I had lunch today with a Wise Old Animator, and we got to discussing the state of animation professionals who find themselves Suddenly Fifty ... and facing fewer employment opportunities.
"[Blank} has been working as a director for a long time, but he's doing a lot more teaching now. He's gotten out-maneuvered by a younger guy who was more aggressive, and he's lost some big jobs. And over at Disney, management just brought in an outside story development guy to work on new projects. A bunch of the long-timers are unhappy about it, think they should have had the job ..."
In Tinseltown (as in life) the changing of the guard never ends or slows down. Year by year, new talent charges into the movie industry, grabs the bottom rungs and starts pulling themselves up hand over hand. And those folks clinging to the ladder at higher elevations? They peer nervously down, wondering where their careers will be going. So it's understandable that this often happens:
Workers filed nearly 30 percent more age discrimination charges last year than in 2007. "That is a huge increase, and it will continue going up," testified Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, president of the nonprofit group Workplace Fairness, at a public hearing at EEOC headquarters in Washington ...
Rising unemployment has left older workers vulnerable to layoffs, because they are often stereotyped by employers as costing more money and being less adaptable to change ... "People who would not dream of making sexually provocative statements or using a racial epithet will think nothing of calling someone 'grandpa' or an 'old mutt' or 'old bag,' " ...
Lots of artists with whom I came into the business have seen their cartoon work dry up and are now moving on to teaching ... to graphic arts ... to cashier jobs at Trader Joe's and Vons. They aren't less capable as artists, but they are animators, board artists and designers who have lost their support network. The men and women who knew and hired them are retired or dead, and the younger execs have turned their eyes to their own peer group of twenty-seven-year-olds.
It isn't that too many of the Boomers' gray cells have died, it's that too many young artists now nip at their heels ... and have their own, fresher and more plugged-in group of friends to help them find the next job.
After observing the cartoon carnival for a lot of years, I've come to understand that you can never have too much training and knowledge, or too much talent. But you can have a misplaced sense of security and a bank account that's too small. My best advice (again) is: never stop building your support network, never stop improving your work skills, and never cease putting money away for a rainy day.
Because you never know when the downpour might begin.