Insights for Non Artists:
The Long and Winding Road
When I first
started making contact with people in animation many years ago,
the sentiment I found was that persistence, luck and talent were
the qualities needed for continued success in this industry. Given
the radical changes that the industry's seen in such a short time,
one more word seems appropriate to add to that list: adaptability.
For me, the first anniversary of September 11th drove home how
much I've had to be adaptable in a very short time.
When I woke
up that day of the anniversary, I couldn't help but remember where
I'd been a year ago. Just days before, I had turned in a resignation
at my live-action facilities job at Artists Television Group to
go work for what I thought would be nearly a year working as a
Production Coordinator on INVADER ZIM for Nickelodeon Animation
Studios. Inside my heart leapt at the idea of finally getting
to work around animation again after years out of production to
finish pursuing my education, though I'd never lost touch with
the field. That particular morning though, I woke up sick after
a restless night of sleep and knew I'd have to call in sick.
Then I turned
on the television. It was 6:30 am Pacific Time. The world knows
what was going on, and what was to come.
All that joy
I felt, while not extinguished, was definitely muted. I would
not leave Artists Television Group for another week and a half,
and remained surrounded by the horror and uncertainty that the
country felt. The knowledge I would go on to spend time in animation
kept me going.
I know that would be short-lived.
I think, after
finding out INVADER ZIM's order got cut back, really was the hardest
time for me. A large part of the hope that remained my security
blanket of sorts during the initial tragedy, I now found ripped
apart. For the next eight months, I would only get paid for three
days of temporary work, plus a one-day consulting fee for what
should have been a several month job on a direct-to-video, that
(for complicated reasons I can't go into here) did not come to
pass. Several other promising interviews with animation studios
ended with not being selected, but the competition in all cases
was fierce. Most of my time I spent locating people to interview
or researching for this column. I made this column, and my own
personal related site, my primary mission while also doing some
product reviews and selling some miscellaneous articles on writing
and fiction. The business became tight and tough, and I felt I
owed -- and still feel I owe it to -- my readers to see both the
good and bad of the way things are right now.
I brought up the anniversary of 9-11 is because that day, which
by all rights should have been one of tragedy, actually became
the day that renewed my hope. Around 10am, the phone rang. The
temporary agency that struggled to find me a few assignments offered
me a four month position in the Human Resources division of a
major studio for what appears to be a limited time project. Stunned
at first, I accepted the position, not only because I needed the
money (though that definitely was a reality after six months of
scattered work), but because the challenge interested me.
you could argue that this job isn't in animation, and you'd be
right. However, it's very much in entertainment and an area worth
learning about for my own long-ranger personal goals of being
a writer and producer. Even if I don't do Human Resources stuff
firsthand, I'll be grateful to know how it all works. Not to mention
it's enough money to barely live on. I get to walk around a studio
atmosphere every day, and if I stand in the right place I can
see all of the studio and the surrounding area from the building
where I work. It's a strong reminder of what I gave up my family
and my familiar small town surroundings to come down here and
do. Even if it doesn't last the whole four months, I'm grateful
for every day.
Over the past
six months, I've seen professional animation writers and other
animation personnel at San Diego Comic-Con and other opportunities.
From talking to them, I know that the struggle I've had finding
things isn't just a fluke; things have been tough. More opportunities
are arising, but due to tighter budgets, you may have to be willing
to be paid less or be a Production Assistant instead of a Coordinator
to get on a show if competing against others who have more Coordinator
experience than yourself. Ultimately, whether or not you are willing
to take those roads is a matter of personal choice. Even if you
are open to all possibilities, though, you still have to get selected
above other tough competition.
As I worked
on putting the final touches on this column, I received an email
asking me how did I get so successful. It's scary to get asked
that for some reason; I envision myself asking that of producers
who have been around for ten plus years or more. Success, when
you really think about it, is in the eye of the beholder. To someone
who wants to become part of the business, I guess the fact I've
been in and around it six years really might be remarkable. To
me, I share as I go, but I have a long and winding road ahead.
be my message to people, especially anyone starting out. Keep
those things in mind, and take opportunity in the entertainment
industry where you can find it in this current economy. What knowledge
you gain now may help you years down the line. At the very least,
you'll hang in there to be around when opportunity comes and train
in the value of patience. Don't give up if this truly is your
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.
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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