Nerf guns and winter toques seem to be favorite office items at one of Ottawa’s five growing animation companies. It was hard to find any suits, ties, paper, ink printers or room numbers at yesterday’s excellent tour of Jam Filled Entertainment Inc.
Jam Filled, founded in 2008, is located in Nepean’s business park, alongside Mercury Filmworks and Innovapost – shared IT services for the Canada Post Group.
An 11-minute cartoon may take up to 3 months to produce with 18-20 animators creating about 260 distinct images (cells). Add music, voice, props, special effects and edits and you have closer to 25+ staff working on animating a single 11 minute episode. Animation is a hugely collaborative process; the ‘maestro’ is the storyboard artist and executive producer.
Business with U.S. partners is good, said Phil LaFrance, a partner at Jam Filled.
From a staff of 40 in the early years, the company has grown to about 140. One of the most challenging positions in the industry is character design. Creating complex characters requires insight and detail (macro-details). Micro-details may include layout and background design to ensure contrast and clarity. A yellow character on a yellow background would fade, said Phil. The choice of colors extends to millions of shades.
“Stories about characters supporting each other are the types of stories we tell. Some of our shows (i.e. the Loud House) and pilots (i.e. My friend Pancake) are developed by writers at Nickelodeon and produced here in Ottawa. We have a small creative team working on our own original series. We’re producing Dave Cooper’s Bagel and Becky.
Beyond the cable networks, Netflix and Amazon may purchase original content. It’s all about great content. You too can learn to animate by watching animation in slow motion. Watch the hand that was stretched across the frame. Sit and analyze movement and sound. Keep drawing the characters you like. Learn to adapt to other people’s styles. Tools to get you more familiar with digital design? Flash.
For more advanced designers, we suggest Canadian-owned Toon Boom, Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Avid. All of these will teach you how to bring your ideas to market.”
To close the tour, we gathered in Jam Filled’s conference room. Test and confirm your idea. Proof-of-concept in the animation industry may take up to two or three years. With many new pilots (or shorts) tested on social media sites, not all pilots will be given the green light to launch. Developing a pilot in 2015 may result in a contract in 2017-18. It’s about trying your hand at different projects and seeing what sticks with the market.
In 2-hours some great advice was shared: practice your skills, have fun on the job, create a work culture of mutual respect and friendship.
Thank you Phil (bottom right) for being so generous with your time.