A Client’s Pain Is Your Gain

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities - By Martin Gre­bing

Art schools are great. They of­fer a unique so­cial de­vel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence that sim­ply can’t be found any­where else while also train­ing you on an elite level in your cho­sen field.

How­ever, as with most in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized learn­ing, they of­ten only fo­cus on teach­ing you skills that they feel may be de­sir­able in the eyes of an em­ployer so you have a bet­ter chance of land­ing a nine-to-five job. This mind­set can of­ten amount to lit­tle more than per­form­ing as a cre­ative fac­tory worker.

Granted, a bad day in a cre­ative field is bet­ter than a good day in just about any other field, but what about those with an en­trepreneurial spirit that want to as­pire to some­thing greater? Finely-honed artis­tic pro­duc­tion skills are not enough.

Un­der­stand­ing real-world, high-level guerilla business and mar­ket­ing prac­tices is es­sen­tial if you want to flour­ish in your own pro­fes­sional en­deav­ors, else be rel­e­gated to punch­ing some­one else’s clock. How­ever, with­out a deep un­der­stand­ing of why busi­nesses are in business in the first place, yours will in­evitably strug­gle and most likely die a slow, painful death, join­ing the 90 per­cent fail­ure rate of all star­tups.

On the other hand, if you con­sider that clients are the lifeblood of any business and if you can an­swer one dis­arm­ingly sim­ple, yet jaw-drop­pingly epic ques­tion, you’ll be on the right path to join­ing the mi­nor­ity of suc­cess­ful star­tups.

What do your clients

Find the Pain All busi­nesses pro­vide a prod­uct or ser­vice, but the prod­uct or ser­vice is not in and of it­self what your clients want. All they re­ally want is a so­lu­tion to a spe­cific prob­lem.

Sadly, pain is a much stronger mo­ti­va­tor than plea­sure, so if you dig deep enough to iden­tify a client’s pain, you’ll dis­cover the true rea­son they want or need your prod­uct or ser- vice and, more im­por­tantly, how you can best serve them by pro­vid­ing the best so­lu­tion. Send­ing the Right Mes­sage

Af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing your clients’ deep­est pain, your web­site and all of your mar­ket­ing mes­sages need to be crafted to con­vey this so­lu­tion. For ex­am­ple, in the over sat­u­rated web de­sign mar­ket, many com­pa­nies hinge their suc­cess on pro­mot­ing their tech­ni­cal prow­ess or hav­ing the abil­ity to in­stall the lat­est and great­est in­ter­net wid­get. Tak­ing this ap­proach begs the quin­tes­sen­tial Mar­ket­ing 101 ques­tion, “So what?” At first, a client only wants to know the high­est, most im­pact­ful, self-serv­ing ben­e­fit you have to of­fer them. Ac­co­lades, ex­pe­ri­ence and team ros­ter can come later.

More­over, if you’re an an­i­ma­tion house that spe­cial­izes in pro­vid­ing an­i­ma­tion and ef­fects for pre­sen­ta­tions, mar­ket­ing your business as “3D An­i­ma­tion” beck­ons the “So what?” ques­tion. On the other hand, “Win more clients by giv­ing your pre­sen­ta­tions a wow fac­tor” de­liv­ers the high­est serv­ing ben­e­fit you have to of­fer. If your mes­sage is strong enough, your spe­cific de­liv­er­ables are al­most neg­li­gi­ble be­cause to reach po­ten­tial clients, all you need to do is com­mu­ni­cate that you have the solu-

“The storm fol­lows the two main char­ac­ters in the first episodes, be­comes quite big in episode three, dis­ap­pears, and comes back in the fi­nale dur­ing the con­fronta­tion be­tween the old and new gods,” ex­plains Perce­val. “It was cre­ated us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of matte paint­ings, putting dis­place­ments in Nuke, lay­er­ing it, try­ing to get the par­al­lax and the per­spec­tive. The storm it­self was fully CG. One of our ef­fects artists de­vel­oped a tool for it; he man­aged to cre­ate a cus­tom vol­ume de­former from his ef­fects sim­u­la­tions, and get the shape and speed that we wanted.”

The light­ing had to be ad­justed, es­pe­cially for the fi­nal episode. “It was all shot with­out clouds. At that time the color pipe­line was not fully set up. They had this idea of the shot get-

Whis­per of the Heart ( Mimi wo sumaseba, 1995) is one of few Stu­dio Ghi­bli films that can be called un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated. Although the film was a hit in Ja­pan — fans even or­ga­nized tours of the Tama Hills area of Tokyo, where most of ac­tion un­folds — it’s never re­ceived the at­ten­tion it de­serves in the U.S.

Based on a shoujo (girls’) manga by Aoi Hi­iragi, Whis­per is su­per­fi­cially a teen ro­mance be­tween un­cer­tain, un­fo­cused Shizuku Tsuk­ishima (Brit­tany Snow) and de­ter­mined Seiji Ama­sawa (David Gal­lagher). But Hayao Miyazaki’s screen­play is about much more.

Shizuku is a com­pletely be­liev­able teenager on the brink of dis­cov­er­ing who she is and who she might be­come. She loves to read. She writes lyrics for songs for class pro­grams that her friends ad­mire, but she doesn’t place much value in them. A chance en­counter with Moon, a snooty cat, brings into her into con­tact with Seiji and his gen­tle grand­fa­ther (Harold Gould), whose an­tique shop con­tains an in­trigu­ing statue of an el­e­gantly dressed cat.

Seiji is de­ter­mined to be­come a great vi­o­lin maker; he wants to travel to Cre­mona to study. His grand­fa­ther en­cour­ages him; his par­ents ar­gue against the idea daily. In­spired by Seiji’s un­wa­ver­ing fo­cus, Shizuku tries to write a story about the cat statue, “The Baron” (Cary El­wes), and his ad­ven­tures. As she works, she dis­cov­ers both the de­sire to be­come a writer and the work writ­ing en­tails.

Cre­ated in 1997, the hey­day of the Ta­m­agotchi dig­i­tal pets (which were animated that same year in a dif­fer­ent se­ries), Digi­mon is a Ja­panese me­dia fran­chise that in­cludes toys, vir­tual pets, video games, manga and trad­ing cards. The TV se­ries Digi­mon Ad­ven­ture fol­lowed in 1999 and con­cluded a year later. Although it never matched the stag­ger­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Poké­mon, which it re­sem­bles in some ways, Digi­mon has en­joyed enor­mous suc­cess with nu­mer­ous tele­vi­sion shows and the­atri­cal fea­tures.

To mark the 15th an­niver­sary of the end of the orig­i­nal Digi­mon Ad­ven­ture, a six-part the­atri­cal fea­ture cy­cle ti­tled Digi­mon Ad­ven­ture tri. is in pro­duc­tion. Reunion, the first film, was re­leased in Ja­pan in 2015. It and the sub­se­quent en­tries in the se­ries are be­ing rolled out in­ter­na­tion­ally — the fourth, Loss, re­ceived a the­atri­cal re­lease in the U.S. in Fe­bru­ary. Shout! Fac­tory is also putting them out on DVD and Blu-ray.

All six 90-minute fea­tures are di­rected by Keitaro Mo­ton­aga with scripts by Yuuko Kaki- hara. That’s the equiv­a­lent of writ­ing and di­rect­ing more than two en­tire Amer­i­can TV sea­sons of the show — a ver­i­ta­ble an­i­ma­tion marathon.

In an in­ter­view con­ducted via email, Mo­ton­aga said, “With the help of our screen­writ­ing team, we split and ar­ranged big events into six parts, chas­ing down the main story while tak­ing the per­spec­tive of each char­ac­ter into con­sid­er­a­tion. Then each piece had to be put to­gether like an ul­ti­mate jig­saw puz­zle. The most no­table chal­lenge was sat­is­fy­ing the au­di­ence in ev­ery chap­ter while si­mul­ta­ne­ously giv­ing them high ex­pec­ta­tions for what was to come next.”

In the orig­i­nal Digi­mon Ad­ven­ture, seven friends, led by Taichi “Tai” Yagami, were given dig­i­tal de­vices and trans­ported to the Digi­world, where the de­vices meta­mor­phosed into cute crea­tures. (“Digi­mon” is an eli­sion of “Dig­i­tal Mon­sters,” just as “Poké­mon” is an eli­sion of “Pocket Mon­sters.”) Each kid was paired with a dig­i­tal pet/friend; Tai got Koromon. When dan­ger arose, the crea­tures could

“di­gi­volve” into more pow­er­ful forms, ca­pa­ble of com­bat­ing at­tack­ing mon­sters. In the sub­se­quent se­ries and films, the sto­ries some­times ram­bled con­fus­ingly, in­tro­duc­ing new char­ac­ters, new mon­sters and even el­e­ments taken from Norse mythol­ogy.

The tri. film cy­cle brings back the orig­i­nal cast, and is set shortly af­ter the orig­i­nal broad­cast se­ries ended. The gang is en­ter­ing high school, and they’ve been re­designed ac­cord­ingly — Tai is taller and lankier, but his trade­mark mop of hair re­mains un­tamed. The mem­bers of the group have de­vel­oped dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests: Tai plays soc­cer; Izzy is more in­volved with com­put­ers than ever; Matt plays in a band. Tai fears the group may lose the bond of friend­ship that en­abled them to tri­umph in their ear­lier chal­lenges. He didn’t need to worry: The gang re­unites as they em­bark on new ad­ven­tures and tackle new en­e­mies and threats.

One of the chal­lenges of any re­boot is that the char­ac­ters’ de­signs and per­son­al­i­ties are al­ready es­tab­lished. The pre­set na­ture of the char­ac­ters may shorten the de­vel­op­ment phase of pro­duc­tion, but the au­di­ence comes into the film with ex­pec­ta­tions about how the char­ac­ters will look, act and interact. Fail­ure to meet those ex­pec­ta­tions can alien­ate the fans the film­mak­ers need to at­tract. Mo­ton­aga says that while the pre­lim­i­nary work was “rel­a­tively easy,” “some as­pects were dif­fi­cult to con­trol due to the char­ac­ters’ strong per­son­al­i­ties. But new bonds are de­picted be­tween the chil­dren and their Digi­mon; an en­emy char­ac­ter emerges in the fore­front; fierce bat­tles take place.”

As the char­ac­ters are a few years older than they were in Digi­mon Ad­ven­ture, the film­mak­ers had a bit more lee­way. “We re­built the char­ac­ters tak­ing into ac­count their per­sonal growth while re­tain­ing their orig­i­nal per­son­al­i­ties from the orig­i­nal se­ries,” Mo­ton­aga adds.

Sim­i­larly, vet­eran voice ac­tor Johnny Yong Bosch, who’s taken over the role of Tai from Joshua Seth, told Anime News Net­work, “Usu­ally, I would do my own re­search to try and fig­ure out a lit­tle bit about the char­ac­ter, be­cause ob­vi­ously, I’m tak­ing over from what some­body else did. But in this case the char­ac­ter is older now, so I can still do my take on it.”

Mo­ton­aga and his artists also made use of new com­puter tech­niques that weren’t avail­able when the orig­i­nal se­ries was cre­ated. “We in­cor­po­rated el­e­ments of cur­rent tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce a more pro­nounced ‘cool­ness’ fac­tor — while en­sur­ing we didn’t ruin the im­age or feel of the orig­i­nal se­ries.”

Mo­ton­aga con­cluded by invit­ing view­ers to share the ad­ven­tures Tai and his friends ex­pe­ri­ence: “Join us as we fol­low the sto­ries of chil­dren and their emo­tion­ally tur­bu­lent and beau­ti­ful jour­ney to adult­hood along­side their Part­ner Digi­mon. With the pro­gres­sion of each chap­ter comes the in­creased fe­roc­ity of each bat­tle.” Digi­mon Ad­ven­ture tri.: Reunion (2015), De­ter­mi­na­tion (2016) and Con­fes­sion (2017) are cur­rently avail­able on DVD/ Blu-Ray thru Shout! Fac­tory. Fathom Events and Toei screened Loss in the­aters Feb. 1, to be fol­lowed by Coex­is­tence on May 10 and Fu­ture on Sept. 20.

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