makingfiends makingfiends

Who Needs to Pitch?

Making Fiends

LA Weekly has two articles this week profiling Amy Winfrey and her animated webseries Making Fiends and Stefan Bucher’s Daily Monster video podcast. What do both of these creators have in common? Their ideas started out as independent self-financed Internet projects that gained a popular fan following and were ultimately given TV deals by major companies. Making Fiends is about to debut as an animated series on Nickelodeon, while Daily Monster was collected into book form this year and will also appear as a segment on PBS’s new Electric Company in 2009.

The paths that both of these properties have taken offer a view into how new TV animation ideas will be discovered in the future. The dysfunctional system of pitching and development in TV animation still exists, but it is on the wane and being dismantled by the Internet. As Winfrey and Bucher have demonstrated, creators are no longer beholden to clueless and sheltered development execs who don’t have the foggiest about what their audiences want to watch. Today an artist can create an uncompromised piece of animation independently, post it online, and attract a significant audience without any assistance from broadcasters. The cherry on top is that if your idea is successful, major companies will be knocking at your door to pay you money to produce more episodes.

  • The “Making Fiends” panel at Comic Con was a great one. I’ve since gone and watched all the internet episodes done before the Nick series. I’m really looking forward to the show now.

  • Michael Sheehan
  • Delaney

    Getting creators’ stuff directly before the audience is a big positive. A slick pitch can hide a multitude of weaknesses, gatekeeping jerks who insist on being entertained chief among them. Look at what this dysfunctional process has wrought during the last decade alone.

  • FP

    The idea of placing a property on TV – without attempting to act like an adult in a dusty, rumpled suit before a table-full of alien executive types – is very appealing. I wonder if that would really be possible.

  • Nic Kramer

    I just watch some of the Daily Monster short and I found them clever. After hearing this news about the series making an aperance on a new “The Electric Company”, to quote Kermit the Frog, “I think they’re going to fit right in.”

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Interesting they’re doing a new Electric Company. I can only go back to my 6 year old existence when that was a show I had to see everyday at home or in school! Wonder if they’ll be a new Short Circus in this one?

  • This IS the way to go.

    It is also a way for creators to retain their rights to their creations which is always the most important right.

  • Wow. That’s really inspiring!

  • You should combine this post with the Bakshi inspirational speech

  • I agree completely. Today more tools and avenues for independent development and exposure are available to artists than ever before. Getting something going on the net is a great test of your development, marketing and entertainment skills.

    Creating demand for your product/show gives you negotiation leverage.

    And at the very least, a sense of accomplishment, as you will have actually created something and “set it on display” in public, unlike sitting around waiting for that proverbial “green light” on your project from animation execs.

  • Terrific post.
    Couldn’t agree more.
    I’ve animated a series of six and a half short films (all the same characters) that will have, after September, collectively screened in fourteen festivals worldwide – including Annecy 2007.
    The most recent screening will be at Pictoplasma NY for anyone who cares…

  • Rachel Rauch

    Making Fiends is such a fun series–I’ve followed it for the past few years and it’s great to see someone like Amy Winfrey get recognized for her fantastic work! :)

  • I absolutely agree. Modenn technology has opened so many doors – creators are limited only by their skill and imagination. I’ve just finished mixing the audio for my feature. While admittedly it’s not animated (there are a couple of scenes) – but it couldn’t have been done without the skills I picked up during 3 decades in the animation trenches.

  • Pedro Nakama

    Didn’t Ralph Bakshi tell us this?

  • I can’t help feeling there is a negative side to this too – mainly in the ‘why pay for things if people are doing it for free’ mentality.

    Yes, it’s great that we can all sit down and make our own little shows, with no restrictions or creative ‘notes’ along the way. It’s wonderfully liberating and that is just fantastic.

    The flip side of that is that it strikes me a little like those slogan competitions or ‘make us an ad’ competitions – why pay an agency, or a creative company or a production company to come up with an ad campaign when the public will do it for free? So here we have – why pay for development when the internet will tell you what to show and they’ll have made your pilot for free? Cue ‘submit your show now!’ banner ads. Yes, it gives more people access to the process but I’m not convinced that they come out all that better as a result.

    I also couldn’t be sure, not knowing the exact deals, but I’d be very doubtful as to whether having debuted on the web would give anyone more leverage when it comes to making deals. I think it may be more a case that the people with money will see that they have their pick of thousands of different web projects and will be more inclined to offer poor ‘take it or leave it’ deals for creators, designers, writers and directors.

    There’s some great things to the availability and ease of current technology, but I also fear it devalues the work of the people who actually currently depend on it for a living.

  • Bitter Animator.
    It’s simply a choice between tailoring your vision to suit the marketing ideals of a particular studio/network/whatever, or making your own film with your vision.
    I don’t think it’s anything like the “pitch your idea and we keep it competition” scenario you refer to.
    Making your own film is like drawing your own picture or carving your own sculpture.
    You’re completely off the mark in all your comments, I think.

  • Yep, Elliot, I could well be off the mark and I hope so. I’ve made many short films myself, always loved it and once had the opportunity to whore one out to an ad agency (I refused but it was nice to be asked). And, as I said, the freedom of modern technology is wonderful.

    I wouldn’t wish to take anything away from those making short films at all.

  • Why didn’t you whore it out?

  • Heh, well, I probably would have except, at the time, there was an ad over this side of the Atlantic that had been based on a short film I really liked. But the ad bugged the living crap out of me. It was annoying and, well, it was an ad – nothing more than an attempt to sell stuff. And yet it had been made by the guys who made the initial short film it was based on.

    It was kind of sad to see, though I’m sure they were well paid.

    And that really put me off so in a self-destructive (as I needed the money) fit of self-righteousness, I declared that my short was too good for their poxy ads. I took my short and left. Probably not smart as the money would have been nice and more people would have seen my work compared with the three or four who saw it each festival it got into, who were only there to see their own work anyway.

    But ads just bug me. I made them for years and, around that time, I was hating every minute of it so I was probably subconsciously trying to burn a few bridges. And burn a few bridges I did but the timing was good, I got into television programmes and haven’t made an ad since.

  • You should have asked them for a lump sum and the chance to be involved in the production.
    They probably just went ahead and made it anyway, using your film as a template…