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for Non Artists:
When I first heard of Chuck Jones' passing, it saddened me to see the passing of the creator of so many classic Warner Bros. characters and stories. I knew many of his works, but hadn't really looked into his background. What he brought to life on the screen mattered more to me than where he had come from.
The following morning, I learned something that moved me to tears. Chuck Jones was born in Spokane, Washington in September of 1912 before moving to Hollywood as a youth. Just two days prior, I'd flown home from Spokane after seeing my own family in nearby Cheney, where I'd lived for thirteen years before coming to Los Angeles in 1996, and the place where my own interests as a non-artist in animation had come to fruition.
Until now, I never would have imagined Chuck Jones and I shared the small common thread of having spent parts of our childhood in the same area of eastern Washington.
Which brings me to what I want to talk about in this column, something I hope you can all take heart in. With the power of the Internet and current technologies, you can be reading this column right now from somewhere in Los Angeles or New York, or in a remote mountain area if wireless or satellite coverage is sufficient, perhaps somewhere in between. No matter where you're at, what non-artist (or even artist) position in animation interests you, you have the potential to make it in this business if you're willing to put in the effort -- and to be truthful, willing to move where the work is. If you're from one of the smaller areas, it can be very intimidating and scary; I know it was for me. The ability to self-educate yourself in order to prepare, with so much accessible via the Internet these days, is tremendous. It matters not where we come from geographically, but where we come from in our personal dedication and drive.
Someone told me recently they thought getting into and staying in this business was dependent on fate. I responded that I didn't totally agree, because fate implies you sit back and do nothing and things will come to you. Nothing in this business comes without effort, I've seen it and I've lived it. Persistence, perseverance, talent, and luck tend to be the terms that I hear from seasoned pros regarding survival in the business, and I agree with that. For the record, I don't see luck and fate as equivalent terms, though I've had people argue it. Fate means it's meant to happen, luck to me is a matter of things happening together at a particular instant, and you are fortunate enough to be there at the time. After all, one can be unlucky... but I'm not sure there's such a clear opposite of fate.
You also have to come prepared to understand that stability doesn't happen in the animation business, for that matter in the entertainment business in general. Shows get cancelled, or orders cut back in a heartbeat, a pilot you've worked long and hard on fails to sell to buyers, or the company you're working for closes shop. I've been through most of that list personally, and yes it's not pleasant. If you're from a smaller town, it totally defies the idea of people working at the local store (or university, in the case of Cheney) or a steady career or being farmers all their lives, being at total odds with the environment you've grown up around. This may be easier to adjust to if you come from a major metro, I can't speak from experience on that and would like to hear feedback on the subject. Regardless, you have to get used to the instability of the industry as a way of life, going from job to job as you work your way toward your chosen goal in animation.
To close this all out, I think the odds of me ever being as great and influential as Chuck Jones was to our industry are very slim. Yet, both of us made our way down here by different roads and have made our mark on this industry in different degrees and ways. Without Chuck paving the way in the animation industry, who knows how different the industry might have turned out to be. I might not have wound up in it... but I did.
And so can you, if
it's truly what you want.
Shannon Muir is known in the animation industry for her work as a production coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker at conventions like Comic Con International.
Muir moved to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately 8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business. Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality, whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles about the industry.
You can email Shannon Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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