|sent from: London, UK. destination: London, UK|
In the year since we were last in Los Angeles, the VFX industry went through some fairly catastrophic bankruptcies and closures, signs of a shifting industry that every worker should be thinking about no matter where in the world they are, doubly so if they are somewhere currently favoured by incentives because they can disappear in a heartbeat. I was frightened about what I might find, the general mood in Southern California. While no one was complacent and the ripples of change were still making their way through my friends, the degree of general can-do energy and new ideas in the face of an uncertain future made me feel hope for them. For them, the loss of an industry or livelihood is not a theoretical possibility, the worse has pretty much happened. I can sense the heartbreak, but there’s also the freedom to look ahead to better things. Hmmmm.
I wrote this card before Life After Pi debuted online, a documentary about the collapse of Rhythm and Hues this time last year. The company still exists, though in a much different form. They gave me my first job in the industry, saw me through the initial difficult years in Los Angeles and gave me a foundational knowledge in vfx. They aspired to live up to a set of ideals in how you should treat people that everyone said was bad business but yet they survived and grew when others floundered.
Sometimes I would go into work on weekends because I was lonely and it was where I felt I had a place and purpose. John, the president, would wander past my cubicle (remember those?) and would stare at me with an accusatory look, wondering in his paternal way what I was doing there. At lunchtime he would make a sweep of the office and we would drive together to the nearby In ‘n’ Out to get burgers for everyone and we would sit in his ancient Honda Civic eating fries, talking about art and movies and how companies are run. This isn’t a particularly glamorous picture of an industry during what most acknowledge were its glory days but it’s these moment of connection and a sense of common purpose at all levels of a company that I miss the most.
I’ve talked plenty about my own path through vfx to the present day and I will not rehash it here; a cursory search of this blog will tell you everything you need to know.
Give the documentary a watch.