Thursday, December 20, 2012

Producer Claus Toksvig explains how to make an independent animated film

Claus Toksvig in an independent Producer based at The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark, recently returned from the Creative Talent Network (CTN) Expo in Burbank, Los Angeles. Claus talked to FLIP about the challenges of making independent animated films outside of the studio system.

Claus Toksvig
FLIP: You work for the Animation Workshop in Denmark. What is your job there?

Claus: Since October last year, I have been responsible for attracting international co-productions to the Animation Workshop in Viborg, and to also to act as a consultant for our newly established satellite studios. When you create a new studio, there are so many things to consider. Many of our studios have one main focus but at the same time they need to be taking in other projects such as commercials, educational shorts etc in order to keep the studio running while putting together finance for the upcoming co-productions.
The animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark
FLIP: You were recently in LA at the CTN Expo talking about Independent Film-making. Tell us a little about CTNX.

Claus:  I really enjoyed CTNX; it is a very interesting forum for so many new talented artists. I had the pleasure to talk alongside Producer Max Howard and Line Producer/Writer Ramsay McBean, both from Melwood Pictures.  Also there was Peter Wetherell, President of Magus Entertainment doing International Sales.

Our talk was about how you put together the finance when making an animated film in Europe. Starting with getting the distribution in place in each territory, then approaching the various national film boards and, after that, getting all the collaborating partners to sign off. This usually takes a while, anything from 2-4 years. So as an independent producer one needs a number of films in development at the same time. In terms of technology and communication the world has become much smaller, meaning you can get the best each country has to offer.

FLIP: What projects are you working on at the moment?

Claus: I have been working with Danish Animation Studio Tumblehead creating a small teaser for Alex Williams’ new project My Haunted House. The project is still at an early stage but it’s a really fun adventure, with so many colorful characters.
Another project of ours has been helping out John Kricfalusi building some digital toys for his web shop. Also starting up February next year 2013 is the production of Tomm Moore’s new 2D feature “Song of the Sea”. Approx. 35 min. of the film will be animated in Viborg and we are expecting theatrical release in 2014. This is a co-production between Cartoon Saloon (Ireland), Super Prod (France), The Big Farm (Belgium), Studio 352 (Luxembourg) and Nørlum (Denmark).

Song of the Sea
FLIP: How does an aspiring Producer learn the nuts and bolts of independent film production?

Claus: This is a tough question to answer! Something I have been wanting to do, ever since I started getting into production, is to make a course for Animation Producers. Well, you learn by jumping right into it, hitting a wall, and getting up again. Of course the next time you do it you are better prepared.

FLIP: What advice would you give anyone seeking to make an independent animated film?

Claus: You can’t really compete with the major studios when it comes to budgets but you can seek out good material like them. A great story is always difficult to come by. So when you don’t have $120 million to spend on production and distribution, paying attention to great concepts and stories which can draw people in, is right on the top of the list. I always enjoy that challenge, because you may actually come up with something that can compete with the big studios. Another very important thing is the team. There are a million things that can go wrong when making an animated movie. Looking at an average production period of 4 years these films are like small marriages. You had better know who you are saying YES to.

(Editor's Note: Check in with FLIP in the New Year for details of Claus's new Animation Producer's Masterclass...we'll hope to see you there! 
 ...and for more interviews with animation producers, see our interview with animation legend Don Hahn, read Nathan Erasmus explain how to get your project off the ground, and see what Paul Harrison has to say about financing animated TV Series....)

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