Monday, October 20, 2008

Studio Ownership...Part One.

I played with feature animation for awhile. After Nandu's exit, a constant drain of talent left Vinnie's studio. I stayed on until the last moment requiring a formal "layoff notice" for termination. This allowed certain unemployment benefits to kick in. Afterwards, with feature "credits", I followed another animator over to the next feature in town. This one was funded by Asian money with a young Asian designer as studio head. The money was good but there seemed to be less structure at this studio than the last. There was amazing talent hired but no clear direction as to what the story was that we planned to tell. And so we drifted into development purgatory for months, maybe years. I saw my opportunities for advancement and creative expression wane away. A veteran animator saw it differently: "I have no problem being a rich man's play thing!" I was too young for such philosophy and I slid into a creative depression.

So, I quit that comfortable job and opened my own studio with no prospects and no clients. This was something I often talked about with my animator friend Nandu, so I suggested we team up. Nandu was reluctant to get involved. Starting your own studio was a big risk and he was already running a nice side business doing publication illustrations for a big studio. So Nandu deferred. I made a few phone calls and let it be known that I was available and a few small jobs came in. Then the television animation season kicked in and I became one of the "farm houses" the major studios jobbed overflow production to. A couple of nice little product commercials ended up in my hands and the studio made the rent. In fact, my wife, who was against the whole enterprise from the start, had to admit that by the end of the year my income had exceeded the salary I made at the feature studio!

Now, Pilgrim Artist, I know what your thinking. You think that starting your own place is the fastest way to success. I beg to differ. For me it was the course of last resort. I'm a brick by brick kind of builder. Over the years as I acquired more respect and opportunity I moved up the pay rate. Client meetings, self-promotion, budgets, schedules, taxes and expenses, long hours for no extra pay, artists who fail to deliver and someone else's vision to perfect, was NOT my idea of the perfect employment situation. Yet, I was doing okay and my self-image picked up. This was noticed by friends and acquaintances and everyone wanted to attach themselves to a "winner". Best of all, I thought, Nandu came back.

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