View Full Version : "how do you find the time ??!!?!?!"

04 April 2005, 02:16 PM
If you're reading this thread you are probably intrested in making short films ( CG or whatever ), the process of making one, or are currently in the stages of actually making your own. Therefore you must have at some stage been faced with the old "motivation/time" problem...

Particularly with the intricacies of CG shorts, and the obsurd rate at which the quality of these independent productions is increasing -- the time it takes to actually plan and create a short - even of just a couple of minutes, can become incredibly vast.

I just wanted to post a thread about this to see if people will share ideas about how they "keep themselves going" during production of a short -- especially those who are creating their work mostly by themselves. I see a lot of great work on the net and Im always asking myself "how does this guy manage to do this in his spare time ?" "how do they balance their personal lives with what must be hours and hours in front of a computer?" "when was the last time they saw daylight ;) "

When i was at university i created a 3 minute CG short which I loved making, it took me over 6 months to complete, but i look back now and realise its only because i had literally ALL DAY - EVERY DAY to work on it that i actually completed it !! ( and also i was working within the constraints of a structured course where i had to present deliverables )
I now work professionally doing character animation, im getting married soon, and have recently moved to a new country. Im working on a short but i often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work i need to do to complete the film to the standard i want ---

to summarise > i find it hard to balance the time it takes to create my own short CG film, with my personal and professional life -- despite the fact that i have a incredibly strong desire to want to complete it....

I spoke recently with a guy who is working on a short, and he gave me some great advice - he told me to work for JUST AN HOUR on my film -- but to make sure i do it EVERY DAY. Just that advice has helped me massivley to get on and actually create assets for my film.

I wanted to know if anyone else has any more advice or processes for helping with this issue ??

what do you think ?

04 April 2005, 01:58 PM
I would suggest that pre-production is vitally important. I figure if you're busy all the time you can probably still imagine the story in your head though, and you could probably refine it until you know exactly what you want, that way the time you DO have to yourself will be better spent.

I can't really speak for CG shorts, because the only stuff i've filmed has all been live action.
But in my experience, DEFINITELY take the time to get some solid pre-production.

Here's a link to a film i made : (
This film took a total of 6 hours. That's coming up with the story, setting up mics and lights in all the locations, filming the whole thing, and editing it and adding a soundtrack. As you'll be able to see, the whole thing feels VERY messy since we didn't plan beforehand what we were going to shoot.

I think if you do your pre-production properly then you should be able to manage your time pretty well.. ("Ok, today i'll animate the kitchen scene, and then tomorrow i'll animate the car scene...")

04 April 2005, 01:14 PM
thanks matty - its good that you emphasise the importance of pre-prod cos i totally agree. I think as well that your last comment is really about the need for strict scheduling .... creating a list of tasks that you should adhere to as closely as possible - on a regular basis.
I suppose this kind of organisation is key -

i realise there is a fair bit of info about this scattered about on the net .. but when talking about shedules and pre-prod .. what is an 'order' that you people normally approach short films with ? ie: characters first, or story first ... or characters and location before story ..
what about character design ( do people do this before storyboard ? )

just interested ....

04 April 2005, 02:16 PM
The order for pre-production is usually the script is the very first thing to get completed. Now as to how the SCRIPT is done, that varies from writer to writer. Some writers start with a story, others get the characters in their heads first and let the story develop around them, so it's really just a matter of how you or your writer prefers to go about it.

For myself, it's usually a mix of story elements + main character that are initially created with locations and specific sequences/supporting characters/plot developments growing out of that initial genesis of a character with a kind'a story to tell.

Once your script is done usually it's just the FIRST draft and what you'll want to do is revisit again and see whether you're on the right track with only some tweaking, or whether you need to make some major revisions. But if you want to make producing your work as painless as possible, you'll want to nail down the script as much as is possible at this stage since any changes to the script (ie new characters, new locations) has a domino effect that influences the entire chain of production after it.

So let's say that you get your story/script done and you're or more or less happy with it. After that it's time to look at your script and start making a list of all the elements. Here's where you'll start to realize that maybe you need to do some rewriting, not necessarily because the script is bad, but because at the scriptwriting stage it's very easy to let your imagination run wild and forget that at some point you or a team will have to realize all this within a schedule that won't break your will to live.

So now you look at all the characters that you will need to create, all the locations and all the props. Once you've made a list of all your elements, you can start creating a schedule. Normally the character design will come first, but if you're doing this as a one-man show, you don't have to worry too much about making sure your characters are all done so that the animators can get to work on them while the locations and props are being designed.

redkid one
04 April 2005, 02:25 PM
yeh, I like the sound of this thread - I'm trying to organise starting (well, resurrecting, really) a cg short of my own, as well as settling into a new country and trying to find real work...

cheers for the 'hour a day' theory - I try to do about that, but it sometimes seems too little, you know. But if it's workin for others, there's gotta be light at the end of the tunnel...

04 April 2005, 01:26 PM
thanks for the replies guys.

I have just been reading some of the 'similar threads' below and they are very interesting. One of them talks quite a lot about how much sleep you actually need to function correctly - and using some of your normal sleep time for creativity.

To be honest I kind of agree, and Ive never really been too bothered about how much sleep I get - but the problem is I dont want my girlfriend going to bed on her own most nights with me crawlin in at 3 in the morning trying not to wake her up ..... and i also dont want to be stupid about getting little sleep....thats obsessive.

The reason Im talking about this is it made me remember one of my art leads i used to work with who used to get up early in the morning and work for a few hours on personal art before going to work. I think Im might give this a try. I think it wouldnt kill me to get up at 6 in the morning and get 2 hours in before I leave for work at half 8 ..... I should have thought of this before. I think the morning is a good time to work too because your fresh from sleep and ready to go....

04 April 2005, 09:41 PM
This is a great question! I get asked this a lot by my friends when I finish a project and the answer is almost always the same.

1. Preproduction Is King: Every spare minute you got. Waiting for a bus? Rehearse some lines of dialog. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten strange looks from people because I'm mumbling dialog to myself. In line at the bank? Scribble some storyboard ideas. Commercial break on your favorite TV show? You get the idea.... Basically, you should work out all the kinks before you even start making it.

2. Schedule: I pretend every project I do is on a deadline from a really ANGRY boss. So I work at least an hour every day on it. What's great is that sometimes you'll be relieved when the hour is up, and sometimes you'll spend 9 hours working and not even realize it. But set up some kind of reinforcement. If I miss a day working on it, I skip going to the bar with my friends that weekend until I've made up the time. If I'm ahead of schedule, I go to a movie, or buy a new DVD, etc.

3. Crap Passes: I'm a big advocate of "Get it Done". So, if you're having trouble with a scene, just write it out start to finish. Don't get bogged down in dialog, just make it up on the spot. The first 3 or 4 drafts of any of my scripts are just terrible, sometimes the dialog will just look like this:

"Hey, (something about a busy day)"

"Really? (insults him somehow)"


"Really? You know most people don't count smoking as being busy/How can you be busy when the house isn't even clean/Busy for you is managing to wipe/etc."

See? You can add or subtract stuff later, but for now you have a completed script.

4. MOST IMPORTANT: COMPLETE AND RIDICULOUS SECRECY. This is the only way I can get anything done. I used to have all these ideas, but then I'd tell my friends or coworkers what I was working on, or I'd tell them one of the funny scenes, etc. and then I'd NEVER FINISH IT. It was almost like once I'd told them the main idea, I felt no desire to actually work on it. Storytelling accomplished. So, I instituted a strict rule of secrecy where I can't say a thing about what I'm working on until I'm done. It really lights a fire under you to finish it, just so that you can finally tell someone about it.

This is what usually works for me. I hope some of it helps!

04 April 2005, 04:22 AM
GET A SCHEDULE, YOU SHIT!. thats what i keep telling myself when i remember i havent gotten around to writing up a very specific schedule. its important.

05 May 2005, 11:03 PM
I have a nasty confession to make: I generally write my scripts at work while digitizing media. I set up my project's capture list first, then, while the mac is busy capturing all my stuff, I take out note pade and work on my personal scripts. ;)

05 May 2005, 02:37 AM

That is pure gold.

05 May 2005, 07:26 PM
The issue of time is a struggle for most creative people. Unless you are independently wealthy! There are so many hours in the day. I agree with one dedicated hour a day. I have run my own business for years. In addition, learning CG, writing a full length animation screen play and doing art work. Oh, and also being married. Something will always suffer. So I would start by prioritizing. Then, dicipline. Force the hour. Or one hour each day and 3 hours on the weekends. It is real easy to let day to day stuff get in the way. So you have to be very firm on your didication and committment to the project. Have short goals that can be reached week by week/ or 2. And then you can take some time to devote to marriage. Then get right back to it. Good luck. Remember, you are not alone. There are many of us out there, trying to shuffle our limited hours. I only wish we could borrow or trade time. Get more when we need it and give it away when we are anxiously waiting for something. Hey! There's a script idea!

05 May 2005, 01:50 PM

Currently, I'm working on my own project and I find it difficult to resume working on it if I have other things on my mind (i.e. challenging projects you got to handle to make your clients happy or for living).

The solution? I tend to split the workload/idea into smaller parts and tackle the difficult one first. Once you have completed the difficult part, then you will have a sense of completion which might lead you to the next one.

Fungusmonkey: I completely agree. One of my colleagues tends to work on his project early in the morning and he is also reluctant to show me any progress. I saw his renders by accident and I realised that he is winning!


05 May 2005, 11:19 AM
Same problems here... finding the time is hard... so what I have done is

1. Bought my self a Dell AXIM X50v... got some art software for it, and it has become my sketchpad and writing book that I can take any where, I can do my storyboards, dictate my ideas to it, it stays with me all the time...

2. Spend 1 hour in the morning before going to work, 1 hour when I get home... so I get two hours a day during the week and I have negotiated with my wife 4 hours on saturday and 4 on sunday. So long as I do some chores around the house :D

3. I write out when I want things done by ie I give myself a working schedule (sometimes I deviate but it gives me something to work to)

4. I am writing for a Starwars, LOTR like idea that has so much back story I could probably make a 100+ episode TV series like some popular anime out there. But I am a single person so I know I will have to create a good amount of story make a trailer/short and try to sell the idea to others to work on a collaborative project. If Its going to be a series then I want to release it via the net to get interest much like animatrix was but then get people to subscribe after a couple of episodes to see the rest. For that to work in those first free episodes we would have to get people hooked and loving the characters/action. In essence know what you have to do to achieve your goal and throw everything you can into it. (And negotiate with the wife :) )

05 May 2005, 07:17 PM
It all comes down to how much free time you have and how you manage it.

I have three days off in the week and work to a bit of a time table. I get up nice and early and go to bed early. Having your full strength and rest is critical. Going without sleep is simply stupid.

Insted of working 3-4 hours straight, I work in 1&half hour time slots and have 30min break inbetween. I usually meditate or eat in that time...

One of the biggest set-backs to a project is spending too little time planning things out. I break shots down into components and insted of crying over the fact I have an entire shot to produce before the day is done - I choose an element of that shot and focus on that insted.

You have to simply go at it. :wise:

05 May 2005, 03:29 AM
Dilema, dilema, dilema! How to be an artist and still have a balanced life? I noticed lots of mentioning of wives and girlfriends. That is so true. It's no wonder mother in-laws shudder when they hear that their son or daughter will marry an artist. Needless to say, it's very difficult to serve all the lords of our lives and be good at all of them. That was one of the catalysts for Brad Bird to write The Incredibles. He was torn between trying to be a great filmmaker while being a great husband and father to his kids. A lot of his angst and frustrations made it onto the screen in Bob Parr's character.

When I created my short film, I quit my day job and spent 2+ years devoting most of my life to it. That was the only way I could've made it. It was more of a life than a lifestyle or hobby. It required tremendous sacrifice. It was ultimately my curiosity that got me through the finish line. When I look back, it was some of the best time of my life. However, I'm not sure if I'd do it again.

So my recommendation to everyone including myself is to set realistic expectations and tackle something that's doable.. otherwise, it'll just be too daunting and it'll most likely never be finished. So find ways to simplify your script, story, whatever, and cheat like hell (use matte paintings, duplicate geometry, use textures for details, etc)... but with one big caveat.... does the final product (simplified and all) capture the essence and spirit of your original vision? Keep this thought in mind so you don't wind up cutting off the cornerstone while cutting corners.

Good luck y'all!

06 June 2005, 02:52 PM
So my recommendation to everyone including myself is to set realistic expectations and tackle something that's doable.. otherwise, it'll just be too daunting and it'll most likely never be finished. So find ways to simplify your script, story, whatever, and cheat like hell (use matte paintings, duplicate geometry, use textures for details, etc)... but with one big caveat.... does the final product (simplified and all) capture the essence and spirit of your original vision? Keep this thought in mind so you don't wind up cutting off the cornerstone while cutting corners.

Good luck y'all!

That is something I agree with. I am been writing a long time and trying to become an independant filmmaker, game artist, novelist, and it has put great pressure on me. I have been writing a psychological thriller and altogether I have been up at least 65 hours straight trying to find the ending for it.

Aside from writing screenplays, after I finished college, I always work on my modeling and rendering for at least 2 hours daily. Then I go hang on with friends. And I agree with Sam Chen, I am planning my first short film made in XSI, and I am going to cheat like hell. (that is the only thing I will ever cheat on). In CG films, the average person WILL NOT know that the geometry is duplicated. Thank god for rendering tricks.

06 June 2005, 09:34 AM
also with the ways you can trick things with gaming models these days it would be easier to stay low-mid poly with out having to go to so much trouble, you just need good textures or even if you go the NPR look that should speed things up even more (just need a good style)

06 June 2005, 09:43 AM
also with the ways you can trick things with gaming models these days it would be easier to stay low-mid poly with out having to go to so much trouble, you just need good textures or even if you go the NPR look that should speed things up even more (just need a good style)
Trying to find ways to speed things up can be very time-consuming!

I made the experience that time is very very relative (well, I dont mean the Einstein way though ;) ). So you sometimes get things done so fast, you dont even notice it, specially if you have like a 'creative phase'. And on the other hand - and this might be my personal problem - you sometimes end up tweaking things for hours and hours that no one will notice later, drowning in details that simply are not effective in a way..
So for me there must be a very strict plan of what I really want to achieve, because things simply run out of control too fast; means, when working on my own, I always have problems getting commited to a certain stage.

I'd like to thank you guys for showing me I'm not alone with the problem of time. Honestly.

06 June 2005, 04:22 PM
For me it's all about pipeline. If you have a well structured pipeline there is no way you can fail (as long you don't go overboard). I also believe that you need to work on a film full time. It took me a year and a half to make my last film and it was only 10 minutes (I was working at a 60 hour work week company), but I've been working on this other film for only four months and I already have 13 minutes completed. I'm working 80 hours a week and it's a blast! I find it hard to believe that people think this is hard work; it's just time consuming. If you devote yourself to it, and be realisitic, there is nothing stoping you. But if a life is more important to you, maybe CG indie filmmaking is not the best thing for you.

06 June 2005, 07:23 PM
.....But if a life is more important to you, maybe CG indie filmmaking is not the best thing for you.

haha.. isn't that the truth!

i agree with you that it is a blast and time-consuming.. but it is hard work. the creative stuff is usually a joy to do, but let's not deny there is a ton of hair-pulling and hard work involved such as doing your own technical troubleshooting, asset management hell, backup duties, heart-stopping crashes, and working around software limitations and bugs just to name a few. They're all part of the game, but they also can be rather trying and distracting from you getting your film made (difficult enough already).

but regardless, we all love it.. right? RIGHT? :D

06 June 2005, 10:15 PM
You hit the nail on the head! The thing a lot of people don't figure on is all the bugs and R&D that has to be done; that alone can take up half the time you spend on a film. I still don't really consider that work, because I expect it (I'm more shocked when things actually work). I just lost 4 hours today fixing a render bug and I have 8 shots on the backburner with other glitches or bugs.

I believe in a few years you'll start seeing one-man computer animated movies (over 75 minutes) appearing on the internet, it's only a matter of time.

06 June 2005, 09:07 AM
I recently did a little 3D poster for a fan group.

And someone asked "How do you find the time?"

And I didn't get "do you use positive mental attitude?" as the subtext, I got a "my second-cousin made a mural out of seashells all summer and fall and I told him if he did it again I'd disinherit him" sort of vibe. But that could just be me.

Daniel Beaudry
06 June 2005, 06:53 PM
You know, having to know all the 3d modules (modeling, texturing, lighting...) and compositing can be a daunting task for the average novice in the field. But I mostly agree on the time and motivation issues! I though of creating a short, but being a freelancer constantly looking for work it is very stressful to just sit down, relax, and work on something else than searching for a paying gig. Wish I could just pull that stress plug out sometimes.

06 June 2005, 04:10 PM
loss of that creative burst you have at the beginning of a project is something that happens to any artist, especially cg. The twentieth time you hear that line or see that gag it isn't funny anymore, which is why i think it is imperitive that you ask other artists or anyone for that matter for criticism. Also you need to find things that you really love doing, away from the computer, and make sure you allocate time for these things. Burying yourself in the project just to get it done will only make the quality suffer, you need to recharge and sometime stepping away for a while and not thinking about it at all will give you a fresh eye once you return. It's a lot of hard work, but you should still enjoy the process.

06 June 2005, 09:25 PM
I think all of SamChen's advice was great... I made a 6 minute short about 3 years ago, and it took two years to make. I did it after work (before I was married) and on weekends. I loved it, and the film has been quite successful, but I would never do it again. Now, with kids and a honey-do list a mile long, the impulse to start another one is there all the time. I just squash the ideas and move on. I'd rather kiss boo-boos then take 2 years on a new film.

But, a few things I found helped me:
..Creativity is like a wave; it's high sometimes and low others. Let yourself abandon the project for a while and then come back to it fresh. Don't get burned out.
..Make lists and prioritize. I even put tasks on the list that are already done, just so I have something to check off. It's a trick I use to get myself going.
..Yes, cut corners all you can. I took geometry from publicly-available models, borrowed textures from the servers at work, and used many things over and over. Who can tell?

If you have a busy life and can't make the time, just don't do it. Besides, your film will be out-of-date 6 months after you finish it. I was also expecting a loud, gracious response from the animation/modeling community. This did not occur, and it was unrealistic to expect it. No brownie badge, just a well-made film for the festivals.

My first post!! :)

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