“Good artists borrow, great artists steal,” is a motto Steve Jobs lived by.
As a business owner, I see myself as an artist because I’m creating something from nearly nothing.
But artists still need inspiration. Filmmakers need a camera. Animators need a pencil or a computer. Sculptors need clay. And painters need landscapes or models.
But all artists need inspiration. Without it, nothing could be created.
My inspiration as the founder of a publishing studio is an animation studio located 2,307 miles away. My inspiration comes from Pixar Animation Studios, namely the founder and owner Ed Catmull.
Millions of people watch Pixar movies every year and even study the studio from a business standpoint and ask, “How do they do it?”
It’s no secret. Mr. Catmull was gracious enough to provide many answers to both artists and businesspeople through his ingenious book, Creativity, Inc.
In the book, Catmul is open and honest about his and Pixar’s mistakes along the way to success and even after. His thesis is that creativity is found in people, not just ideas—a revelation I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.
So how, as a fledgling company, can Endever Publishing Studios mimic a multi-million-dollar animation studio?
By their principles, for one. Pixar Animation gives their employees the freedom to express themselves and their ideas. They’re not hammered down by corporate policies and suits and ties. There are channels set in place for them to go through, but the channels are designed within the studio to be an asset to success, not a barrier, as most companies have it.
Their work ethic for another. I don’t mean just following the rules, but I mean going above and beyond to win the trust and approval of their audiences (or customers). One example of this is by their short films they release along with every feature film they produce. Prior to (and excluding) the DVR releases of Pixar’s short films, they make virtually no money on their short films. They’re also in production to help aspiring artists and directors spread their wings in preparation for full-length features.
And lastly, but not conclusively, Endever Publishing Studios attempts to mimic Pixar’s storytelling techniques. This is critical seeing that Endever is in the business of storytelling. We are a studio that refuses to release ordinary material. I’m sure we’ll make mistakes in this regard, but we have a system that we are building from within to make the storytelling process as airtight and flawless as possible.
Catmull, in his book, even takes the liberty to give the readers a sneak-peak inside one of Pixar’s “Braintrust” sessions where the storytellers argue and analyze and hash out idea after idea after idea to extract exactly the feelings and thoughts they’re trying to convey to the audience. The process is rigorous, and even draining. But it’s a worthy expedition as Pixar makes films that not only entertain but that enlighten, affect, and even change lives.
It’s a wonder to me that no other businesses that I know of is following Pixar’s model. The leader of one of the greatest companies in the world has literally given us the answer sheet on how to run a successful business, how to begin the process of creating paramount and original stories, yet Dreamworks isn’t pulling the brakes on their mediocre creative factory to regroup, managers aren’t saying, “How can I make my employees feel enabled and motivated?”
If that’s happening, I don’t know about it.
I take Ed Catmull’s book as a challenge to the rest of us. A challenge to step up our game in both the creative and the business worlds. I want to be like Ed. I want my company to be like Pixar. I vow to keep my employees happy and make them feel enabled and that they have much to contribute to the company. I vow to not release a book or any published material produced by Endever until it is something that we believe will not only satisfy immediate readers but will withstand the test of time.
Consider me the first to accept the Pixar Challenge. Will you, as an artist or a business owner or manager, join me?