A Look back in time

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I've got a fair number of new readers and subscribers, and if you haven't read any of the other entries I've created over the years, give the archives a read, at the bottom of this page! Unfortunately, a lot of the great comments for some of the entries have been lost to time, mostly to my persistent upgrading of equipment and hosts.

One of the recent comments that was not lost in the great DigitalGypsy blog revival asked, "If you could do it all over, what changes would you have made?" Suffice to say, we create our own futures, given the opportunities that we are presented. Often those opportunities repeat themselves, giving us a second chance at promotion. Other times those opportunities come and go. If you haven't read my bio, give it a read for a brief introduction into how I got into this crazy business. Continuing on this path, here are some turning points in my career, and how I chose to pursue them. You'll find that risk is its own reward.

Click the extended entry link below to read the rest!

At the fledgeling beginning of my career, I found myself in Vancouver, having completed the ten month long Digital Effects & 3D Animation course. Vancouver was/is a small visual effects city at the time, and the number of big vfx studios could be counted on one hand. There were a number of small ones which included Image Engine, Lost Boys, and GVFX. Having just graduated, I was eager to make it big, spending a small fortune of the money I had to send reels, about 50, to various studios around the world. Of those 50, I received probably five postcards and zero callbacks. There were a couple local studios that I sent my reel to, hoping that a local job would be easier to get. After almost six months of trying, I nearly gave up, promising myself that the next step would be to move down to LA and try there. After all, it's much easier to hire a local than it is to interview and hire someone from far away! After a second round of VHS mailings, improving my reel to the one you see in the reels section and sending only to local studios, I got a bite. Just as I was about to call it quits, pack up, and head to LA. GVFX, now relegated to Wikipedia lore, was a Toronto company that moved a branch out to Vancouver for the shows there. They worked on The Outer Limits, Stargate, lots of movies of the week, specials, and a bunch of pilot TV shows that never aired. GVFX brought me on as a Flint, Flame, Inferno intern while they sorted out whether I was hire-able, and to assess my visa situation (I was in Canada still on a student visa, awaiting a work visa). About two weeks into interning, I received my first big industry choice.

Digital Domain called. They had previously interviewed me in person while at VFS, and had kept my reel on file. What would you do? Keep on interning at a small Canadian company, or head to the big city, where everything happens. My choice was to politely decline, telling Laurence that I had just started here, and I couldn't just up and go. Needless to say, the conversations with DD were far from over.

After three years, two Emmy nominations, dozens of Stargate SG-1 and Outer Limits episodes and a few HDTV movies, I was approaching the limit of the work and I was eager for more. That choice came fairly quickly in the form of a networked offer from Australia. Come to Australia, all expenses paid, work on a horror movie, or stay at GVFX doing more series work. This choice was easy to make, but difficult to break to coworkers. This opportunity would never present itself again.

In Australia I got the chance to work with many people from around the globe, brought in to Photon VFX to work on one of their first big features, Ghost Ship. I was only there for about three months, but dove into the work headfirst, eager to prove myself. They were using Shake, with some of the seats running Tremor, and I was working between an inferno during the night shift (~5pm to 2 or 4am) and shake. I did network with a number of people that would prove to be instrumental later in my career. Once back from Australia and hanging out in Vancouver, I became a freelancer. My first and only freelancing composting gig was working for Toybox on the made-for-TV movie, A Wrinkle In Time. Yep, I haven't seen it yet either. Near the end of my freelancing time, another opportunity arose that I could not turn down. I mean, freelance in Vancouver, or work with Phil Tippett and Craig Hayes, the guy that designed ED-209?

Tippett Studio needed people for the third Matrix movie, and a friend who I had worked with on the production side on Stargate was now at Tippett. We had originally met when I went in to train them on Lightwave at MGM, and we have a lot of mutual vfx friends (did I mention Vancouver is small?). So off to California I went! During my time at Tippett I had a number of opportunities to go elsewhere, but I chose not to. Why? A number of reasons. I was working with great people on great shows, and was still learning a huge amount. The quality control was there. It's one of the best creature effects houses in the world. Everyone knew what they were doing, and I had built up a decent reputation.

About two years in, Digital Domain called again, for possible work on Aeon Flux. At the time I was deep into production on Constantine, and couldn't just up and go, which I again mentioned. I also mentioned that I was still interested, and a year later, I get another call for Flags of our Fathers. Since the show I was on, Charlotte's Web, was wrapping up, I expressed interest and wanted to know more. I had a huge conflict within me, heading to Digital Domain, where I've wanted to work since the mid 90s where it was just a dream, and staying at Tippett, where I was comfortable, heading into a possible compositing lead position, and the people were great. But, I had to shake it up, and after some discussion with the wife, we headed to LA to start anew.

Unfortunately, changing jobs frequently means often starting from the bottom, over and over again, trying to prove yourself in the eyes of others. I don't envy this constant repetition, but tolerate it, only because it often leads to bigger and better things. Sometimes it doesn't. That's what I thought when I first got to DD. Every big jump in my career has been met with large hurdles. Getting to Photon I had to jump in and learn Shake, while getting to Tippett I had to deal with a huge amount of information, dissecting it all, and presenting it to one of the most scrutinizing supervisors on the planet. Here at DD it was twofold. One was jumping in and learning Nuke, and the other was dealing with another level of scrutiny. After a week, it was great, after two, I was hesitant. After three, I was in too deep. In a month, I finally hit my stride, and started producing decent work. Needless to say, there was a lot of headache during this period. However, two years after, and I'm still here, so I must have done something right in my decision making.

Come to think of it, I'm about to hit my professional nine year anniversary of officially being in this field as a digital compositor, plus one year prior to that working freelance doing odd 3D jobs. I started at GVFX on June 24th, 1999.

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