So, today is my last day on the CalArts campus. I’ve already signed the papers and am withdrawn from the school. Today is the last day/night I can live on campus. The title of this post may seem odd as my previous post was about the animation I was doing here. The post before that was how excited I was that I got into CalArts. Sure, I’ve only been here for 4 weeks and it seems like a short amount of time to make such a big decision. Well, Jeffrey Katzenberg visited. I haven’t differed or taken the semester off, I’ve withdrawn from the school. And it was my decision.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. Alot. Ever since I was young I have always been looking to do some type of “business.” My first entrepreneurial business was teaching people how to draw. I was maybe 10 at the time and was in no position to be making a business out of it. You may call it delusional, but when I have an idea and am focused, no obstacle could come in the way of my goal.
After that “business” plan, I came up with the idea of purchasing iPod’s at wholesale and re-selling them at discounted market prices. I had lists of wholesalers, even a Sony PSP distributor who I had spoken to on the phone. Did these people have the iPods and PSP’s they said they did? Probably not. But the idea overcame me and my determination wouldn’t stop me, even when the PSP wholesaler said I was too young to purchase anything from him. I was 14 at the time. This business also went nowhere.
My next business venture was to purchase clothing, sports good etc at wholesale price and re-sell at a lower rate. See the pattern? These businesses never went anywhere, due to the lack of funding. I guess you need money to start a business, who woulda thunk?
My latest and most successful business to date is my company, Inkless Ideas LLC, which I am the President of :). I came up with the idea of a great screenwriting iPhone/iPad application called Scripts Pro. I hired a company to develop the coding and invested pretty much all my money at the time. The greatest $3,000 I have ever invested. MANY issues arose with the app. Too buggy. Didn’t work how I needed it to. Crashed ALL THE TIME. Sure I was upset but I kept going at it. I initially invested $1500 but needed to invest another $1500 to fix the mess. I was skeptical, sure. There were several people who thought it was a sign that I should just give up the app. It really wasn’t working out. I didn’t give up. I knew exactly what it needed to do and didn’t stop until the program worked correctly. It got to a point where I needed to submit the app and to generate income to continue working on it. I submitted it to Apple in December. It was rejected. I had my developers re-fix some things. Rejected again. A total of 7 rejections by the time it was approved for sale. February 5th is was live! Scripts Pro soon became and still is the best screenwriting iPhone/iPad application out there. Well, that’s what my customers tell me. Currently Scripts Pro has over 10,000 users and is growing every day. Not a day without a sale. I can grow it into something much bigger than it is now.
Back to September and I was headed to CalArts, the school I had discovered on this very blog! What a dream come true! I could afford my tuition since my app had been doing very well and now had time to focus on my animations. I’ve been here for about 4 weeks-ish. The classes are great, the talent is outstanding and the teachers are phenomenal. There’s no reason to leave CalArts. So why am I?
Last week Jeffrey Katzenberg came to our school for a Q&A and to talk about his life and how he started. While talking, I realized how much I had in common with him. His father was also in the stock market and he mentioned that he always responds to his emails, all of them, I do the same for my customers. The ideas of business have always been floating around in my head, but I thought I would do the business thing on the side. After Jeffrey came, it just clicked in my head. What do I want out of CalArts? What is the reason I’m spending $30k out of my own pocket for?
I no longer want to do the actual animation. It’s an incredible skill to have and I’ve already been doing animation for many years. The students coming out of CalArts will hands down be the best animators, but at the end of the day, I want to see my ideas come to life with the help of the most talented people I will know. I want to produce. I want to bring talent together. I want to have an idea and collaborate with the best artists to make my vision come true. I want to lead a team, a production, a studio. I want to create feature films and I’m going to re-invent 2d animation. I know how I’m going to do it. I just can’t tell you
So, where does that leave me now? I will get the majority of my tuition back and move on. I’m heading back home to New York for a few weeks until I get a car and a place in LA and drive over. I’m calling everyone I know, setting up meetings everywhere, and going to get my foot in the door. Yesterday I visited Cartoon Network, I met a ton of awesome people and also got to see Pen Ward, Eric Pringle and Adam Muto again. It was great touching base with them after all the years. And I met Phil Rynda, who is an awesome talent, who just happens to be following my blog! How awesome! This blog has been and continues to be one of my greatest outlets. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a million more times. Frederator is the best company I have ever discovered and have come close with. Now I’m going to look for internships and see how the business and production is run first-hand. There’s no better way to learn.
It will be an interesting journey as there is no direct path. If there was a school to become a CEO, everyone would be CEO’s. That’s the where it get’s a little blurry. Everyone seems unsure of how to become a “producer.” The answer is that there is no direct path. Sometimes, you have to appreciate the ordinary. Without it, there wouldn’t be room to stand out.
After his visit, I emailed Jeffrey Katzenberg and thanked him for all of his time, for coming down to CalArts and for speaking to us, telling him how he’s had a huge impact on my life. I sincerely thanked him for his visit. His response, “:-). Best of luck to you.”
Look out California, I’m ready for whatever you throw my way! Soon to be established, Inkless Animation Studios.
Stephen M. Levinson
p.s. my new nickname around campus is either Leavin Stephen, or Stephen Leavingsoon LOL I like leavingsoon its clever!