My first idea of a potential money earner was a simple Virtual Reality game that worked similar to the game Tilt Brush, in that you would draw a shapes in the air. However, my idea would have the player draw certain simple shapes, such as a lightning bolt or a rain drop, and those shapes would translate into magical attacks to be used against enemies in a game where you play as a mage/wizard.
The only problem with this idea is that neither I nor Callum have any experience in working with VR or with simple coding, and we wanted to create a product that would churn out some sort of profit by the end of the 10 week Business Course, so we took a step back and decided to make something that was a lot more manageable.
We decided to stick with the Drawn Runes = Magic concept and develop the idea more. We are both massive Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons fans, and wanted to build a colourful fantasy world where this Runic Magic is utilised.
After much thought, we decided to create a webcomic based in this new fantasy world we had created, called the Vale.
For the actual story of the comic, we wanted to give it a bit of a unique edge, so we decided to go down the path that Season 19 of South Park went down; which was that they had an overarching plot, but in between they focussed on topics that were socially relevant, but still fit into the main narrative.
First of all we had to create a company name and logo. Our very first idea was to name the company after my new cat, Bean.
Anyone who has met Bean knows that he is incredibly friendly, yet very silly and quite hilarious, so we decided that he would be a perfect fun mascot for the company, and we decided to name the company Small Bean Studios (the “small” referring to how tiny Bean was when we first brought him home, and a reference to how small and humble the company is in it’s early stages)
Bean is incredibly expressive (especially for a cat) and I thought it would be a fun idea to create a company logo based on his silly face.
One of the options we were given at the beginning of Placement Year was to begin our own start-up company. For the longest time I ruled this out as a possibility as I had neither the funds nor the confidence to build a business from scratch.
It wasn’t until Greg mentioned the beginning of a Business Course for anyone doing start-ups that I started to think about it. I had been out of work for a month and needed something to fill up the remaining weeks of my Placement Year.
The first week of the Business Course was an exercise in determining your audience and what your audience wants from a product or service. This was very interesting as I had never really considered all the thought and planning that went into creating the very idea of what a business could be.
The next couple of weeks of the business course consisted of the class bouncing ideas back and forth on what their businesses could be, as we were expecting to have a business up and running by the end of the 10 week program. It was around this time when Callum Luckwell and I decided to team up to work on the project together. I didn’t feel competent enough to start a business by myself as I feel I lack the confidence or the people skills required. Callum is a lot better at all of that than I am, so I thought I could learn from him while he could learn from me as I worked on most of the design and product development.
My time at JAM Media, though short, was one of the most remarkable learning experiences I have ever had. I came away with a much better understanding of how a large production is run and organised. The Writer’s Bible is something that I will definitely be utilising in future projects to help with consistency when working in large groups, but I believe that the most important lessons I had learned while working for JAM Media were self-motivation and discipline. The level of professionalism I was exposed to was far above anything I had experienced in University projects or in John Henry’s Hammer Productions, and required me to really challenge myself and my skills, and was an experience I will not soon forget.
My job was to produce a 10 minute storyboard (give or take 3 minutes) of an episode. I was given the episode script, and a copy of the series’ Writer’s Bible, and was told to complete the storyboard of the episode, and send it to JAM Media for reviewing. The feedback was always constructive and extremely thorough, which was incredibly helpful.
There was usually a 3 day delay from when I would send in my copy of the storyboard, to when I would receive feedback, leaving 4 days to fix all the issues before I had to send in the new revised copy.
Any time I had a question I was normally answered within a couple of hours, which was incredible helpful.
The only problems I would have had over the entire process was that whenever I was having a technical issue, I was entirely alone. None of the team I was working with had any clue how to fix the issues I had with rendering or file formatting, and the tutorials and troubleshoots were entirely useless. It was only through sheer trial and error that I managed to complete some of the renders on time.
Whilst I would be working from home, the JAM Media team were excellent at communicating and giving me all the instructions I would need to complete the project.
I was told that the software I would need for the project was Toon Boom Storyboard Pro, and it honestly was not very difficult at all to learn.
The most interesting this I learned whilst preparing for the project was the Writer’s Bible. I was sent a copy for the show I was working on, and I was blown away by all the stuff I didn’t know I should have even thought about! Little details like which of the main cast should be leading the party when they go on adventures, and how that same character must always be standing in the centre of the group when they’re not on the move. There were also other details like examples of movies/shows that we were basing the cinematography off (it was mostly Wes Anderson films), and little non-verbal quirks that some of the characters have. My favourite Writer’s Bible tip was how it described how each character would react if a banana were to spontaneously appear in front of them (some reactions were “immediately eat it” or “study it to learn more about inter-dimensional travel” which was especially humourous and taught me a lot about the personalities of the different characters). It was a really great way of establishing a world without the television show having existed yet, and a great way of ensuring consistency with the locations and the characters with all the different storyboard artists. I made a mental note to definitely make one of these in the future for my own projects!
In early October 2016 I was contacted by JAM Media about the potential of working as a storyboard artist for the company. Of course I accepted the proposal and was given a quick test (a piece of script which I was to create a storyboard for). I passed the test and thus was hired by JAM Media to complete a storyboard for their upcoming animated show.
I did sign a non-disclosure agreement so I will not reveal anything about the actual show itself, but I will talk about what I learned during my time working for JAM.