Spin The Yarn

We're a Cardiff based Animation Studio.

The importance of personal projects

We put the importance of personal projects on the top of our list. Why? Well for us it’s about more than just having complete control in a project, it’s about what we learn from them. When Spin The Yarn was first formed we always knew that we’d be making our own videos. Our heads were (and still are) filled with ideas of what we wanted to create, some experimental and others just plain ridiculous and will probably never get made, but nonetheless they were there. Isn’t that why we start businesses, so we can have some control and make our “amazing” ideas a reality?  And we’re not the only ones. Google famously gives employees tinker time to work on whatever project they’d like. Google Maps came from this way of working. Pixar always release a short film along with their latest feature. They’re often stories or styles that may be a bit of a risk for a feature animation, or maybe they’re testing a new technology (The cloud time lapse in Lava is stunning, the fruits of some laborious volumetric development no doubt). Pixar aren’t selling these shorts and could easily forgo making them. If you were a stone cold accountant who only saw value in pounds and pence, you may ask “Why do them?” (Our accountants wouldn’t. They’re lovely). Here’s some of our whys...

Lava - Disney Pixar Short film

Lava - Disney Pixar Short film

Why personal projects are important to us?

The answer to this question is probably an obvious one for many, but for those reading this I shall tell you my opinion on why I think they’re important and what we get out of making them.

1.Experimentation

I think for all businesses it’s good to evolve, learn and grow. We need to if we want to survive in a very competitive industry. So to do this it’s important to try new things and experiment, which is what personal projects allow us to do. It means that we don’t have to experiment on paid projects which I guarantee most clients will be happy about...

2. Development for paid work

…which leads onto and into paid work. Experimenting with new ideas and techniques will always help with future paid jobs. We’ll know what works and what doesn’t. It’s always nice to offer our clients something new that we’ve discovered through experimenting.

3. Keeping motivated

Now we’re not saying we aren’t motivated by the paid work we get in, but once you get into doing the same style of film or graphic design or animation etc it can become too much like a routine and be too familiar. Going back to my previous point, experimentation can be exciting and will ultimately lead into motivation.

4. Collaborations

We’re really keen collaborators and where possible we bring other people on paid jobs. When it comes to personal jobs we’ve always collaborated with other people, it would be foolish of us to think we can do everything ourselves (refer to our Do One Thing Well blog) After all you get a more exciting product in the end if you collaborate. And working with friends and people that inspire you is a nice way to spend your time.

5. Control

Of course there’s an element of control to be had with making your own personal projects, no one dictating what should and shouldn’t be done. You can make that animation you’ve always wanted to and answer to no one! (unless you’re making it with other people of course)

6. You’ll meet people and maybe even clients

As i’ve pointed out in my previous points personal projects really do feed into every part of a business. And sometimes if you’re lucky you’ll meet some people and clients. If you’re making personal projects i think it’s important that you share them with others. If not straight away, it’s likely to get picked up by people who share an interest in what you’re making and if they think it’s good they’ll share it. And there goes the power of social media! One of them could be a future client of yours.

What are the difficulties with personal projects?

I’d be lying if i said the personal projects we’re easy and didn’t come with any difficulties.

1. They can go on forever

If you’re anything like us then personal projects will take you a long time to do, this can be a blessing as well as a curse. On one hand all you want from your paid work is time. Time to polish it off and make it as good as you know you can, but you have to remember that there are deadlines and a lot of time tight budgets. So you’d think having as much time as you want to produce a personal project is a positive thing and it kind of is, but on the other hand what we’ve found is that project is likely to get pushed to the end of the pile and will never get finished.  We need to be disciplined with our personal projects, yet allow ourselves to take longer on them, but also remember we want them to be seen by others. It’s only in the last 6 months we’ve started treating them more like paid projects, giving ourselves deliverables and structure while still not beating ourselves up if we want to spend an extra day on character development.

2. No one there to give you restrictions

Again this can be seen as a positive as well as a negative. Having restrictions can be a good thing and will certainly move things along quicker. I guess it depends on how clear a vision you have for your personal project.

What are our personal projects?

I want to tell you about some of our personal projects and the reasons why we made them and what if anything happened to them/us afterwards. And hopefully it will inspire you to make your passion projects.

The Force Awakens in Cardiff

This personal project came about in a moment of down time in the studio, it was a last minute idea that took us 2 weeks to turnaround. We’ve already written a blog about this project, so i won’t bore you with all the same details, but i will tell you why we thought doing this project was a good idea. One of the main reasons for doing this project was because VFX was new to us. We hadn’t made any films that had VFX on and with a new member of staff who specialises in VFX to us it made sense that we used his skills to show people what we can now offer. This personal project got us a lot of media attention and through that we’ve (hopefully) put ourselves on the radar and met with more potential clients.

Butterfly Soul

This personal project was the first one we decided to make (and it took the longest to complete). It steams from memories of University. Both Steve and I had fond memories of a storytelling workshop we went to. The storyteller, Daniel Morden had everyone on the edges of their seats, he was engaging, captivating and made us appreciate the importance of storytelling. We were lucky to get him on board with this personal project. This has only just been completed so it's hard to say what will happen to it, but we're pretty happy with it and are hoping to enter it into some competitions.

What we’ve learnt?

Always make time for personal projects and experimenting. If not for the joy of it then I guarantee they’ll feed into paid work.

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