I’m having withdrawal. People always talk about home sickness but not job sickness.
I knew that traveling was a good move for me. Its something I’ve moaned about since I was younger and unfortunately traveling for animation job requires the money to back your move (which I did not have) so it made sense on a number of levels to take a year or two out and move abroad. I could save money, see the world and experience life.
Unfortunately I never knew how much I’d miss it. I still trawl over the animation blogs, read all pieces of gossip in the cartoon world and look at job opportunities. I get excited about movie releases and eagerly listen to Ted talks when my inspiration is wavering. In my spare time I animate, draw and watch films. I can’t get away from it.
This holiday I had to fill a visa form to get into Taiwan and I had the horrible moment of filling in the ‘occupation’ box. I started to write ‘Anim…’ but at that moment a stone dropped in my stomach and I realized I can’t write what I really want to anymore because officially (by Korean job standards) I’m not an animator right now.
It was a horrible moment. All the long hours, stress and years of wishing suddently seemed liked a waste but then I started to look at it in another way.
Maybe it is good to know that I was upset. Maybe missing the sweat boxes, rigging problems and squiff splines proves how much I love it and that its where I belong.
All of these years I’ve been wishing and trying to animate haven’t been in vain. There’s always a part of you that steps away from things and wishes and thinks that maybe you’ll realize it wasn’t as important as you thought but in my case. It is what I want and I can’t wait to be able to fill a form in and put that ‘animator’ label firmly back where it belongs.
There is also the sad truth that a lot of animators are out of work at different times and need to support their families so take freelance work in other avenues. Animators aren’t labeled the way you label other professions and that’s because it’s not a profession for us. It really is a lifestyle, one that we stick with through hard times and one that makes us deliriously happy through the good.
Even if I can’t fill in a form that says what I do for a few hours a day I know that I am and always will be an animator.
So I am looking forward. I am starting to think of new animations to demonstrate where I want my career to take me, get a new showreel up and running and also practice my writing. Story has always been where I’ve wanted to take my animation so this year is the perfect chance to brush up on my literary skills and write down all those ideas I’ve had in my mind for years.
It’s hard to step away from something. It’s scary to think you might never be able to go back to that time where things were on track but I think that if something is meant to be then no matter where you go or how you get there you will find your way back to it. Even if you didn’t think it was possible.
My mum has always said to me:
“A year is such a short time to wait but such a long time to waste” and no quote has ever been truer. This year as made me look at my work differently. I can see what it lacks and where I want to improve. I have also been able to watch animation without dissecting it into a thousand pieces. I almost became jaded with deadlines, contract details and the day to day ‘work’ of it all. I use to get upset listening to the animators talk about the industry like it was sucking the life from them. They had lost that spark that makes doing what we do worth it. They were still stupidly talented but they didn’t love what they did anymore. I never wanted that to be me so I made the choice to leave before I got to that stage.
I hope all of you, whether you are a student who can’t see a career ever happening, an out of work animator sick and tired of the freelance hours and the uncertainty or a paid animator struggling with long hours and balancing a life, can all take one moment to step back, look at what you have achieved and see that you are an animator. You have made it. Even if the pay cheque doesn’t reflect that. If you have the creativity and love for what you do you will create great work because you love it and want to do your best.
I definitely don’t want to trivialize the struggle a lot of us face as I ,more than most, know how hard of an industry this is but its not the animation you hate so I hope you still can get the thrill when you talk about your industry. That’s the spark that makes you an animator and I hope all of you don’t let it burn out.