Saturday, March 8, 2008

Educated and Unemployed

Right out of school with my portfolio and BFA in hand, I joined the ranks of the unemployed. I was educated but didn't know anything about getting a job. At this moment in time, I was a "non-professional" at everything. How does one go about getting someone to pay you for doing something you were paying others to teach you to do? Luckily, there always seems to be work for someone who is cheap, dumb, insecure and talented. On the other hand, being desperate for a job drives employment away. Desperate people suck the life out of you and every employer knows it. Don't go into a job looking desperate. Also, It is absolutely essential that you know somebody in Hollywood in order to find work. Even if that somebody is another starving artist. I called friends about where to look and I looked there. I found a studio behind schedule that desperately needed artists but had no place to put them. It was a perfect situation for an artist that had a work set-up at home. That wasn't me. I needed a studio job that provided the basic things, like a desk and supplies, in order to work. I heard about a small studio that sub-contracted work for a major animation studio. They call these small shops "farm houses" and extra work is "farmed out" to these places. The first place I worked professionally was, literally, a "farm house". I mean the building used to be a farm house! It's where I first learned about the "business" of Animation.

Let's digress a moment and talk about "the business". In the "old days" the entertainment experience at the movie houses consisted of a feature film preceded by a short film, like "Laurel and Hardy", a newsreel and a color cartoon. These seven minute cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Woody Woodpecker, Mr. McGoo, were all made by the major film studios in a cartoon shorts department. Prior to TV, many of these cartoons would end up at the local movie house on Saturday morning where all us kids would go and see two hours of cartoons, short subjects and serialized adventure shows like Flash Gordon, etc. The advent of Television changed the Saturday morning serials at the movie house into the Saturday morning cereals in front of the TV set. Sponsored by the major cereal companies, the shows on Saturday morning were almost all cartoons. Forty years ago the television industry was composed of three mighty networks. They all had a block of time on Saturday morning from eight to noon that was set aside for kid's entertainment. Originally they were produced by a motley collection of animation studios; TV Spots, Format, Pantomime Pictures, Friz Freleng, Filmation and, the biggest, Hanna-Barbera. These studios were all owned and staffed by the unemployed artists from the former cartoon departments of the major movie studios. These animation houses all competed for that Saturday morning block of time on the three networks selling sugary cereal. The first of those shows I worked on was "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop" and how I came to get that job is another story...

No comments: