Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who You Gonna Call?

No one gets off the stage in Los Angeles thinking they're unprepared. They've got what they believe to be a good idea and a bag full of money. And they've done research! They've asked a friend if they know anyone in Hollywood. The friend has a friend who went to school with a kid that does something in the film industry, maybe even cartoons. The guy with the idea talks to the guy who does something involving the cartoon industry and offers him a bag full of money attached to an offer he can't refuse. (I have this horrible idea that this is really the way films are made! ) This particular story has a happy ending, however. The guy they contact actually does do something in the cartoon industry; he does voices for cartoons. He also knows he's in over his head but figures he's a quick study. He calls a friend who does voice directing and the two of them conspire to do something smart; they call someone they know who they have worked for before, liked working with and can trust. They call the Mad Animation Prophet.

Now, interested readers, I have been here before. I have been contacted by people who claim to have money and a good idea. They usually have only part of a bad idea and no money. They want you to do all the work, pay you no money and, if they are really good, get you to cover the cost of artists to develop drawings they also never pay for. It comes to nothing except sadder and wiser artists. The first meeting started well. There was the career professionals I had worked with, a live action producer, with heavy-weight credits, representing the board of directors and the two creator/producers. The creators were excited because they had a good idea they just didn't know what to do with. The voice talent were excited too, probably over the creators', supposed, bag of money. The live action producer seemed confused. What did he know about animation?

The Mad Animation Prophet was skeptical. Yet I was hopeful because the room reeked of sincerity. The creators did have a good idea. They wanted to do good. They had an idea to start a national program teaching children and family safety funded by altruistic corporations who would use the program to advertise their own participation. The representatives of this program would be adorable cartoon animal characters who showed the kids at home how they can keep themselves and their family safe. The purpose of the project was to create these marketable characters and introduce them via a free animated film the investing corporations would finance. Best of all, they already had the money! Wow. Could this be true? This deal had everything: professionals I knew, a famous live-action producer I trusted, a project that that will actually help kids and two sincere creators with a bag of money! I was convinced. I agreed to make their film but what did they want exactly? Fortunately, the creators had already produced a short film that spotlighted their characters and the information they wanted to highlight. All I needed to do was make a more "commercial" version of the idea. Then they showed me the film. My blood turned to ice! It was like discovering a hostile tribe's presence at a water hole AFTER you've unpacked your mule.

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