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What One Man Can Do Another Can Do!

I love the film  The Edge, with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.  The film is a sweeping action drama that doesn’t feel contrived as so many films can, (I’m blogging at you Michael Bay).  The Edge feels like an honest (albeit dramatic) portrayal of people trying to survive and overcome who they are in life, driven by doubt and the need for money and love, or at least lust and ambition.

Hopkin’s character is the self made billionaire who has honesty and conviction but feeling more isolated by his wealth, while Baldwin’s character, driven by love and jealousy becomes increasingly raw as he becomes more desperate and more divided internally.  The two characters devolve and evolve before our eyes.

The crux of the film for me comes when Hopkins is trying to convince Baldwin that they must kill the bear that is stalking them through the Alaska mountains.   “What One man can do another can do.  Say it Bob!”   He wants Bob (Baldwin) to believe and have conviction that they can do this, because others have done so before.

I used this film to talk about careers when I taught at the Art Institute.  When I talked about the film my language was filled with my impression of Hopkins growling and swearing.

“What one man can do another can do! “ I would yell it at my class, and then tell them to go and “kill the mother fucking bear!” I told my students when I stopped teaching, that if they remembered one thing about me, I wanted them to remember me screaming at them,“What one man can do another can do!” I yelled these things  at them because I wanted them to find the conviction inside of themselves, and without that nothing else matters.  The degree certainly doesn’t matter, or even doing one thing super well.

I bring this up because I’ve received several letters this week from artists in the visual effects and computer animation field asking for advice.   We are suddenly in a time when artists are becoming more disposable or in the words of an old manager (replaceable).  This is a reversal of what got me into VFX in the first place.  Artists are now feeling the squeeze of schools that are filled with students who want to do computer animation and visual effects work.  Some schools have low standards which in my opinion only serves to flood the market place with incapable artists willing to work at cut-rate prices.   On top of this add the migration of computer animation jobs overseas and there is suddenly far more competition and fewer jobs. This topic though isn’t just about finding the job, but what do I do when I get there.

KILL THE BEAR

But what is the bear?   I used to think when I started out in my career that having a job, I had arrived at a good enough place, that was the bear.  After all I grew up with very little except a desire to create art, and having made it through college receiving a BFA and an MA, I then went to New York City and found a good job, tadaa! I made it.  Um…right?

Back then, I just wanted to earn a living, that was my biggest concern.

I did so in the beginning working over 90 hours a week (not counting my commutes), and was able to get myself into better situations as time went on.  Each time I was grateful for the changes in my jobs, better pay, less hours, good benefits.  In the end though I began to occupy less of my own life even as pay and benefits got better and better.  I stopped drawing and painting, and I stopped building on my skills.

Although I was happy to work at Rhythm and Hues for almost eleven years of my career, I became very good at working with their proprietary software and even their proprietary scripting language.   When I became restless to move on I found that not only had my artistic skills suffered from neglect but my technical skills were completely suited to exactly one company and made transitioning out difficult.  This is when I started to branch out again and relearn what is called, “off the shelf software”. I’ve made a point for the last five years to stay up on my off the shelf skills as well as developing my drawing and painting skills again.

The point here is that arriving at a company often means devoting so much time to the way the company says things should be done, that we neglect the question of where we want to be, and what that bear is for us.  We can also lose our creative edge, all outside appearances to the contrary.

For many people in the VFX industry the answer is often that they want to keep getting raises and advance up the job ladder until they eventually are VFX Directors (rare) or Film Directors, (far more rare).

And how many parties can you go to in Los Angeles, where you meet someone who says, “I really want to be a VFX director”.  Is this the kind of tunnel-vision ambition what we’re really all after, or is it what we think is the measure of success?  It’s right up there with the number one reason for “loving” Los Angeles, when pressed everyone says they love the weather, or in my opinion the lack there of.

Should we be devoting so many of our waking hours to these kinds of goals, while neglecting the life outside the box, or even an inner life.  Trust me, finding your way out of the box, is not easy once you lose your way.

LIVING A CREATIVE LIFE

I’m telling a cautionary tale here, about devoting too much of oneself to the company and leaving no room for your own life, your own hobbies, your own passions, ambitions and loves, whether they are people, art or something else.

Killing the bear isn’t just about making that dream come true, but about heeding the internal compass that is attending to where you should also be developing in your life or artwork, and developing a plan that suits you.

Will you be at this job for the next fifty years? Unlikely, those days are long gone in most industries.   How can you give your pound of flesh, but still spend some hours developing your own plan?  That is my question for your.

VFX AND BEYOND

So if you are looking to develop your skills in VFX I will have more to say on this subject, and how to develop those skills in later blogs.  But for now let me just summarize by saying to round yourself, if not for the position you desire, do so for yourself.  Because in the end you will want other options and to know that you will have other directions you can go down later.  Rounding yourself will make you better at whatever position you are seeking and have the added bonus of letting you discover something real about yourself if you stick with it long enough.

Stick with it..

Study the art of others who you admire, and compare your work to theirs.  It’s like learning to play guitar, you may think you’re playing all the notes written down in a riff, but if you have no idea what that riff sounds like for real, how can you possibly play it?  So stay aware, look at your work with a critical eye, but make time to stop and go down other paths as well.

Now go out there and kill the mother fucking bear.

*****

Daev Finn is an artist, illustrator, writer, visual effects artist, and video game developer, whose work can best be seen as Aslan in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Visual Effects.

Daev lives in Colorado with his two sons Everest and Asher, and his wife Sheryl Paul, author of The Conscious Bride, and The Conscious Bride’s Wedding Planner.

http://www.daevfinnstudio.com http://www.sherylpaul.wordpress.com

1 comment to What One Man Can Do Another Can Do!

  • “You’r damn right… Cause’ today, I’m-a-gonna kill the mother fucker!” I also love the Edge, Daev! More so though, I must say, I really enjoyed this post. It speaks to me, as often happens, right when I may need it most. We work so terribly hard down here at Ringling, especially during this semester as we go through Ringling’s pre-production process for our thesis. In the mix of it all and the swirling goals, desires, and what not – I have felt that my sense of self was lost. For me that hits hard, as I have worked to discover, invent, and maintain my own personal understanding of who I am and what I want. Understandably, this has been rather depressing and draining. I am fighting my way through it, and happy apart from the stress.

    I agree with all that you have said, and look forward to what may be forthcoming. Please take great care of your new child, as I know you will – and know I send my best wishes to you and your’s.

    ~Cliff Schonewill (remember me?)

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