I Don’t Have Time

Man, oh man. In a perfect world, I could relax in a cabin somewhere in the Poconos, sip a glass of orange juice, and just write to my heart’s content. With lots of naps in between. I would wait for inspiration to hit.

I have jobs. Freelance gigs. I have responsibilities. Things I promised others. There are a couple things on my toodoo list that are a couple months old. Ouch. What’s preventing me from just…doing it? Laziness? That’s it, right? Just…laziness.

I was supposed to apply to Buzzfeed as a visual effects artist several months ago. I haven’t. I need to revamp my resume for that to happen. And that’s just not…interesting to do.

You suck. You really, really suck, Josh. You can’t do a simple thing like revamp your resume for SEVERAL MONTHS?

After I finish writing this post, I’m probably not going to revamp my resume. I could. I totally could. It’s within the realm of possibility. That’s one of my favorite things to say, that something is within the realm of possibility. It reminds me the only thing preventing me from making something happen is myself.

I feel like I don’t have time. The reality is I have the same amount of time as everyone else. And it’s time to start moving.

Josh out.

Freelancing In The Film Biz

Is freelancing considered unemployment? Technically, right?

I consider myself a pretty good freelancer. I have some regular clients and some odd gigs that come once in a blue moon, but pay really well. There’s nothing like the feeling of getting a gig. Two thoughts come to mind:

I’ll be able to pay my bills this month!

and…

I have skills that are worth monetary value!

Both are great feelings for sure. I used to not be a happy freelancer. A couple years back, when I was still wet behind the ears, I used to begrudge freelance work. They’re paying me so little! I hate this job! Not worth it! Now, even if the pay is lower than usual, I put my best foot forward and do the best job possible.

Work is work. Yes, it is about making money, but it’s also about developing work ethic. Somewhere in the world, there’s someone else who can do the same job as you for the same price, maybe even cheaper. So why hire you?

In the film biz, I believe it’s about being friendly, not arrogant like artists could be, easy to talk to and easy to work with. Doing little things that give your client confidence they hired the right person for the job.

Today I messaged one of my clients who was waiting on feedback from higher up. Hey, is there any preliminary work I can do on the video while we wait? There wasn’t, but the client was grateful that I asked, and thanked me for being proactive. It’s the little things.

Working as an artist in the entertainment industry can be brutal. Everyone wants everything for the lowest price possible, causing artists to bid for gigs and undersell themselves to get the job. It boils down to relationships. Are you a “cool” person to work with? Not “cool” as in you dress stylishly and have a ton of Instagram followers. “Cool” as in are you a decent person to the highest degree? Do you make people feel good when they hire and interact with you? These are all things I’m still learning, and working toward being a better artist and employee.

Josh out.

Work For Granted

I’m a video editor slash motion graphics and visual effects artist. There must be a way to condense my job title.

Some people just want a video edited. Some people want their logo animated. I can do it all. And I can do it well.

Sometimes I work better when I don’t get paid. I’m doing visual effects for my friend’s senior thesis film right now, and not to brag, but I’m kind of killing it. The fun part about my job is that I have to digitally create things that don’t exist. I have no reference to what a demon barrier shield looks like. But I have to figure it out and create.

I like to imagine that God created the world using Windows 97. He didn’t have to, but maybe He just thought it’d be fun to harness His infinity power and wisdom through an operating system visually similar to a 90s personal computer.

CLIPPY
Greetings, I am your Office Assistant Clippy! To begin, click ‘Start Universe.’

GOD
Alrighty. This should be fun.

CLIPPY
Congratulations! You’ve created a new universe. Would you like to save your progress or continue without saving?

GOD
Eh, I’ll save after day six. Thanks Clippy.

CLIPPY
You’re welcome, holy_trinity_3_in_1.

GOD
What else can we do here?

CLIPPY
Would you like to create a human? If so, go to File > New > Human.

GOD
Neat. I’ll name him Adam.

CLIPPY
Adam.exe has been created. Just a warning, his social health is very low.

GOD
Hm, it’s not good for him to be alone.

CLIPPY
You do not have enough resources available to create a new human. Would you like to allocate some of your .rib files?

GOD
Sounds like a plan. Clippy, I’m getting a warning that some devilware has infected my universe. What’s that about?

CLIPPY
Sorry, I’m unable to help in that manner.

GOD
Looks like I have some work ahead of me.

Okay, that was fun. Sorry, I got sidetracked from my original topic. Work!

I like work. I like being good at something. As stated earlier, I’m pretty darn good at visual effects. Now all I have to figure out is how to translate that skill into money.

However, even though I like working, I don’t like being told I have to work. Does that make sense? I don’t approve of this instinctive response within me. I much rather be a hard work all the time, regardless of whether I feel like it or not.

Yet sometimes, even when it’s a job that I enjoy doing (e.g. video editing), I don’t like the thought that I HAVE to do this NOW. It’s immature, I know. That’s why I’m blogging about it. To get over it. Usually works.

If you can’t tell, I’m a huge procrastinator. I’m procrastinating right now on a job due tomorrow morning. It’s not a hard job. I need to design some video titles. It’s fun.

I think I take work for granted too often, forgetting that many people would love just to have a job, or skill they can monetize. I’m lucky and blessed by God to be able to work in Los Angeles.

Sigh. I think I’ve blogged long enough. It’s time to do some actual work. Sorry I don’t have a satisfying ending to this post, but I’m not going to think about working any longer and just work. Overthinking can be a dangerous excuse to be lazy.

Josh out.

Should I Pursue A VFX Career?

I’ve been playing with Adobe After Effects for over ten years now. For those of you who don’t know, After Effects is used to do, well, a lot of things. It’s like Photoshop for videos. It’s intended for visual effects and motion graphics, but I’ve used it to design book covers, websites, logos, etc. Unconventional, yes. That’s why it’s my favorite program.

Early 2007, I was planning my next epic superhero movie. Little fourteen year old Josh had big dreams. The problem was, I didn’t know how to do all those “special effects” they did in real superhero movies (it’s technically called visual effects, but I didn’t know at the time).

So I borrowed every single book in the library I could find about visual effects. I mistakenly checked out a book about CGI: Common Gateway Interface, not Computer Generated Imagery. Disappointing. I just wanted to know how to make lasers come out of my eyes, not program a website.

Then I found it. The book that would change my life.

Adobe After Effects 6.5 Visual Effects and Compositing Studio Techniques.

Wordy title, but it blew me away. Everything I wanted to learn was inside this book.

“Mom!!! Can you buy me this program?”

We found it for thirty-five bucks off eBay. I was so happy that I even mentioned it during my baptismal testimony. Praise the Lord I was able to make lasers! Obviously I hadn’t been through much trauma in my life at age fourteen. Homeschooled.

Quick side-story: I was working on a lightsaber battle, part of a film that would be shown at my church’s retreat. Due to karate lessons, I didn’t have enough time to finish all the shots, so I taught my mom and my siblings how to rotoscope in order to finish the shots on time. My mom was bewildered when one of her lightsaber shots got covered by a lens flare. “All that work and you don’t even see the lightsaber!” My bad, mom. But that’s visual effects. I would put an LOL here, but this is a blog, not some…ah, whatever. LOL.

Flash forward seven years. I had moved to Los Angeles, becoming known as the “After Effects guy” around USC. No, I didn’t attend the film program there. I just hung around the students, offering my VFX know-how to anyone who needed a hand. Making connections, you see. Wow, I really want to put a winky face here. Not gonna do it. I have to draw the line somewhere.

The path before me was clear. With even more training, I could have a whole career in visual effects. I was good at this. Maybe I could become an expert.

However, as much as I love visual effects, the industry sucks. There’s no union. The only way VFX companies get work is by bidding on movie projects, meaning they often undersell themselves and their artists to get the job. Ever heard of Rhythm and Hues? They used to be one of the greatest VFX studios in the world, doing films like Life of Pi, X-Men, Lord of the Rings, winning multiple awards while doing so. They were the Kobe Bryant of visual effects. Yet they filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

Besides the lack of job stability, I also hated when I would work several hours on an effect, only to have the director come in and go, “I don’t like it. Change it.” Yes, I know it’s part of the job. I’m lucky to frequently work with friends whose artistic visions I admire. And when a director approves the work I’ve done, it feels like a million bucks. But would I be able to handle a job where rejection is part of the pipeline?

The biggest reason I’m not pursuing a VFX career is that it’s not my passion. What I truly love is telling stories. VFX is a good tool, but it’s not my focus. But who knows, maybe I’ll be desperate for money soon and go this route.

Alright, time to wrap up this post with a conclusion. I’m sure you can tell, but I never know where I’m going with these posts. If I wasn’t blogging every day, I could probably put some more time into giving you a satisfying ending, something like “This is the profound statement I want to communicate!”

Nope. My real life doesn’t have clear answers either. Some days I’ll stumble upon them, other days I’ll be slapping my keyboard trying to make sense of this world. Until then, I’ll keep on writing.

Josh out.