Personal Projects are a Marathon, Not a Sprint
One thing I have learned as a professional creative is that large personal projects tend to be better tackled as a long term, part time endeavor. Also that giving up on them is usually not in my blood and not an option for me, even if the end product ends up being less then ideal. Something finished is better then things that are half done and sitting in the archives of dead ideas in my hard drive.
Right now I’m working on a few long term personal projects. One of which is a science fiction short film titled NF Core 01. The story alone had been marinating in my head for about a year before I even wrote it down at all, or developed much in the way of a decent story.
I have noticed that if I have an idea about a story or short film that won’t leave me alone after about twelve months, it’s probably a good idea to explore further and one I should attempt to write down.
I do creative writing on the side for my own pleasure, so I have a lot of experience with false starts in storytelling. NF Core 01 actually started out as a fantasy story about a goblin princess who meets a dragon deep inside the earth who grants her a wish. I toyed with some character designs or ideas, but then I realized that I often am not interested in writing whimsical fairytales, and I wanted to do something a little more geared towards science fiction, robots, etc. However, I still wanted to keep the dynamic of two characters forming a relationship as a central part of the story.
I went through a number of drafts of the script over about three months, reviewing it with friends, my animation group that meets once a month, and editing down or condensing parts that I could to save myself on running time much later down the line.
I’m about three months shy of the two year mark on this short film, and the preproduction phase is almost wrapped up. A job change, a new interest in permaculture and gardening and generally being exhausted from starting up my new business prevented things from moving faster then they could. But I’m trying to make time for the film when I can.
Personal projects that are big I find to be immensely satisfying, but they are definitely a marathon to complete, and not a sprint. With so much work left to do on production once I finalize my animatic, character designs, environments, etc, it’s best to go slow to prevent burnout and issues with rushing any larger production.
So if you have a personal project that you’d like to be ambitious about, remember to always pace yourself, and don’t get discouraged on completing it when life gets in the way.
I’ve completed only two lengthy short films in the seven years I have been a professional animator, and they were both incredibly hard to do. One phrase I really enjoy is the question of how you eat an elephant. The answer is quite simple; eat it piece by piece.
Cheers and happy animating!