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Post Production : Re-calibrating after a career in Visual Effects

grandTetonPanoFinn2

My family and I spent the last five days or so in Wyoming, at the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, where there is no cell phone reception, no email, or computers, hardly a single luxury. Well, I did have my iPad and would read the pile of stories at night that I’ve been promising myself I’d make time for.

Being in Wyoming is such a timeless experience, it reminds me not just of what it means to slow down, but there are stark reminders in the environment of what global warming is doing. The glaciers are shrinking, the reservoirs which supply water to distant cities are very low. It is both breath taking and heart-wrenching knowing that our own government is doing so little to alleviate the problems of global warming.

All of this of course is a reminder of choices we make in our lives, and how we can make better choices. For me, I spent many years choosing the pace of Post Production.

homesteading

Post Production is a term in the film industry that is about the work that comes after the shooting schedule. It is the editing, the musical score, the visual effects which is an increasingly large part of tent-pole films each year.

To me though, at forty-seven, Post Production is now about what do we do when we gravitate away from the world of film production, and try to find that other pace in our life, a slower pace. It isn’t always easy. For me it also involves the choice that my wife and I have committed to that involves home schooling our children, yes very homesteading of us. I think that sometimes the place has helped us make decisions like this, rather than making them completely by ourselves. Had we stayed in Los Angeles I am sure our lives would have unfolded very differently, but here we make choices that sometimes feel driven by the choice we made to leave Hollywood behind. Doing this move mentally has been more difficult at times though.

For those who are used to production, there is a lack of patience in the pacing and unfolding of a different way of life. I know this, I live it. As I move into working on my own artwork, indie games, and writing books and children’s books, I feel the ever present yearning to see production through and get my products out quickly, much like I might in post production work. However that was a world of rapid turn-around fueled by caffeine and sugar. That was a world of seven day work weeks, long pushes in the summer months when I would barely see my family.

Now I don’t drink coffee or sugary beverages anymore. Not to say that this transition has been easy, like trying to pull myself out of Post-production mentality, it has been a hard battle fueled by my sense of self preservation and wish to be healthier as I get older. In short, I try to treat my body with better regard than I ever did when working in post production. I try to figure out this new pacing and it isn’t always easy.

Part of me still feels the pressure to stay “current” in CG technology, even though I am no longer taking on freelance work in VFX (although this is waning). I like others probably at my point in my career, are looking towards new avenues and trying to float new things, perhaps it’s furniture making, or writing, or animating short stories with macaroni noodles.

There is the ever present hope that with each small work of art, with each story that wells up, or illustration, that I’ll do something more personal. It doesn’t have to be great, I just want to do dedicate my personal time in my studio to personal projects.

The frustration for me in this stage is that the path is not as clear as it was in Post Production. In the visual effects or game industry I could apply for a job, and within some weeks I would know whether I had it or not. Now in this stage in life I find myself traveling down the path many indie artists choose over VFX, the longer play, the slower path that may take many years before the shape is clear. Take for example writing. I send out short stories, which are often months in the process before the inevitable rejection letter arrives. There is a process of approaching agents, and publishers that I am simply not used to, and that my psyche doesn’t quite understand.

When staying in the Grand Tetons we stayed at the Signal Mountain Lodge, which was a fantastic place to stay for us. Talking to the young people who worked there you could see their approach to life was so very different from the hectic city pacing of post-production work mentality. These young people were leading hikers into mountains, or working out in the open not because they would bolster their resume, but because they loved what they were doing.

The reward for them was in the doing, and in being in those incredible locations like Lake Jackson, and Yellowstone National Park, or even working at one of the lodges in the area. They are a reminder to me, that there are other choices in life that can be made and that the once seemingly indestructible field of visual effects was anything but that, it was self destructing all along in small ways if not big ones along the way. It’s so easy to get caught up in that, and I had for many years.

When in my twenties I never said no, to the demands of production as I tried to build my experience, and I wish I did. What has lead me back to my studio was exactly that, a series of saying no to production, and the demands of cubicle type environments until I have eventually found myself on the outside of that lifestyle, and happy for it.

I know, I can’t blame all this on the job demands. I have been a very demanding bossy person to myself as well over the years, often skipping vacations, or working around the clock when the demand wasn’t even there. All I can say is that I am working hard at uncovering this other life, that perhaps an alternate version of myself, in a parallel universe has been living all along. I feel like I’ve been uncovering that person I should be one small step at a time like an archeologist uncovering that alternate life. I know that it is going to take time, and that the speed of this alternate reality I’m breaking into moves at a far different pace than the post-production work I used to do. I’m hoping with some practice I can slow down and find myself moving at this pace more and more and being at ease with the slow unfolding, the non-production level of work, and the fact that every day life gets in the way, just as it did for the homesteaders who first came to Wyoming and Colorado.