Saturday, October 31, 2009
During the last two or three years, the lack of consistent work among my generation in the animation industry has been, in some ways, good for us. Between the years of 1997 and 2006, many of my colleagues and I were continuously employed on long running series projects that offered comfortable working conditions, competitive wages, 401K plans, and health insurance. With any luck those good ol' days may come again, but until they do, there's no over looking how these times have transformed many of us for the better.
Take the loosely organized animators that make up the production team known as One-Stuck Duck as an example. These collaborators (comprised of Bob Fox, Chris Timmons, Michael J. Smith, Robert Powers, Claire Scholssstein, Jeremy Sawyer, and Christopher Conforti) have made three films to date with more projects to follow. Rotating directors per project, the rest of this team become that director's crew. I wonder if they would have gotten together to work on these collective indie projects had they enjoyed continued smooth sailing in the job market. Gaps between jobs (as well as the collapse of the Animagic studio and hostile conditions at other studios in town) might have proved an important incentive for these folks to take control of their own creative destinies. Instability has a way of doing that, encouraging the individual to look for answers within.
In the same vein, my friends Justin Simonich, Dayna Gonzalez, and Jason McDonald are enjoying new challenges and career milestones that may not have come their way during long term employment. Over a year ago, Justin Simonich (with Linda Beck), embarked on an groundbreaking documentary project covering the NY animation scene. Dayna Gonzalez added flash scripting for games and websites to her bag of tricks and entered a DC comics contest with art director Mike Lapinsky which, after winning a semi-final round, paid the pair to produce their Batman game. Jason McDonald took his love of all things zombie and channeled it into his continuing web comic My Living Dead Girl, winning international fans while developing his singular voice and vision.
The good years of milk and honey had the indirect result of making us comfortable and soft. Now that the economic conditions have changed so radically, the positive result might be that more of us get off our keisters and spend more time towards self-development. I can attest that the greatest break I had since landing my job at "Blue's Clues" occured when the series finally ended. On a series, you tend to work the same muscle over and over again. It was only after the safety net of steady work was pulled away that I had the flexibility of more time to develop other important skills.
Sure, I'd have a fatter bank account if "Blue's Clues" had continued, but I don't think I'd have proposed or written any books, developed and pitched as many projects, traveled to as many festivals, created as many indie films, or have had the chance to work in areas outside of preschool as I did on projects for Adult Swim and the Fox Network. My current freelance project (a series of 30 second films for Sesame Workshop, with backgrounds by Adrian Urquidez, shown in the four stills above), allow me to work as a writer, storyboard artist, designer, animator, and director. I can't think of a single long-term job that could compete with all that, but if and when I do, I'll be happy to entertain the offer. But, the real message is that the economic downturn has inadvertently created a renaissance of possibility for the individual. Carpe Diem!