I’ve never been good at sports, a tolerable singer, or a 4.0 student, so high school was a drag for me…until I got involved in theater. For one week a semester I felt like a rock star. My senior year I got to play Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. Those were the “good ol’ days” I look back fondly on.

Imagine my shock to get an email from a friend of a friend who needed help finishing the motion graphics for THE FLIPPING TONY AWARDS! My very first broadcast gig was for the biggest night in theater! I about fell over.

I had to pick myself up quickly, though, because what ensued was a fast-paced week of animating, revising, red bull drinking, and sleep deprivation.

Want to see the end result?

(Video posted by IdolXfactor2)

As I waited for clips to render, I had time to reflect on this whirlwind of activity and draw out some insights. Here’s what I learned:

Check Your Ego at the Door

It use to drive me nuts when old graphic design clients would tell me I was being too much of a perfectionist; that I just needed to knock the project out quickly without worrying so much about quality. I’m that guy that looks at everybody else’s work and thinks things like “oh, they totally used a preset, no imagination there,” or “that’s totally ripped off from an online tutorial, no imagination there either.”

The thing is, the Tony’s deadlines were so tight and fast that I didn’t have a chance to be a perfectionist. I threw layers and effects together, relying totally on built-in presets and what I remembered from tutorials. In the midst of that, a friend’s words echoed in my head:

“Perfect is the enemy of done.”

Ego would have me spend months attempting to construct the most amazing motion graphics ever conceived. I’d still be working on it long after I lost my gig with the Tony’s.

Why do so many bands crash and burn on their second album? They spend their whole lives writing the first one, and then the record company forces them to write the second one in under three months. I’m starting to see talent not as a measure of what you can accomplish in an indefinite amount of time, but what you can accomplish in a tiny amount of time with no safety net.

There Are No Shortcuts

I did absolutely nothing to get this gig. By which I mean I didn’t plaster my website and demo reel all over facebook and twitter. I didn’t go to creative professional meet-and-greets and I didn’t have business cards. All I did was focus on consistently delivering good work on time.

And that’s hard.

Social networking sites are saturated with people who rely on noisemaking to get ahead; graphic designers with flavor-of-the-month graphics they downloaded from some website; motion graphic artists regurgitating the latest Andrew Kramer tutorial. But, I got the gig because a client of mine trusts me enough to recommend me to their friends.

If you want Neil Patrick Harris to dance in front of your handiwork, you have to invest ahead of time with blood, sweat, and tears. Cut corners and you’ll hurt yourself in the long-run.

That said, here’s my reel:

Don’t Assume

Being the excitable/narcissistic guy that I am, I went around telling everyone I did the animation for the entire opening number. My smug little smile quickly faded the night of the broadcast when I realized that I was only a small part of the opening number.

Minute after minute dragged on with somebody else’s work filling the background. Neil Patrick Harris was cheating on me with another animator! It was 3 whole minutes until my stuff hit the screen. I felt so dumb. I played my part up so much, assuming I was the only artist contributing to the opening number.

I was so caught up in the excitement that I never stopped to consider where I fit into the big picture. And, I think that is the big theme here; I needed to recognize and understand my role in the process, even if it was a tiny role. Only then could I meet the needs of my client and knock the project out of the park.

Lesson learned.

Well. I’m flipping exhausted. I haven’t hardly slept this past week, and I’ve got to get cracking on our upcoming short film Avarice. Goodnight!

Dan Baker

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Dan works out his social anxieties by producing and directing films. He's a proud New Mexican, and prefers green over red.

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