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What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?

An Insider's View of a Crumbling Industry By Maureen Mo Whelan

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?
An Insider's View of a Crumbling Industry

News spotlighting the struggles within the visual effects industry, as well as comments from professionals and independents within the entertainment industry, inspired me to write an article based on my own work experience. I was recently laid off  due to company downsizing, but I have worked in the industry for several years.  I've been in front and behind the camera, along with the back-end of post-production, and many places in between. I feel compelled to write about what I currently see happening to the visual effects industry along with the production and post-production worlds, and why the industry is going through rough times.

Turmoil in the visual effects and film industry has been brewing for more than a decade. I can pinpoint 2000 as the beginning of "the shrinkage", when studios started to produce reality television shows because they were cheaper to produce, and runaway production took off to other countries for cheaper labor and better tax incentives.
It was really 9-11 that changed everything - even before the Great Recession. The events on 9-11 affected business and people throughout the world. Network stations were airing non-stop footage about the attack, causing commercial advertising to come to a halt. Revenue ad dollars to networks tanked shortly thereafter and advertisers cut their costs to make up for lost income. There were layoffs in advertising and television, and that was just the tip of the iceberg... until the Great Recession when there were layoffs by the thousands and independent studios closed their doors forever.  Budgets became tighter and executives wanted cheaper labor at the same time. Students graduating as computer effects artists were released into the entertainment industry and the market became over-saturated with newbies desperate to be a part of it and to see their name as a credit on the big screen. Studios took advantage of the market and began taking on these desperate newbies as 'interns' with very little or no pay or worse being given tasks of a paid professional. It seems to me, there has been an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about and that is "Management."

So much has changed since I first started working in the industry.  I remember always being drawn to the world of animation and visual effects when I was a kid. Watching cartoons I would think, 'Wow, I can make a story, draw it, and it will be on TV.'  When I was a teenager I'd watch Tales from the Crypt and Amazing Stories along with movies such as Hellraiser, The Neverending Story, and Labyrinth, and became fascinated with the props that created the fantasy. I stared drawing and writing science fiction and detective stories while in grade school, and became a self-taught artist. My family was what some would call dysfunctional, so I often escaped into my imagination . It was as a teenager that I decided I wanted to be a part of the creative process of filmmaking. There came a point when I had to ask the question of what do I want to be when I grow up'

I took my first 3D computer animation class and a few computer graphic design courses at a local community college when I was seventeen.. I had no clue what I was doing, but I was confident that I'd figure it out. I started working at an auto parts store for income. I spent the next couple of years trying to figure out which colleges to attend and what courses I needed to take to accomplish my career goal. A few of my friends moved to Redondo Beach, California. I joined them after I turned nineteen  and transferred to the auto parts store located in Los Angeles, where I became Assistant Manager.  There, I met the owner of a small computer animation company and began interning at his studio as an animator. I also came across a catalogue for UCLA Extensions that offered courses in animation and com-positing at Silicon Studios(which is no longer in business). Suddenly, I found myself working two jobs: interning, and taking classes, but I was determined to be a creative artist in the film industry

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Related Keywords:film, broadcast, vfx, motion graphics, california, postproduction, apple, disney, autodesk


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