What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Mark Byers. My current occupation? How many hyphens can I use? I am the CEO of Quixotic Media Group, LA – Beijing – Singapore – Hong Kong. That’s three hyphens right there. But don’t let those three letters fool you, I am much more hands-on in this business than just a CEO suit. Producer – Writer – Director – Development Executive – Fund Manager – Headhunter – Distribution Executive – Counselor and Best Friend… To maintain out of this world quality on real world budgets takes focus, discipline – and a lot of hyphens.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Making sauerkraut by hand (and foot) one summer between high school and college. Big regional brand, but after that experience, I’ll never eat kraut again. And did I mention grading veneer to make plywood? Those summer jobs were crazy, but financed my short films and wild media projects.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Dragon Twins, an awesome animated movie, graphic novel, and game. Innovative and oh so cool. Same for Sasha’s Adventure, a smorgasbord of projects spun around a central animated feature. Cool and cute Yugo and Lala. And Spiny Life – Action! Adventure! Laughs! It’s like asking a father which child is his favorite. I love them all – that’s why I made them in the first place!
How did you become interested in animation?
I’ve done it all – commercials, TV, live stage, movies – and all of them are restricted by the physical world. But in animation, you can do anything. ANYTHING. I like that.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I’m a Small Town California boy who became a Small Town Oregon boy who became a Big City Hollywood producer who is now a Humongous City Beijing boy. I started in live-action co-productions, but the animation talent here in China is so extraordinary that I had to take into the world. Thus began my adventures in animation.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
It took me weeks just to get to this simple questionnaire, and this is something I really wanted to do. That tell you anything? Emails take forever. Meetings constantly. Approvals on the projects in production. Developing the next generation of projects. Finding the right partners for the right projects. Being all things to all people all the time in order to get the best from everyone.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Walking into the studio and reviewing the day’s work, collaborating with the team to make it even better.What part of your job do you like least? Why?Meetings. Necessary, yes. But really suck the time out of a day.What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Meeting good people with a really bad idea who nonetheless think they have the greatest thing since peanut butter and jelly tacos. I really want to help them, and it is very hard to burst their bubble and bring things down to the real world of markets and budgets and business.What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Well, there seems to be a lot of wires. Everywhere. And buttons and flashing lights. Still can’t figure out what all the flashing means.In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
This a trick question? We are trying to CREATE animation greatness every day! But yes – the geniuses at B&T Studios in Beijing and their Da Haifeature project for example. Absolute inspired brilliance. Rare, and a true delight. Most projects take a lot of work – on concept, story, structure, art, and marketing. With these guys, it’s strictly hands-off. Don’t want to mess with their brilliance. Lotta near-greatness everywhere here. Just needs a kick in the tuchas, which is what we are trying to do.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Birth. And every day since… Come on – life is good! We all face tough in one way or another every day. We must always remember that we are only passing through. None of us are permanent residents. So in the grand scheme of things, its all a just a grand adventure.
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I’m an explorer. Anywhere I go, I gotta get out and see the sights, smell the air (and in some cases, see it…), taste the food. I’m addicted to the potential adventure around every corner.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Or tying a metal cherry stem…?
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Just do it (with apologies to Nike, who in spite of what their attorneys say, were not the first ones to ever use that phrase…). Education is important. Relationships are important. But nothing is more important that actually getting out there and doing something. Make something. Create something. Harness you passion, and put it on the screen for all to see.