INTERVIEW - Grahaeme Cowie and Jeff Cooper discuss "Impotents"

Historically, in North America, developing a successful animation series oriented at an adult audience was somewhat akin to finding the holy grail. Those that succeeded in doing so, were rewarded with a series that would last almost indefinitely (The Simpsons, South ParkFamily Guy, Robot Chicken...), and those that failed usually came to the end of their project exhausted and without a sizeable audience. The high cost associated with getting an animated series off the ground for broadcast was because development companies usually keep everything under wraps due to their fear another company might steal their idea and get it to market before them. Due to the nature of animation, this means that hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars are invested in show development, trademarks, and talent agreements before a development company has any real grasp of how a show will resonate with audiences. I would argue that this high cost has even led to promising series that did make it to air being cancelled right out of the gate, because even though they may have gained a loyal audience, the company behind the show didn't understand the intricacies of the adult animation audience and was tired of pouring money into something they couldn't comprehend.

Things are changing though, because (thanks to the internet) video streaming sites (YouTube, Vimeo, etc...) mean that broadcast television is no longer the sole financially viable distribution outlet for adult animation. Now, creators can market their adult oriented animation shows directly to their audiences and secure funding without having to option or sell rights to large development companies. This allows creators to develop ideas without having to worry about the high overhead costs that large companies are forced to consider.

This brings us to the main topic for today. One of the most recent crowd funding campaigns for an adult oriented web series is coming from British Columbia, Canada. This is the campaign for Impotents, which is a creation of Grahaeme Cowie and Jeff Cooper. The brief interview I conducted with the creators about the series and their campaign is below. I've also included some development work from the show that the creators agreed to share. As of right now, there are three days left to fund this campaign, and they need just under $2000 to meet their goal.

If you support this show's pilot episode, you may just be able to take credit for funding the next big adult animation comedy. I, of course, can't make a definite call on that without seeing an actual episode,  but one thing I do know for sure, if this campaign is successful I'm going to be the proud owner of a kick ass 'Smoking Doors' t-shirt.

P.S. Keep scrolling down for my exclusive interview with the creators of Impotents.

P.P.S. Click here to check out the Kickstarter page for Impotents.

Grayden Laing: Grahaeme, what is your background in animation?

Grahaeme Cowie: Smoking Doors is headed up by myself and my business partner Jeff. We both came up through the arts, however Jeff went on to pursue a career in business and design. Out of the two of us, I bring to the table the actual industry experience.

My journey began in Vancouver, where I studied Traditional Animation at VFS. Following that I was lucky enough to have traveled around Canada, working at different studios. I've made stops at Titmouse and Bardel in Vancouver, Mercury in Ottawa, Copernicus in Halifax and Oasis in Montreal. I’ve met some great people and have been given great opportunities to grow and push myself.

Ganesh Chaturthi - Turnaround

Grayden: Why create a show like “Impotents”?

Jeff Cooper: We want to make it because we think it's funny. It makes us laugh and that's reason enough to share it with everyone. We’ve pitched it to studios and distributors and have had great feedback. This is edgy stuff though so it’s not a quick sell. We’re convinced it’s really good, so we’re just going to produce it ourselves.

When we started creating "Impotents" we had the goal of creating something fun but with edge. We'd both been raised watching cartoons like the Simpsons or Looney Tunes–shows with rich tapestries of characters and stories. Programming like this is sold to an audience of children but has appeal for adults as well. To us that's the high benchmark of entertainment.

Our goal with “Impotents”–bold as it may be–is to have stories, jokes and characters that unravel and evolve after multiple watch-throughs. The more we mature, the more jokes we get on the Simpsons, Looney Tunes, Futurama or even Mission Hill. It's that depth and sophistication we're after.

Grahaeme and I have been friends since we were kids. We used to make comics and draw cartoons together all the time."Impotents" is the opportunity for us to work together and really create something big.

Animatic Sequence from Impotents

Grayden: Is this the first web series you’ve created?

Grahaeme: It is, but it won't be our last! Impotents is a passion project for us and, because of that, we’re really dedicated to seeing it through to success. We’re always talking about new ideas though and we’re eager to see which one will become the next project.

Jesus - Turnaround

Grahaeme: At Smoking Doors, we have a love of drawing. 2D hand-drawn animation has always been our passion. Impotents was styled after french graphic novels and the rough line that the characters are designed with is a prominent feature of the show. We’re excited to develop more product in this style.

Smoking Doors is positioned to be a creative production house. Our business, versus service work, is to create a library of our own content. It begins with “Impotents” but we’re looking forward to giving rise to many more projects.

Artemis - Turnaround

Grayden: Adult animation produced in North America is infamous for it’s inability to sustain an audience. How is “Impotents” going to transcend that barrier?

Jeff: That's a great question and one we're constantly mindful of. We believe, today, there is a serious gap in animated content for mature audiences. There's an emerging demographic of young adults that have grown up inundated with cartoons. As they mature, so do their tastes.

The adult animated shows right now are very niche. Adult swim and Cartoon Network have some great programming and large audiences, but we’ve yet to see a show that incorporates everything that we’re wanting to do. We see our project fitting in well with The Venture Bros., Mission Hill, BoJack Horseman and Simpsons fans.

We wanted Impotents to be original so, in writing, we sought influence outside of animation–or even comedy for that matter. We studied story-driven dramas such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. We are looking to resonate with mass audiences and aim to do this with robust and bold storytelling. This is not to say that we’d shy away from a few tasteless jokes. We want to make something funny and accessible, but with layers and depth.

Buddha - Turnaround