I'm determined to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

A dream & case for winning an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film πŸ†

I'm determined to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

There. I said it. Confident, huh?

Probably a wee bit ambitious.

Ever since I was a little kid, I watched movies with my family (Hollywood & Bollywood) in the basement of my home.

Every. Single. Night.

Fast forwarding through Bollywood song breakouts and R-rated scenes, it was just a thing we did. I love film. It's how I learn things, what I turn to for the feels in a time of need, plopping down on the couch to get a laugh –– my escape. Just ask my friend, Megan, pre-COVID-19, there probably wasn't a movie I haven't asked her to go see with me.

If I calculated the hours I spent watching movies in my childhood...

Avg. movie run-time: 96.5 minutes
# of movies per week: 5
Childhood years spent watching movies: 10 years (ages 8-18)
(96.5 * 5 * 52 * 10) = 250,900 minutes
250,900/ 60 = 4,181.67 hours
4,181.67 / 24 = 174.24 days

174.24 days! I've spent nearly half a year of my life from ages 8-18 watching movies. I genuinely feel this to be conservative, too. I calculated this with a global average movie run-time. Bollywood movies skew much longer. This doesn’t even include all the times I watched something on my own (hello, Netflix) or with friends or what I've watched from college till now. While I've certainly been on the consuming end of the spectrum and not quite producing, it's safe to say I love film.

I'm fascinated by how a film can tell a story that elicits thoughts, emotions, and even actions from their audiences. At times, I find myself looking around at people to see how they react to a specific shot, score, scene, or combination of the three –– trying to understand if what I believe the film was trying to accomplish actually resonates with others.

While I've always loved film as a whole, I’ve recently fallen in love with animated shorts. They can pack a punch of an emotion (Negative Space). Leave a smile on your face with a poignant, clever ending (A Single Life). Flip your entire perspective on the character's problem at hand (The Present). Or even relate to the simplest of details of a struggle and relationship (Sanjay's Superteam).

The beautiful thing?

It's usually done within a matter of minutes.

All of that, in minutes.

In the past few years, the allure to this space has been growing. Kobe Bryant influenced the genre with Dear Basketball, a beautiful ode to the game of basketball and the beginning of a new craft and an Academy Award winning film –– admittedly where my obsession behind the industry began, too.

RIP Black Mamba β™₯️

Cool, cool, cool. I think you get it. I really like animated shorts, but how am I gonna' win an Oscar?

Well, you see, there's something about rethinking the way something is looked at, forcing myself to think beyond the industry I'm comfortable in. Something about being able to break a system down and tackle it in a way most people can't see. It's something I've come to realize, I obsessively (often to a fault) enjoy.

Itch. Itch. Itch.

I must scratch.

In the past, it's gotten me into lots of trouble. It's also helped me land the tech career I had always wanted.

For better or worse, I intend on doing it again. But, this time, I'm going to hold myself accountable by publicly writing about it, rather than doing it retrospectively.

Bold, but probably idiotic.

Likely true –– but what a great learning experience it would be if it fails.

Even more so, how awesome would that upside be if it actually works?

Let's get into that.


Creating an Animated Film and the Goal

The way I see it, there are three large buckets that need to be identified to even get started: finances needed, the goal to strive for, and the actual creative aspects to create the short. I realize there are many other things that go into creating a film, but I'm always one to assemble some of the plane as I jump off the cliff. These are just the major pieces I see.

Financing an Animated Short

Animated shorts are expensive.

Like, really expensive.

Hollywood animated shorts can cost upwards of $1 million a minute!

The barrier of entry is so high, it's tough for the average Joe to get started in this space. The Pixars and Dreamworks of the world are widely dominant. But, over the past few years, this has been slowly changing.

Read how Nicholas Arioli's Coin Operated cut costs by partnering with independent artists and the help of Nimble Collective –– cutting costs per-minute to 1/50th the rate. Or how the Academy Award winner Matthew Cherry's Hair Love went from raising $75k on Kickstarter, to just shy of $300k on Kickstarter, to partnering with Sony Picture Animations and winning an Academy Award. It's inspiring and just the beginning to being able to commoditize animation –– an important piece for animation to be accessible to the masses.

This drastic cut in costs is a huge win for the independent artist. I'm hoping my understanding for raising money in the startup tech industry and how to crowdfund, coupled with having a few mentors will play a role here. While still hand-wavy for the time being, raising $150k to $300k (in total) for an animated short is much more feasible than $5M to $6M.

Stay tuned. In the near future, I'm sure I'll be posting more about raising money and how I go about that.

Striving for a Goal

While I believe working on film and my love for animation should be enough, I find it difficult to work on something without a goal in sight. I need something to strive for. Something that tells me I've pushed the boundaries for what I can do, in this case, what the film can do.

Where is the film going to make the most impact?

Why not start with one of the most known, if not the most known, platform for film? The Academy Awards.

The Academy Awards gives a gambit of Oscars out for films every year. The beautiful thing about the Animated Short Film category is the generally lower-profile entrants crossed with the number of submissions in comparison to Best Picture, Best Director, etc. It could be a perfect storm for someone like me.

The 93rd Academy Awards received a record number of qualifying submissions, 96. This is what they call the "long-list." Here's what that funnel looks like.

You have a little over a 10% chance to be on the short-list, a ~6% chance to be nominated for an Academy Award, and a 1% chance to take it all home. That seems low, but it's quite achievable.

Just to put that into perspective:

  • The odds of getting hit by a car is 0.02%.

  • The odds of getting a hole-in-one as a professional is 0.04%.

  • The odds of the IRS auditing you is 0.6%.

The odds are not that bad when you think about it. I'm more likely to win an Oscar than get hit by a car –– now that's fascinating to see!

Again, while the odds make this interesting, it's not the crux of what's going on. I'm still doing something I love, but goaling for something you love and would do anyways when the odds can play in your favor –– well who wouldn't ask for that?

Okay great. But, I still have to qualify, right? The bar must be high.

I'll break this down. One of two things has to be done:

  1. Win a qualifying award at a qualifying film festival

OR

  1. Pay for admission in a commercial motion picture theater in Los Angeles County for a run of at least seven consecutive days (expanded to other cities with COVID-19 this year)

Yeah, but winning a film festival is so difficult.

Of course. Winning an award at a film festival is not necessarily an easy feat, but picking and choosing which ones to attend could play in your benefit, the list of film festivals is endless, mapping them out is a nightmare, as some don't allow you to participate in others, which makes this difficult. I'm in the process of that.

I didn't say your animated short could be shitty...

What about running a short for paid admission at an LA County theater? Gotta' be hella' expensive!

Well, kinda.

Theaters can be four-walled.

Four-walling is where you pay the theater the right to play your film and buy the seats out-right. You have the opportunity of earning this back through ticket sales.

These theaters can be bought out for a week from $2,000 –– $18,000. For being able to be considered for an Academy Award, that's a small price to pay. I realize this comes from a place of privilege to even say that.

Creative Aspects of an Animated Short

While I realize there are many creative aspects to getting an animated short off the ground, the creation of a script is the start.

Let's start there and then touch on the rest.

I debated sharing my own scripts out for a while now for a multitude of reasons -– someone stealing them, how embarrassingly written they are, the sheer judgement from people I don't even know... the list goes on and on.

What I realized: if someone is going to steal it, it's probably worth pursuing (validation to some degree). If someone thinks it's poorly written, tell me what's wrong (a learning opportunity for me). If someone decides they want to judge me, you define yourself, not me (TL;DR –– I don't care).

  1. One Foot In, One Foot Out –– A generational story where a girl struggles to identify with more than one culture

  2. Boxed Up –– A story about the friendships pure hearts can form, especially as a kid (perspective)

  3. Grandpa –– A story about the kindling of a relationship between a grandfather and grandson as they grow old

Hopefully, as you read these scripts, some of you enjoy them enough to be inspired, reach out, or even come knocking at my door to teach me a thing or two. I'm only at the nascent stages of creating an animated short, and all the other creative aspects (like storyboarding, the actual animation, production, etc.) are going to need helping hands.

If you find one of these scripts interesting or just find the road to creating an animated short interesting, reach out. I want to hear, learn, or work with you (@rahuldotiyer)!


Wait, so you're saying it's possible?

With a little bit of luck and opportunity at the intersection of drive and intention, it is possible to win an Oscar. The numbers presented may be off, slightly or grossly. But, that's why I'm writing this. I've done some research, but my intention is to show you I think there is a path to the Academy Awards while creating something I love. The goal is ambitious, but I'm sure there are like-minded people out there wanting to work on something similar.

Wait, this is going involve a team, right?

Yes. If that's you, as mentioned above, I want to hear from you. All sorts of people are going to be needed from animators, to producers, to directors, to people who just know what they're talking about.

This is just the beginning.

@rahuldotiyer on pretty much any social media and you can find me!


Haters gon' hate

We all have questions. Thank you, Dru Riley (trends.vc), for showing me a clever way to address questions for the haters, the pessimists, and the curious.

Are you just trying to scheme the system and downplay the creativity aspect of film? It's not all numbers and data.

You're right, and I'm absolutely not. I love film. I have since I was a child. I'm here to dream big, set ambitious goals, but find realistic ways in which I can achieve them. This is just that.

You could fail miserably at this.

I welcome it. It's a learning experience, but you better believe I'll do everything in my power before I let that happen.

Would you reference that you called it when accepting the Oscar?

I'll let future me figure that out, but my initial inclination is "why not?"

How're you going to get a team?

That's part of the intention of this writing. I want to show that there is a path to doing something great while doing something we love. If you are one of these people or know one of these people, I'd love to hear from you. Reach out to me @rahuldotiyer on any social media platform, or leave a comment below!

You're missing X, Y, Z factors in figuring out how reasonable it is to win an Oscar.

You're probably right, but if I sat here and tried to come up with the perfect formula, I would have spent more time on the formula than actually working on the film. I intend on building some of this airplane as I jump off the cliff. Great idea? We'll find out.

How are you going to make money? What's the financial gain?

I won't be –– there isn't one. I love film. I'm not in this for the money.

Couldn't this newsletter piss the Academy Awards or the film industry off and get you blacklisted?

Sure. Anything is possible, but if something like what happened to The Weeknd with GRAMMYs happens to me –– that'll be a wild success in itself. Enough of a threat for someone to not want you to win, despite how good your film is? Bring it.


Appendix & Resources