Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It's been a rare couple of weeks. People have called, come into the office, and communicated by phone and e-mail about their struggles in the biz:

I have been slowly breaking into the biz of animation since I graduated in 2009. I kill myself almost everyday looking for work and I always come up empty-handed. I got lucky at [blank] last year and worked on a new show for 5 months. After being laid off I feel the same thing is going to happen: 3 more years of looking for work so I'm quitting the boarding business and starting my animation studio.

I have tried soooooo hard to break into the union but I feel let down by the community, it's all about themselves, and emotionally, I'm done with it. ...

I talk to people on a semi-regular basis who are struggling to get a toe-hold in Cartoonland and earn themselves a living. But let's face it: CL can be a cruel, uncaring business to plunge into if you are:

1) Don't sport the right skill set.
2) Tick off the wrong people.
3) Get into animation at the wrong time. (Like for instance when the number of jobs is shrinking; like when there's a big technology shift and you've bulked up on the wrong classes at university.)
4) Don't play well with others (related to 2, above.)
5) Don't meet deadlines.


In the years I've been doing this, I've seen everybody who could hold a pencil get jobs (this was the nineties, when demand way outstripped supply.) And I've seen qualified people work for that industry break and never quite crack the egg. (This was the 2000s ... and sometimes now.)

The saddest (and most frustrating) artists I encounter are ones who have the experience and chops to get quality jobs, but have built reputations of unreliability that keep show runners and producers from hiring them. I've had more than one prospective employer who's said to me:

[Artist X]? Sweet guy, and one hell of an artist, but I gave him a project to do last year and he didn't deliver, just completely let me down. And I can't afford to give him another chance. If he louses up, it's my ass. ...

We all build our careers and reputations one building block at a time. We screw up a storyboard or layout, we don't turn something in by Friday, it comes back to bite us. I once told an artist who had a reputation for prickliness, who was proud that he "never took crap from anybody," that if he insisted on burning bridges to be careful that he didn't have to march back over them later, because they wouldn't be there.

The river below can get deep and cold and wide.


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