Adam Glickfield was a freelance animator who was content with steadily growing his portfolio of work. But all of that would change in late 2011 at a meetup for Bay Area creatives, where a friend approached him about a potential collaboration.
This friend owned a creative production studio that specialized in documentary storytelling and needed some animation help for an upcoming project. Glickfield was stoked about the prospect of working together, but there was one problem: this partnership required him to have a company.
“[My friend] asked me to fake a website for myself,” says Glickfield. “It kind of mirrored my personal site. I called it Very True Story and we got the job.”
A decade later, Very True Story is a full-fledged design studio based in Oakland, CA. Glickfield runs it with his partner Kristin Almy, who joined the company a couple years after its founding to help run its day-to-day operations. Their focus is on animation and graphic illustrations—defined by big character spots with lots of color—for clients ranging from tech company Adobe to non-profit Defenders of Wildlife. And none of it would have happened if not for Glickfield’s friend.
“Our community has been integral in growing our business,” says Almy. “In fact, Very True Story wouldn't exist without the creative meetup that Adam used to go to. And it serves as a source of inspiration, to have people to bounce ideas off of. ”
What started as a one-man operation grew large enough over the years that they’ve been able to turn to the people in the same community that once helped them. The company now has five full-time animators and 10 to 20 freelancers on any given day—and Dropbox is integral to how they work.
The importance of community has even shaped their company ethos to treat everybody the way they want to be treated.
“We make sure we have a really positive and good environment and that includes all of the folks that we collaborate with, whether it's our employees, our freelancers, or our clients,” says Almy.
They talk about their personal lives and shares photos from vacations—connecting, she says, “on a deeper level that goes beyond just work.”
But cultivating strong relationships became a challenge when the pandemic hit, especially since everyone is distributed across the world—in South Korea, Spain, and the UK.
Glickfield and Almy realized they really needed to set up a more collaborative environment when they went fully remote, so they made it a requirement that everyone had to have Dropbox installed on their own computers.
“If it’s the middle of the night for you and it's the morning for us and we need something, we can just pop in there and get it,” says Glickfield. “And it alleviates that worry for anybody on our team."
They also starting using Dropbox to review animation snippets and send links of assets to clients. And they use Dropbox Paper as a collaborative document for mood boarding. They were able to keep their workflow going no matter the time or place. And most importantly, it’s helped them continue to build community remotely.
“It’s allowed us to assemble teams of folks that may have never worked together,” says Almy. “It’s become so much more of a collaborative experience instead of a siloed experience.”
Now in a post-vaccine world, Glickfield and Almy have been able to get back to growing an in-person community again. They’ve been hosting get-togethers for other animators and people in the industry—echoing the ones that Glickfield used to attend early in his career.
The meetups “serve as a barometer for what's happening in our industry, but they also give us a chance to collaborate, commiserate, and celebrate with one another,” says Almy. “We get to champion these other people's works and I see them doing the same for us.”
Glickfield and Almy want to spend the next few years growing with intention—filling creative or structural gaps as needed while continuing to provide a stable, well-rounded work environment for everyone. At the same time, they also don’t want to forget what drew them to animation in the first place.
“It feels like I’m a child that's playing dress up, that I've somehow tricked my way into an adult role because it does feel really fun,” says Almy. “It really gives us an opportunity to play, be creative, and think outside of the box. All of the things that I don't feel like my parents ever thought was a career somehow is. It’s been a really fun ride.”