Starting up your own animation IP

Surprisingly, there is little information online about how to startup the marketable animation project. Almost every day I see people on forums asking questions about pitching their scripts and ideas to major studios or big name broadcasters. The numerous success stories of a usual person becoming an established creator, director or a screenwriter inspire people to pursue their dreams and hopes of becoming a recognized creator. I worked with talented animators who strongly believed in their bright future where they were nonetheless a great director. While it is a great attitude to have, all of these guys being good artists and good people ended up nowhere. Pursuing the “American dream” they turned down great work opportunities, spent their own savings and time sitting at home doing personal projects which by their plan had to become internet viral bomb and drive attention of big name producers which eventually would give them one hundred million US dollars so they could create a show that would blow up people’s minds. Regardless of a project’s beauty and quality it always ended up lost somewhere on the web. Unfortunately, the media industry works a little bit differently. However, there are some effective methods to bring your ideas to life.

How to start an IP which sees the light of the day?

First of all, if a person never worked in the entertainment industry, he/she needs to spend at least several years working in the industry gaining experience and knowledge. A work background, experience and reputation are some of the essential components which help to get financing or any kind of support from potential investors or partners.

Many people would advice to start with a script and start sending it around. However, there is no reason someone spend time reading a script from unknown person. Other people would advice to start off with a teaser. That’s a lot better, though the teaser production requires some time and lot of money. Before committing to the teaser production it is good to know for sure if there is a market for the product.

From my personal experience I found out that the best way to start off the journey are summits and various industry events. I’ll list some of the events that I’ve visited myself and that proved to be really useful and eventually helped to achieve some of our goals.

A place to study the international market as well as demand and supply.

One of the biggest entertainment industry events is held in Cannes, France. I’ve been at MIPCOM. MIPCOM is a huge market where thousands of professionals from all around the world gather to make connections, close deals, distribute and partner. MIPCOM event is a great way to meet producers, distributors and broadcasters. Most importantly, it is a great way to observe the industry trends and feel the vibe. Once you feel it, you are on the right track.

Content producers and distributors show off their content at their booths, stop by and take a look at the content they market. Every company has their flagman product. Collect their promotional materials and product catalogs. Study their best sellers. By doing so you will understand where your project belongs, and what needs to be fixed or enhanced in order to successfully end up on the flagman list.

The photo from the orientation day. The cocktail party comes right after the orientation.

The photo from the MIPCOM orientation day.

The best case scenario is to talk to the distributors. They are quite busy people and their time is scheduled to the minutes, so be quick and precise.

Once you spend the whole day at the Palace of Festival (the place where MIPCOM is held) you’ll understand three things: first, the industry is huge and saturated. Two, there is no place for dreams and ambition, it is mostly about quantity and quality. Third, you’ll understand your place in the food chain of the ocean of media.

Cannes is a beautiful place. Sunny weather, beaches and good French restaurants will make your startup memorable and pleasant. As far as I remember the MIPCOM attendance costs around 800 Euro per person. The event duration is 4 days.

A place where you can pitch a project.

Kidscreen is a huge media organization. It organizes markets and summits all over the world. I should say that MIPCOM and Kidscreen can be called competitors.

The event I’m going to talk about is called Asian Animation Summit by Kidscreen. The event has a much smaller scale compared to MIPCOM. Each year the summit takes place in a different exotic place in Asia. What I like about Asian Animation Summit is that it is a smaller scale event, thus there are much more opportunities to meet people and been noticed. Unlike MIPCOM, the entire Asian Animation Summit is held in five star hotels, so everyone who visits the summit is always around somewhere doing some leisure activities. The private and relaxing nature of the event helps to create a much stronger network, meet producers, distributors and potential investors.

The duration of the summit is four days. During these days Kidscreen organizes various social events: cocktail parties, master classes, pitching sessions, lunches and tours. Every member can attend any of the events.

I’ve visited Asian Animation Summit in 2013, and it took place in Thailand on the exotic Phuket Island in Hilton hotel. I liked it so much that my wife and I decided to visit the Island one more time. We visited it a year later.

I appreciated pitching sessions. Various producers and creators would pitch their projects in the big audience hall filled with other attenders, distributors and broadcasters. The format of the pitch sessions is similar to TED presentations. Speakers go up on stage, the lighting goes dim, silence…let the show begin! The giant projection screen displays the presentation and reels the teaser. When the presentation is over, people ask questions and make suggestions. If the presentation is good, people start commenting and criticizing the presented project. Don’t hesitate to ask for the feedback, engage people. You are there because you are starting up and need a feedback to make your show successful.

The pitch session.

The pitch session.

I’ve witnessed some shows been green lighted in a matter of days while others have been criticized and buried alive in a matter of seconds. Regardless of the startup success, the comments and critique you get there worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. If I were to launch a new IP, the first thing I would do was to attend this event, prepare a good presentation and ask for comments and critics.

It is worth to mention that the most successful startups already had teasers, good portfolio and partial budget in place. The presentation and public speaking skills are very important as well.

Business aside , it was a cool trip. Phuket Island has wonderful beaches. The local Thai food is just amazing. It was a first time I tried fresh coconut water – now it is my favorite daily drink.

The attendance costs around 500$ plus 200$ per day in the 5 star hotel which hosts the summit. For the summit members a hotel makes a discount.

I strongly believe that the startup should start with the market research. MIPCOM provides great means for the solid research. The Asian Animation Summit is a good place to get CC and pitch the show to the big name broadcasters and distributors. And believe me, sitting at home, crafting your project and putting it on YouTube wouldn’t get you far. Get yourself out there, meet people, have fun and create the great IP!

One thought on “Starting up your own animation IP

  1. Thank you so much …. Such a valuable information for the startups.

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