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Working Outside The Box

It was not my vision growing up to work in an office building, the dreaded cubicle, that box that I’m speaking out against.

My vision has always been one of working from an art studio and not being confined by both the description of my job, or the size of the box that a company has fit me into for days that range from 8 to 16 hours easily in the field of Visual Effects.  Yet, I did this for many years before I reached the point where I had had enough and wanted out of the box, the office building, and Los Angeles in general.

About four or five years ago I started to talk about telecommuting and telling managers at different companies, that I couldn’t afford to buy a home in Los Angeles, and that if I bought one in the suburbs of Los Angeles I would see my family even less than I was seeing them already.   I wrote a report that was twenty pages long touting the obvious ecological benefits of telecommuting and outlining what kind of techniques and technology I would help build in order to make telecommuting a reliable methodology for artists. I offered to help build the infrastructure myself because indeed, to pay for the expensive software and high end systems myself was still far less expensive than trying to delude myself that I would be able to buy a home in Los Angeles.   Other employees came up to me curious and encouraging, but management did not agree with this vision at all.

My vision is that  it doesn’t matter where many people live in this age of the computer and the internet, just that they deliver what the are supposed to deliver.   Statistics actually show that people who telecommute work harder than those who work in the office.  Although statistics will report average commutes in the minutes, I know from personal experience that commutes can often be far higher.  I think it’s safe to say that if you commute to a major city you are looking at commuting, 1-3 hours daily.   In contrast statistics do report that on average fathers are spending maybe twenty minutes a day with their children.

Essentially we spend most of our time  in a box.  In the world of visual effects, it’s typically a windowless box at that.

While I worked in my box, I was often listed as a Technical Director (a title I still bristle at) or Lead Technical Director or even a Lighter.   Over and over again these titles and the way we work in our jobs is meant to help the company we are part of, not the life we are living.  Once you have become pigeonholed, it’s difficult to grow out of the pigeon-shit.  They bestow the title, and define the tasks that you are meant to do.  Feathers get ruffled when you step outside that box.

In so many ways this is counter to the way we are taught to live our lives.  We go to college to become better at what we are interested in, we study, develop skills and the emphasis is on growth.  I believe further it goes against the grain of what we as humans are meant to be doing and how we are meant to be living with our families.   We spend more time with co-workers, than we do with our children and our spouses.  We sit in trains, busses and cars for a significant percentage of our lives and I believe it is one of the things that contributes to bad health.

I stuck with my vision, and for better or worse I am seeing this journey through, trying to make my vision come true.   I now believe that the only way things will change in this country is through an act of congress, where the government gives big incentives to companies to allow a percentage of their employees to telecommute, and also taxes them for pollution if they decide to opt out.   To my mind Visual Effects is a no brainer for this to happen.

I hope when the time comes that the tax is equal to the amount of pollution that our commutes and boxy lives contribute to the planet.

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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.

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