Last week I visited my "Scribble Junkies" partner, Pat Smith, at his palatial estate in Montauk, and as I browsed his animation library, I discovered a book by the director of the Ottawa Animation Festival, Chris Robinson. It was a very cool book called "Unsung Heroes of Animation" and it listed short biographies of some of the interesting people making films who aren't big names - people like Ryan Larkin, Raimund Krumme, Steve Woloshen, and Ruth Lingford. Basically, these are filmmakers whose work Chris loves, but he feels they don't get enough credit.
This is an issue that goes to the heart of all creative endeavors - am I making films to please myself, or to please an audience? There's nothing worse for me than sitting through a screening of one of my films and hearing tepid applause at the end. My purpose in making my films is to get waves of laughter, and maybe a standing ovation.
To me, the audience is the god - not the critics, or the festivals, or producers, or funding organizations. I make films for people to enjoy, I don't make films just for my own enjoyment. What fun is that? As filmmakers, we have an unwritten contract with the audience to entertain them. If we can't do that, then we should find another occupation.
One of my heroes is Frank Capra, because he was a populist and he made films that a broad spectrum of the public could enjoy. That's my goal, to make animated cartoons that everyone can love - not just some critic in an ivory tower, or some academic theoretician or some government/corporate funding organization.
The true independent filmmaker is someone who, over the years, is able to make money with their films and not rely on Hollywood, corporate or government funding. That why to me, making films that are popular with the audience is the secret to my success.
Over the last 30 years, I've created 10 feature films and over 70 shorts, and I've funded them all by myself, and that's simply because I make movies that people want to see. And that's the independent spirit!