For the past two years I have been traveling a lot to work in the industry that I love. In 2013 I landed a job at Reel Fx in Dallas, Texas. It was more like a beginning compositing job more than anything else, but I loved the work that I was doing. I was doing continuity for their first animated feature, Free Birds. Continuity artists have to make sure that the movie flows and there are not differences in the look from shot to shot. I was their first continuity artist, so I felt that I was a sort of lead in that area. After three months, they hired two more artists to help me out. Free Birds had to be the most overtime I have ever worked. I was working over 70 hours a week almost the entire five months that I was there. There were nights that I worked until 3AM the next morning, but I didn’t mind because I had a job. I enjoyed having the chance to help and make the film look better. There were shots that I did a whole lot on and changed the whole look of them. I felt that as they were seeing what a hard worker I was, that I was getting more and more responsibility. By the time I was finished, I was really ready for a break.
During my break I stayed home and worked on some freelance, helping out on a Sci Fi project. They sought me out and I needed more experience, so I went for it. It started out as a compositing position, but they really needed help, so they started having me light shots. I was happy to be able to get real lighting experience.
In January of 2014 I was sought out again, but this time by former colleagues from Digital Domain. They were working up in Boston for a visual effects company called Zero VFX. Now being a Yankee fan in a family of Red Sox fans I wasn’t so sure about going to Boston, but it was an amazing experience. I absolutely loved the city. I was staying downtown right near Boston Common. And I finally got to see it snow!! There were times that I was at the studio and I would just take a break and go look out the window. I couldn’t believe how breathtaking it was. Walking home from work after midnight, I would just dance and sing in the snow. It was simply magical. The first part of my time in Boston was really hectic. I was working lots and lots of overtime. We were working on a film called The Equalizer. It was so much fun to be able to work on a live action film again and to work with my fellow colleagues again. The overtime didn’t last as long as Free Birds and then another project was over. Luckily I was asked by the owner of the company if I could stay and work on the next film called Sex Tape. I agreed and after a quick trip home I was back in Boston and ready to work on another film. There was hardly any overtime required on this film, so I got to explore Boston and even meet up with family on the weekends.
With Sex Tape production coming to an end, I started looking for another job. I contacted Reel FX again to see if they were hiring lighters and compositors for their next film, The Book of Life. It turns out that they were. So after I left Boston, I went home for a couple of days and then it was back out to Dallas. I felt like I had never left. I even sat at the same desk. There was a major difference and that was I hardly had any work! I was hired as a lighter and they had me doing continuity work again. They hired three continuity artists right after me, so there wasn’t enough work for all of us. After a lot of begging I was given two shots to light and then back to no work. It wasn’t until my last two days there that I received a lot of continuity work. My contract ended and there was no offer to extend me, so I headed back to Florida.
Now as I sit here updating my website I wait for the next opportunity where I can show my skills as a lighter or compositor.
It has been a while since my last post. In that post I was extremely excited about landing a new job, as a digital artist at Digital Domain. I did end up finishing my training, which was hard and a little scary at times, but I passed and was put onto the stereo floor working on actual movies!
It got a whole lot better from there. While working on the stereo floor, I found the love of my life, Chris (or more like he found me). We sat across from each other and he always tried to talk to me. He brought me to a river one day, and put his arm around me for the first time then asked me out. Saying yes was the best decision of my life. We had a wonderful life together in Port Saint Lucie.
In the fall of the following year Chris was given the opportunity to work in the animation department, doing what he wanted to do, rig animated characters. Shortly I followed his lead and left stereo as well, but I went in the VFX department as a digital compositor. Less than a year at the company I had been given the chance to do what I had only dreamed of, compositing my own shots in an actual movie. Stereo was a great beginning, but it was just a stepping stone to what I felt I was meant to do: create my own visual effects shots. It was hard work, but I loved every minute of it; staying at work until 2 a.m. the night before a deadline, working seven days a week, skipping my lunch to get a shot finished… it was all worth it to see the shots that I had put together on the big screen. The film, Rock of Ages, wasn’t bad either. I am thrilled that I was able to work on such a funny and entertaining movie. Making people happy and letting them forget their troubles and worries for a couple hours is one of the reasons I got into this industry in the first place. That was the highlight of my career. After that there was a lot of downtime in between working on projects for the Mets and breakdowns of different shots. I enjoyed all of it and didn’t want it to end, but sadly it did. While I was having the time of my life, the company wasn’t. There were a lot of financial troubles that I didn’t know about; I don’t think any of us artists did. We went into work one day and they told us to go home: they were shutting us down.
I ended up having to go back home. Chris got a job at Rhythm and Hues, but then they laid everyone off and now he is stuck out there. Hopefully he finds a job soon. It’s been about six months and I still haven’t found anything, and not because I haven’t been trying my hardest but I’m in the same situation as before Digital Domain: not enough experience. I thought that my year and a half professional experience would count for something, but most companies still want that pesky three year minimum. It doesn’t help that the industry is not in the best shape right now either. Well who knows, maybe I will find that dream job again. Until then I will just have to keep working my hardest and dreaming about when that day will come.
So, I actually did it. I found a job in my field. No one’s more surprised than I am. It’s not that I don’t think I deserve it, it is just that there are so many good digital artists out there and I was lucky enough to land a job at a wonderful company. All of my hard work finally paid off. All those long hours and late nights staring at a computer screen were not for nothing. For over four years computer generated imagery has consumed my life. Art has been a part of my life way before that. Ever since I was in the first grade and I found out that I could draw. I drew a bird all by myself and ever since then I have loved creating art. In the third grade I decided that I wanted to be an animator. I wanted to follow in Walt Disney’s footsteps, and who’s a greater role model than the man who created the mouse? My goals went astray sometimes, but they always went back to animation. That was until I found out that everything is now done on the computer. You see, I wanted to create hand drawn animations. I stuck with my dream even though technology was taking over. We didn’t get our first computer until I was in the sixth grade, so it was something new I had to learn. In college I learned to love creating art with the computer. My second year I came across the art of compositing. I knew that compositing was what I was meant to do, so I decided to concentrate on that. I worked hard on every project and I never gave up. If I didn’t know how to do something I asked my teacher or I researched it on my own. I set my goals high and I didn’t stop until I achieved them. I didn’t have a life, my school work was my life. I lived in South Florida for three years and the first time I went to the beach was the week I graduated. I locked myself away and concentrated on achieving my goals, and it worked. I now how an amazing job and I am truly blessed. Now I just have to concentrate on finishing my training.
How do you get experience for a job when all of the jobs require experience? It’s the big catch 22, isn’t it? Finding a job is a lot harder than I thought that it would be. I thought that I could get in easily enough with an internship. I thought wrong. Apparently there are a lot more talented recent graduate compositors than I thought there were because I haven’t been accepted into any. Plan B was to apply to smaller more local companies, but wouldn’t the smaller companies already have all the people that they need? All I need is that one company that gives me a chance, a chance to show what I can do. I actually want to work. I want to make a living at what I paid all that money in school to learn. I know that if giving a chance I will succeed because of how hard I work at everything I do. I keep hearing that it takes time and I will find something, but when? When will it be my time? Everyday I keep hearing about all the successes that people around me are having. I’m happy for them, I really am. I just want my life to start. I want to make something of myself. I guess all I can do is wait and see what happens.