Yesterday I was at one of the major animation studios when an industry veteran comes up to me. He says:
"Steve, end of the week I'm out of here. I've got a job offer from Blank, and I'm taking it. They want to do animated features and they're looking to hire people with experience.
"I just haven't fit in around here. I'm working for the same money I was making fifteen years ago. I'm back to doing support work. But I'm getting my hours, and I've been working the last ten months, so I can't complain. A lot of people haven't been had jobs ..."
Overall, the mood of the cartoon biz is ... tense. People who are employed hunker down and hang on to what they've got. People who aren't pick up freelance, cash their unemployment checks, and keep looking. I've been working with a group that's been pushing a non-union place to organize. One of these folks e-mailed me complaining that they'd heard I had d mentioned their name in public, and "Please keep your mouth shut. I don't want anybody knowing I'm collecting rep cards ..."
At yet another studio, the old chestnut: "We're cutting staff, everyone has to work more efficiently, and by the way, we have no money in the budget for overtime" has circulated far and wide.
As I told several artists over lunch, "Studios are cutting costs in every direction. There's work out there, but nobody gets retained when it's done. The last scene or storyboard is turned in, they are out the door."
And I ran across a DreamWorks Animation employee who said:
"I'm getting laid off at the end of this picture. The rest of the guys in the department got picked up for new shows, but I didn't get slotted ..."
So even DreamWorks has the occasional layoff, even as new hires arrive in other departments.
Like I say. I've seen happier days.