ON THE BLOG: five questions for Dog Ears

Dog Ears recently received Slate development funding for the first time. Managing Director Fionnuala Deane tells us how the application process helped them to plan strategically for the development period and how the grant has given them the financial freedom to take risks and experiment with their projects.

Tell us about your company:

"Formed in 2010, we are a children’s media company who believe in characters and stories, everywhere – on paper, on tablets, devices and TV. We’re based in Derry in the North of Ireland and there are four of us, four company directors, who manage and run the company on a daily basis.

Since we started out, our work has been concerned with bringing our stories to life across media and platforms, from publishing our first book and releasing Ireland’s first children’s book app, to co-producing two series of the animated pre-school show, Puffin Rock, with our partners Cartoon Saloon and Penguin Random House

Why did you apply for MEDIA funding?

"We applied because we were entering into a phase of creative development. We had just completed an intensive two-year production cycle (completing two series of Puffin Rock back-to-back) and wanted to focus on the creation of new IP and new projects.

Applying for the Creative Europe MEDIA funding encouraged us to plan strategically for this development period. The application process itself encouraged us to think fully about our plans for each project and to plot out the different milestones we want to reach."

What will the grant enable you to do?

"The Slate funding has allowed us to activate our detailed development plans. It has boosted our company in two ways: given us further confidence in our projects and has also provided a significant budget to resource the work, to put together the very best creative teams and to immerse ourselves in the creative process. The funding from Creative Europe has given us the financial freedom to take some risks and experiment on the projects. This has been a fantastic luxury and will bring our slate of projects to a new level."

What stage are the projects at now?

"We have three projects on our slate and each one is at a very different stage. On one project we’re making an animated trailer, with an updated series bible, which we’ll use to pitch the show to potential broadcasters and investors.

Another project is further on in terms of development, we had already created a trailer and bible, and will be using the Creative Europe funding to identify and negotiate co-production partners, to appoint a director for the show, to put together a writing team and commission a batch of scripts. We will also advance conversations with interested broadcasters and work on a detailed finance plan.

For the final project on our slate we’re working on character and background designs and will create an animatic. So, as you can see, the Creative Europe grant is supporting a range of different activities."

What advice would you give to potential applicants?

"The application process is detailed and it is good advice to allow sufficient time to put all of the materials together. It is a very productive exercise to think about each of your slate projects and to visualise each one right through into production and to clearly explain your plans, articulate what makes your project different, who you’d like to work with and how you’d spend the money. It is particularly helpful to think about how your project would be marketed and distributed early on in the application process.

Also we tried to ensure that our costings were realistic and showed an understanding of the market and how we would finance each project. Letters of support from partners are also helpful and add weight to your proposal. The application form itself is detailed but we found that the most time consuming part of the process was gathering together all of the other necessary documentation – allow enough time to gather all of these materials and make sure they’re in the correct format for the upload!

We thought about the application in four stages and this helped us to prepare our thinking on each project fully:

  • Development so far: provide evidence of your investment and belief in your project to date.
  • Planned slate spend: show how your plans dove-tail with development so far and how you will get your project ready the project for production.
  • Production: detailed breakdown of your budget, co-production plans and schedule. Provide evidence you’re ready for your projects to succeed, and letters of support.
  • Going to market: all about your ideas, how you plan to develop your IP commercially and innovate in a crowded market. What markets will you attend?"

Image: sample artwork from My Brother The Minotaur by Donal Mangan, one of the three projects in Dog Ears' slate.