$NFLX: Thread on the animation, filmmaking and entertainment industry in LA | Dec 2019


1 like on this tweet = 1 thing I learned about animation/filmmaking/entertainment while living in LA.

1. voice acting first. animation second. animators can animate to dialog and sound. the other way around… brutal. 

2. Two types of animation: script based and board based.

One is centered around the words/dialogue and has arcs and one is centered around visual gags is more episode-contained.

Board: adventure time
Script: Bojack 

3. 2d animation costs about 15k a minute. 3D typically much more – feature can be about 1 million per minute. 

4. an insane amount of the content you love is funded by billionaire families. just like tech! 

5. sci-fi is seeing a huge spike in $$$ in entertainment but the writers of the OC that is often optioned and made don’t see most of it. Sad! 

6. There are three types of speculative fiction: sci-fi, fantasy, horror. 

7. Sci-fi is not about the future. Fantasy is not about the past. They are both about the present. 

8. Star Wars is a “space opera” – a soap opera set in space.

Used to mean cheap to shoot…. 

9. How dark or light something is massively effects cost. If it’s dark, the backgrounds don’t matter. Backgrounds (locations) are expensive! 

10. Netflix is screwed 

11. Unions form the backbone of entertainment. Almost everyone gets healthcare through their union, for example 

12. People often intend to lose money/break even domestically. The profits come from international++ 

13. The most important part of a piece of content is the story. The second-most important is who is attached. 

14. Endcrawl.com is cool software that makes making end credits wayyyy easier. You wouldn’t believe how most do it… 

15. The reason actor’s names and their position in posters sometimes don’t match is because their contracts have billing order but that only applies to text. It’s valuable to be left-most 

16. The equivalent of an option pool is a producer’s pool. But that pool fits in basically everyone who isn’t the distributor/financiers of the movie. 

17. Horror is super cheap. Often shot in a single location, and the backgrounds are pitch black. Also often shot in present day. 

18. Levels of actors:

Background (extra) – 50 a day
Stand-in – 200 a day
5-and-under (lines)
Supporting
Lead

Day rates are standardized. I may be off a bit. 

19. Stand-ins act as the actor they fill in for, so that everything can get setup and then the actor can come in and get it done in a take or two 

20. Hollywood has something like 2% female directors 

21. Ideas are definitely not worthless 

22. Disney is 75%+ of the box office. Disney+ is over performing. 

23. No one really knows which movies are going to break out 

24. Period pieces are very expensive. Costumes, cars, locations…. 

25. Stories often end where they begin – except the main character holds one less lie. 

26. The vast majority of movies are based off books. There’s a new surge of content based on news articles (see WeWork) 

27. Celebrities don’t seem very happy. 

28. Social media following is a huge factor in getting roles 

29. Most people sit around waiting for the next thing. Lots of watching Netflix/HBO/etc 

30. Postmates is a celebrity godsend. 

31. Everyone eats so dang healthy. Went to a dinner and no one ate dessert or ordered alcohol (all free) 

32. Just like tech, everything is always “going great” – no one signals failure 

33. Most creatives hate execs. Execs hold much more creative decision-making power than expected. 

34. Bob Iger has significantly changed several movies you love. 

35. Everyone has their own project. No one wants to work on yours over theirs, especially if you don’t have $ 

36. Like anything, animation isn’t hard. It’s a series of components that fit together (in a “pipeline”) to make a series of moving images paired with sounds. You can do it! I will. 

37. Visuals impress, just like in tech. Pretty designs and images go a long way when presenting an idea. 

38. Everyone wants to see your thing succeed. Put in the work and people will help. Just like tech 

39. Actors are cheaper than you may think. Think low thousands to get top-tier talent in your animated show. 

40. Everyone is always looking for work. 

41. Twitter is a great way to meet people in the industry. Especially because that industry doesn’t realize it yet. 

42. Disney+ was an acquisition 

43. Animation pipeline:

Idea/look book/bible/deck
Script
Story boards
Layouts
Animatics
Voice actors
SFX
Animation (production)
Compositing
Mastering
Ship!

(Probably missed something) 

44. Rick and Morty is very expensive as far as 2D goes because every episode is basically a pilot (new characters and sets). 500k per episode. 

45. Marvel paints all of their visual development (inc. actors in costumes). Pretty rare in age of photobashing and models etc. 

46. Gumroad has a lot of credibility in animation and entertainment. Many use it to make a side income and learn new skills in a constantly evolving industry.

(May be the only industry where “gumroad ceo” gives me clout) 

47. Standard compensation waterfall is 20/50/50.

Investors make back 120% then the rest gets split between them and producer’s pool.

(I.e. 1.2x liquidation pref if you’re in startups) 

48. Most people don’t work for movies directly, but the studios and then they get put on projects. A friend has worked on every Avatar, Mandalorian, Dumbo, Ad Astra, etc…. but never worked directly. Always thru freelance or 20th century etc 

49. Artists don’t get enough credit. I’ve met people who’ve designed such famous characters, vehicles, worlds, but no one knows them. A pity!

(The internet is slowly changing this) 

50. A bad movie is a miracle. A good movie is a miracle of miracles. 

51. An average screenplay is 90 pages and much more structured than you think. Look up the Hollywood formula, 3 acts, save the cat, etc 

52. The hardest thing about writing a story is getting the characters’ motivations right. It’s very hard to believe someone changing – you need a really good, often existential reason.

(Applies to real life too) 

53. Anyone can make a movie. Use your iPhone. Now it’s just a question of scale and quality of story. 

54. There’s on the order of 30,000 screenplays written per year (submitted to WGA?) . Maybe 300 studio movies released per year. 

55. Most 2D animation is hand drawn. Every frame. 

56. Everyone has a six pack. Very unrealistic. 

57. Hardest thing besides making the product: distribution. 

58. Every location you shoot at: security, parking, food, booking, equipment.

Imagine moving your office everyday. Expensive! 

59. Call sheets tell you what’s getting shot today and when. You get one every day for the next day. 

60. Because of unions, things are rigid. 8 hours. 1 hour lunch break. Overtime. Golden time:

When a union member works beyond sixteen hours from their call time, they receive an additional day’s pay for each hour beyond sixteen hours. 

61. For emphasis: read ABOVE ABOUT GOLDEN TIME. IMAGINE the pressure on set to nail the last take and save that dough. 16x!! 62. Or 8x. Anyways, crazy.

Breaking Bad is considered the best show of the decade. 

63. Everyone you see in a shot is a paid extra. 

64. If you work on a serial like Empire, you get to know the police very well because they provide security. Not a coincidence that Smollett got off lightly. 

65. South Park was originally made with paper cut outs. Now it’s done in 3D. 

66. Simpson’s is drawn traditionally but painted digitally I think. A rarity. No new show would survive that way. 

67. In Hollywood, IP is everything. Who owns what? Toys, residuals, On Ice offshoots… 

68. The farther you get by yourself, the more creative control you get to keep. 

69. Nice 

70. Netflix pre-slices up their shoes into GIFs, complete with subtitles. Unconfirmed but I assume they seed them to the GIF services too… memes drive distribution 

71. Diversity is a business decision. 

72. Everything lives and dies by what’s in the contract. You fight for everything you get, and lose everything you don’t. 

73. LA, unlikely SF and NYC, is still affordable. 

74. LA revolves around filmmaking though video games is a much larger industry. 

75. Most people did not get into entertainment to make a bunch of money, but to tell stories that millions consume and are changed by. Similar/different to tech? 

76. Hollywood is surprisingly conservative at the executive level, and surprisingly progressive at the IC level. 

76. LA is full of billboards for film & tv, presumably because it’s built into contracts so that actors can get more contracts 

77. People love Star Wars. No one tries to be a contrarian hipster. Everyone loves the classics.

(except maybe the lion king etc remakes) 

78. When things are made into shows and movies, they are “optioned” – a studio buys the exclusive right to your IP for 18 months. After that time, if it’s not made or renewed, it goes back to the author to sell again. Often authors make more from this than all their actual sales 

79. The WeWork movie was sold before it was even a script. It was SO HOT. 

80. Everyone wants to sell a show/movie to Netflix. 

81. It’s very socially acceptable to move around different studios. I assume the presence of unions contribute to that (healthcare etc). 

83. (A few got lost threaded elsewhere) Job I didn’t know was needed in Hollywood: animal wrangler. Bugs, snakes, etc – you need someone to bring and manage these fellows. 

84. Marvel Comics was saved by the movies, specifically Iron Man. Iron Man was not the most popular marvel comic. DC was much more popular than marvel. 

85. Incredible Hulk with Norton was actually the second MCU movie but it’s basically been retconned for a couple reasons… 

86. Producers matter more in TV. Executive Producers matter more in movies.

(It’s who gets to go up on stage and accept the respective award.) 

87. Executives at studios have so much power. Like partners at VC funds. They chose who to invest in and get credit. 

88. Skydance and Annapurna make great movies because they’re funded by a billionaire (Larry Ellison) and give a ton of creative freedom (because his children who run each aren’t qualified to).

I think Annapurna went bankrupt recently. 

89. Most animation is outsourced outside the US. If you go back to my pipeline tweet, that is the production/animation step.

Canada, Korea, Philippines, all popular. India is too expensive now. 

90. Color scripts are an underrated part of the pipeline. These are like storyboards except with color for emotional resonance.

91. Every iconic movie uses iconic reference. For example, Star Wars and Samurai.

92. Simple form language thing:

Circles good
Triangles bad
Squares stubborn and stable.

Main characters can be complex. Side characters more one-dimensional. 

93. Carl from Up is a stubborn square with a little circular kid inside him.

94. A *lot* of people in Hollywood are from LA. Much more rare in SF/tech and NYC/finance. 

95. Film school is about networking. Filmmaking is secondary. 

96. Very few people make a living working on what they love. They make money working for sometimes-cool projects and do a lot of work on the side that they love (but often leads to no $ or traction). 

97. If you are an amazing 3D modeler, you could potentially score a gig at Pixar right out of school and spend a year modeling rocks. 

98. Animation is cool because every single thing is controlled.

Therefore, directors are part of every single decision – unlike in live action. 

99. Sound is more essential than most think. See a busy scene? No you don’t, you *hear* a busy scene. 

100. I doubt I have learned 337 things I can verbalize, so I’ll end it here.

If you don’t know, I am making an animated series, and it’s going to be great. We’re finalizing the pilot script now…

Stay tuned!


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