Stephen M. Levinson's Blog

How should productions better suit the artists working on them?

January 31st, 2011


 *NOTE: Any and all opinions expressed are the sole opinions of Stephen M. Levinson and not Frederator Studios nor any of its affiliated companies*

Recently there’s been a spark of debate over at Cartoon Brew about the obscene pay of viacom executives. Many have commented about the improper distribution of pay, that the artists should be compensated more, get over time, etc (which I believe they should.) However, those who are taking business risks with their own capital should receive a larger profit than someone who is hired to do the work. Or should they maintain some ownership of the work they create? Don’t get me wrong I have a huge respect for talented artists and believe they should definitely be paid well. Many artists just don’t understand the concepts of business that I’ve been learning about over the past years and continue to learn, and often go right to calling any business greedy. Viacom is a huge company and it may seem almost impossible to compete with, but working for Viacom isn’t the only way to work in the animation industry. However, being that the current system set-up in place generates maximum revenue for the investors (they may believe everything is just fine) and even though the way the productions are put together and produced have been done for many many years, I still believe there’s a place for supporting the artists at a higher level, while still generating high revenue for the companies. That doesn’t necessarily mean more pay, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the less or the same, but having artists more invested into the projects and having a say in what’s being produced (opposed to just being tools to finish the project) could be ways the animation industry moves forward. Many people think I could just being idealistic and that Viacom is impossible to compete against. That’s pretty limited thinking and if you’re gonna assume you can’t compete with them, you’ve already given up.  After speaking with Fred I realized re-inventing every possible process of production isn’t necessarily the way to go. But improving on how things are currently done is another story.

I have been submerging myself into the animation industry (yes, this is an industry) since I was 15 and have been learning an incredible amount of how this industry works. I’ve only been actually working at a studio in the industry for 3 weeks (been freelancing for a while though), but speaking with artists, producers, executive, producers from Frederator, Nick, Cartoon Network, Fox etc over the past years has really been opening my eyes. Listening to first hand experiences is extremely valuable to someone like me even though first hand experience is always key. And that’s why I’m here, working in an animation studio. Seeing how things are done from the inside as they happen, as deals are being made. I may only be an animator at the studio I’m working at, but any of the pitch meetings I can hear from my desk, I try to listen to as best as possible. Seeing how the producers deal with the artists/animators, how they work etc. is what I’ve been learning soo far, on top of the animation skills I am developing.

So that brings me to my reason for writing this post. How do you see the industry evolving? Do you think the internet will eventually phase out broadcast television? With companies such as Mondo Media being the largest cartoon portal on YouTube, what else do you think will happen for the industry? Should network cartoon productions be more creator driven? Is the quality of animation on TV even important? Is the production you’re working on being run by monkeys? What do you feel needs to be changed in the way productions are run? How should artists have more say in the production? Should artists retain certain rights to projects? Should they not because of the legal liability a company could face? Should more of the budget be focused on the storyboard artists, character designers, layout artists, and if you’re working  as an animator in the US and your work isn’t being outsourced, should you get a larger % of the budget? If people aren’t taking risks to try and better themselves in the world, should they be compensated more because that would be “fair” ? Capitalism is based on merit, so should artists be paid more? Or should they want to become directors to receive higher pay? Is everything fine and we should just keep everything how it is?

So, what are your thoughts?

Stephen M. Levinson

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[…] production, Stephen M. Levinson by Charles K. This is actually a comment I left over on Stephen’s Blog but it seems like a pretty good opinion piece that’s suitable to post here […]

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