Monday, June 23, 2008
ASIFA-East’s Evening with Jim Arnoff
June events are always a risky proposition. As the weather gets nicer, pants get shorter, and event attendance gets lighter. Another problem might be that ASIFA-East’s big show is our annual May animation festival, and in a symbolic way, it seems to mark the end of our event calendar. In reality, we always do one or two more events in June. On June 17, we presented an event with career coach, teacher, entertainment lawyer, and animation packaging agent, Mr. Jim Arnoff. For the fifteen of us in the audience it was an unforgettable evening.
Before the event, Jim and are were chatting, trying to figure out when we first met and in what context. Neither of us could remember! For a time in the late 1990s, Nickelodeon offered a bevy of industry related night classes to its employees, and during that time, I was able to recruit Jim Arnoff to lecture our group on several occasions. Since 2003, Jim and I have been sort of teaching partners at SVA, each of us handling the Fall and Spring semesters respectively, helming classes on legal and career issues for the graduating animation artist. Because we share the same students a semester apart, I always make sure to check which speakers Jim booked in the Fall, so not to repeat them in the Spring.
Jim Arnoff has generously promised to do another workshop event with ASIFA-East in the Fall, this time on pitching an animated series, so I’m going to let this blog entry serve as the far advance buzz for that event. After Jim’s animation career workshop on June 17, he and I each received e-mails of thanks from most of the audience. Each person reported being transformed and having made a major career breakthrough that evening, thanks to Jim.
I too, learned a lot from Jim, even if his career messages weren’t always what I personally needed to hear. The key to his method is to let the audience get to the root of their own obstacles or problems. Jim starts off the event by introducing himself and then passing the baton to the audience, getting them to share their names, their story, and finally, their problem. Once Jim has done a clean sweep through the room he picks a willing first participant to focus on and performs a sort of public, yet, one-on-one conversation with the individual, repeating the same experience throughout the room. Not only does Jim make the person feel safe to open up, he also enables the rest of the audience to go along for the journey and offer their own constructive feedback as well as probing questions.
The key to Jim’s approach is his limitless patience and non-judgmental attitude. There are other people who can dish out advice. I consider myself one of those people, but I need to work on curbing my judgmental side. If one judges while dispensing advice, the message might get lost which could render the help fairly useless. During the evening, I chimed in a few times, backing up some of Jim’s points, or offering suggestions and comments of my own, often at Jim’s invitation. As I spoke, I could feel my own judgmental self, breaking through. By the end of the evening, I found myself making a concerned effort to break this habit and balance my message with gentle understanding.
For over two hours, Jim helped audience members with problems such as, how to define one’s new studio business, how to switch career tracks, and how to achieve specific long-term goals like selling an idea for a series.
It was amazing to see how one man could get a bunch of relative strangers to open up and discuss their hopes, dreams, and fears –exposing themselves to advice, constructive criticism, and probing questions. Keep a look out for Jim Arnoff’s next ASIFA-Event this Fall, and be sure to mark it in your calendar. You will leave the event ten IQ points sharper and infinitely more inspired.
Oh, and don’t forget to check out our final event of the ASIFA-East season on Thursday June 26, when we present an evening with Frederator’s Dan Meth. Details at www.asifaeast.com.