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There are a multitude of things to do before embarking on something like starting your own studio.
Here’s the most important thing we did before starting Masonry Studios;

Figuring out what the vision for the studio is.

Say no to existential crisis!

At some point in the journey of running your own studio, the inevitable existential question will surface, asking “why am I even doing this?”. And the answer always lies somewhere in the horizon between visions and dreams.

While it’s fun to wing-it and set sail with a vague idea of the destination, figuring out the reason for setting sail is arguably best done before things start going south. I mean you really don’t want to be caught in the middle of the sea, with a storm approaching, and only then ask the question of “what am I doing here?”.

Know what you’re doing and why. Then find some friends and do it together.

It’s desirable and highly recommended to be able to look at an approaching storm with burning excitement because we know what lies beyond it. And in the case of a studio, doing this together with people who believe in the same vision can be exponentially productive. As the saying goes, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Together, ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results. ”

Becka Schoettle

So what’s the vision for Masonry? Why are we doing what we are doing, and what have we learnt from the journey of discovering our vision?

Why Masonry exists

In 2016, Ronald asked me if I wanted to start a studio together, and I said yes before he finished the sentence. hahaha. The days and months that followed, we threw tons of loose ideas around, just talking about our values and what our ideal scenario would be for the indie animation industry.

Largely, we just wanted to do good work, at good prices, for good people. How we do this is also very important, which is why we need to include “under good hours and artist satisfaction/growth somewhere in the vision. This rabbit hole continued down to what actually constitutes “good” work? How to ensure “good” working hours, and what is a “good” client?

All of these questions and more, eventually funnel into the vision that we have today.

The vision for Masonry Studios

“To build a creative environment that provides artists a sustainable route to a meaningful career, producing future-ready, high-quality global CGI work.”

We aren’t trying to change or save the world, but from the perspective of CG artists, we believe that the positive impact of sustainably empowering artists through meaningful work is a step forward enough that warrants the existence for our studio. This conviction serves as a strong, timeless answer to that sneaky existential question of “why am I doing this”.

Confident lizard Joe, has a vision.
Liserd-vision.

Discovering your vision

Ok, so how does one actually go about discovering the vision for their studio/company? Honestly, we can’t tell you how to lead your best life, but we can retrospectively learn from our own journey, and share three learning points with you!

1. Meaningful, is the number one rule
First of all, the vision on the horizon has to mean something to someone. At the very least, you; Nobody wants to work for something meaningless. So it really helps to have a vision centered around something you truly care about and can see yourself fighting for regardless of the situational calamity. ‘To fight the good fight’, as they say.

At the root of our vision lies the potential to shape our creative industry for the better. And because this means a lot to us, it has helped make difficult times more bearable and worthwhile. In a way, this is the root emotion and energy of the vision that shields us from giving up.

2. Keep it loose and never lose it.
Ever had an idea, and lose sight of it while trying to write it out ‘perfectly’? Or forget what it was because you spent too much time figuring out the details? It’s truly a shame! And this happens because ideas in their infancy, are—for better or for worse—extremely susceptible to evolution. Trying to work out details too early can rapidly materialize an idea far from its original intention.

It’s akin to dumping our dreams and goals onto children before allowing them to discover and develop their own natural dispositions. We don’t do that in their formative years, and instead we encourage them to play and discover their own world! Our values and ideas for our visions are no different in that respect!

Most of the time spent working on our vision was actively talking about our values, and loosely noting down all the important points. Over time these eventually formed a pattern and it becomes easier to rephrase and refine the words without losing their meaning!

3. Take your time, but have a deadline.
Amongst all the loose ideas that are full of meaning, lie a mountain of variables to explore, unpack, distill and refine. And this takes time. A lot of it. Time which you should always take if you can afford it. Like the wise Brian Tracy once said somewhere, (I’m paraphrasing) “..the longer you take to make a decision, the higher quality the decision will be.” (Watch: Genius Network Presents: Brian Tracy, How To Build A Great Business)

However, while taking as much time you can does ensure a quality decision, having a deadline ensures that there is actually an outcome!

Our vision-story in a nutshell

Over many late-night coffee and McDonald’s, and many casual conversations about our values and what we aspired our creative industry to be like. Times dedicated to ensuring that Masonry will be something meaningful.

Keeping the execution loose but our goals locked, we spent nearly a year exchanging ideas as we came up with a comprehensive set of goals for our studio. With a deadline to launch the studio at the beginning of 2017, we ensured we had something to show, and we launched Masonry Studios.

Although the wording of the vision has changed, and will continue to change over the years, the meaning will still be the same.

Meaningfully easier

Of course things don’t always go smoothly, but it’s a lot easier to identify what is right and wrong within the studio with a clear vision to check against. In a way, having a clear and meaningful vision is a ‘cheat code’ to making tough decisions easy! Which leads me to our next post, Starting your own studio — Share #2: Making tough decisions easy.

Just for kicks

Here’s a sample extract of some of some super early ideas we loosely noted down along the way before starting the studio. There are so much more that are scattered all over many documents, which we eventually summarized into the one we have today.

- Work in small team cannot compete in production.
- Shift of focus towards storyboarding and visual development for MG or animation.
- Humble
- Help-you-help-us Win-win business
- 5-year Goal towards entertainment IP
- Family of creatives
- On the basis of strong business/administrative support

Eventual roles in the company: Directors. Can evolve.

Company culture: Artist / Company goal alignment, Employee satisfaction

Small adverts / web spots / motion graphics
These are disciplines that bring in money but everybody else is also doing.
Find niche.
speed.
understanding of film + animation
integrated (in a way, storyboard + design/concept to final render).

First office can work can liao. Our second one must be cool.	

Concept of lean
agree that we should be kept small all the way. family-oriented
Nicholas Chia

Author Nicholas Chia

More posts by Nicholas Chia

Masonry Studios Pte. Ltd. | 81 Ubi Avenue 4 UB. One #03-21 Singapore 408830 | Company Registration No. 201618786D