The plan was to come back to L.A. and canvass the market with demo reels while keeping an eye on a few of the companies I had talked to before going home in June then taking one last stab at it by going to Siggraph in San Diego this year. First time ever and I knew a lot of the recruiters would be there so I drove down with 10 reels and no hotel. The downside is 10000 of your closest friends and competitors are thinking the same thing. A studio may get 30 reels a week unsolicited, 300 a week if there's a job posting and nearly 3000 during Siggraph. Kind of a double edged sword but it's THE place to network. To finally get your face in front of those people you've emailed and written and called for the past months. As it turned out I needn't have worried.
On Monday night before I left, IMAGI called. HR was ready to offer me a contract and put me to work ASAP. The weight lifting off your shoulders is the closest to an orgasm you come without cleaning up. So the hard part had been taken care of before I even set foot out the door. But I had already bought the ticket and there were people to see and nets to work.
I had been to other conferences like NCTA but this was the first time to be somewhere not working. I didn't even make it through the entire floor on the first day. Ran into Mark Theilen who's now at ReelFX, Tom Grevera at Omation, Scott Lemmer, and Johan Klingler at Art Institute. I somehow managed to sweet talk my way to the Pixar party that night and into Johan's hotel room to crash so I was making the most of my time. Johan and an old CalArts friend, Joe and I started at this Irish Pub on 4th street in the Gaslamp District. He was impressing on me the proper way to sell yourself at these parties and to try for the Disney or ILM or Maya parties tomorrow. That's where the real networking happens.
When we parted ways I found the Pixar party had taken over Harry's bar on 5th. Everyone was very nice and open and willing to chat with me about life at Pixar. The place was jumping for hours and I never really felt out of place. That's key about working at Pixar. They make a big to-do about playing well with others. Even though there weren't any Layout people there, I still felt good about my impression on other departments. Hopefully, they'll tell their friends and their friends and so on and so on...
Tom and Scott showed up at the party about midnight and we left to find Mark and Rich
Pickler back at the Irish pub I had started at that night. Mark is a home brewer like Gasaway and had recently moved into whiskey appreciation. So I put my experience at the Oxberry to use and actually sounded like a knew a thing or two. Bought a couple shots of 18 y/o McCallan to toast the evening and Mark slops his on the bar. He replaced it with 25 y/o McCallan that had to be $30 a shot. We passed these libations around to the other guys and Mmmmmed over the difference one drop of water makes to open up the flavors of something oxygen deprived for 25 years. For a souvenir the bartender gave Mark the box the MaCallan's came in. We closed the bar about 2am and staggered off in different directions. I still had to get my bag out of my car back at the parking garage that remained untouched the whole time.
So maintaining my footing pretty well, I got back to the hotel room and woke up Johan because my card wasn't being read in the door quick enough. 5 hours of sleep was not nearly enough to absorb the effects of last night so I was dragging the whole day. Didn't even try to land another party and just floated through the rest of the conference skimming the art gallery and animation theater. Ran into Robert Crawford from KFP and we hooked up for a couple pints back at his hotel. Nothing of consequence has happened at DWA on Monsters or Dragons although I could have stayed another month on KFP because of people on vacation over July. Jim Keefer and Yung Duk were holding the fort alone. Crawford got back from South Africa a week later than he told DWA and then got the order to go to Siggraph from DWA the following week. David Hoffman and Pam Stefan were supposed to be at Siggraph as well but never found them. Once I had enough face time and visiting, there really wasn't much left for me and I had ignored Greg's cats long enough. Johan and Joe and I hooked up that night so Johan could see a beach again and Joe brought out his RC glider to fly along the cliff faces using the updrafts from the ocean. Got a little queasy bouncing along in the back of his pickup but I had hardly eaten all day except for those pints and a muffin from Disney. After dinner at Denny's Joe dropped us off at Johan's hotel and we parted ways. Siggraph 07 was a stunning success that I can't imagine could ever be repeated. I will definitely try to go again next time with studio backing.