What does elegant product placement look like?
Product placement is a means of subsidising the cost of producing arts & entertainment objects by partnering with commercial engines. In reverse, it's a means for commercial engines to reach a relevant audience by partnering with arts & entertainment objects. Think of the 'Subway' character in the television show Community. The theory goes: The Subway brand integrates itself into a television show. We know that audience enjoys the narrative: maybe they'll enjoy the sandwiches too?
The thought for Truly Gently presents Theatorium is a simple one: what if there was one vision behind both the commercial and narrative engine?*
I've been interested in brands, design, animation and drawing my whole life. I've been working as a private illustrator for over ten years. I'm interested in supporting my family with my work. One of the ways I can ensure that I keep this interest alive is to continually develop my craft. It took me about twenty-five years to learn how to draw. I've been studying and experimenting with animation since 1999.
As part of development, I started a web comic in 2012 called Theatorium. It starred two friends who share a love for film: Eli and Martin. Here's one of my favourite strips from that year:
As much as I love the comics form, the cinematic ideas I was trying to express were demanding animation. So after drawing up fifteen strips, I decided that Eli was destined to come alive on-screen.The character of Martin to be replaced by a robotic hand, called Han:
Theatorium is a variety show featuring short animated vignettes, animated fables, cinematic and aesthetic observations, philosophical musings, as well as notes and ideas that have helped the development of my craft. Theatorium is co-hosted by a fictional version of myself, Ant and the Truly Gently brand representative, Eli.
It dawned on me in early 2013 that every project—even personal art projects—require funding. I spent the better parts of 2009-2012 working my day job (as an illustrator) to pay for my night job (as a self-directed illustrator). If I wanted to continue to develop the Theatorium brand into an animated variety show, I would need funding.
I could try and find a partner. I could apply for a grant.
Or, as I later thought: I could develop the commercial engine that would feed Theatorium myself. Enter Truly Gently.
The idea of a simple greeting card has long enticed me. How could I develop a different kind of card that would generate demand, all the while supporting (if not re-enforcing) the very values being expressed in my animation vehicle?
These values are: patience, work, prosperity and compassion. The greetings expressed in Truly Gently cards are simple, subtle and personal. They are not ironic, clever, or witty. The first card reads on the front: "You were right." On the reverse, when opened, "I was wrong."
The first Truly Gently card expresses a simple admission of being wrong. The first episode of Theatorium, the pilot I'm planning to develop as part of this Kickstarter, is also about being wrong. Each show theme will be tied into a card message. For example the second card could be: "Chose someone else. Not a reflection of you." which speaks to respectful rejection. This is the Truly Gently brand. It's the opposite of being cruel to be kind. Truly Gently cards, and the show they sponsor, support a kinder, gentler way of delivering truth.
I'd like to thank my friends and family, specifically: LondonFuse (creative incubation), Pauline Hare (patience), Kris Law (support), Jay Somerset (ideas), Paul Kaminsky (tone), Bernice Couto (publicity) and Thomas Cermak (shooting, editing and original score).
* I realise that arts & entertainment objects are commercial in nature, too. Here I employ the concept of raison d'être: the reason for the cards' existence is to sell them in the marketplace (secondarily they are carefully designed and artistic in nature) and the animation exists to express ideas about art and life (and secondarily to be sold as digital downloads). Part of this marriage involves a true partnership: the cost of the card and the cost of an episode are the same ($5) and each come with the other. Buy a card, get the episode free. Buy the episode, get a card free.
Gallery photography in Kickstarter video by Angela Antonopoulos.
Risks and challenges
The greatest challenge here is to create a single experience with two different kinds of brands.
On the one hand, I have an art brand—a vehicle if you like—that's Theatorium. On the other hand, I have a commercial brand—a retail brand—that's Truly Gently.
And while the two brands share the same core values, were created in the same spirit of transparency and honesty, they are still different.
That's the nature of experiment.
Ant.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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