Funding a Free/Libre animation: ZeMarmot

If you read this, you probably know ZeMarmot. If you don’t: ZeMarmot is an animation film, in digital 2D (“old” style, i.e. with hand drawings, but done digitally directly on a computer, instead of paper and paint), which we are producing (teaser visible on the webpage).

  • Story in 2 words: it tells about an Alpine Marmot who travels around the world.ZeMarmot logo
  • Artistically, Aryeom Han is the boss, film director, storyboarder, animator, designer, you name it! She is a trained animation director, graduated in Fine Arts from Samyeong university in South Korea, with animation film major. She worked several years as freelancer in Japan, Korea and New Zealand, taught and experienced with proprietary software, and now for a few years with free software.
  • Technically we use only Free Software, be it GIMP for all the drawing (everything digital is drawn with GIMP, which is an awesome software), Blender VSE for video editing, Ardour for sound editing, even GNOME as our desktop environment over the GNU/Linux Operating system. When we say “full-stack”, we mean it! Not easy every day, mind you, but the goal is also to improve the FOSS stack for graphics and video creation since I am myself a Free Software developer.
  • Released as Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International, which basically means: do whatever you want, download, share, reuse… but keep the authorship and the license (similar to GPL license in software world), double licensed with Free Art.

A paid team

Right now, the team is basically Aryeom, me (Jehan) and musicians (AMMD) for original soundtracks (music also under CC by-sa/Free Art licenses).
Aryeom and I are working nearly full-time on ZeMarmot. AMMD is rather freelancing.

Originally we hoped to have more people (you can see this in our crowdfunding talks), but one of the goal of the project is to pay every contributor for their work. Now I have nothing against voluntary contribution. Hell, I do a lot myself in Free Software! And this can also be of awesome quality, sometimes better than many paid works. But for this project we really want to do a professional project in all points of view. So Aryeom and AMMD are paid. I am the only one who is not paid right now because we just don’t have the funds, and this project is dear to me.

With more funds, we wish to pay myself, better Aryeom and AMMD, and get more contributors, in particular at first probably an animator or painter to help Aryeom.

Funding the common way

Funding is the hard part. I have tried some private funding (company foundations), public ones, even a museum which has an “Art and Technology” grant. But competition is hard (hundreds of people go for the same grants), and maybe I’m just not a good pitch writer because we don’t have much success there.
Also it does take a lot of time to apply for grants, which is especially frustrating when you don’t get them.

On the other hand, several types of public grants for audiovisual and cinema works are out of reach because one of the criteria is often to be with a production company. Some things just cannot be done out of the normal process. And well actually a production company proposed us twice to discuss about funding our movie the proper way, i.e. through them. That’s good right? Well not entirely. The movie license itself, Creative Commons BY-SA, is an important piece of the project to us. And normal productions are not too fond of such “free” licensing. I know that it is possible to make quality Free/Libre Art (the kind of quality that we will go to festivals with, not only visual quality but also script and direction, i.e. all artistic qualities) and still make it professionally (paid artists and technicians). And I want to prove by doing.
This is why we are delaying any “going the usual way” change as much as possible.

Continuous crowdfunding…

Up to now, our main source of funding was the initial crowdfunding, as well as some donations from individuals (thanks everyone!), funding from the umbrella association (LILA) of the project, and personal savings.

For the last few months, we have been experimenting with periodic crowdfunding platforms, which are Patreon for USD ($) and Tipeee for EUR (€). Basically you subscribe for a monthly contribution (from which you can unsubscribe at any time). The Patreon has been stagnating at $16 a month (by 6 contributors), and the Tipeee funding is 42€ a month (by 12), which may be the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, but a meme does not feed you, right? 🙂
All the money is managed by the non-profit LILA and is used for the project. But there is barely enough to pretend being paid, right now.

What we want to do… and what we need for it…

We will anyway finish the pilote, and send everyone’s rewards (from the initial crowdfunding), even if we don’t get much more funds, because we committed on it. But if we want for the experiment to be more than just an experiment, we need to make a call here: if you can spare even 1 dollar/euro or 2 a month (or 10, 20, even why not 100 if you can afford! 😉 Yet if you can’t: 1 is better than 0), it would mean the world to us!

Also the more people are sponsoring ZeMarmot, the more it supports our idea that we are going in the right direction, but also it can help us secure some public or private grants (the kinds which won’t go against our ideals by asking re-licensing). Indeed if thousands of people are behind the project, it definitely increases the project’s credibility towards grants organizations.

With your help, I could continue improving the FOSS graphics and video stack, which means continuous contribution to GIMP (already being done, but it would be great if I could get paid to do it, right?). I am also working on an absolutely cool animation plugin for GIMP. Aryeom will safely work on this awesome animation film. AMMD can compose and record more Libre/Free Music. We all definitely want more Free Art and Free Knowledge in the world with great artists being actually paid for doing the right thing.
And we want more people joining us. Maybe some day, we could have a big animation studio doing big jobs under Free License and with Free Software! Who knows?!

This is what you helping us could accomplish!

Help us fund ZeMarmot continuously!

So we need you! You can help us achieve all this by contributing a little and showing that you care for what we do. Do you? 🙂
If so, you can click one of the logos below, whether you prefer to contribute in euro or dollar ↴

Click to sponsor us on Patreon (USD)!
Click to sponsor us on Patreon (USD)!
Click to sponsor us on Tipeee (EUR)!
Click to sponsor us on Tipeee (EUR)!

Excerpt of ZeMarmot’s Animatic

We made the choice from the start about ZeMarmot animation film to not show too much during production process because we don’t want to totally spoil the fun. By the past, I already had the case where I saw a movie animatic before the finale movie, and it really spoiled some fun out of the finale artworks.

But since we realize that you’d all would like to see some of what is happening “behind the stage”, here is a small excerpt of our animatic for the pilote (about 30 secs off the first scene). As usually, whatever is digitally-drawn (some parts were pencil-drawn) was done with GIMP.

What is the animatic

So I think I may have already vaguely told about it. The animatic is basically the next step after the storyboard: you take all the images from the storyboard, and chain them with the right rhythm, as well as basic effects (pans, zooms…) to get a “feeling” of what your finale movie will look like. It still requires some imagination because that’s basically a few static image every second or so. Not enough to be called a proper animation yet!

But with the right mindset, this is enough to get an idea and also time your movie!

In animation-making, this is also the moment when you freeze your story, the script, the scene and many direction choice. Whereas feature films allow for last second camera or script changes, it would be much more costly in animation films, unless you feel OK asking your painter to redraw several times the same scenes with various perspectives and to throw away days, if not weeks of work. This is why at some point, you need to make choices and try to stick to it as much as possible (last minute changes may always happen, but you always have to weigh the pro and cons).

ZeMarmot’s animatic

We finished ours around April, and have 2 versions: one without sound, and one heavily commented by myself (in French) for the musicians to get an idea of what they have to work on. We are currently working with them on a few songs. I hope we can soon give you more feedbacks about this particular part of our production too.

Currently the full animatic for the pilote is about 7 minutes. But this is likely to change slightly.

Reminder: if you want to support our animation film, made with Free
Software, for which we also contribute back a lot of code, and
released under Creative Commons by-sa 4.0 international, you can
support it in USD on Patreon or in EUR on Tipeee.
The animatic excerpt above is drawn and edited by Aryeom and also
released under CC by-sa 4.0,