Crowdfunding is an increasingly viable avenue for animators getting their productions off the ground. By pitching to the public, artists can get the financial support needed to create a short that can be shopped around to studios, streamers and networks. An artist in the midst of this process is award-winning Los Angeles animator Noah Cutwright. Noah is currently using Kickstarter to crowdfund his animated pilot for The Carsons.
Launched a decade ago as a webcomic, The Carsons is a semi-fictionalized and comedic take on Cutwright’s own life; following a young Black couple trying to make it in Los Angeles. The satirical series parodies the single-camera mockumentary format, made popular by live-action sitcoms like Modern Family, Parks and Recreation and The Office. While those shows were overwhelmingly white and middle class, The Carsons will ground its humour in Black culture and the lifestyles of working-class Millennials and Gen Zs.
Clearly many see value in Cutwright’s vision, as he raised his Kickstarter goal in just five days. The project also attracted the support of Matthew A. Cherry and Chaz Bottoms — two creators who have also seen success on the crowdfunding platforms with their respective projects, the Academy Award-winning short Hair Love and upcoming musical series Battu.
Bottoms says: “The Carsons is Noah’s charming, funny and fresh animated series that I’ve been a fan of for a long time. The Kickstarter is a chance for the world to see Noah’s vision and to get to know these hilarious characters. The talent with this project is out-of-this-world and Noah has been an incredible director, writer, producer and collaborator.”
Cutwright has been working with Toon Boom animation software since he was 12 years old, and will be using Harmony to bring The Carson’s pilot to life. We caught up with him to learn more about the project, his view on mockumentary sitcoms and his tips for a successful crowdfunding campaign.
Hi Noah! We love The Carsons’ mockumentary angle. What drew you to this style?
Noah: I think the idea of doing a mockumentary stemmed from my love of sitcoms. Growing up, my family loved shows like Good Times, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and George Lopez. I always thought the sitcom is such a fun format — it’s timeless, yet with every decade or so, there’s a certain time capsule quality to it. Each sitcom is like the perfect encapsulation of the era it came out in.
The Carsons is meant to be a love letter to the experiences of folks in my generation, and the sitcoms we’ve found ourselves loving are ones like The Office and Parks and Recreation. It seemed fitting that The Carsons followed suit. Not to mention, I felt like that would be such a fresh take for an animated sitcom in particular; it’s certainly not something I’ve seen.
Totally agree! How did Matthew A. Cherry and Chaz Bottoms become involved?
Noah: Matthew A. Cherry was one of our first backers, on day one. He was super generous by donating and sharing on social media. It was really cool to see someone I’ve admired for so long supporting the project.
As for Chaz, he and I are good friends. We’ve been working together on projects since 2019 and I’ve always admired his drive as an animator and person. He’s been super helpful in terms of advice. In fact, his advice was what gave me the final boost of confidence I needed to go forward with this Kickstarter. He’s just an all-around talented guy, and I’ve genuinely appreciated every bit of his support and friendship throughout this journey.
Speaking of your Kickstarter, why did you decide to do a crowdfunding campaign?
Noah: I was just really ready to see this show get made, even if it was only one episode. When I was writing the pilot and developing the series, it just felt like the perfect encapsulation of what my friends and I were experiencing and, on top of that, we all thought it was really funny! I knew I was still very new to this industry in many ways, but I didn’t want to just wait for someone to tell me ‘yes’ and that it was my turn.
I want to make the show that I’ve wanted to see. The talent behind this series is insane! The cast, the artists — for a lot of us, it’s our opportunity to show what we can do. I’ve had difficulty getting the show in front of the folks I wanted to before the Kickstarter, but who knows. After all the buzz generated by it, maybe all that’s about to change.
Clearly it’s connecting, as you’ve raised your Kickstarter goal! What tips do you have for other animators who also want to pursue crowdfunding?
Noah: One of the biggest issues a lot of the character’s struggle with on this show is self-doubt, and it’s definitely something me and many of my peers deal with as well. What I would say to any other animators is believe in yourself. As cliche as that may be, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.
I used to talk myself out of doing things because I thought I would fail, but the thing we always forget is that we may also succeed. When you go into something like this with all of your heart and passion, good things will come out of it. We just have to get out of our own way.
That’s amazing that you’re creating the stories you want to see — especially ones that are more diverse and inclusive. Was this important to you?
Noah: I think it’s just important because it’s a reflection of the world we live in. People want to see themselves in the stories told about them, and Black folks are no exception. There’s something so gratifying about watching or reading something and feeling like it was written for you. You feel seen.
I know the biggest thing that drove me to want to make this show was I wanted to see Black characters who are just starting to ‘adult’ and struggling to try to figure out how to navigate maturing relationships and finding out who they are. That’s been my experience, and many folks of my generation are dealing with that — likely while working full-time jobs that barely pay enough to do anything without stressing about paying rent on time. I think having characters you can connect to on that human level helps to make us all feel validated and realize we’re not alone in any of these struggles.
And after your Kickstarter, where do you want to see The Carsons go and grow?
Noah: I would ultimately hope to see the show picked up to full series by a streaming service or network, but at the end of the day I just really like to see how folks respond to the pilot. If people respond well, and find it as funny as we think it is, we’ll continue to see more from the Carson family in the future!