‘Filmatick’ makes TV, film impact with UC’s help

UC alum, TV director returns to Cincinnati to launch game-changing startup through UC’s Venture Lab

When architecture student Mike Gasaway wandered into an obscure animation class at the University of Cincinnati in the 1980s, little did he know how much that experience would change his life.

“I immediately fell in love with the whole process of digital animation so I switched my major and enrolled in an animation program in Minnesota after four years in UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP),” says Gasaway. 

Thirty years later, Gasaway returned to Cincinnati, began teaching digital animation in UC’s Digital Media Collaborative program and started "Filmatick," his own pre-production software company with the help of the Venture Lab startup pre-accelerator in UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub — the nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District® (CID). 

“Entrepreneurs are embracing the creative culture and industry engagement that thrives here,” says David J. Adams, UC chief innovation officer and architect of the CID. “Mike’s return to the district reinforces our goal to attract and retain the kind of talent that becomes a true catalyst for innovation and growth.”

Gasaway adds, “As Cincinnati continues to build a pool of digitally-skilled talent, the Cincinnati Innovation District will be the place where individuals can push boundaries and make an impact in our communities, businesses and industries."

During DAAP’s annual summer camp curriculum for high school students, Gasaway is teaching future filmmakers the full process of making a narrative motion picture from screen-writing to post-production. At the end of the week, students will work together on a short motion picture to be screened at the end of Camp Week! 

  • Join here to receive hands-on Digital Movie Making instruction on campus the week of June 21-25
  • Join here to explore the Animation Virtual Studio the week of July 12-16

Three decades in the making

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/v1FpwvBBwFM?rel=0

Millennials may know him from his animation work on the “House of Mouse” Disney series from the 90s, but most of the world recognizes him from his later work as an animation supervisor on the Jimmy Neutron Nickelodeon film before he moved on as director behind the television series “The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” 

From there, Gasaway moved up as director and co-producer for Nickelodeon’s “Back at the Barnyard” and “Planet Sheen” television series before returning to his alma mater to teach and develop his own game-changing pre-production software program, “Filmatick.”

Four laptops on a table showing a film production program on their screens.

Gasaway’s aptly titled 'Filmatick' digital program allows a director, content creator or artist to create scene-by-scene breakdowns, script mapping, set and character development, animation, music and sound effects. Best of all, he says they can experiment and troubleshoot before incurring the costs of actual production.

“As an animation director, I was always able to work with a storyboard artist and an editor that could put my animation together. It was a great way to get my ideas from inside my head up onto the screen with everyone understanding what we want to do,” says Gasaway. “But when I moved from 3D-animation to live action I was suddenly stuck without a storyboard artist or editor and faced the dilemma of how to get the creative concept to my director of photography, production designer and assistant director.”

Admitting he’s not much of an artist, drawing mostly stick figures, Gasaway instead employed his keen understanding of digital 3D-animation and began creating each shot and scene using a newer digital graphic program. Assembling them in Adobe Premiere Pro, Gasaway now had his film and storyboard completed before he was even on set or had to shoot a single frame.

Laptop screen with a film pre-visualization program on screen showing the backs of two people.

Adding scripts and audio while creating sets can help show production crews what directors want.

After being animation supervisor on the Jimmy Neutron film, Gasaway’s team rolled right into the series where they promoted him to co-direct with the original director to help take on some of the responsibility for all the episodes. “But, oh man, there was a lot about directing I didn’t know,” he says.

Now directing on the fly, Gasaway focused on the performance and technical aspects. He went from using older, more labor-intensive animation programs to a combination of newer programs using a real-time gaming engine. He could now set up the characters and scenes more efficiently in a matter of hours that before took days and even months to achieve.

The missing link

In the year since developing the “Filmatick” program, Gasaway has seen the industry go from working in a face-to-face collaborative environment to everyone on the creative set working remotely. Ironically, his new program allowed him to communicate easily and work efficiently with a bevy of film artists spread out across the country.

But it begged the question, “How do I get this program off the ground and get the word out?” he says.

Look no further. As an animation professor at UC, Gasaway turned to the Venture Lab, a pre-accelerator program inside the university’s 1819 Innovation Hub where they help turn startup ideas from scratch into a viable company. 

A group of people in a startup cohort stand inside UC's Venture Lab facing forward.

In the seven-week Venture Lab program, Gasaway collaborated with technical, legal and business experts to bring his program to market, which is also currently used by more than 300 students in UC's Digital Media Collaborative program. Gasaway, third from left, stands with his 2020 Venture Lab cohort directed by Grant Hoffman, kneeling in front.

"Being a UC grad and professor, of course I wanted to be a part of the Innovation Hub,” says Gasaway.

The pre-accelerator program gave him the tools he needed to successfully build a company with the potential to revolutionize the film industry. Grant Hoffman, director of UC startups, and everyone at the 1819 Innovation Hub were instrumental to his success, he adds.

“The Venture Lab kept us on track, made us focus and taught us how to pitch our product to investors and consumers. Because our team already had our product, we were ahead of the game compared to most of the other cohorts,” says Gasaway. “At the graduation presentations — in a format much like a shark tank — we pitched our company to their group to see if we could get funding. 

“We did! We pitched it well and got fully funded up to $200 thousand and also got a CEO out of this.”

Creative connections

Laptop screen showing a film pre-visualization program with script, audio and images.

While directors have to understand enough about art and animation programming to maintain a healthy balance, Gasaway says they don't have to be technical pros to operate 'Filmatick.'

Included in Gasaway’s “Filmatick” business team is his wife Lisa Blaney-Gasaway who has the sales background, Brendan Dickinson, who has the technical expertise and his wife Samantha Dickinson, who has the marketing background. But they were missing that business sense, he says. 

As a software expert and as the Venture Lab’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Ben TerreBlanche joined "Filmatick’s" company as their CEO and became what Gasaway coined as “the perfect last piece."

Portrait of Ben TerreBlanche in blue shirt smiling.

As the entrepreneur-in-residence for 'Filmatick's' Venture Lab 2020 cohort, Ben TerreBlanche signed on to become the business team's CEO.

“Working with the 1819 Innovation Hub helped us look at our competition,” says Gasaway. “Other digital companies offer traditional storyboarding but don’t include the script and timeline feature and are much more complicated to use. No one else offers this entire package, especially with the real-time rendering.” 

Even students are able to create their whole movie before ever taking expensive film equipment out on location.

“My favorite part about using ‘Filmatick’ is the ability to try on many different shots with relative ease,” says Kuyper Reynolds, second-year student in UC’s Media Production program. “Being able to try an infinite number of shots without booking physical locations and casting characters allows me to practice more intentional and prepared cinematography.

“I really like the ability to keep a screenplay, shot-list and pre-visualization all in one software, while maintaining a simple workflow for pre-production.”

When asked what all it takes to achieve this kind of production Gasaway says, “You need a script, an imagination and ‘Filmatick.’ That’s become our motto. 

“But you can also say, ‘You need a good business idea and UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub.’”

About "Filmatick"

 

Featured image at top: Mike Gasaway, assistant professor in UC's Digital Media Collaborative program is the former director of Nickelodeon's "The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." All photos/provided by Mike Gasaway

About UC's 1819 Innovation Hub

The nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District®. Home to startups and midsized and Fortune 500 companies, the 1819 Innovation Hub is an ecosystem that serves as a catalyst for collaboration for industry and talent. The 1819 Innovation Hub is the home to UC’s Office of Innovation, UC’s Venture Lab (a startup accelerator program), UC’s Makerspace, UC’s Office of Technology Transfer and 14 corporate partners who are seeking access to talent and proximity for cross-collaboration. Partners that are currently embedded include: Procter & Gamble, Kroger, FIS, Kingsgate Logistics, Cincinnati Bell, Kao Brands, Hillman Accelerator, CincyTech, Village Life Outreach Project, Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati Insurance Company, Live Well Collaborative and Simpson Center for Urban Futures.

About the Cincinnati Innovation District®

The Cincinnati Innovation District® is a unique and thriving ecosystem that attracts, produces, retains and develops talent by co-locating and collaborating with organizations. Unveiled in 2020 by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted, the district envelops myriad innovation assets and access to some of the world’s leading academic and research centers, organizations and talent pools. Powered by the University of Cincinnati, the CID includes the world-renowned Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and other national research centers. The district’s mission is to become a globally recognized talent hub and lead a transformational movement. The combination of industry engagement, unique experiential platforms and accessible research expertise — working at the pace of change — will become a model nationwide. For more information on the Cincinnati Innovation District, visit www.cincyid.com.

Innovation Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission, is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities and secured a spot on Reuter’s World’s Most Innovative Universities list. UC's students and faculty investigate problems and innovate solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.