Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Tumbleweed Tex

You gotta have a portfolio when you go in to ask a total stranger for a job. If you're new out of school, it will most likely look pretty pathetic. Mine did. I had a bunch of drawings of naked models, some illustrations of faux advertising layouts and book covers and a small reel of 16mm film that contained all the animation I ever did. The owner of the studio I applied at never looked at any of it. He told me he wasn't sure if he wanted to take on a beginner and that I should try and get another job somewhere else. If I couldn't find anything elsewhere, I could come crawling back and he'd see what he could do. Nice guy. Listen, Pilgrim, they're all "nice" guys! Expect some serious abuse when you try and convince someone they should pay you professional wages for unproven labor.

I carried back all my unexamined stuff and put it in my car. As luck would have it, I put my film reel on top of the car when I went to unlock the door. I drove off leaving it right where I left it. The last I saw of my complete collection of animation is when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw it bouncing and unreeling down the Ventura Freeway. It made applying for any other job difficult. It's trying times like those that test your belief in a higher power. Luckily, the Big Guy in the Sky was looking over me. In my case, that guy was Tumbleweed Tex.

I wasn't always The Mad Animation Prophet. That took years of of struggle and survival. The wise ol' animation director, Tumbleweed Tex, wasn't always legendary either. On this day he was just another young pup looking for a square meal like I was. Attached to the Animation Farmhouse was a two story apartment complex used as a production facility. The second floor had a balcony along one side. On that balcony stood a young Tex. He saw me as I got in my car and drove off and, he recognized me! He recognized me from Art School where I was two years his senior. Tex rushed to the owner of the studio and asked if I was the same BFA graduate he remembered from those days. He was mightily impressed by my senior project; a music video of a Smothers Brothers song. He went on to exclaim that I was the best artist the school had! Now, if this information made the studio executive regret rejecting me, he didn't show it when I came back two days later to beg for a job. Instead he gave me a beginning job as an Inbetweener at the lowest pay possible, providing I came early, stayed late and worked Saturdays for no over-time. "Consider it on the job training." he said. I did. It was my start as a professional in the business and I owed it to Tumbleweed Tex.

Tex and I have remained friends and co-workers over the years. He was even my commanding officer during the Civil War. Still, to this day, I do not know what I did at school that so impressed him that he gave a positive reference about me at a critical moment. I'm glad he did, though. A key reference can make the difference when your portfolio fails you. Remember that, Pilgrim.

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