Monday, May 19, 2008

Losing the Green.

I know you're green behind your ears, Pilgrim. We all are when we start. You're still learning about the lay of the land, perfecting your craft and building up relationships. So, don't fret over the green, young one, it'll wear off. Most likely painfully but, most often, not fatally. Here's a couple of examples of how I lost mine.

I worked all summer, and then some, for the Farmhouse. I was having a great time drawing bubbles and drops from water animation and cleaning up the backside of a beautiful woman running away from camera. At break I'd "pitch pennies" with the crew and eat lunch out of a paper bag because I couldn't afford to go to a restaurant. But, hey, life was good! I had a steady job in the "industry" and got union pay and benefits...I thought. The way this benefit thing works is, you have a certain percentage taken out of your paycheck each week and this is co-mingled with monies the Studio pays in your behalf to the Union. This money is kept in a separate fund by the Studio and it will be turned over to the Union at certain times of the work year. This money pays for your health insurance and pension. Unless, of course, your boss lies about the amount of hours you worked. Under contract, you have to work 300 hours during a work period to "qualify" for health benefits. When I was finally laid off, the Union informed me that I hadn't worked enough hours to receive insurance. I checked the time I worked and found that my calendar and pay stubs (Don't EVER throw those away, Pilgrim!) showed I labored over 300 hours! The Union sent over their business manager to look at the Studio books and found my hours were under reported by a week! Their bookkeeper was gone during that time. They were SO sorry. That incident delayed my health benefits by 6 months. I had need of it then.

The next year, I followed Tumbleweed Tex over to another contract studio where I got to draw basketball players dribbling all summer long. I worked at a desk by the door in a small apartment-like studio. Directly behind my back was another animation desk, unmanned. The high shelves of the empty desk was used to hold the 20 cup coffee pot for the caffeine drinkers. The drinkers were supposed to go behind the vacant desk and draw their coffee from the spout. Of course, this meant several extra steps. One of the partners decided he could save time by turning the pot towards me, lean over and draw his coffee. Over time, this pulled the pot closer to the edge of the desk. One day, I rolled my chair back to get a good look at my drawing and nudged the desk behind me. The pot tipped over the edge of the shelf above and 20 cups of boiling hot coffee poured down my back! My screams brought assistance and I was rushed off to the hospital. I suffered first degree burns all down my back to my waist. At my belt line, where the coffee pooled up, I had second degree damage. For two months afterwards I had my dressing changed every evening by my wife and had a check up at a doctor's office each week. My employers complained about my absence when I had to go to the doctor. Although a torts attorney would have had a great time with this case, I did NOT sue. I considered my reputation as a loyal employee, new to the business, more valuable than the pain I suffered. That coffee burned the green off me, though. The red along my back faded away but there is a permanent ring around my waist as a reminder that loss of innocence comes with a cost.

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