In the not-distant past, a talented-but-older story artist sat in his cubicle and said to me:
"I wrap up on this feature the end of next month, and I'll start looking around for whatever project's out there to jump on. Don't know when I'll get back here. They've got a roomful of trainees who work a lot cheaper" ...
The above segues nicely into this recent piece in the Houston Chronicle, which writes with fatherly approval on the eager-beaver grads coming out of Texas A & M and trekking to the West Coast:
More than 30 graduates of the A&M Viz Lab, as the program is commonly called, currently work in the many technical-arts departments at Pixar and have a hand in creating all the studio's films.
"There are a ton of Aggies here," says Viz Lab grad Jean-Claude Kalache, a director of photography for Pixar currently at work on Up, the studio's major release for 2009. "We call it the Aggie Mafia." ...
"If Pixar let me get coffee for them, I'd be happy," says a grinning Bobby Huebel, a second-year graduate student from Houston ...
And no doubt happy receiving a coffee-getter's salary, at least at first.
The problem for older workers is always the same: As the years go by you develop the chops, also gain knowledge and production savvy, but your energy wanes and your interests divert to mundane things like marriage and child-rearing And for some weird reason, you just don't dig working the eighty-hour weeks anymore.
At the age of thirty, thirty-five or forty, the thrill of pulling all-nighters and eating cold pizza with your co-workers, of sleeping under the desk after you've gotten the shot done at 2:30 in the freaking morning is ... how to say this? ... not there.
Some time back, I fell into conversation with a storyboard artist who has worked with high success for thirty years. He told me this:
"I went in to interview at Disney. They were interested in hiring me, but they weren't interested in paying what I was used to making. 'Oh, you'll get more money when you work overtime. And we'll have lots of overtime.'
"That's great, but I've done the overtime thing already. And at this stage of my life, making up the lower salary by doing overtime is not ... ah ... the kind of deal I'm real keen on making." ...
Of course, when there are all those starry-eyed graduates coming from Texas A & M, Ringling, Sheridan and other fine institutions of higher learning, sometimes you have to take the lousier deal, like it or not.
Because too often, the newbies are happy just fetching coffee. At coffee-fetcher wages.