Tuesday, January 12, 2016
On January 11th, 2014, exactly 2 years ago from yesterday, I arrived in LA and started my first job as an intern at Culver City based Zoic Studios. I was in the last semester of my graduate degree at A&M and full of anxiety as I started my new adventure in Los Angeles. Today, I started my first day as a Lighting TA at Dreamworks Animation, and have finally succeeded in achieving a goal I started working towards 10 years ago.
When I started my undergraduate degree at RIT's School of Film and Animation, I really had no idea just how difficult it would be or how long it would take to reach my goal. I quickly realized that my artistic background was completely unrefined compared to my classmates who had years of basic art education already, and I was quickly overwhelmed by the seemingly endless weight of animation production processes I would need to master. That first year at RIT changed my life, both from an education and emotional perspective, as I began to place myself in the spectrum of my peers. I will never forget the friends and professors who shaped my knowledge at that time, and helped my start to define myself as an artist and filmmaker.
Unfortunately, the situation of entering the workforce in 2009 during the deepest pit of the recession blindsided me. I had worked so hard to feel worthy as an artist and felt it had all been taken away from me. I also came to realize there were gigantic holes in my skills and knowledge and I obsessed on filling them with unrelating ambition. With that mindset, it was easy to see how I began to burn out. I wandered around for 2 years bartending, personal training, doing freelance construction, and becoming complacent that I may never reach my dream. During this time, however, I met Gavin, my now fiancé and the love of my life, learned how to support myself, gained skills I never would have gained if I had been immediately employed, and began to come into my own as a person. At this point I decided, with a little push from my father, that if I was every going to achieve my dream, I needed to go to grad school and give myself a reboot.
In 2011 I started at Texas A&M in the Department of Visualization, and ironically found myself in a similar position as when I started RIT. I finally was feeling confident in my artistic ability, but realized I was at the bottom in terms of my technical skills: I had no programming experience and unfortunately discovered that a career in animation required it. For three more years I struggled with the ups and downs of succeeding in this new environment, alternating between hope from my achievements and despair at how much I had to learn. Once again, the people who came into my life, new and existing, supported me and gave me the foundation I needed to make it out of there in one piece, leading me three years later to that first internship at Zoic.
It's at that point that everything I had been through that made no sense in the past came together. After my internship, Zoic initially hired me for my welding experience which I had gained while bartending doing freelance construction and art commissions with Gavin. This led to me working on VFX shots for TV, meeting great producers and supervisors, and setting me on the path to Dreamworks. So many times I felt it was hopeless, that I had no control and only a selected fortunate few would ever be given the opportunity. Many of my friends had already succeeded and I still felt as if I was struggling to catch up. At times I felt the only thing I could offer was persistence and dedication, but sometimes maybe that's all you need. I have sent out hundreds of applications, received countless rejection letters and been let down by false hope and anticipation more times than I can remember. Now, however, I'm wandering around the Dreamworks campus with a doofy grin on my face, randomly tearing up, and incredibly thankful that I have had the fortune of struggling all those years. Though pain, despair, and exhaustion saturated so much of my young adult life, I would not be the person I am today without them. Thank you to everyone who has helped this 13 year old kid with a dream finally reach a place where he can live it.
:D :D :D :D