The Secret Ingredient to Your Overnight Success

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So, I’ve been working on a book idea of late and it’s going to be a lot of work. One of the things with writing a book is you have to get people to buy it.

But before you get people to  buy it, you need a book store and/or website to stock it. But before you get a bookstore to stock it, you need a publishing company to publish it. Oh, but before you get a publishing company to publish it, you need an agent to pitch it to the publishing company. And finally, before you get an agent to pitch it to publishing companies, you need to research and connect with an agent. But before you connect with an agent, you need to write a really good book proposal about your book idea.

All of this got me thinking about what it takes to launch a successful creative project, be it a kids TV show or a book, or any other creative project. We often see the product launch of someone who “just came on the scene” and we think, “Dang. How come I didn’t do that?” We all have these creative ideas. Why don’t we act on them? Here’s why. It’s hard work. That’s right. Your secret ingredient to overnight success looks a lot like blood, sweat, and tears. Work.

The word passion means suffering. What do you care so much about you’re willing to suffer to see it birthed? What creative idea has enough clarity and potential that it’s worth spending countless hours on?

Pixar’s overnight success was 20 years in the making. I think that’s the norm. A long journey with lots of perseverance and a lot of pain that leads to moments of breakthrough…that leads to more suffering…er…passion to keep on going. I’m not being negative, just honest. It will never be easy. We need to get out of cushy mode and do the hard thing. There’s a phrase the Navy Seals use that is relevant if we really want to do something that matters. “Yesterday was the last easy day.”

So, what’s the upside? The upside is you get to experience the journey and do something that matters. If you are a Christian, this is where you discover your calling and your various assignments. It’s where you work on things bigger than you for purposes bigger than worldly success. It’s where true satisfaction occurs in the midst of hard work.

I have a friend who’s been working on a screen play for a feature film for over a decade. God keeps taking him back to this one project. It’s not usual for him to stick with one creative idea for so long but He keeps going back. After over a decade, he’s finally seeing some traction and it’s happening one step at a time.

So, the next time you see someone successful and a little bit of envy starts to rise up, remind yourself that their overnight success only took twenty years to happen. Find your passion, suffer for it, enjoy the journey, and keep working hard.

Introducing…The Non-Prophet

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He’s a Renaissance man. The ultimate throwback. He’s a 501(c)(3) that seems to have been born in 501 B.C. He prefers the clothing, speech, food, facial grooming (or lack thereof), and customs of an archetypical Old Testament prophet, living in 21st century America.

His eccentricities do not stop there; however, the Non-Prophet is also chronologically challenged. Oft forgetting what era he lives in, he boldly proclaims wrongly timed Biblical prophecy to anyone he meets. His prophetic insights are ill-timed as he hails from rooftops things that have already occurred. If you encounter him, he may also state a prophecy about your current situation, however his poorly timed words miss the mark and land outside the bounds of any real usefulness.

There is one last thing you must know about the Non-Prophet. He is not wise with his money and doesn’t see that a freelancing Non-Prophet with no business acumen or marketable skills may struggle to make ends meet. He epitomizes the phrase,”a day late and a dollar short.” He’ll boldly proclaim obvious events to you, then ask to borrow five bucks before he moves on to his next non-prophetic assignment.


Keep an eye out for upcoming comic strips featuring “The Non-Prophet”. My prayer is that he will serve as a tool to help people learn about Bible prophecy, apologetics, and theology in a fresh, fun, and relevant way.

— Todd Hampson

Foundations, Jello, and Ugly Babies

foundationIt’s been a very busy couple of months. We visual developed and produced English and Vietnamese pilot episodes for the International Humane Society, and have been eyeball deep in development and preproduction for an educational series for another international non-profit organization (which I’m dying to share but we need to keep it confidential until we finish producing season one).

All of this development reminds me of the last mission trip I took. For an entire week, we dug and poured the foundation of a church in the Dominican Republic. In previous trips, we built entire structures or did all of the finishing, but on the last trip all we did (as far as construction) was build the foundation and it was literally the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life.

Development for Animation is very much the same. It’s awesome work and we all love the blank canvas, but it moves slow and you have to get it just right. You have to consider the end game and make sure what you are measuring for the foundation is going to be adequate. You also have to dig hard and make adjustments as you go. Like concrete, it takes time to set. Like rebar, you must carefully build the skeleton correctly and make sure it’s going hold up under the pressure.

At the same time, development is like nailing jello to the wall. It’s formless and playable and doesn’t initially feel like it’s going to amount to anything. You have to trust the process and follow your gut.

John Lassiter and Ed Catmull of Pixar have both talked about how every one of their movies starts out as an ugly baby. The idea is that parents love their kids but new borns are usually messy odd looking creatures and it takes time to get cute. It takes time for a show to find it’s center, for characters to feel like they fit, for environments and backstories to feel cohesive.

But what a fun ride it is. I’m blown away that I get to do this for a living. It’s not easy work but it’s passionate work. Passion means suffering. You love something enough that you are willing so suffer to see it happen. So whatever creative work you are doing, enjoy the ride. It’s a journey not a destination. If you are just starting your creative career or education you may feel like the work is hard and progress is slow, but you are laying a great foundation for the future!

Official Book Launch: Calling All Artists

forpostSee details and purchase options here.
(or go directly to Amazon)

Well it’s finally here. Six months in the making (although I could argue decades) with many late nights and early mornings, encouragement from my wife, kids, and great friends, I’m proud to announce the official release of my first book: Calling All Artists. (See printed manuscript from last week at left.)

After compiling and editing 210+ pages (39,790+ words), setting the master manuscript up with all of the correct styles needed for e-readers, uploading to Amazon it’s finally ready for purchase.

It’s available for Kindles (and Kindle app on iPhone/iPad and other devices) at Amazon.com.


ENDORSEMENTS

I was extremely humbled by these generous endorsements from some very kind industry veterans. Some also have some amazing interviews in the book along with several other TV, Feature Film, Broadway, Music, and Video Production veterans!


An immensely practical guide for the creative in all of us. Todd Hampson’s work has blessed me and thousands of others – his writing about the nuts and bolts of being a working creative will bless many more. Highly recommended!

Phil Vischer — Creator of VeggieTales and What’s in the Bible?


When someone with Todd Hampson’s credentials and experience talks about creativity, I listen.  In fact, his new book, “Calling All Artists” was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward on my next project.  If you live a creative life (and all of us should), then I recommend the book.  You won’t regret it.

Phil Cooke — filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do


Having been an adjunct professor in the cinema and media departments of two major universities, I know firsthand the positive impact this book will have on students.  Whether graduating from college or deciding what to do with your life, this book answers hard questions,  provides insightful information, and gives you life changing tips on how to make better choices and start a creative career in the 21st century.

Kathleen Cooke — kathleencooke.com, Co-Founder Cooke Pictures, cookepictures.com


Todd Hampson’s “Calling All Artists” e-book is a GREAT tool for anyone just getting into animation or even those that have been in it a while and want to reinvent themselves and/or reignite their passions.  As artists, we are not very good at looking internally or into the future, so planning our careers is a mysterious journey.  Todd really gets you to organize your thoughts and aline them with your talents!  That is THE path to success for any artist!  Additionally, his optimistic viewpoint toward the industry, and his excitement about it, is a breath of fresh air we all need to hear!

Tom Bancroft — former Disney Supervising Animator, Director, Studio Owner, Character Designer, Author


Todd Hampson listens and delivers! I have personally had the privilege of working with Todd and his company Timbuktoons developing an animated series for kids. He and his wonderful team were able to grant my every wish, and then some. The information he shares in this book will absolutely help artists on their creative journey.

Cassie Byram — actress, singer, song-writer, and Executive Creative Producer, Oodles World Inc.


Needless to say, I’m really excited about this book, most of all because I think it is going to help thousands of artists discover their creative calling and how to thrive in a creative career. I’m planning a few promotional events to help get the word out about the book but I couldn’t wait to share the news. Please tell your friends and share this link (http://ow.ly/zG06i) on social media to help get the word out!

 

 

Are You Part of the S5 Audience? A Must Read for Any Creative!

s5graphicMy goal as a Creative Career Coach is to help creatives find their calling and plan their education and careers based on their core marketable strengths, while living a fulfilling life and making the world a better place. S5 Represents the 5 key seasons a person in the creative industry needs to intersect with a mentor or Creative Career Coach.

High school and college career counselors are a great resource, but they have to be more concerned with a students credits, applications, grades, and requirements than they do helping creative students find their calling and core marketable strengths. Some colleges have great job placement and internship partner programs, but many do not. Once in a specific career, there are very few resources around to help people transition into the creative field from other fields, or to help struggling creatives find their way again.

Here’s a description of each of the S5 categories. Pinpoint which one you belong to and leave a comment below to let me know what resources you need to thrive as an artist!

1. SENIORS (High School)
Choosing a creative career track begins with the college or post-highschool training a senior picks. My goal is to get great resources into the hands of high-school seniors, school career counselors, and high-school art teachers.

2. SOPHOMORES (College)
College Sophomores have a critical window of opportunity to declare a major, switch majors, or even switch schools. Many sophomores realize they are in the wrong track, but are afraid to pivot because they have 2 years invested. Nothing could be worse than going 2 more years down the wrong creative track when they sense a change is really needed. I want to get advice, information, and resources into the hands, heads, and hearts of college sophomores to empower them to make sure they are being educated according to their core strengths, passions, and calling.

3. STARTING OUT
I know first hand that college training, though crucial to gaining employment, is only half of the education they need. Beginning a creative career and working “hands on” in the industry is the other half of the educational equation. I want to help prepare creatives for real world work, track down internships, help them develop relational skills and work habits to set them apart from the crowd, and find ways to get a foot in the door of their dream job! This is also a critical time to decide if graduate school is a good option.

4. STARTING OVER
After 13 years in a graphic design and illustration career, I found myself discontent and, through a process, wound up quitting my job to start an animation company. I’ve seen many people take the courageous step to transition into a creative field that better fits their passions and core strengths, or even transition from an unrelated career to one in the creative arts.

For example, one of our TimbuktoonCloud Team Members flew helicopters for the military for 12 years, then decided to pursue her dream of working in the animation industry! Another great friend and long time Timbuktoons Team Member actually went to Seminary and planned on working in a church, until he felt called BACK into the creative arts where he has thrived for over 12 years doing tons of meaningful work for churches, great companies, and great non-profits. Starting over can be scary and overwhelming and I want to help creatives who are making, or thinking of making, that transition.

5. STRUGGLING
Creatives are usually multi-talented. Creatives usually jump from one creative passion to another. Creatives often doubt their capability and have a hard time seeing their best creative strengths. Almost every creative I know gets to a point of frustration and confusion sometime in their career. They get stuck and need some help. I want to help this group of creatives get clear on their calling and core marketable strengths, and I want to help them develop a concrete game plan to help them thrive again.

I’ll have some great resources for my S5 audience in the near future, so if you know anyone who fits one of these categories, PLEASE encourage them to check out the blog and sign up for my e-news. If you are like me, you wish you had a creative mentor or coach intersect your life at one of these critical seasons of life.

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Let me know what you think. You can leave a comment below. If you leave a comment, do me a favor and list your creative arts field, and whether you are a student or a professional.

5 Character Branding Tips for Your Children’s Ministry

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We’ve all seen the power and appeal of an iconic character, and we all know the importance of effective branding for the world of specialty coffee and niche computers, but what does all of this have to do with my children’s ministry department? Well, more than you may think. Whether intentional or not, your ministry has a brand which can either help, or hurt your ministry’s mission. First, let’s define what a brand is.

Look up brand in the dictionary or on the internet and you’ll get several different versions. Traditionally, a brand is thought of simply as a type of product, or a logo (aka “brand mark”). It has commercial or pop-culture connotations. But a brand is much more than that. Those are pieces of a brand. Seth Godin, famous marketing expert (just google “Seth”, and his blog will be first on the list) defines a brand as, “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

You’re not selling a product or service. You are creating an experience…a touch point based, relationship driven experience. For what’s it’s worth, here’s my “Children’s Ministry Brand” definition: A children’s ministry brand is the totality of the story, vision, mission, promises, and goals of a specific local church expressed experientially thru the children’s ministry department.

A brand is much more than a logo. It’s the totality of what you stand for. It’s the essence of your mission. A brand has many visual touch points (like logos and collateral) that help convey your brand, but it is really experienced by all 5 senses. It’s about the total experience. How people are greeted, how easy the check-in process is, how safe the environment feels, how fun the visuals look, how connected your ministry feels to the rest of the church. The list goes on. But is branding Biblical? Obviously the term “brand” is not in scripture, but all of it’s components sure are.

Remove your modern day brand connotations for a moment. Now use your imagination to go back to the time of the book of Exodus. In chapter 31 we see where God called and appointed a man named Bezalel to be the chief artisan of the Tabernacle. Everything about how the tabernacle was made including the materials, colors, types of wood and precious metals, production of statues, priestly utensils, layout of the structure, and many other details were specifically dictated by God and performed thru Bezalel and other artisans.

That’s branding! Even things like, incense, the smell of burnt offerings, the details of the priestly garments, all were part of the tabernacle’s experiential “brand”. Knowing how the 5 senses impact humans, God wanted the Israelites to build a structure that accurately conveyed God’s character, mission, purpose, values, and promises. At the risk of sounding irreverent…that’s a brand!

If God went to that much trouble to impact those who came in contact with Him thru the old testament system, shouldn’t we go through that much trouble to leverage our ministry brand to facilitate the great commission? Our ministry environments should be well thought out touch points that support the mission of our church. Many churches do a great job at this and have taken the time to be intentional about how their brand impacts children and parents. But many have not. It’s well worth the time and effort to peel back the layers, think thru, plan, and execute an intentional brand for your children’s ministry.

Now…what about the character part? How do you “brand with character”? It’s no secret that in the realm of children’s merchandising, once an iconic character is established (think Disney, Pixar, or popular TV cartoon characters), companies line up to license the character(s) for use in their products. For example, Sponge Bob Square Pants is an $8 billion licensing franchise. He shows up on everything from clothes, to toys, to band-aids and macaroni and cheese.

I’m not suggesting that we attempt to license a children’s ministry character, but I’m pointing out the underlying fact that children connect with characters enough to drive a multi-billion dollar industry. What if children’s ministry leaders developed characters that helped support the brand (i.e. vision, mission and goals) of their church, while facilitating spiritual formation in the children that come in contact with their ministry?

Well developed cartoon characters have a long shelf life and multiple applications from outreach events, environment graphics and t-shirts, to motion media and curriculum. Well developed KidMin characters can positively change the trajectory of your ministry.

If this peaks your interest at all, I want to share 5 character branding tips for your children’s ministry. These are chronological steps with one step feeding critical information into the next step.

1. Perform a “Brand Audit”
This is a discovery process. It is a detailed analysis of your current brand and typically includes: internal and external surveys, a collateral audit, a language audit, and time spent with core leaders and stake holders to discover the vision and history of the ministry.

2. Develop a “Brand Guide”
Using the results from the Brand Audit, a 10-25 page Brand Guide is developed to establish key entry points to your brand. Brand Guides typically include: brand story, vision, mission, brand mark (logo), personality, color palette, typography, photography, and other key brand components.

3. Develop Brand Characters
Using the Brand Guide, you can develop characters that support and facilitate the brand. It is key to focus on concept and personality first, and visuals second. The development of characters for a brand typically includes: research and brainstorming, gathering reference material, concept art, settling on a direction, written descriptions of the character personalities and backstory, designing the characters, turnarounds (how each character looks from all angles), pose and expression sheets (to show the characters personality and range of emotion), final color art, character packs and exported art for print and other usage.

4. Plan an Internal Brand Launch
This is very important. To effectively roll out a new or updated brand, you must launch first to your team of staff and volunteers. Many of them should be involved in the entire process, but this is your in-house event to unveil the final product, talk to them about how to effectively communicate the brand, cast vision, and share the purpose behind the new brand. It also prepares your team to communicate the brand to the parents and children in your ministry.

5. Plan an External Brand Launch
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. This is where you get to unleash the wow factor. You can launch the brand at strategic events such as a back-to school night, promotion Sunday, ministry orientation, or during a key holiday event like Christmas or Easter.

You might be saying. “Ok. This sounds awesome, but I don’t have the time or resources to pull it off. What am I supposed to do?” Well, there’s no doubt it will take some intentional planning, vision casting, and some effort, but don’t let that stop you. I have a saying that I use to motivate myself and others: “Anything is better than nothing.” Whether forming healthy eating, work out, or Bible study habits,…or intentionally branding your children’s ministry, “anything is better than nothing”. If this proposition seems overwhelming and out of reach, here are a few suggestions which may help:

Look first in your church body. You may have volunteers in your church with the exact skills and experience needed. Or, they may have key connections to companies or people who can help. God has a way of putting the right people in the right church body. I’m currently volunteering to help the children’s ministry at my church rebrand all of their environments with custom wall murals and branded characters. Find artists, or creative business owners in your church and ask them to help. You might be surprised at what you find.

Talk to other ministries that have gone thru rebranding or branding with characters and ask them about the experience and what resources they used. Study ministries you admire to see how they handled branding, and ask them for an informational interview. You would be surprised how willing people are to share information.

Plan for a rebranding phase as part of next year’s budget or as part of a new building campaign. There are logical times to walk thru a rebranding and/or character development process. Leverage those opportunities and plan effectively for the next decade and beyond. It will generate momentum and create a buzz about your ministry, attracting more people to your church to hear the message of Christ!

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What are your thoughts on “branding with character”? You can leave a comment below.