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Finding Work

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by mrhogg, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. mrhogg

    mrhogg Well-Known Member

    Hey all,

    I was hoping to get some advice from you. I seem to be able to get individual puppet-making gigs easily enough (though not of the price and frequency to sustain myself, yet, unfortunately), but I'm having a **** of a time getting anything video-related. I got the commercial thing last year, but aside from that the closest I've really got since is some interest. Now, I've gotten an amount of interest, which is cool, and probably a good sign in and of itself, but I'd love to get more commercial work.

    There are two problems, there, I suppose. One is: finding where to advertise my services as a puppet-builder and performer. I know there are people here who do work for shows and such; how did you get that work? How do you continue to get that work? Are you more often than not approaching clients, or are they approaching you?

    The second question is: how do you advertise your services? I've got a couple shows I do, and I continue to build puppets, so there's a portfolio growing, there, but I feel like I could/should be doing more. The Colbert Puppet Challenge is intended to get me some exposure, of course, and will hopefully succeed (when I finish the thing), but what are the things that other people are doing to advertise themselves?

    Hints, Tips, Suggestions and the rest would be greatly appreciated.

  2. mrhogg

    mrhogg Well-Known Member

    Another question:

    I've considered trying to work out some live shows, along with doing some puppet-building/puppeteering classes, and selling things on eBay and Etsy. I wonder, though, if doing something such as that would set the wrong tone. I want to be able to do this full-time, but what I really want is to make puppet shows (online, tv, movies). I don't simply want to execute them for other people, though I'm of course cool with that, but I want to be doing the whole thing -- the idea, the creative, the execution. Would doing live shows and doing puppet-building classes and selling tiny puppets be diluting the brand I'm trying to create?

    Also, I just now think I ought to create an ad package, with a printed pamphlet + dvd (video portfolio), and send it to ad agencies everywhere, to get the name out there. It's a simple enough thing, I realize, but do you think it'd work?

    I'm in a funk, you see, and am worrying that my various ideas are all taking me down the wrong track.
  3. Kevin the Frog

    Kevin the Frog Well-Known Member


    I think you are off to a super start and have done a ton of work, so it's great you feel you could/should be doing more. Trying to improve your views on youtube may be helpful. As far as places to advertise, or how to get more work, not sure I can offer any suggestions.

    If you're looking to make more money, I don't think doing local puppet shows / workshops will harm your "brand." You could start a separate website just for live shows if it is a big concern.

    Sending stuff to ad agencies is a great idea I think. Keep up the hard work, the big payoff has to come some time for you!
  4. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    From conversations I've had over the years with different people, puppeteers who work live and tour seem to do better financially than the people who stick exclusively to film & TV work. Film & TV generally pays more per gig, but the higher up in the business you go there are fewer gigs and pretty fierce competition. Live work is often lower-paying, but generally more reliable and plentiful.

    If film and TV is really your goal, targeting ad agencies may not be the best approach. They already work with established production companies and usually those production companies do the hiring on behalf of the agency (this can vary, but it's usually the way things work). The people you want to know are producers, directors and production coordinators/managers.

    What about networking with production companies? Production companies in Toronto often do videos for Canadian bands on low/no budgets to break in new directors before they will trust them with a commercial assignment. You could try approaching production companies and offering your services for any music video work they have and volunteer.

    I know volunteering can suck, but it is a great way to make contacts. My brother's girlfriend is a hair and make-up artist and tried this approach to break in to film and TV. She put in a lot of hours at first on a couple low-budget gigs for little or no money, but she's racked up several credits in the past year and is now turning away offers to work on some high profile movies because she's becoming so in demand. Of course, hair and make jobs are much more plentiful than puppetry ones, but the basic idea is sound.

    I think the best road to success is to do something unique and carve out your own niche, which is what you're already doing with dotBoom and your other projects. You do a really good job of cultivating an audience for puppetry where one didn't previously exist...something a lot of puppeteers have a lot of difficulty doing.

    If you keep trying different marketing things, I'd bet that more than any particular marketing approach, the key is just time, patience and dedication.
  5. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    My husband used to work at an ad agency (he was an ad creative). They would get mailers from artists, he said as the only copywriter he'd see about 3 of these per week from varying artists. This was a very small agency in Phoenix, so nothing like Leo Burnett. Not cheesy, but not big. I'm sure Leo Burnett gets hundreds a week.

    They look at your little mailer (usually a post-card) & if they like it, they stick it in a ginormous file and will look at that file when they're ready to execute something & aren't sure exactly who/what to use for it.

    you might not hear anything for years & years, however he said the idea of puppets might actually spark ideas for people.

    So...Puppet Revolution. Let's make it happen!
  6. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    Oh, and I wanted to speak to the Etsy/Ebay/Live Shows thing

    Here's my philosophy with it all: If it makes you smile & happy, then do it. If you're sad or disappointed about the idea, then you probably shouldn't.

    The wrong track is the one that makes you sad and regretful. No one here can tell you how doing those things will make you feel.
  7. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I usually get three or four emails a month via PuppetVision from directors, producers or companies who want to hire puppet builders (one of the most recent ones was for a music video in L.A. for the Myriads) for everything from student films to projects for MTV and Discovery Channel so there's obviously a market, but I am not sure how you market to it effectively because it's such a diverse and eclectic group.

    How did you land the Capital One gig Brian?

    This is so true.
  8. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle Well-Known Member

    just my two cents

    I pretty much agree with all that buck said

    i have been at this al ot longer than you, and it is not in anyway an easy way to make a living, espeically in the tri-state area i am in.

    , i work several part time jobs that suck, i do lots of builds for much less than i should be just to make ends meet,when i get to perform and build for a commerical its fun, but rarely is it a big budget production , and more often than not you will find that production companies will do any everything they can to pay you less than you are worth, and as for performing for major TV adds, you may encounter the dreaded "ARE YOU UNION" question, union gigs pay great, but you need to be a member, guess how hard it is to get a Sag card as a Puppeteer, i lost out on several commercial gigs as a performer last year , gigs i really needed, and that i was more than qualified for, but was not all to get because of union rules.

    welcome to the club of talanted but un-employed puppet designers, and puppeteers
  9. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    aww that sounded so sad and defeated, ravage!
  10. Laszlo

    Laszlo Well-Known Member

    Good thread. Well, all I can say here is: If you want to make money, being an artist is the wrong way.
  11. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle Well-Known Member

    just being realistic.
  12. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    I wonder if one of the ways to be successful as a puppeteer is to move to a city where there is little to no puppetry. Now, that probably won't get you any video work, but you'd be working.

    Phoenix certainly has our hub of puppetry, but its not saturated. I don't really ever find myself without something going on.
  13. mrhogg

    mrhogg Well-Known Member

    staceyrebecca, are you always with lots of paying work, or more puppetry things to do?

    Part of the problem I have is focus. I have (as does everyone) such finite time to do any of these things, especially when it's not my day job, that if I'm adding something such as classes, or etsy stuff, or anything like that, I'm taking away from the time I have to make video puppet things, and to make shows. And to find advertising/tv/film work, which is the goal.

    On the one hand, if I pile things up, each thing takes longer to finish, not just because I'm splitting my time up, but because switching from thing to thing is pretty disruptive, so it's not just four times as long to finish four things at once, it's, say, six times as long. This is a good way to get myself depressed, as I get no sense of momentum going on, no matter how much momentum I may genuinely have.

    On the other hand, the classes and the Etsy won't pay all that well. And if my goal is to supplant my income, to enable myself to build puppets and make puppet shows/productions full-time, then doing classes, or doing one-off craft pieces, isn't the most efficient way of doing it. I can reach my goal with less effort if I can get more advertising/tv/film work than if I make craft puppets, and that extra time will allow me to spend more time on my personal shows. I don't want to run into a situation where, sure, I'm replacing my income with puppet-building, but I have to do more than full-time hours to accomplish it, and it leaves me no time to work on dotBoom, Ask Palpatine, or any of the other shows I have in the pipeline.

    Ad agencies can pay a **** of a lot more than a person who wants a puppet for personal use, after all.

    What I'm going to do is:
    Finish the couple for-pay puppets I'm in the middle of.
    Film, edit, and release the Colbert Puppet Challenge video (which will be, if done right, a nice bit of advertising for myself)

    Then I'm going to start on a demo reel. Will be a mix of text-based description of what kind of puppets and puppetry Hoggworks does, but also how it will benefit people. Why people (read: ad agencies and production companies) should buy them. Plus I'm going to assemble a video detailing the things I've done. As part of the video I'm going to build a couple new sets, and a number of new, high-quality puppets (Colbert quality and as much higher than that as I can achieve) and record some specific bits for the demo reel using the new puppets and the new sets, to show not just what Hoggworks has done, but what it CAN do.

    And when I've got that done, I'm going to send it to every agency I can think of, world-wide.

    I'm going to continue making Palpatine while doing this, and do the odd puppet rant (and possibly an Inside Hoggworks or two), but other than that, everything's on the backburner.

    I'm paring things down, and going to focus on just a couple things, so I can burn through them. With a direction and a definite, concrete goal in mind.

    The demo reel will likely take me a couple/few months, and it might get interrupted by paying work (if any of my pitches ever come back to me), and it will be a **** of a lot of work.

    But it's the important thing to do, right? The first thing a potential customer will see. Which makes it the most important thing I do for Hoggworks.
  14. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    Brian, feel free to email me for specific details. Especially since you're trying to figure out if this is something you can live off of. I feel like I'm overpaid for a lot of things, you might be surprised...then again, you might not. I've no idea, I suppose.

    I teach puppetry in a school 2 days a week, I did library workshops, I'm in the middle of a big project for Craft Magazine, I do summer residencies. The indie film won that contest (! it's so terrible, i have no idea how), I write & perform for puppet slams, & the occasional touring show (we just do our slam pieces at venues around town), and then every now and again someone buys a puppet or two on Etsy. Last year was much more consistent than this year with Etsy, though. All of those pay & I've never ever felt that I've been underpaid. A lot of the time I feel overpaid.

    I constantly question myself! I think everyone does. And if you don't, then stomp on your toes for me, please. I have to remind myself to play. I think we all should. What good is this life if you can't play?

    I'm just attempting to do what I love and have fun every moment. I hope that others see that fun & want to have some sort of part in it. If nothing else, I'm having too much fun to know that I'm miserable. And so far, people have wanted to be involved! Yay that, right? I'm grateful that people have wanted to play alongside me.

    Most of the time people are come to me. Usually through networking, but once recently through flickr, oddly enough. Oh I think the Craft Magazine connection originated through flickr as well.

    Also, its important, too, to keep in mind that I'm married. And while that comes with its own sets of extra financial issues (house, preschool, child), it does help to have two incomes. I don't make nearly as much as my other half, but it's more than enough to fill in the blanks. For us, anyway.

    Like I said, I'd be happy to share specifics.
  15. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    Also, this idea of "craft puppets" confuses me.. I suppose I use craft puppets as professional performance puppets. I've never thought of them that way, I just don't build my puppets in a traditional muppet-contruction way.

    A topic for another thread,that has probably already been discussed at legth, I suppose. :)
  16. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    A "professional puppet" is just one you're paid to perform with. I think that the term is almost meaningless.

    I don't know if my personal story will be helpful in terms of this discussion or not, but about eight years ago I started a puppetry company and in the beginning it went very well. This was before most people figured out how they could use the internet to market effectively so there was much less competition and we were insanely busy building puppets for everything from TV pilots to theatre shows and private collectors. Unfortunately, I knew a lot less about business than I did about puppetry and I made a series of mistakes that compounded and the whole thing rapidly spiraled out of control and I ended up about $45,000 in debt and really depressed.

    For awhile I did some non-puppetry stuff part-time that was thankfully well-paying enough that I had spare time to work on a few things, but it wasn't enough time and I didn't have enough money to do what I wanted to. I got very frustrated until finally I decided to make some radical changes.

    I enrolled in a federally funded program for entrepreneurs - basically the Canadian government paid me for a year to start a new puppetry business - spent six months taking non-puppetry classes and workshops and developed a very practical five year plan for myself. I realized that I couldn't afford the cost of living in Canada while doing the work I wanted to with the minimal income I earned initially from puppetry so I decided to move to Mexico, where I could work on stuff for Canada and the U.S. but have a much lower cost of living.

    I just mention this because I think there are a zillion (or so) different paths you can take to finding a way to doing puppetry full-time. From my own experience and what I've read of others here over the years the path you start out on is rarely the one you end up on. It's ultimately about what your goals are, what you're willing to do (and not do) and what you're willing to sacrifice to get where you want to be.
  17. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    Because I'm a talkative kiddo, I think this has been what has given me so many opportunities. Basically the right people have asked for private workshops & I had no idea that those people were the "right people."

    Gazillions of ways to go about it. And again, the one that's right for you is the one that makes you wake up in the morning without any feelings of ick. (oh the mighty wordsmith am I) From the sound of it, you're not thrilled with the idea of doing shows/etsy/workshops, so that probably means you should stay away from it.
  18. mrhogg

    mrhogg Well-Known Member

    When I say craft puppets I don't mean the look or style of the build, I mean the intent and the use of them. When I say craft puppet I'm talking about something intended to be sold one-off, for personal use. There's nothing at all wrong with that kind of puppet, and I apologize if that's how what I said sounded.

    I'm more interested in getting commissioned puppet work for ad people, really. That doesn't mean that my stuff is more professional because there's a larger paycheque attached to it, of course, nor does it make it more valid.

    That may or may not provide clarification, but hopefully it does. Hopefully it doesn't make me sound like even more of an ***.
  19. staceyrebecca

    staceyrebecca Well-Known Member

    Totally provides more clarification. I can see that difference.

    I use the same building style as I do for my show puppets, but usually the non-show puppets are shorter.

    It really sounds like you should put that free-time you have into making a post-card/pamphlet to mail to ad agencies. Like I said, you may not hear back right away, but they don't file all of them in the trash. Unique ones they keep. Puppetry is unique.
  20. mrhogg

    mrhogg Well-Known Member

    A friend I used to work with was working at the ad agency that did the commercial. When they decided to pitch puppets, the next question was how to build them, and my friend thought of dotBoom.

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