samedi 11 mai 2013

BEWARE of Swamp Ape Studios.

To whomever may read this message, we are :

Art Grootfontein (Animator)
Kristopher Boban (Animator)
Cauê Zunchini (Backgrounds, Design, Art Direction)
Chris Borges (Backgrounds)
Ramiro Olmos (Animator)
Scotland Barnes (Storyboards)
Christopher McCullogh (Flash librairies)
Joel Espana (Editing/Compositing)

Dennis Cornetta (Character designer)
Nicole Hamilton (Backgrounds, Animation, Character Design)
Jeff Nachotoonz Campbell (Animator)
Lucky De (Animator, Illustrator)

... a collection of freelance artists actively working in the animation industry. We work as background designers, character designers, animators, animation directors, art directors, editors, flash builders.  Some of us have been working in the industry for a long time, while others are just out of school. We all put a lot of time and effort into what we do, and most importantly,  we love doing it.  

On behalf of all of us here, this blog was created to shed light on some of the frustrating experiences we've endured with O'Neal Pignani (Art alias: Von Kreep).  Who is Oneal?  He's the self-proclaimed director, writer, and founder of Swamp Ape Studios. We are not seeking to slander or blacklist the man from his desired profession-- we simply want to state the facts, and let others choose whether or not they want to work with him in the future.

On Numerous occasions, Von Kreep has promised payment for work in various forms and has struggled or failed to deliver.  He has wasted the hard work, time, and effort of all of the talent listed above, and more.  We believe it in our best interest to spread the word of his past, and let others know to be wary of him and his dealings.

The "Von Kreep" Cycle

Here's the basic "Von Kreep Experience" 

  • Oneal/Von reaches artists through various means: Facebook posts, emails, even Twitter.  His standard posts look like most: "Need an X type of talent to develop a show from Y 'big' client".  Naturally, he receives email and contact information from various artists wanting to work with him.  
  • Through agreements, contracts, and emails, he promises compensation and speedy payment.  The artists agree to his terms.  He discusses price. Production begins on the project and continues.
  • The scheduled Payment date finally arrives, and there's ALWAYS an excuse.  It's pushed back, postponed, or flat out ignored.  Von proceeds to use every excuse in the book. From, "The check got lost in the mail"  to  "The Y company refused to pay me".
  • On just about all of these instances, Von has pocketed payment of some sort.  While it is never admitted or confirmed by him, word travels around.  We, the hired talent have gone so far (on multiple instances) to ask the client where the money went, only to hear that Von was already paid for our work.  
  • We confront Von about it through email, phone conversations, and Facebook.  We try to spread the word to others.  Our comments are either deleted or reported by him (and possibly others who support him).
  • He blacklists his previous talent, claiming slander, lies, and malice.  He blocks us off from contact, and ignores our calls, messages, emails. He even goes so far as to say his communication methods were "hacked" and spreading lies about him, just to cover himself:

  • Rinse.  Repeat.  The cycle continues, with a new project, and new unsuspecting talent.  

Von's Benefiting From Our Work 

Head to the Swamp Ape Studios website and you'll see a plethora of work from artists Von Kreep no longer works with.  We've all taken a part in helping him build his brand.  We've seen nothing in return.  Here are screenshots of all the work he is STILL using on his website despite the lack of compensation, with no regards to the situation at hand.

The projects range from his personal "big budget" stop motion/2D dream film like Monstroville, to client work for Mondo (Pilots "Book 'em Nerdo" and "Vileville"), and even a Youtube animated Podcast The Big 3 for JASH's VPN network.

The list goes on.  Countless minutes, hours, days and months of work.  Our work is also prevalent in the studio reel, and even includes the personal work that the original artist asked Von numerous times to remove from his website.  Still, his requests were ignored.

Looking back on all this, we feel it necessary to admit that we had all been naive enough to put our trust into O'neal and his vision. But how could we not?  His frequent job offerings were plentiful enough.  Some of us were even recommended to him through colleges, friends, mentors, and even family egged us on to work with him.  Now? Our trust-- abused.  And our talents?  Taken advantage of.

And even after all of this, Von Kreep still manages to brush his shoulders off and continue to seek new "free" worker bees for his projects.  And if anyone protests, their comments are deleted.  

Von Kreep is still asking for work on all social media outlets, posting between 1-3 times a week:   
Dont' take the Bait!  (9/16/13)

How Can YOU Help US? 

For most of us, It's not about the money anymore.  We only ask for an end to the name blaming, the finger pointing, and the ridiculous victimizing.  We want answers: honest ones, and we want Von to take credit and responsibility for all the time he has wasted.  But the proposals keep coming.  By helping us spread the word, you can make all the difference in ensuring that Von Kreep can never take advantage of other artists again.

If you or anyone you know is currently trying to do 'paid' work for Von, Please link them to this blog. 
If you have any questions involving specifics of this post and its contents, feel free to contact any of us listed above.

Thank you for taking time to read about our experiences, and hopefully you can help stop others from being drawn into the allure of his "successful studio".   From all of us here, we thank you for your time and consideration.  

LAST UPDATE 9/16/2013 9:16 AM EST

*editor note:  Thanks to everyone who has helped this post flourish in the past few days, especially Shawn Dickinson who shared the link on Facebook and enlightened us on just how long this has been going on.  Check it out if you want to hear an even more Von Kreepster screw-over stories.