I spent six hours on Thursday talking to 8th graders about animation, screenwriting, YouTube and the business of such things for my local school district’s career day. I was initially timid about appearing at such a venue because I felt that I may not be the best person to tell an 8th grader what a career as an artist is really like. While I do get paid for many of the projects that I work on, I still have a day job. Artists get paid to work on their art full time, like Stephen Spielberg or Brad Pitt. This isn’t what a career in the arts is supposed to look like, is it? Actually, for many artists, it is. I soon realized that I may have something to say about what a career in the arts really looks like. Below is some of what the students and I talked about.
Yes. Animation takes a long time.
No. I’m not formally trained in it.
Because I wanted to make movies and was tired of scheduling actors.
Yes. I’m still learning. I contact friends and colleagues for advice often about how to make my work better.
It depends on the project. Sometimes I get paid a flat rate, sometimes an hourly fee. You just have to figure out what your time is worth, what others in your field are charging, and what your customer is willing to spend.
I studied theatre, Acting and teaching.
Did you get a pamphlet?
I have a day job because sometimes the jobs come in and sometimes they don’t. I have bills to pay and need to make sure those are taken care of while I hustle for more arts jobs.
You guys play video games right? Well I wrote a Resident Evil parody called Biohazards.
I also made footage for a fake game called Irish Bareknuckle Brawlers.
No. I don’t know how to code, but I’m learning.
Well you’re already more connected to technology than I am.
Because I’m old, right. That’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?
Writing the script. Making the characters in photoshop. Recording the dialogue. Animating in After Effects. There are free software programs out there that allow you to do similar things, if you want to get started.
I’ve worked in advertising as a video editor, created book trailers for authors, served as a script consultant for many video projects, and have been paid to write scripts for online video.
Because I like to entertain people and make people laugh or get scared or think about things. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.
I didn’t have a single bad experience or conversation. All of the students were well mannered, enthusiastic, and it was a joy to participate in such a project. Not every student I talked to will go for a career in the arts, but hopefully they walked away with a better understanding of what working in the arts means. I love it. I love writing jokes and telling stories. I love working with others on neat projects, and getting better at what I do by working with others. This is also a lot of my time and effort. Time spent making the “thing”, figuring out how to get people to see the “thing”, and also working on making money from the “thing”. We live in a culture where everyone presumes entertainment is cheap and easy and churned out quickly. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My father is a plumber and I grew up in community of ranchers, miners and contractors. It is easy to look at the work that they do and know that they change the way we live. Hot water, electricity and livestock make our modern society, and for this, I am grateful.
However, it is much more difficult to explain the work of ideas. People have trouble wrapping their brains around the fact that that hours of someone’s time and effort went into that 30 second YouTube video, or that painting, or sculpture, or piece of music. These are the things we gobble up without a second thought and sometimes people get indignant when artists deign to ask for payment. We need clean water, food, electricity and houses in which to live, but the arts are what we live for.