Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Animotion Arts: A Day in the the Rip Off Machine


Now in the 37 years I’ve been animating I’ve worked for a lot of companies. This one is special. Why? Distorted self perception, inability to communicate, raging insecurity , raging anger. Total FLAKENESS! Oh, and they are going to rip you off. Sadly this is an old friend who apparently has not grown as an artist at all in the  last 20 years.

This is not me being  vindictive  , it is my real life experience on a job that only took one day. Yup , just one day . A job among a sea of jobs. The job price was 600 CDN dollars (about 500 US)  , which is the average price for a day in my biz. Nothing special, nothing amazing and yet  it matters. Here is why.

In this business there are all kinds of people who want things for free. Especially given that the economy has been pretty bad and young or unemployed artists  its are pretty desperate for work. It’s in this environment that many of them get taken by companies willing to rip off the helpless. As a pro you expect this from business people but the last person you would expect tho from would be another artist.

Does this matter financially to me ? No, I’m fine and as I said it was one day, the entire point is really to not let this bullshit happen to others. So , let us begin.

Received through Facebook January 16th, 5:13pm

Rob : Hey- I have a gig doing a music video and wondered if you would be availble to do some concept art. The idea we are looking for is a Tim Burton- Chuck Jones approach. Let me know if you are interested and available to pull something off.

Me: Sure, for you it would be fun to do  I thought you had mine (email). 

Rob : Hi Darlie-  I never heard back from you  @littlebun email. I sent you a few emails about the project. Unfortunately, I had to put someone else on this as it was a tight time schedule.
Thanks anyway,

Me:Oh ok.It was li****@tinybun . It never came.
Yup I checked  Rob, it was never sent to my address, I think you must have put down the wrong email.
Good luck!

Rob : i could have- I copied and pasted it. Now checking- yes the L in little was missing. The font is so small and my eyes are not as good as they used to be. I hate getting old! ha-ha,
Anyway- you know the animation business have it done before you start type of thing. So I just had to get things moving for the client, as we had a meeting yesterday.. 

Sorry about that.


Yup, Mr Efficiency, the guy who wanted to get this done quick is apparently   copy and paste challenged. Ummmhmmm! Fascinating! Do you think he actually sent an email? No, I think this was the first indication of flake. “Oh look , I guess I left the L off” Lol! Does anyone actually look WHILE they are writing an email ? No of course not but then it was a pretty idiotic thing to do and  reality is a hard task master. So we leave this and assume a lll has gone well at Animotion Arts. That the job gets done and life goes on, cats and dogs do what they do. Aha , but not so.There is trouble a foot.

Received Jan 30, 11 days later in m email.

Rob :Hi Darlie- I’m really sorry that I copied your email  wrong the first time. I hope this works. The other artist I got fell through on me, as after waiting a week,  she tells me they went to work on another project. – so, I was wondering if you would still be interested. Please- please- please J I got an extension from my client on this now.I hope you are not too busy and would be able to help me out again.
 Again I wished that email went through and I wasn’t pressured to find someone so quickly. If you can’t, I totally understand.
Thank you in advance,
 Best regards,

Lol! up, Mr Efficiency waits an entire week for another artist who drops him for another job. Comes pleading back to me apologizing. Keep in mind up, Mr Efficiency only gave me three days to respond and at no time checked to see if I got an email. Fishy , you bet.

Response Jan 30, in email.

Me: Give me the details of the project and lets talk about it. See if it is what I can do within the requirements of time and money. 

He responds:

Rob : Basically- all I need are some rough inspirational type sketches of the main character line up.

I reply

Me:Just looking through the bible. So you want roughs for all these  right ? 

1) The runner He is cool urban guy, somewhat tall, slim jeans, blazer and pointed boots wearing a current longish hairstyle and whiskers. 
2) The chaser She is part goth, part hipster, piercings, layered clothes with perhaps a leather vest with pins and buttons on the front. Perhaps hooped earrings. Cute but edgy!
3 Doggie He looks a little unkept, long ears, tongue hanging out, wide eyed and excited. Sits in a box in the back of her scooter. Perhaps a red scarf waving behind him.
4) Mother She is overweight, scooter tires are a little flatter. Angry looking since the runner did her daughter wrong. She has a basket on the front of her scooter with groceries popping out of the bags. Things like carrot tops and long bread sticks and a bottle of red wine.
5) Brother He is tall and gangly, always staring ahead with half closed eyes, perhaps too much cannibus. Black hair sticking out of his helmut. He is dressed in black with a tall flagpole on the back of his bike with a small skull and crossbones flag. Studded jacket with his long neck, big adam's apple and smallish head on top.
6) Sister She has flaming red hair and is a smaller version of the mother...looking mean and going to back her sister up. She is adorned with many beaded necklaces and bangles,

And he responds email

Rob : Hi Darlie- Well it’s not a feature animation budget. But for these designs how about $100.00 a piece? That would be for the rough design and maybe a head profile for rotation purposes if necessary. Meaning it’s it something you think might be difficult to turn. I figure it shouldn’t take more than a full day to design up? Yes- for those main 6 characters… The dog I was thinking on the “Family Dog” side but obviously not that same dog.. It’s the chasers dog who will ride with her on the back of her Vespa motor scooter.

So I agree email.

Me:Ok, that sounds alright. What I am going to do  is a quick rough sheet of the set to get started, Get some feedback going It will be incredibly rough and is only a place holder. I will reproportion and simplify  later but get the character stuff feedback first.

In 15 minutes I produce this. Yes , 15 minutes.

To which Mr Animotion replies email :

Rob : Wow. I love them! Take a look at the script and see if you think there should be any alterations But I think it feels right.

Oh helloes  gee thank you Rob , I’m a genius ( like I didn’t know) Lol! So Im feeling good I can just relax and at my own pace tie it all down.  Apparently it doesn’t need to be done till Monday so I set up Sunday as my all day tie down for each character and  to do a profile.Monday morning I shoot off a link with a zip file on my site.  What follows is a circus of Robs inability to open even simple zip files. Huh ? What?! Yup! Finally ending in him creating a dropbox. I dump my files in and this is where the fun begins. Here are the finals,

Now he is using Facebook again.

Rob :  These are looking great. Are you going to tighten them up a bit more? I can’t make out a few things- like, if the runner has a moustache or not as well as some hand designs. They have a great feeling though. The doggie could use a more full design so we can see what his body is like. Also- would you be able to give me a few more poses of the runner and chaser – medium shot with expressions? That would be nice to help nail the model builds on them. Not sure if you were already thinking of this…

My reply Facebook quoting his original requirements:

Me :” That would be for the rough design and maybe a head profile for rotation purposes if necessary"

No I wasn't in my mind . I did the day as requested. These are  rough designs and it sounds like you want clean ups  and additional poses and that was not in the requirement. I will do a complete view of the dog but then I think it is done.

Yes, here it comes. “Could you just animate it for us and do every possible view ?” It should only take a day!

This is still on Facebook:

Rob : I guess our emails got a little got misconstrued. I thought they would be a little tighter so I can make out some things a little better- However I can still work with them and guess what is going on. When I do rough designs i usually give a few poses and a few expressions. Especially on the main characters. Something that would go with the script that I sent you. That was why I sent you the script to help you feel out some action poses/ expressions for the designs.  They don't have to be tight nice loose gestures so I can feel the character a bit more.”

Dear reader, this is where it starts to get bizarre. “tighter” roughs ?!  A contradiction in terms but you look at that character lineup. Bitch that is tight and I could hand it to any cleanup artist on the planet and they could tie it down effortlessly. He wants more poses, more designs, hand studies. Why , that was why he sent me the script don’t you know, so I could “feel out some action poses/ expressions “. Remember that from the earlier discussion on budget and requirements ? No, because it is not there. Now look, I have no board to go by so whatever I do from tho point on would be guessing anyway. Any pro who is reading this knows, you put the effort in where it needs to be or you are just burning useless fuel . He’s my friend so I say on Facebook :

Me : If you want gestures specific to your boards then I need to see the boards and know how you want to use them . These are pretty tight.

he replies Facebook

Rob : I don't have a board yet. It's still in the design stages. Maybe a shocked look on the runners face. some attitude on the chasers face.

Oh shit, genius, a film without storybooks. He hasn’t even boarded this motherfucker, I suppose I’m supposed to do that as well. “Just board it Darlie, then you can do me some expressions ok ? It should only take a day  “ My face palming at this point is becoming serious threat to my health. Stay calm , he’s a friend. Just do him some stupid expressions.

Me: Give me a rough examples and I will work them over.

Rob :that sounds fair

So ok, we agree to do this, without boards I have no idea whether the dog is out of the basket at any point but I decide fine, just do a dog body. Whatever and within a few hours  top him in his dropbox. Wait for the thumbnails of the poses he wants.

Me: Ok , I dropped the full dog body in the folder. Been running around a lot today.

So you think that everything is farting happy pink unicorns at this point don’t you reader? Lol! Oh watch as we descend into the hell that is a troubled persons ego. :)

On Facebook

Rob  : Sorry our internet was down for a while- we had a huge snow storm here.Okay, here's the thing. I think you are a little confused on what I needed. Your very rough drawing were starting to feel good and it was a good starting point. And- You did those in less than an hour!  However, I expected that you would push those further.  I just thought you would know because you are an amazing  animator and why I went to you for this. When I design rough characters, for clients, I always do some poses to see if that model will animate nice. So important for flash builds, as I have to separate a lot of levels. I understood it that you would work out and simplify but. I did see that. Therefore as they are they are not useful to me.  From you email correspondence I sense that you are not happy working on this project with me,  so I think I will pass on your designs and have to start from scratch, again. I'm sorry this didn't work out because I put you on a pedestal as one of the greatest animators I have ever met... and that won't change  Best regards, Rob

Seriously, my face palming at this point is like a jackhammer. “ it was a good starting point.”  HAAHAHAAAHAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA! So what follows is the CIRCUS OF STUPIDITY of which I have never seen the like. You will note  that the first response basically wanting more. No criticism , no requests for revisions. Just more. Expression sheets , hand studies. By the time he and Sandie are done these will be the worst designs ever done. Yeah right , whatever.   He will finish by intentionally misgendering me. Yup, he went there. Mmmmm baby,

So what happened between the agreed additions and the next day.? Rob discovered overnight  he was  Milt Kahl. I know, you think I am kidding but I’m not. He sat down and fell in love with his own drawing. No I’m not kidding. Sandie his wife is their producer, and in a fit of total “blinded by love” she sent me this prize to show me how much of  genius he is. Feast on the subtle curves and pointed emotional depth of a cartoon genius at work. Are not the gods weeping now at the breathless beauty ? Fascinating that they claimed to have deleted all my drawings yet still have them , no ?

“My little drawings were rough but they did have some movement and life that I didn’t see in yours. You have to admit that ”-Rob 

Oh hell no  I dont ! Not one of these drawings is usable. Not one. They are horribly off model and poorly constructed. It would have taken time for him to learn the design. What he did was rank amateur bullshit. One of my friends said "This is like every "dont" in the Preston Blair book. No silhouette, no line of action.

Mine are designs, his badly drawn toothpicks with bulgy eyes pretending to be expression sheets  that I was never contracted to do. . They  demonstrate how distorted his perception is. I did design and that what I was to be paid for . You can’t get to expressions without the design first. It’s like building a car as you drive it. You are deluding yourself. So I decided it was time for drawn lessons. You can overlay these drawing to see how off he was in structure, proportion and finally, acting. How to you explain to someone who draws with such a careless disregard for art what is wrong with their work? They can’t see it, all you can do is show it.

Regardless of how you prove  they doesn’t know their stuff it won’t change them . The blindness that brought them there , to that spot is pretty deep. For 37 years I’ve  feature animator who worked as a lead at DreamWorks, Warners, Universal , Nelvana , Disney , Bluth , you name it. What they do is little flash presentations for business. An honorable business but made worse by an emotionally insecure, chip on their shoulder person running it. Poor communication skills inferiority complex. It’s all there.

So what do yo do if you are approached as an artist by these people ? Smell the fear baby!  Know that you are dealing with amateurs. Professional is a standard a company shoots for. Hitting budgets, treatment of employees or freelance staff , delivery dates ,having communication skills, maintaining  expected quality. This company by that standard is amateur. They are paddling without a plan and flailing at other people for their obvious short comings . Honestly, who works without boards ? I mean come on , are you supposed to figure all this out by telepathy ?

So I got ripped off for 600 buckaroos.In the end these creeps offered me 100 dollars for my work. Let me be clear when I say this. Fuck you “ Animotion Arts ” ! Lol! To all my animator pals out there, get the money  up front and the expectations in writing when you deal with amateurs like this, its the only way. Design theft is pretty common but honesty I don’t worry about it because I know they can only steal the designs they can't draw it.

In the end Rob accidentally explained it in his final post to me. The art was fine. His ego was not.

"Had you been respectful to me on FB yesterday none of this would have happened.” Rob 

Yup , this petty little motherfucker intentionally did this because of his weak ego !This JERK contracts me for some CONCEPT ART and tries to turn it into THE ACTUAL ANIMATION. Then when I wont buy his scam he kills the job. What a HACK!



Pete Denomme said...

Darlie. not all producers are like this....some of us really know what has to go into strong designs....sorry to hear such a sordid tale

skywryter said...

Darlie, this is why I try to avoid working with people I don't know. Working online really enables rip off artists. They know you're not going to hop on a plane and show up at their door demanding $500. If we have a friend in common I feel I can always use the power of shame to mitigate their behavior if things go south. In the end our reputations matter more than a few bucks, so most scoundrels will grudgingly cough up.

Susan Hill said...

Wow. I am no longer in the biz at all (except some commision design), and glad I never encountered quite this level of chicanery.
Though I was taken in by a local company once who had many many "potential hires" test on a series of boards for a pilot, only to use them all to make the final boards after minor clean-ups.

Greg Manwaring said...

Pathetic. Wrong on so many levels.

TotalD said...

It's important to understand that companies do this and if it is valuable as anything , it is for all artists to get expectations of these amateur companies in writing., The money is lost but the lesson is learned.

Rob Barton said...

Hi Darlie. So I had the 'pleasure' of working with this guy a number of years ago at his studio. At first it wasn't so bad. I learned a lot from him as he was a pretty skilled animator. But after some time the rage and bitterness began to show itself and things got very uncomfortable very fast. I could tell you some interesting horror stories for sure! He did speak of you quite highly, and often, so it's unfortunate that you were treated this way. Especially from someone you've known for so long.
By the way congratulations on your life change. You look great!

TotalD said...

That praise from Rob was faux and this is something you get used to from fan boys. Beware anyone who praises too quickly or too much. The anger that fuels this kind of erratic behavior is born of an insecurity . Good luck to him. He will need it.