Friday, November 30, 2012

The First Year

A flurry of activity on the main stage.

32TEN Studios' debut in January of 2012 was significant in that it will serve to map the future of employee-owned boutique studios looking for significant roles in the 21st century entertainment marketplace.  From the very beginning of the process, our colleagues wished us well, our family and friends supported us, and our partners shouldered an enormous task to get us where we are today.  In the face of what Scott Ross termed "the race to the bottom" in competitive bidding and wholesale tax break offshoring, we soldiered on, crafting a network of regional creative community and finding new avenues of collaboration.  We were challenged with revising the 90s post-production formula to find a hybridized approach that would appeal to production budgets while retaining one-take perfection in client deliverables.

We added facilities management in theater and stage rental,  intellectual property development on the story side, full-featured art department solutions, educational outreach and strategic technology and transmedia partnerships in the hopes that 32TEN would serve as a new community of hand-crafted creatives in the Bay Area, historic home to west coast film making.   Our location, the dog-eared and gently-used home of Sprocket Systems, center of the post-production special effects world for thirty years, filled us with a sense of artistic responsibility to the continuation of a craft that has been slowly moving toward the Digital Apocalypse.

We've had so much help on this road, from the VES and President David Tanaka and the Board, Ami Zinns, former Oakland Film Commissioner, Scott Smith of CAM/D, Tim Morgan and Tommy Cloutier of IATSE Local 16, Tereza Flaxman of SF/Siggraph our beloved Office Manager, Stephanie Taubert to the countless student volunteers and interns that got us into December, 2012, the end of our first year, facing the most challenging of experiments in modern production start-ups.

Geoff Heron's team prepares a pyro set for the current project.

This blog has been dark for almost a year.  I'm writing again at the insistence of my former student and biggest fan, Kristy Barkan, an east coastie who dreamed big and wanted a larger role in the digital entertainment world, and due to her stage background, consistently entertained us with her VFX project deliveries.

Kristy thought that I should start writing again, and I agreed, as I feel that there has been a significant change in the craft to warrant finer analysis from the trenches, those trenches soon to be the location of many of you who are about to graduate or have graduated and are still seeking your first break.

There are some great blogs out there still, many of the original voices have not gone dark, finding ways somehow to juggle the responsibilities of independent contractor loads, family schedules and industry perspective.  There's really only so much time in the day before you flatten.

 Thanks Kristy, I hope this lasts.

Focus and Lack Thereof

I wanted to share my early visions of the educational programs within the wider 32TEN Studios business plan.  These are significant for those of you who are just realizing that the bonanza years of post-production are over, and the new market is a global one, and not only relegated to film and television project work.  Still the Grail of practical and digital creatives, film and television will be supplanted by trans-media and portable distribution systems, in both technology and intellectual property.  Through some analysis of my process over the past twelve months, you'll be better equipped to side-step some of the hurdles that I faced and hopefully see new solutions to some of the issue that still plague me today.

I had established some important goals in order to jump start a professional development training program at 32TEN:

1. Reach out to local art schools to establish our community presence.

It was my hope to forge a bond between the students attending the various two and four-year accredited trade school in the region, stepping outside the narrow confines of curriculum and short-time adjunct faculty vision, and craft a truly unique regional artistic collaboration between school, with 32TEN serving as the philosophical hub.

My first (and only) attempt to create this structure failed.  I carefully organized a SIGGRAPH/SF grand invitation for the major content school in San Francisco:  SFSUAAUCCAECD, and AI/SF, notably missing SFAI, as I didn't realize they had a film program.)  We were to get together as a new collaborative student and faculty force, sans silly trade school administrators with their pervasive flyers and promotional bullshit, just artists and teachers hoping to discover other artists and teachers to create a community that would thrive here in the most creative melting pot in the world.

Just a handful of students and faculty showed up from CCA and AAU in C Theater that day.  I talked about my dream, and we all smiled, agreeing that such a collaborative world would be rosy indeed.

Without subscription from a larger community of artists, the plan failed, the logistics of which had something to do with it, as our location in Marin is remote enough to accommodate only those students with time and resources to make the hefty round-trip, typically in traffic or on a ferry and bus combination.  

I'd have to go back to the drawing board on that one, instead, re-craft those associations within an online community, using technology like Adobe Connect, Skype and others in lieu of physical proximity, at least in the planning stages.  I had to table it.  There were other pressing issues.

2. Build an educational infrastructure around the core studio

I was challenged with the immediate need for equipment and technology to support the most demanding of all the creative trades.  The investment for even a small stage footprint is incredible, what with the emergence of high speed photography, stereo taking, motion control, motion capture, and simulation.

I needed five million dollars.  I had five dollars.

(to be continued)

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