Reflecting on my own past, the job that got away is the one that came to define who I have become creatively today. Slowly revealing itself over the last decade, I have begun connecting the “dots” in my life. I refer back to Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech in 2005 for context.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
For every job I was awarded there are those I turned down. And there were many. Education positions in Costa Rica and India at their national universities. A medical animation position at a hospital in Saudi Arabia, and further education at NYIT back in the late '80's after graduating from Sheridan. It makes me wonder how different things could have been if I said yes to any of those offers.
For my own reasons I turned them all down, even when facing the prospect of unemployment. I chose instead to follow my gut, never regretting the decision.
It's one thing to be employed and looking actively to better your future. As artists we strive to get better, grow, work on better projects, push our skills, and hone our craft. But it’s another thing altogether when you are unemployed and the immediacy of needing to find work takes precedence over anything else, especially when you have bills to pay. The longer the wait the more you feel like your skills are deteriorating, and the harder it becomes to explain to people why are you not employed.
Seeing that “gap” on the resume and constantly reassuring yourself it will somehow all work out, the longer unemployment drags on, the more defeated you become.
Because of circumstances, the advent of the new millennium, year Y2K, was my year off, and while it was somewhat planned (money not really an issue) it was going to be a much tougher go than I imagined.
My contract at Dreamworks Animation was finished at the end of 1999. Two films in the can, one great experience, one not so much. When the studio at the time chose to “restructure” many of the employees hired when the doors first opened in 1995 would be gone, at least in the department I was apart of.
I was thankful to have been there at the beginning. It remains to this very day one of the most enriching times in my animation career. But at that point, as I had grown tired of the studio, it simply was not a fun place to work. DreamWorks animation to me, had lost its way, or as I have often said, "forgot their roots", as short as they were at that time.
Sitting in a room waiting for my fate, one door meant onto another film, the other door, as I found out, sent you on your way.
“There’s no place for you here.” And like that, my dream of working for a major Hollywood studio was over, and the long road ahead into the unknown was about to begin.
From my own life experience, I have always managed to turn a negative into a positive.