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Bossing It: Antonio Canobbio on Learning by a Thousand Cuts

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Titmouse's SVP and chief creative officer on working on the first season of Metalocalypse and the challenge of communication

Bossing It: Antonio Canobbio on Learning by a Thousand Cuts

As senior vice president and chief creative officer for Titmouse, Inc., Antonio Canobbio oversees the creative direction of all projects including The Legend of Vox Machina, Fairfax, and The Boys Presents: Diabolical. He began his animation career working as a layout artist in his native city, Paris, until Chris Prynoski who was working at MTV, noticed his unique portfolio drawings showing up on the fax machine (yes, really - via fax!). Shortly after Chris and Shannon Prynoski started Titmouse, he joined them in Los Angeles. Today, he continues to oversee the visual development and art direction of all productions that pass through the studio.


LBB> What was your first experience of leadership?

Antonio> My first experience as an art director was on Metalocalypse, Season 1. I had a rigid notion of what an art director did, but this was a whole new ballpark. A lot of it felt unnatural and fake as if I was acting the part. It took quite a bit of time to feel comfortable in the role.


LBB> How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be?

Antonio> It took a long time to clearly define the kind of leadership structure I wanted for myself. A ton of trial and error. 

I feel I can never be ready enough for what’s to come if I try charging in first. 

I work well with artists and find that they give me their best work when the boundaries aren’t too rigid.

My perspective is better when guiding from the back and course correcting when needed.


LBB> What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Antonio> I’m not sure I have a clear defining moment to share. In my experience, you learn by a thousand cuts. I will never be done making mistakes and learning from them.

 

LBB> Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so, how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?

Antonio> I definitely wanted a leadership role. Have I always wanted that?  I’m not sure. 

The first gig was pure survival, so I never wondered whether I had it in me or not during that time.

It was an endurance test.

I knew I had it in me when I realised I had fond memories of such a hard time and wouldn’t mind doing it again, and again….


LBB> When it comes to 'leadership' as a skill, how much do you think is a natural part of personality, how much can be taught and learned?

Antonio> I could write a novel with this question alone. 

Everyone with a slight ego wants to lead, but most people don’t like the pressure once they get the job. So nature has a lot to do with it, but there is a ton to learn on the job.

Commenting skills need to be sharp and every decision needs to be expressed. Like any language, it comes with practice.


LBB> What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them?

Antonio> For me, the biggest challenge in leadership is communication. How do you get the message across to someone so they understand what you are asking them to do? 

It wouldn’t be a problem if I worked with the same team over and over again, but I have to start with new teams quite often, which removes the symbiosis that naturally builds over time.


LBB> Have you ever felt like you've failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it?

Antonio> Patience is something I work on daily. And most of my failures have come when I’ve lost patience. 

I have to remind myself that listening first is not just good manners, but also one of the most useful skills.


LBB> In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be as transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered?

Antonio> As I am quite often the liaison between the client and the artists, I find it to be a tightrope to walk to keep both parties happy. Don’t overshare! Diplomacy is key in any job and if you focus on honest, constructive feedback, it will be easily accepted by all.


LBB> As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship?

Antonio> Every project is different. I find it hard to single out one person in particular as every relationship has taught me something. I try to always find a good lesson in every situation.


LBB> It's been a really challenging few years - and that's an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters?

Antonio> It’s been a strange year for leadership, going from virtual room to virtual room. I find that keeping it light and asking people about what’s going on with them on a personal level keeps you somewhat connected. This said, I would kill for a good old fashion impromptu hallway conversation!


LBB> These past few years have seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this?

Antonio> The focus is shifting, but we still have strides to make. In general, the industry will greatly benefit from this progress shift.


LBB> How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020?

Antonio> We grew up in our bedrooms drawing. In 2020, we went back home to do the same. All we care about is making cool stuff and we are still doing it, so I’d say it was fairly easy for us nerds.


LBB> What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey?

Antonio> I learn by doing things and listening to others’ advice. So I’d say do something and you will most likely learn something.

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Titmouse, Mon, 07 Mar 2022 16:26:02 GMT