The advice in the video above from guitar legend Dick Dale is geared towards musicians, but everything he says applies equally well to animation artists. To paraphrase, Dale suggests, “Save up your money, create your own films, build up your following by continuously getting your work out there, learn to market yourself and sell your own films. And most importantly, never surrender your creativity to studios because you’ll get screwed every time.”
Many artists in animation have followed the path that Dale suggests, whether it’s John and Faith Hubley back in the day, modern independents like Bill Plympton and Don Hertzfeldt, or contemporary studios like JibJab and Brothers McLeod. The results: the Hubley family still earns money from films that were produced fifty years ago and Bill Plympton earns money from films that he produced twenty years ago. Which creator in the industry can say that his work still draws income 20-50 years later? Not many, that’s for sure.
The most important thing to understand is that an artist like Plympton (or the Hubleys) also works on industry projects. In fact, you’re probably not a successful independent unless you’re producing commercial work because that means that your work has resonated with the mainstream. The difference between a career industry artist and an independent is that somebody like Plympton is able to produce commercial work on his own terms. And if he’s unable to do that, he can walk away from the project because his name and reputation have already been established on the strength of his personal work. In other words, he invested time upfront in building his ‘brand’ and that brand exists independent of any studio or network. It’s unnecessary for him to compromise his creative vision while creating commercial work.
With the arsenal of cheap and powerful digital production tools available to artists today as well as all the new distribution channels, there is nothing that the big studios offer that a business-savvy independent couldn’t get on his own. It’s nice to have somebody like Dick Dale remind you of that sometimes.
(video created by Tommy Liberto, link via Boing Boing)