YOU'RE an in-demand creator of amazing visuals with credits such as Lord of the Rings in your back pocket.
So how do you make the handbrake turn from outsourcing firm to a company that produces its own original content?
“It takes a lot of diligence,” says Chris Hatala of Massive Black. “The answer is you have to work very hard.”
Hatala spent several years at famed New Zealand animation studio WETA Digital, which was responsible for the Lord of the Rings films, I Robot and King Kong when he joined a group of artists in forming Massive Black in San Francisco in 2003, and has since provided visuals for the Tomb Raider series, Bioshock 2, robot concept design for the Transformers films, and characters for Lord of the Rings Online.
“We’ve worked with more than 300 clients and love doing commercial work. It’s very fulfilling and you get to work with the best teams.”
However, the company still wanted to do its own work.
“It’s great to work on other people’s stuff, but there’s nothing better than doing your own thing. Altering your business model means you have to keep going. You have to have help from a team and from friends.”
It hasn’t been an easy journey, but Massive Black is starting to see the first crop emerge. Massive Black’s Justin Coro Kaufman spent over three years creating a graphic novel in his spare time called Transient.
It is a black comedy about a homeless man who might well be the saviour of the world, and it’s already started receiving attention from a major US network about possibly adapting it into a show. They’re also animating it for the iPad.
Hatala also revealed a snippet of footage from upcoming game Mothhead, an atmospheric game designed to encourage children to explore the wonders of the outside world.
However, Massive Black has been receiving the most attention of late for an embryonic title called Zombie Playground, which will be a team-based game in which child characters take on zombies with a variety of weapons.
Instead of trying to approach publishers directly at first, it took to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. It shot for $100,000 and ended up raising $167,590 from 3,787 backers.
Hatala says the project will still need more support from a bigger player to become a reality, but it gives the company the impetus to build up a fanbase and to justify working it up to an early stage.
“It’s going to take a couple of million dollars to make this game, but it’s really great that there’s this democratisation so that we can do what we want to do.”