Financing Animated Films

2014-09-20 19:40:17 by HowardWimshurst

Hi there,

Recently I was contacted by someone with an offer to work on an animation with a small team (not the first time). Basically this person had a fairly small budget and clearly didn't have a lot of experience in this area of production. I thought I would upload my response to give people an idea of how to handle someone like this (I hope she doesn't mind if I share this with people). But anyway here it is (First is her offer, then is my reply). Notice how I didn't immediately ignore her because the payment proposal was too low. MOST PEOPLE DON'T KNOW THE COST OF ANIMATION. It is our job to tell them.

Hello! I message you awhile ago about my 2d animated fan film project. I was thinking of doing a fixed rate. $100 USD per scene. I estimated that there will be 13 to 14 scenes. Also there will be four other animators working on this project as well. I just hope the fundraiser for this goes well in the winter. I will keep you updated on the project and if the fundraiser goes well or not. Does this sound good?

My Response

Thanks very much for getting back to me about the fan film project. I am currently available for work and this project sounds very exciting. 
Firstly I would like to ask, does the payment of animators depend on the success of the fundraiser? If there is any uncertainty with paying the animators for their work, I cannot commit to the project. 

In terms of payment, I have left my advice for this below 

I would encourage you to choose a different method than fixed rate. I understand that it can be difficult to measure the costs of animation. Don't worry, we can figure something out. 

Here's a few strategies to paying your animators. 
Paying hourly- This is the fairest for animators because an hour worked is an hour paid. I tend to negotiate anywhere from $14 per hour upwards- depending on the difficulty level and other factors. The worker keeps a timesheet detailing when they worked, for how long and doing what. This way you can see what they were up to during their work hours. You can cap the amount of hours paid for at any number. 

Weekly/ monthly quota- Set how much you would be able to pay your animator per week. Let's say it's $200. Every week your animator will do $200 worth of work and will not go over that (Keeps a timesheet). This way, it's easy to not lose control of production costs and you can plan ahead. It also gives your animator lot of flexibility and allows them to do part-time work. 

Fixed rate- good for not exceeding your budget. However it is very difficult to make a fixed rate estimate. Generally, fixed rates are a massive up-front cost. And your animators will be VERY grumpy when you ask them to redo part of a scene. They might just flat-out refuse to redo something if it gets out of hand. 
You could stick with your plan to pay $100 per scene. But here is the problem. The only animators who would be willing to work for that amount of money would be very inexperienced animators with a poor grasp of fundamentals, no experience in group animation and just not ready to undertake a project of this size. Any qualified animator would abandon the project for better paying projects very quickly. 

In any case, you should know that $100 USD per scene is not enough. Even if the scene was only 20 seconds long, it would not be a fair price. That is coming from an animator who charges very little in comparison to other 2D animators. I would invite you to re-read the break-down given by Sean Husmann. To put things in perspective, here's a quote from him. 
"Some may charge You 80$ for a Single Character *animated* over 12 Frames, completely Colored and Cleaned - some 200$" 

If you are on a tight budget (which I assume you are), I would consider what Sean suggests: 

"What You could do is first hire less people, so spending less money, get something short & attractive, with good presentational value done, and then use that to attract more "investors" 

I would volunteer for this. I could make the entire storyboard for you, or I could work on my own to make you a small trailer or cut scene to get investors interested. You mentioned that you needed an animatic for the opening of the fund raiser? I could make that for you. We could test a payment method during that time to see what works well, and then bring in other animators when you are ready to. 

Because creating a feature length 2D animated film is a mammoth task, I would advise that you start small. Hire one worker at a time. Pay that animator a fair amount to get something substantial and see where to go from there. This is what I would do. Even if you have a fairly low budget, we can make something, but it might mean that you have to scale back your project to something smaller or more basic. 

I have undertaken quite a few tasks like this, so I'm only talking from my experience. 

I hope this advice helps you out, and I await your response. 

Kind regards, 


Hope you found this resourceful. See more videos on this topic on my YouTube channel.

Or if you would like to see my artwork and animation tests, I post a lot of cool stuff on Tumblr

Twitter for bitesize quotes and stuff


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2014-09-21 00:48:17

This is really interesting.
I really have no idea how freelance artists/animators get hired so these stories really are helpful for future people who also take freelance work.

HowardWimshurst responds:

I didn't know if anyone would take interest in this, so thanks! The short answer for freelance animators getting hired is by being very loud about their skills. But I think it's important for artists and their clients to respect the value of art too. I'll be posting a follow up to this conversation shortly.


2014-09-21 16:34:47

Wow, great write up Howard!

I think I learned a thing or two from this haha, never thought of using time sheets!
You gave her some great constructive feedback in your email which is very commendable ;D
I completely agree with you, it is our job to educate potential employees of realistic production/payment rates and as always, it's also equally important for budding freelancers not to under-sell themselves.

I hope more people take the time to read this.

HowardWimshurst responds:

Hey CatFat thanks for the positive review! We've sent some more emails back and fourth, so in a few days i'll make a part 2. I watch a lot of Steven Silver and he is an advocate of putting value back into art. He's on YouTube so I recommend checking out his videos. Cheers for tuning in