Interview: Jan Nagel
An interview with Jan Nagel
JAN NAGEL is the entertainment marketing diva, consultant, teacher and current president of Women in Animation. As a consultant, Jan currently represents Agogo Corporation Hong Kong, Janine Philips and her j9 Productions, and Xing-Xing of Beijing.
In the entertainment industry, she has been involved in marketing for VirtualMagic Animation, Calico Entertainment, and DreamQuest Images.
In her prior career in advertising, Jan was Account Supervisor for the advertising powerhouse, McCann-Erickson. Jan was also the Associate Publisher and Director of Communications Careers, Opportunity, and Guidance Publishing, Inc. She also, later, lent her recruitment marketing experience to Rhythm & Hues Studio.
Jan teaches Entertainment Career Exploration at Santa Monica College, Otis College of Art & Design, and Art Institute of California-Los Angeles. She lectures on the business of animation and presents a workshop, “Networking: The ‘Art” of Building Relationships,” at many art colleges and universities.
How did you first get involved with entertainment marketing?
Before I ever stepped foot in entertainment I worked in account management for some of the world’s largest advertising agencies. Then and now, I believe advertising is the highest form of entertainment. Just think, a great commercial can make you laugh or cry in a matter of a couple of seconds, and then it informs and persuades. This is what I call effective entertainment.
I worked on the BE ALL YOU CAN BE campaign for US Army Recruiting and then CENTURY 21 REAL ESTATE. Before all this I was involved in the sales promotion and publicity for HULA HOOP, FRISBEE and DUNCAN YO-YO. I had a full range of marketing experiences.
I learned production before I knew it was production. Can you believe I graduated from Cal State University, Los Angeles with a degree in journalism and my first job was working on educational films? My job was to prepare all the teaching materials that accompanied film strips. I spend one year working at CFI on a format conversion of thousands of film strips from 35 mm to 8 mm. The irony, I was assigned to CFI’s animation department. I had no clue I was working in animation, at the time.
After years working in advertising, the business started to change and I knew I needed a career change. I took all of these skills and answered a Hollywood Reporter ad in 1991 for Dream Quest Images, an Academy Award winning visual effects house. They needed a director of advertising and public relations. It was a perfect fit. I understood the commercial division and their clients. I knew how to write a great press release, develop an ad and pitch a story to the trade press. I got to promote the signature shot from ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES, which led me to impress my future employers, Calico Entertainment.
After six years at Calico Entertainment, an award winning television animation and producers of WIDGET, MR. BOGUS and DENVER THE LAST DINOSAUR, and being responsible for all of their marketing, I just needed to move on. My pals in Women In Animation helped me move to VirtualMagic, where I was in charge of business development for this stand alone digital ink and paint service.
Web, SAG strike and 3D animation proved too hard on VirtualMagic. After four great years I found that I needed to do something else. I decided that I would try consulting.
Today, I work with creators, like Janine Phillips of j9 Productions, helping her to develop and pitch her property, LOSTONIA. I work with Agogo Corporation Hong Kong as their exclusive US Representative. I seek production service work. I promote Agogo in the US market, pitch new concepts and sell their existing library.
On top of all this I teach entertainment career exploration at Santa Monica College’s Academy of Entertainment and Technology, Otis College of Art & Design, and Art Institute of California – Los Angeles.
What was the goal behind the creation of the Women In Animation organization?
Women In Animation was the concept of Rita Street, the former publisher and editor of ANIMATION MAGAZINE and now the owner of Radar Cartoons. In 1993 she could see the change in animation. She not only could see the growth but also saw the potential demise of traditional animation.
She knew that if she gathered male studio executives she would just have deal making being done. She thought about who would have the same concerns she did. WOMEN! In November 1993 she called about 20 women into her living room and we talked about the idea of starting an organization. Women animators tried to organize in the past but their representation was too small. The early 90’s was a great time to start again.
Our mission statement tells a lot about what Women In Animation is:
“Women In Animation is a professional, non-profit organization established in 1994 to foster the dignity, concerns and advancement of women who are involved with any and all aspects of the industry and art of animation.”
Since that day in Rita’s living room, WIA has grown from being 20 people in a living room to an international organization. Since I took over as president in 1999, WIA now has chapters in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Colorado. We have just launched our Vancouver, B.C. chapter as a non-profit Canadian corporation. We have members in most states in the US, along with India, Korea, Australia, France, United Kingdom, Germany and Mexico.
The surprise is that 30% of our members are men. Why? We provide a look at the business of animation, from all aspects. We have special interest groups in writing, voice and pitching. Our local chapters dedicate themselves to programs that provide vital information to those working in animation, taking a look at today and the future.
As a volunteer organization we do our best to mentor those who ask. In the name of one of our founding member, Phyllis Craig, we give a $1000 scholarship each year to a student studying animation in the US. Vancouver is also establishing a scholarship for Canada.
WIA continues to support the art and industry of animation and those who work in it. Early on we embraced computer animation and CGI, with a special interest computer user group. We would like to expand our membership in this area and hope that SIGGRAPH members will see that we fill a niche that is different than any of the other organization and that we seek to exist in harmony with all animation and CG organizations.
What networking advice do you have for individuals new to the animation industry?
I teach and lecture on this subject.
I have a simple principle about networking – Networking is about building relationships. It is not a calculated or strategic exercise, as described in most books. It is as simple as liking other people, being curious about who they are and what they know. It is about sharing what you know and giving of yourself to others. It is about common courtesy. And it’s about listening. It is that simple.
My motto is: “The more you give the more you get.” I live this daily. I find that the more I talk with people, the more I learn. I share this information freely. It is funny how one can gather information for free, but when it is given to someone else, that information is worth more than gold. It is the cheapest gift that is valued the most. I find that when I do this I get so much back.
For those that are starting in this business, I recommend that they read as many trade journals and web sites they can. This will be the key to learning who the players are in the business and what projects they are working on. This is information they can share with their peers.
I tell them that their best network is their fellow students and alumni. These are their peers and are easily accessible, unlike the heads of studios or major directors. Peers help peers, either by lending an ear, or recommending them at work. It goes right back to my principle of networking.
Under my motto of giving, I recommend that new grads and students volunteer at SIGGRAPH, Women In Animation and other organizations to prove themselves to the pros. Internships are an important part of building a network. If you have to work for free for a few weeks, the payback can be triple fold, in building relationships, proving your talent and building trust.
Finally, the most important advice I can give someone trying to get into this business a simple formula that they need to remember daily: PASSION + CONFIDENCE = PERSEVERANCE. If you are passionate about this business, you will know that you can do the job and will do anything to prove it. This is your confidence. Confidence will carry you through all of the “NOs” and setbacks.
What first drew your to computer graphics?
I was not drawn to computer graphics. As a marketing professional, I need to know about all techniques available to do an animated or effects job. Computer graphics is just one of the tools that I need to understand.
Do you have any favorite CG mentors?
Yes, Pauline Ts’o of Rhythm & Hues. I admire what she and her partners have created at Rhythm & Hues and how much she personally gives back to the animation/FX community.
What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?
It was in Los Angeles in 1995 or 1996. Women In Animation, under the leadership of Pauline Ts’o, presented a panel discussion of the women leaders in computer graphics. I remember thinking that men outnumbered women at least 20 to one at the conference. It was awesome to see the females that helped blaze the trail in a very male dominated business.
What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was the most intense? Why?
See above. I can’t answer what was the most intense SIGGRAPH. Each is different for so many reasons.
What contributions to SIGGRAPH are your most proud of?
See above. Also, I am very proud of our Birds of a Feather events originally started by Kellie-Bea Cooper at the San Diego conference.