Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Odd Jobs

I've done some odd jobs in my day. I was a traffic cop at a County Fair. I unloaded watermelons out of a produce truck. I trapped gophers out of local farms and sold their feet to the township. I posed as a wax figure in a Hollywood museum. All this was just to get extra money. What I really wanted to do was work in Animation. Well, young critter, once I became a professional in that industry, I found a lot of odd jobs! As a pilgrim moving up the food chain, I gained experience at a number of jobs. I could draw, I could animate, I could tell a story, I could take orders and, when the opportunity arose, I could give orders as well. I'll give you two examples...

I was approached by a feller that wanted me to produce a music video for him of a group of kids singing "Happy Birthday". You know the song but did you know that the song is copyrighted? Yep. This feller licensed the rights. He figured that videos were the next hot item. If he could personalize them by adding a spot of animation to the head of a purchased video, they'd make great birthday gifts. I asked an intelligent question about what name we would record when you came to the part of the song "...Happy Birthday, Dear ???...". He had no answer. True personalization would require a custom recording of the name and animation of a character saying that name in animation. It was a quandary. Such a question almost killed the job. PILGRIM TIP #1: "Never ask a question you don't have an answer for!" I suggested that we include a dog in the animation that would cheerfully bark at the moment a name was called for. Good answer! The picture moved forward. The film was a simple affair. It was just a puppy with a row of kids in their party clothing holding balloons in front of a simple but colorful card. They sang, the camera cut close on the dog who barked and cut back wide for the finale. It was a husband and wife venture. The wife art directed, the husband financed and I jobbed out the work to an animator, layout artist and a background painter. I directed, painted the cells and moved the finished work through to delivery. What happened after that? I'll probably never know. The little film just disappeared.

I also worked free-lance by mail for a small commercial house in New Mexico. They'd send me a script, a pre-recorded sound track, sometimes an existing model of a character and a tiny budget. I'd do everything else. I drew the storyboard, designed the characters and did the animation. This was all sent back to New Mexico where they finished the commercial, sent me a copy of the finished film and a check for the work. It was a lotta work for the money but fun when you're young and need material for a portfolio reel. Well, I did a commercial for a local (New Mexican) dairy that had a pre-existing character of a boy as its logo for their milk. I didn't care for the design but did the commercial. They loved it and sent me another. While I was working on a feature film, I got a call requesting I do another milk commercial. I refused. The money was bad and I had a full-time gig. They begged. The client insisted that the same guy do the commercial. I offered to find them a good replacement and I'd check in if they had any problems. Grumbling, they agreed. I knew of two good artists temporarily out of work and they jumped at the chance! I offered to give them the contact number and they could run the job directly through the New Mexican agency. "No, no!" they said! They didn't want any contact with the business guys. They insisted that I talk to the client and broker the job to them. "Are you guys nuts?," I asked! "Do all the work yourself and keep all the money". "Nope, nope!" They didn't want to hassle with the "suits". So, I took the job, gave it to the two artists and pocketed an agreed upon fee for the service.

That was the day I decided to become a producer.

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