony here with her immediate family. The plan was to keep it quiet online, get my family to join us for a stateside celebration in Vegas months later on April 1st, then announce on April Fools Day and see who couldn’t tell if we were serious or not. (Never let it be said my wife can’t commit to a bit) She kept her maiden name, though she’s still angling for us to both change to the amalgam Thomp’olson. I love that woman :V

    *Gestures Broadly*

    I’ve come to recognize the value in a personal website lately as, well, it seems like the rest of the internet is on fire these days. Some time ago I wrote of the various places I was considering to post stuff. These sites and services have regular daily users so sharing content on them should be a no-brainer, right? Except all these aggregators have their own agendas and responsibilities. To some extent we’ve all accepted giving up some level of privacy for the sake of using these sites. We don’t like it but we shrug it off, like clicking Agree to the new Terms of Service when software needs updating. We try not to think about it too much until it directly impacts us. I’m not going to call people lazy or enabling because I do it, too. We all just want to get through our day without having to deal with making sure the stuff around us functions properly. Problem is, the desire for that ease of use results in forgiving and overlooking pretty egregious behavior. For example: Meta artificially limits your reach unless you pay to boost content.

    This is compacted by advertising. These monolithic corporations couldn’t care less about what individual users need. Their guiding light is what advertisers want. Never mind that online advertising revenue is perpetually in decline. Running an ad-blocker isn’t simply about being selfish. Ads are not only annoying and intrusive, they can also leave you open to malware. If you’ve never gone to a page and tried to figure out which download button is real you’ve never really experienced internet advertising. (Also, don’t use AdBlock Plus: they sell ads) And before anybody gets a feeling of self-importance, saying we need to band together and solve this through competition, here’s a video from Folding Ideas discussing VidMe:

    Alt-tech has existed for a while but it’s usually been for exiles of the mainstream platforms. Then Elon Musk bought Twitter I mean X. Now people are jumping off to alternatives at a rate I haven’t seen since back in the aughts when popular forums imploded. And just as I started actually using Reddit they decided to kill 3rd party apps. Will any of them be the next Twitter? Honestly, I don’t want another one. You have to track down your friends, see where they all landed, then the site either dies because nobody uses it or everybody uses it and suddenly another monolith becomes Too Big to Fail. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to invest in the game of Which Billionaire Comes Out On Top. I’ll make profiles to follow, I guess, but I’m going to refocus my attention. I’d like to rekindle some of what we lost with the death of Flash. Check out this video by Lord Ravenscraft about Homestar Runner:

    Moving to Canada

    • On June 6, 2022 ·
    • By ·
    I "Maple Leaf" Canada

    (Photo by Alesia Kozik via Pexels)

    April and May 2022 have been busy months. I didn’t want to share too much online for various reasons, (primarily because I’m bad at keeping people updated and see time as one continuous strip) but I try to use the calendar to maintain some sort of civilized cycle. As I’ve finally begun unpacking and putting my new office space together it seems like a good time to spill the beans.

    Leaving Ohio

    I "Ohio" Voting Sticker
    Fun Fact: I once made my girlfriend an “I Saskatchewan Voting” design because they didn’t give out stickers

    My girlfriend and I had been planning on moving in together for some time but

    *gestures broadly*

    circumstances delayed that. Once we had actual dates to schedule for we looked at renting a van. We expected heavy winds in a few states and neither of us felt comfortable driving a full moving truck. Turns out nobody wants to rent a van in one country and have it returned in another. So Solange rented one in Canada, I flew into a town on my side of the border, and from there we started the first leg of our cross-country road trip.

    Some couples don’t travel well. The day after my girlfriend and I first met in person, we drove 8 hours so I could participate in Quickdraw Animation Society’s Annual Animation Lockdown. Like making any excursion, before I left I had appointments to make and logistics to work out. After x-rays my dentist told me I had an abscess and recommended a specialist for the required root canal. He put a rush order in for the new crown and I checked that from the list. I also booked a vet visit for my cat Hope so she could get up to date on her vaccinations along with any documentation needed.

    (Image via Pixabay)

    If you’ve never driven across time zones before, going East feels like you’re losing time. I mean you are, considering it’s already an hour later across each one than where you’re starting from, but fold that into traveling and you’re always playing catchup. Everybody hates Daylight Savings Time and it was a factor. The van clock was set to Saskatchewan time, my phone took a bit to update the changes, and my girlfriend had her phone set to Airplane Mode accepting wifi to avoid roaming fees. (In Canada my US provider charges $5 extra every 24 hours it connects. Hers is more than twice that in the states.) The night I flew in there was a blizzard warning the coming weekend so we tried to get out of town early. Weather caught up to us a few days with thunderstorms but we made it back to Ohio before Hope’s appointment.

    The following days are a blur of packing and loading. We boxed my computers and such at Idea Works, the co-working office I’d been using. The van gave us more room than other options but space was still at a premium. I grabbed things from the basement home studio and my parents helped us empty out my bedroom. One final group visit with my therapist and we started our return trip in earnest.

    Driving to Canada

    Actually traveling with my cat was less stressful than finding pet-friendly hotels

    We’d noticed on the way that most of the places we stayed at were part of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts with reasonable pet fees so I joined their membership program. This was supposed to cover both cats and dogs though one location told us they didn’t allow cats. We called the number to reserve our stay for the next night and the person in the call center said there was a similar alert for the planned stop. They offered to help us find an alternative, put us on hold, and the call dropped. We called back, got a different representative, and asked them to actually contact the hotel to check their policy. We got mistakenly quoted a $250 fee they corrected to $25, and later the front desk of the hotel called to confirm cats were welcome. Phew.

    Sightseeing

    Even though we were heading West this time we still had a crunch to drive far enough each day so we didn’t take in much vacationing. In fact we decided to add a day, figuring the $90 CAN it would cost to extend the van rental completely worth it. Turns out we’d already rented for a day longer than we thought we had. We still managed to visit a few spots along the way. Solange was writing a piece for her work newsletter, reviewing the bathrooms as she peed in as many states as possible. She took us to Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana where her dad went, (though it went by a different name then) and several M*A*S*H-related locations like Jamie Farr Park in Toldeo, Ohio and Radar O’Reilly’s Ottumwa, Iowa.

    There was one place we both totally agreed we needed to see.

    The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota

    (Finding Minnesota via WCCO – CBS Minnesota YouTube)

    The comedy music of “Weird Al” Yankovic is one of many things my girlfriend and I both appreciate and enjoy together. Going to see this lovely roadside attraction was an obvious choice. Unfortunately we couldn’t get ahold of any of the volunteers who operate the museum and gift shop to open them for us. (I was totally eager to have my own souvenir miniature ball of twine and a couple postcards. “Greetings from the Twine Ball, wish you were here.”)

    The Flood

    Crossing the border was a fairly uneventful event, all things considered. The officials were very friendly and helpful. We were stressed out and tired by that point. Once the paperwork was done, however, it was cause for celebration. We had dinner, drove home, introduced Hope to Solange’s cats with the expected hissing, slept until it was time for unloading and returning the van, got the final tally of ~4,000 miles driven, then went back to bed to finally get some rest.

    That’s about when the basement flooded.

    A container of original art was one of few casualties

    Apparently a manhole had issues and ground water got into several houses. We woke up to 4 inches in the basement and our neighbors outside talking with a plumber. Fortunately all my computer equipment was upstairs. My instruments and guitar amp were all propped off the ground. Solange and our roommate had put most of their belongings stored down there in plastic bins, which you really begin to appreciate when you see litter boxes floating by.

    A drawer with some of my comic originals leaked. My girlfriend very generously ironed and stacked them with paper towels while they dried. I was mostly in shock until I put them away to come back to at a later date. Honestly, it could have been a lot worse than it was. A few suitcases with laundry got wet, which was perfect timing as the dryer quit working. :V

    We ran a shop vac, hung things up to dry, relocated fans, put in a dehumidifier, collected and tossed loads of crap in the dumpster. Much like the road trip had been, it was a shared bonding experience we were all thankful to see the other side of together.

    Revenge of Taco Tuesday

    (Photo by Kevin Bidwell via Pexels)

    Right as we were wrapping up our work on the basement I got hit hard by a foodborne illness. I’ll spare you the details, other than I proved to be the canary in the coal mine as it spread to everybody in the house over a few days. I also had the worst case due to dehydration.

    Those have been some of the highlights over the last two months. Lots of changes, lots of getting used to new environments, lots of planning for the future. I plan to make smaller posts after this one. This started out simple and morphed into something almost too big to handle, sort of like the trip itself. I’ve been writing and editing this one for a while. I do need to start posting more again. I think the last few years have hit us all pretty hard in different ways we’re only now coming out from under. I need to find my work groove again. This is gonna be where I post about it. I hope you look forward to following along.

    9 QAS Lockdown Shorts Screening at Camp Sled Island Aug 19-21

    • On August 19, 2021 ·
    • By ·
    Featured Image

    Hey everybody, how’re you holding up? First order of business, as per Camp Sled Island’s page:

    Camp Sled Island is a three-day event taking place at Beltline’s High Park (340 10 Ave SW), running August 19 – 21! Throughout the year, we’ve been collecting video content from local and international artists, and now we are very excited to finally share them on the big screen. With three unique nights of programming, you can expect pre-recorded performances, film screenings, special guest video appearances, food from Via Convenience, beer service courtesy of Eighty-Eight Brewing, and even live music (if restrictions allow). See the schedule for each night below.

    Still considering the safety of our patrons amongst the recent public health changes in Alberta, seating will be arranged by tables of four and can be purchased for $60 each. One person will be asked to purchase a ticket on behalf of their group, and will need to provide general information for contact tracing purposes. The purchaser will receive four individual tickets that can be dispersed amongst their group. See below for current COVID protocols

    Please note there will no tickets available at the door. All tickets must be purchased in advance. 

    DOORS: 6:00pm 
    LIVE MUSIC PRE-SHOW: 
    7:30pm
    PROJECTION TO FOLLOW

    If you experience a technical difficulty while trying to purchase advance tickets, please contact our ticket provider, Showpass, at 1-844-307-SHOW.

    Camp Sled Island

    Check their page for info on each date and to buy tickets. Each day they’ll be screening highlights from Quickdraw Animation Society’s 2021 Animation Lockdown. My film, áaka’paisiiwa, “Time Will Pass” is one of them 😀

    A cat making the same face I am most days
    I’m right there with you, kitty.

    Hope you’re all staying safe and taking care of yourselves. There’s a lot going on in the world right now. I’ve been trying to scale things back, myself. After one too many arguments on Facebook I decided I was done there for the month. Honestly so much of social media is doomscrolling, trying to find something to feel positive about, then seeing somebody else’s bad take on a situation. People seem so confrontational these days. It’s not enough to disagree, they want to destroy the other person and immediately celebrate their superiority. There’s so much toxicity online. It’s like there’s different realities depending on your world view. Misinformation perpetuates long after it has been debunked because the true believers don’t really care about facts, they only want to control the narrative. Or they’re simply contrarian trolls who don’t believe anything, they just want to stir the pot and wear you down. It’s an unhealthy environment and makes me think we need to turn back a few steps in communication. Remember when the web was fun to be on?

    I’ve gone back to focusing on my daily routine. Dialing back my goals to one thing at a time, seeing if I can make headway with that. Intentionally drawing back from the world a bit and focusing my energy on projects. It’s been hard to get lost in my work for a while. I’m hoping to change that.