My Quarterly Report

Back at the beginning of the year, I wrote a couple of  blog posts about my work and personal goals for 2010. Now that we are one quarter of the way into the year, I figured I should take a look at them and see how I’m doing.

  1. Create unique cool events – this one is going very well. I haven’t taught any seminar so far this year, but the events I have coming up are pretty awesome. Additionally, I got involved in something that I had no idea I’d be doing when I started the year — namely, the VFX Town Halls.
  2. Interview interesting people – has gone exceptionally well. I have met, talked to, and interviewed so many amazing people this year already that it’s really surpassed my wildest expectations. But it’s also something I see you in getting better as the year progresses. I’ve also been able to reconnect with some old friends, which has been great too.
  3. Make products that help people – going very well, although maybe not quite as productive as I would’ve liked. The VFX fairness stuff ended up taking a lot of time that I didn’t anticipate and money has been extremely tight this year so far. I’ve been working without an assistant of any kind for months. But the feedback and stuff that made it a very good… I just need to make more of it. And my friend Johnny B. Truant and I have a pretty kick ass product coming out in the next couple weeks.
  4. Tell stories – hasn’t gone so great. I’m the little work on screenplays and a short story, but it’s not an area that I’ve been really productive in. I do try to make myself feel better by saying some of the other work I’ve been doing has actually been “telling stories” but I wouldn’t be fooling myself.
  5. Be more present with my family – this is probably a badly written goal, because it’s so vague. I’ve done all right with it, probably not as well as I’d really like. Because money’s been tight. I’ve been in something of a mad scramble at points to make sure bills get paid and that’s never great for the family. On the other hand, Shane has been out here most of the year and that has been very nice. Plus we have a new baby, Van and he’s nothing but present.
  6. Multitask less – so so. There’ve been times I made a good effort and been able to really focus. But it’s a very easy to slip back into. But I have been fairly conscious of trying to segment my time.
  7. Health. As in, have some – this is been a dismal failure, and I really have no excuse. We the treadmill downstairs, we have a Wii Fit and I cannot say honestly that I haven’t had a half hour to an hour a day to use either of them. I just haven’t.
  8. Quality stuff – considering how broke we have then much of the year, this is actually gone surprisingly well. Mainly for groceries, because that’s about all he been buying but still . We live about 30 minutes away from Albuquerque, and we drive in once a week or so and stock up on good meat and other food stuffs at Keller’s Farm Market, Trader Joe’s, Alpine Sausage, and Talin Market than by the commodity stuff at the Wal-Mart across the street. Haven’t really bought too much stuff other than that, although the baby stuff we got is nice, thanks in part to gifts from our family.

There it is — a quick wrapup of the year so far. I suppose more money would’ve been nicer, but that wasn’t really one of my goals, wasn’t it? And our financial situation is actually better than it was when I was working my job back in California. We’ve been pretty broke the past few months, but we were pretty broke when I was drawing a weekly paycheck too. So no regrets — except the health thing, I guess — and I’m pretty optimistic about the way the rest of the year is looking.

Open Letter To The VFX Industry

A few weeks ago, I wrote an open letter to James Cameron started a discussion about issues that everyone who works in the visual effects industry knew about but that hardly anyone was discussing out in the open. The ensuing conservation has been great and will continue, but today, I want to directly address everyone who works in the visual effects industry.

This is my open letter to you, and it’s about a topic that I believe most of you will know very well.

I’ve said that I believe that visual effects facilities need a trade group to represent them. I’ve also said that that I think visual effects artists need some sort of guild or other organizing body to protect their interest. I want to reiterate my beliefs and point out that nothing I’m about to say contradicts them in any way.

So to everyone who works in the visual effects industry – you need to stop making excuses and start making movies.

YOUR movies.

If you’re an individual artist, work with whatever resources you have and don’t let your limitations stop you. Some artists actually use their limitations create better work and some are able to muster up people and equipment seemingly out of thin air and blow right past the limitations. Either way, get to work.

And if you have a company or facility to create visual effects, that goes triple for you. You have no excuse.

I won’t repeat I can make sure that every visual effects facility owner and manager hears me loud and clear — you have no excuse not to be creating original work, right now.

Think of everything you have. You have the equipment, software, infrastructure, connections to the entertainment industry and the personnel. You have all the elements that most independent filmmakers would kill for.

There’s simply no excuse whatsoever that you are producing something on a regular basis and distributing it to the world.

For the sake of the entire industry and the sake of yourselves – DO SOMETHING.

Create something cool.

Show us a movie trailer that will blow us away, even if you haven’t made the film yet.

Make webisodes and create an iPad App to share them.

Do a short film and bring it to Sundance… or better yet, Vimeo and YouTube

Create a music video for that dude who runs your render farm that also happens to play bass in a band.

Take that Z-Brush artist who does such amazing work and bring one of the characters she created in her free time to life using the rest of the resources you have.

Try to create something cool and share it with the world. Make it commercial or at one guard, as you want. Make it experimental or derivative. Make it a group project or a singular vision.

Right now as we speak, we are living in the most opportunity rich environment ever for artists.

Let me give just a brief personal example, because I’m not talking theory here. A couple years ago, I made a short comedy video and put it up on YouTube. I did everything on the video myself. Within a few days, it had tens of thousands of views. Within a few weeks — weeks, mind you — I. had appeared on CNN twice and had a meeting with the head of comedy development for NBC Universal.

That’s my story, but I’m sure you’ve heard dozens just like it. It’s not unique, it’s not about me; that’s the world we are living in.

It was hard for me to create a video, but not technically part. That’s easy stuff. The hard part is putting your work out there, the world to see and to criticize. And make no mistake, they will. The same Internet technology that delivers instant worldwide distribution also brings anonymous critics, jealous artist, and just plain haters. They will judge you, misinterpret you, misrepresent you and try to ruin your day. Sometimes, they actually will ruin your day.

To hell with them. Stop making excuses and start making movies.

If you have a company , you will get resistance from both inside and outside your organization. Investors won’t see the financial upside. Employees will be angry that their idea wasn’t chosen.

And whoever you are — individual or company — the people closest to you will have 100 friendly reasons why you shouldn’t put your time and resources into your own project. Well-meaning friends will explain to you why what you’re doing won’t work.  Colleagues will tell you that it’s too late to make an impact at the marketplace is too crowded. Or that it’s too early to make an impact and that the marketplace isn’t ready. Your family will think you’re crazy, and wonder why you’re spending so much time on such a speculative pipedream of the project.

Smile, thank them, let them know how important you they are… but don’t make excuses and keep making movies.

Ultimately, I think it’s pretty clear that there are economic benefits to creating your own projects. By creating original work, you make yourself indispensable and impossible to outsource. You increase your value and the value of your company. It has the potential to completely change the value relationship you have with vendors and buyers.

But that’s not really the best reason.

The best reason to stop making excuses and start making movies today is that it’s what you’ve always dreamed of doing. You didn’t get in this business to sell soda or create lower thirds about Britney Spears or to be one of 100 roto monkeys or to be the effects supervisor on direct to DVD sequel, did you?

I know. You have responsibilities and you have bills to pay. You’re short on resources, including time money and sanity. You want to do your own projects, and you plan to someday… someday, which is not now. Or you tried you own projects before and nothing came from them and why put yourself through that again?

I understand. I have been there and I have told myself the same things. There’s always plenty of reasons not to do original creative work but in the end most of them just come down to your own fear. The excuses won’t go away. You have to ignore them.

And I hope you will