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The Creative Graveyard: What happens to projects after they get cut?

Barcelona-based animation studio Niceshit spent three months working on a big project for an unnamed “well-known tech platform” that got cut, and sadly never saw the light of day. It’s an all-too-familiar story for most in the creative industry, but what can you do with half-finished work and how do you emotionally detach? To explore, creative director Guido Lambertini, one third of the studio, shares his story of the doomed ‘Join the Conversation’ project.

Projects that get scrapped, or go unused by the client, are a scary part of this job – especially for freaks like us and many more out there who pour so much passion and care into each new gig, as if they were our own.

In our experience there are a couple of scenarios when a project never sees the light of day: sometimes there is a sudden change in the creative direction up in the chain, or the work is finally showed to the top dog (often a bit too late), and it wasn’t what they’d imagined. I think we’ve all been victims of “The boss of the boss has seen it and…”

Something that also happens when you start to work with bigger brands and campaigns is that approvals and green lights have to go through a longer path with more checkpoints, so this also jeopardises the chances of getting to the finish line. It’s pure statistics. Something ironic about this, though, is that the higher up the chain you go, the less involved in the process the person usually is, and what finally arrives to these decision-makers is generally a very advanced or even finished version of the work, which is always risky.

Being an independent studio founded by three creative directors, we are fairly picky with the projects we take on, as the amount we can do in a year is limited and we want to keep it as interesting and fun as possible. So finding out that a project is being cancelled or can’t be shared can be a bit frustrating, especially if you have worked super hard and were proud of it.

With all these variables we try to protect ourselves from this situation as much as we can, through contracts and agreements, but each client and project is totally different from the next. When partnering with smaller brands it usually flows easier and as you go bigger there are a few more restrictions, but at the same time, these projects tend to be exciting so you can find yourself taking the risk and hoping it all works out.

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

We’ve had a bit of everything this year: a super cool TVC for the UK that got buried just one day before the delivery (we’ll probably sneak something in the showreel) and others that got very delayed, but finally got the green light in the past few days (so please stay tuned).

Besides these jobs, the ones that have the highest chance of not being shared are pitch and treatment work and testing phases, like what happened with our Join The Conversation project in which we worked alongside the brand design and creative team, and our UK and US reps Jelly London.

Even though we didn’t get to the very end of the journey, we really enjoyed this one. We went through a lot of testing and checkpoints and ended up developing a full system, a language that kept growing at each stage, with which we could communicate anything we wanted, through simple shapes, conceptual layouts and clever animations. During the process we flew out to New York to meet the team and to work all in the same room for a few days, which was a fantastic experience.

Working with one of the big tech companies on a testing phase, we knew what we were getting into from day one, but the three of us decided it was worth taking the risk, and it actually was: after removing the logo and any information that would reveal confidential information, we were granted permission to show all the work we had done throughout that three-month period. Then, with no more deadlines ahead, we took some time and animated a few more of the illustrations and concepts that we had created. That’s always fun to do, even if the client doesn’t use it; when we know the work is good we’ll work on growing it, so we can proudly share it. (And now we have even made socks! We teamed up with Look Mate London for a special collaboration of these blobby friends, soon available for your feet.)

I wish we had a cool motivational line to close this article but we don’t… All we can do is share our experience, and our advice, which is to try to protect yourself as much as possible from this outcome and listen to your gut, but once a project kicks off, we will always go all in, as it is the only way we know how to do this.

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation

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Niceshit: Join the Conversation