Thursday, August 7, 2008

Doing it the Hard Way

When I was a boy, steam locomotives still hauled freight but were becoming obsolete. The local meat packer in my town donated such a locomotive to our county history museum. The freight yard, where the locomotive was, and the fair grounds, where the museum was located, were on opposite ends of town. A connecting railroad track would have made delivery easy but it didn't exist. So they delivered the locomotive the hard way; they built the track as they went! They laid wooden ties down the center of a paved street just ahead of the locomotive. They put steel rail atop the ties and gently bolted them down. The locomotive drove along the rails the 40 yards to the end of the track, stopped, and waited until the workers ripped up the track behind it and relaid the tracks in front again. It was agonizingly slow progress but fun to watch! Eventually, the locomotive was delivered and no indication of the temporary trackage remained behind.

I've worked on productions like that, except they were no fun to watch. Enthusiasm and money rush in and form a company but before they even survey the track, they've bought a locomotive. Next they acquire a building to house all the employees and fancy furniture. Finally. they pick a destination but argue over which route to take to get there. By this time, the investors wonder when they're going to take their first ride. Suddenly, there's a rush to finish the railroad but there's no money or time left. So, they lay the tracks just ahead of the train, drive a short ways, stop, and wait for money to build farther along while the creditors tear up the tracks behind them. In the end, they've delivered a disappointing project but no trace remains of the company they built.

It doesn't have to be done the hard way. Survey the market, do a business plan, acquire the financing, build a realistic budget and schedule (in other words survey the route and lay the track) and then buy the locomotive! Nothing works like success. With the railroad in place and product moving along the line, the orders will come rolling in. A quality product made on time and on budget always brings repeat business...and a great sense of satisfaction. Animation film making is a business. It follows the same rules as any other business. Hire someone successful at the business of creating and operating an animation production before you start laying track or buying motive power. I've worked on productions that ran like a tuned watch. It takes a mixture of seasoned professionals, eager young apprentices, practical businessmen and courageous investors but this is the easy way to run a railroad or to make a movie about it. Hard work makes a well run operation look well as a lot of fun to watch.

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