When it first started in 2003, Arcana was a one-man show, a bucket-list dream from comic book creator Sean O’Reilly who wanted to share his story with the world but also wanted to retain ownership of it. Two years into the side hustle, it became clear that there were bigger opportunities to be had. Enter Michelle O’Reilly: Sean’s wife and the VP of Arcana. In addition to running the day-to-day operations of the company, she is also responsible for producing all of the studio’s animated features, sales, and business development. And she’s a mom of four. Talk about a superhero!
“By 2005/2006, that’s when the company grew to the point where it wasn’t just an independent ‘lets do this just for fun’ operation. There was a lot of paperwork involved, and we realized that there was a lot we needed to do in order for the company to grow so I stepped in and took over all of the boring business affairs and paperwork.”
Michelle saw the opportunity to grow the company and tackled it straight on. “I kind of saw a bit of potential there in the beginning but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be running the business affairs of an animation studio. Every year we just kept adapting to what was happening and it just grew to where we are now.”
Now is this: Arcana is Canada’s largest graphic novel producer with over 300 original titles.
Something else Michelle realized from early on is that the company had to maintain ownership of their intellectual property. That lead to the launch of Arcana Studios in 2012. The in-house animation studio produces animated features and series based on the companies’ various IP’s, all under Michelle’s watchful eye.
Being a woman in two under-represented industries, comics and animation, is no easy feat, but Michelle takes it all in stride. “To be honest, I don’t give it a lot of thought in the day-to-day. We do our job. It’s not something I realize a lot until we go to the markets and conventions. That’s when I really realize ‘Hey, wait a second, there is a bit of a disconnect here’.” Michelle takes full advantage of whatever opportunities she can to close the gap. “We try really hard, especially within the studio, to give women opportunities in any way we can.” Continue reading.