Over the years, Artisan has been fortunate to work with many talented creatives on a variety of projects. Back in 2003 we were first introduced to Kenny Roy, Owner/Director of Arconyx Animation Studios, LLC when we worked together on a number of animation projects for the SyFy Network. A great relationship was formed and we remained a big supporter of both his business and talent as each continued to grow.
Earlier this year, eager to take a short animation project literally from dream to reality, Kenny began a quest to raise funds for his passion project – The Little Painter – on Kickstarter. The overwhelming response he received not only enabled him to far surpass his original fundraising goals, but also create the most incredible community of support he never knew existed!
Our interview with Kenny explores his creative background, exciting project and excellent lessons on how creatives can make their creative visions a reality.
Tell us about your life as an animator from your start in school to running your own animation studio?
The great thing about animation is that it is an amalgamation of so many different artistic pursuits. You have acting, drawing, directing, cinematography, staging, storytelling, and an extra bonus if you like working on computers (which I always did.) So as I grew up, I felt I was being pulled in many different artistic directions and couldn’t decide on what I wanted to do. To make matters worse, I was rejected from CalArts on account of not being able to draw as well as was required of Character Animation applicants.
When I found computer animation, I felt like I was ‘home’. Everything that I was interested in had been assembled in a single, insanely difficult but equally rewarding package. I put everything into animating until I found myself working on some major feature films, travelling around the country and world following my dream. Then in 2006 I was approached by an old employer who had a project that needed animation, and I saw it as an opportunity to strike out on my own. 6 years and some really challenging projects later, Arconyx is still going strong.
What do you love most about the world of animation?
The community is pretty incredible. I have been a mentor at AnimationMentor for 7 years and especially the students have a zeal and a passion that is infectious. Even most of the veterans I know still get almost a childlike giddiness when we see some breathtaking animation. This industry, if you are passionate about the art, can really be very…preserving. All it takes is seeing a Pixar film or an inspiring short on YouTube and you feel the same way you did when you got your first job. I can’t imagine really any other industry that can offer that.
How long has The Little Painter been a dream?
I dreamed it (literally) two years ago visiting family in New Zealand. Of course, I immediately wrote it down and spent the rest of my vacation tweaking and pitching it to my niece and nephew over and over. It was a while before I got it back out again and started designing, boarding, and modeling the characters. That was about a year ago. The thing about stories like The Little Painter is they really sustain your motivation. Every time I’ve had a chance to take the project and work on it a little bit between paying projects has been almost like a little vacation all over again.
Is this your first passion project?
I’ve done short films before in school that I was really passionate about, but the thing that sets The Little Painter apart is the clarity with which I see the entire project finished. It starts with dreaming the story, start to finish. In my dreams I am always in my own body, except when I was dreaming this story it was like I was in a theater, watching the entire thing as an audience member. My passion for this project now stems from a NEED to make it as great as when I first “watched” it in my dreams.
What’s been the hardest thing you’ve experienced between the time you were inspired and now finally seeing funding for your project?
I think most animators and freelancers in general will agree that the hardest thing to do is find the time to work on anything. It can get very frustrating without the funding to really dedicate the time you need to a project like this. The only advice I can give is that every little bit helps. I read a story once about a person that worked 5 minutes a day on an animated film that was Romeo and Juliet retold as seals in the ocean. If he had more time, then great. But at least 5 minutes EVERY DAY, he worked on the film. It might mean he only gets two drawings done, but the film progresses. I tried to do as much as I could in the very little free time I’ve had. But in the end I had enough that I could clearly show my KickStarter backers the tone and the feel of the film and they liked it enough to fund the project and then some!
Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund your project? What other alternatives had you considered?
I considered only Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. The only reason I chose Kickstarter over IndieGogo is that it seemed that because of the urgency of having to fund your project 100% or get nothing at all, that your backers were more motivated to help you along. People like to feel like they are part of the project, and the funding doesn’t have to be a cold, businesslike moment in the life of the project. Giving out great rewards, interacting with the backers, and putting some ownership in their hands to help you hit 100% is very exciting. IndieGoGo didn’t have the same feel for me.
How did you get the word out about your project? Who did you connect with?
Since I’ve been teaching animation for so long, I have hundreds of students who are unbelievably supportive of me. They really showed up. Through animation, I have around 2000 friends on Facebook, maybe 5000 on LinkedIn, 600 Twitter Followers, and a few hundred that have come through my training site. This combined network was basically a machine that just needed to be fed the information and turned on. The incredible people supporting me did the rest. All my FB posts were ‘liked’ by 100+ people and reposted by dozens, same with the Tweets.
I should also point out that it was a huge boost to the project to do a funding launch event and a funding close event. I chose to animate LIVE and broadcast a video stream for 24 hours for the first day of funding. An average of 406 people watched the ENTIRE broadcast, and raised $19,500 the first DAY. Then, the last day, I announced a super special reward level during the last two hours (also webcasting), and we went from $33,000 to $50,246. I can’t stress how important it is to have awesome rewards that are catered to your most dedicated supporters. They’re just looking for an excuse to pledge more!
Having finally reached (and far surpassed) your goal how do you feel?
As of writing, it’s almost a month later, and it STILL hasn’t sunk in. I think the best way to describe the feeling is after the initial shock of walking in on your own surprise party. After you are startled a bit, you look around and see these faces smiling back at you, and you get a little overwhelmed (almost embarrassed?) by the gesture these people have made. I feel so much love for all my supporters, it’s hard to contain. I wish I could hug them all!
What excites you most about the whole experience?
Something that I didn’t expect was the number of students in the animation community who I haven’t even had in my classes pledging very large amounts. It’s very exciting to have fans and supporters that are more than one-degree of separation from you. It feels like we’re part of a community that all want to create something beautiful.
What advice would you have for other creatives who are eager to follow their own dreams and bring unique concepts or ideas to life?
If you are a passionate person, I promise there are people around you who are just WAITING to prop you up, support you, see you achieve success. Let them in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be too proud to accept it. Nothing beautiful is ever created in a vacuum.
What’s next for Pierre? For Kenny?
Pierre is going on an adventure, and I’m going with him!
I don’t know about you – but we’re eager to see where the adventure takes them both!
Looking forward to seeing The Little Painter completed? Stay tuned on our blog for clips and updates in the coming months as the project nears its finish.
Jess Bedford, Marketing Manager – Artisan Creative