Monday, December 15, 2008

Last Night in San Pedro

House Warming Party for David and Roger

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A man about town

Couple updates on my various travels around this city.

The first biggie was dropping by the Science-Fiction bookstore in Glendale off Brand Ave to pay respects to the (now late) great Forrie Ackerman. I didn't really know who he was in terms of his contributions to the genre but he is probably as responsible for creating the last generation of sci-fi buffs to get into movies as much as Bradbury, Asimov or Harryhausen. His "Famous Monsters of Hollywood" magazine combed every inch of the universe for space men, evil creatures and damsels in their nefarious clutches. His 92nd birthday was back in November and the bookstore had a special party hosted by RAY BRADBURY who came and sat and signed books. I only wish I had been able to meet him a little sooner but at least I got to shake his hand and thank him on behalf of Dan. Greg and I signed the birthday card for 4E from Wolfgang Von Syffertitz!!! and friends.

A performance on the Theremin closed the proceedings. Perfect.

As Greg and I were wandering Brand I completely freaked out when I looked in a store window and realized I was standing outside of ROUGH DRAFT STUDIOS, makers of the forever fantastic FUTURAMA series!
I want that giant Bender statue in my bedroom. It will be mine.

The other thing that got me out of the house was news that good ol' Kenny-boy was going to be back in town, slinging paint at another car show. After that I got to hook up with him and Steve Boyett at my very first Derby Dolls Roller Derby Match. Two Words: Fucking Rocks! All the girls in my family need to see this in action.

This so up Julianne's alley and the Twins would get into it pretty quick and Bren needs something to vent at. Not just guys screaming at the hot girls slugging away at each other but the women with them were hot for it too. Tons of women were dressed up like Betty Page/Sandra Dee 40's wear, cats-eye glasses, seamed stockings and HEELS! Bands playing, an art show, cool vendors, and Gene Fucking Simmons taping an episode of his Family Jewels show. He and his daughter led a Star-Spangled Banner sing-along before the match with Gene on acoustic guitar. He sat right behind me in the upper deck press box.

This was the All-Star match with players from all over the league teaming up for a final match. The game is pretty easy to follow. Six players on each team per "Jam". Four from each are the blockers or "Pack" followed by two "Jammers" who try to break through the pack helped by their team members. After they break through they must race around to lap the pack and break through again and each blocker passed yields a point. All the while, the blockers are throwing elbows, hip checks, and anything else to stop the Jammers. It actually got close at the end with the L.A. Ri-ettes beating Santa's Little Helpers 71-68. It's kind of a cross between Hockey, Football and Full Contact Lingerie Shopping.

Ken's good friend Sandra, aka "Tara Armov", had invited all of us and Ken made a great trip out of the Car Show and the Derby. He even brought Sandra a Trixie Fink T-shirt he had designed for the show for her birthday.

Sandra has also been immortalized inside the rink as the Rink Rat. Awesome.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Riding Herd

Well I'm back at work in Burbank. Lead Layout Artist/DP/Set Designer for my studio's first Full Feature CG Film. And it's Union. That being said, I think I've landed in a production that I do not want my name attached to. Be careful what you wish for and all that. 4 "Directors", 2 of which are the producers who tend to make blanket statements like "Let's do this in 3D Stereo" without actually knowing if the overseas Animation crew has the tech to do stereo. Two months ago.

Every department needs one more person at least. I and a Modeler are the Layout department. 2 guys. The real directors are forced to send kluged storyboards to India in the hopes that the Animators will know what to do with them. No Kickoff. No discussion. No continuity, attention to character placement, or notice of set. Shots come back from India, I sit with the director and proceed to redo the entire sequence. The Animators, through no fault of their own, are "doing the boards" not "using the boards". Those characters are spot on in the right locations as the boards call for them but tend to miss the big picture in terms of character location from shot to shot. Or staging a CG movie like it was 2D. Communication is stalled out at the top and pleas are ignored.

I'm teaching the Modeler how to look at compositions and camera. I almost wish I could go to India and give the animators a lesson in rule-of-thirds and what slow-ins and outs are for. Maybe 25% of the movie is in animation right now without proper composing. There's no line producer. No coordinators except for one guy who does scanning and download organization and director tracking. The art direction was farmed out. My supervisor works three days a week. Oh, and before they hired me, their Layout team consisted of three modelers they imported from India and then told them to do camera. Like teaching a fish to ride a bicycle.

On the plus side, no one has given me a due date for any work. The directors listen to me and do what I tell them. I even convinced one of them to send top-down schematics along with their boards to illustrate how the set should be involved. Just trying to staunch the bleeding. I'm learning a lot. Faking it well. Pushing for what I can and letting go where I should.

"It is what it is."

"That's the process."


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back on track

I can smell burning in the air and I'm doing the dishes by hand.

I must be back in L.A.

Two weeks ago I answered a posting on 2-pop or Ani-Jobs forums for a
Modeler/Layout artist. I almost missed it due to the "/". I thought
what the heck and fired off another salvo. By the end of the week I
was in my car and on the road out west for a new position at Crest
Animation in Burbank. Turns out they are doing their first CG
Feature, a cute talking-animals movie about wolves, with the brain
trust in Burbank and the heavy lifting in India. The Layout team
consists of me, a modeler-stager, our three-day-a-week supervisor and
our beleaguered coordinator/director's assistant. They already love
me. The directors seem to want to listen to my opinions and are
actually taking steps to implement them. This should play an
interesting role in my career as the show I worked (almost) single-handedly.

After seven months, Bren is having to reassert her dominance as the
alpha-dog of the pack. This time they are smart, mobile and working
together. V is doing very well in school but having trouble hanging
on to her gear. Bren is attempting to get back into the gym but the
morning schedule fills up quick. It's probably strangest for the
twins. Daddy's gone again. They don't know what a 9-to-5 schedule
is so Daddy coming and going will become norm. Not sure how that
will play out.

Got a return nibble from Grapevine Star talking about some freelance
work for some new projects. Haven't heard back since the reply but
they seem busy with things like moving and lining up talent. Never
heard back from Jason.

This time feels a lot better. I like the smaller outfits. Greater
freedom and less apprehension. And Union to boot. Who cares if this
stuff will never get an Oscar. Cheap Insurance is the name of the
game right now. Long term, they seem to like to hold on to people
who make a difference. We'll see come March.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Plano Balloon Fest

So we finally made it to the Plano Balloon Fest after all these years. Even when I was a kid we never made it out to this thing. My mom even bought a Champagne Breakfast flight one year for Dad's birthday, AND THEY NEVER WENT! Even after Bren and I moved to Plano we kept missing it. Too sick, too busy, too pregnant. Apologies to Mike Judge cause we spent any money we would have used for a babysitter to attend his birthday party on souvenirs and a five-minute massage.

Memories for a lifetime.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Taste Test: 4 Octoberfest Brews

A new feature since I've naught much else. Any parent will tell you that kids and alcohol go hand in hand. By that I mean sometimes you need something to take the edge off after the rugrats are finally in bed and you've returned your living room to it's default settings.

#1 Dundee Oktoberfest Marzen Lager
This seems to be the reinvention of the J.W. Dundee brand famous for the Honey Brown ale that is most notable for being the cheapest beer on the shelf but also the one with the most flavor. Their Oktoberfest is full of flavor with a spicy finish of cloves and nutmeg. Not exactly a pumpkin flavor, more pumpkin pie spice.

#2 Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale
The weakest of the bunch. Michelob's attempt to join the seasonal fray. Definitely could smell the spices in the beer but they didn't make it to your mouth. Like Michelob with pumpkin spices spritzed into the keg. I usually am a fan of Amber Bock for the full malty flavor but this was not a fave.

#3 Blue Moon Seasonal Harvest Moon
A welcome addition to the Blue Moon line. I really liked this summer's Honey Moon and this one hits the spot well. I could actually taste caramel in the finish. Should try this with an apple wedge.

#4 America's Original Pumpkin Ale
The tops on the list. This is like drinking Pumpkin juice that's been spiked. Bren and I always catch ourselves a little when we spot this on the shelf. Bren's not one for too much beer but this always lands in the cart. The signal that summer is officially over and the A/C can take a break.

Whee, my first blog review! Still waiting for a Shiner release. Might need to try for singles at Central Market for better comparisons. Most of this was a fuzzy grasping of straws and an emotional outpouring of beer love. Enjoy!

Hirsute Update!

Shaved off the goatee. Fresh-faced stranger staring back at me in the mirror.
Still dorky, Less grumpy. And fat.

Otherwise, still in Plano, still hunting, still jobless. I was finding myself obsessed with the cellphone and the laptop willing it to ring or drop an email with a golden ticket of employment. Sucker. A series of carrots that were ultimately yanked away. Double whammy last week with both Blue Sky AND Imagi coming up empty. So all that's on the horizon is a spot at Technicolor Interactive on an In-Game Cinematics team for a game that hasn't been announced yet. For the past 6 weeks. I even had the lead agree to the two-day drive to get back out there. Soon. Very soon.

And so, our hero spends his time doing family things and keeping the littluns entertained.
Rally Day at St. Luke's

Feed the Ducks Day

"New" Playhouse. Back Alley find. All spiders and syringes were dutifully cleaned out.Post-Sprinkler Time
Playhouse Cafe. Ginny, Proprietor

Future Soccer Star?

Like I said, still dorky.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Siggraph 08

I have returned from 3.5 days of non-stop hustling, lunch meetings, recruiting parties and schmoozing. It helps to do your homework before going so you have some rapport with the recruiters and can talk about a few things besides "hire me". I had reels sent out to Blue Sky, Omation, Sony Animation, Lucasfilm, Laika and Pixar so I could avoid the crush of 10,000 others with the same idea.

A few disappointments met me on the floor. Recruiters promising earlier starts were supplanted by department heads admitting later ones. Like end-of-the-year or next spring-type ones. Nothing like trying to offer up your best face and act all understanding about why the company decided to hire from within while your insides are caving. So you just keep moving on and try again later. If any newbies read this, it is the one lesson you will learn about the industry: Don't get your hopes up. Be ready for the job and give it all you got but it don't mean nothin' til you sign it on the dotted liiiiiiiiiiiine.

On the positive side, I connected to a couple places that weren't necessarily on my radar. On a a whim, I handed a reel to Blizzard games and got hooked up with their Cinematics team who sounded very pleased to meet a RLO guy. Unlike most games co's, they have a full film team for their in-game movies. Also finally got an in with The Third Floor for previz. InterSense was demoing their mocap camera system and the guys from 3rd floor were showing off the features of the wireless previz cam for directors. I volunteered to try it out and they liked the way I staged the shot so I handed them a reel and had a quick meet and greet with the guys. Maybe it will lead to getting into their data base for the future.

Saw lots of buddies and former co-workers and caught up with their lives. Lunches with prospective bosses and parties with prospective companies. Wednesday, Blue Sky was at The Edison downtown. Great talk with Layout team members. Had my first Absinthe. They performed the whole "ritual" with the spoon, sugarcube and water. Tastes like weaker Jagermeister and kind of syrup-y. Plus the whole sugar kick keeps you wide-eyed for the night so no real sense of drunkenness, more buzzy. Thanks to Chuck for the ride back.

Lucasfilm seems the most plausible right now. They are setting up another 3D Story team for the Clone Wars TV Series. 3D Story sounds a lot like workbook in CG including breakdowns of the script. Recruiter Rosie directed me to Vince Toscana who heads the teams. He said he'd check out the reel once he got back and I should hear something by the end of the week or so. Remember Rule #1. For my trouble, I got invited to the Clone Wars party at the Nokia theater. If I had been paying attention I would have taken the pass and camped out watching the Animation Festival all day. Met some key people at the meeting including the Director Dave Filoni and BZ the Layout Recruiting Sup. Good face time and hopefully good reviews.

One last bit. Warner Bros has signed up with Main Street Pictures to produce some government funded PSA spots for Kenya on AIDS prevention. I been given a call about hooking up with their Layout/Previz team. They are already up and running and the gig would last 3 months with a deadline of November 29. They sounded pretty serious so if they can make it worthwhile I may be back in the car by the weekend. Remember Rule #1. It would be in XSI and the pipeline is pretty loose right now. More modeling than I've been used to probably but they mentioned training. Camera is camera so the tools should be similar. Modeling may take a few all-nighters.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

A present from Dreamworks

This has to be one of the coolest perks to receive for working on a feature. Posters are always awesome and bonding when you get your crew to sign them. Jackets are nice but you'd soon have a closet full of jackets from out-of-date movies, right? But this takes all the cake. It's about 16" high, numbered and authenticated from Gentle Giant Studios. I've already warned the littluns if they touch it, they die.

#56 of 450

I wonder if they made or will make a full series of these.

Happy 4th of July - Belated

SO I thought I'd give the depression a rest and catch up on some "recent" events.

There was a parade in town for the 4th of July. The first we could take the whole fam to. Going up Independence St. (natch) a few blocks to Spring Creek. Next year we should be able to plan a little better a get seats IN THE SHADE.

10 am and we were all sweltering. There were the spindly little Crepe Myrtles in the median and you could see latecomers trying desperately to squeeze into relief spots. And of course we forgot WATER. Luckily, some of the floats provided the masses with bottles. And hey, V made a friend so it wasn't too bad.
Interesting to note was the segregation and depiction of the rival political parties in attendance.
If there was a Republican float, it was flanked by soldiers or other color guard. Usually driving the biggest vehicles to contain all that patriotism.
Democrats had Peaceniks and Drum Circles.

In the middle of it all I spotted a real meaning of freedom and strength. The Falun Dafa Marching Band no doubt afflicted at some point by an oppressive regime on the other side of the world but here, they played great music and reminded us what people will do to reach freedom.
And then came the cars. American muscle always brightens my day.
Mabel's cousin
and one of my dreams:
God Bless America!

and then we went to Target.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Freecycler and Craigslist

Oh the wonders of the internets! Better than Ebay. Better than garage sales. A better thrill of the hunt and you don't have to leave someone's yard with empty-handed guilt. They post it, you reply and the first one to the doorbell wins. Today the deal was sealed after finding a gently used set of bunk beds to be for when the girls move in together after Natalie gets out of diapers. It may be a few months away but for $150 for solid wood, hard to beat. Now we rearrange the garage for more storage and try not to let the kids on it.

Next up: a replacement for the old Laz-E-Boy. In leather with cupholders and remote hideaway? Stay Tooned!

Monday, June 23, 2008

With the passing of a legend...

A collective sigh of relief from the FCC?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Off the Road #3

Fins of a windfarm turbine being delivered to Iowa.

Two days after getting home from L.A. we all piled back in the minivan and drove to Minnesota! Another two days of road tripping except much noisier. We tried to stop every few hours to give the kids a break but by the end of the day, they'd be bouncing off the walls. We got one night in MN and then drove another 4 hours to Fargo, ND for the family reunion!

Oy! Another hotel, more eating out than ever and some first meetings with Bren's family including a cousin she'd never met due to being given up for adoption 40+ years ago. Bren and her sister got the ball rolling and anonymously dropped vital information in Cory's path and he followed the trail straight to his mom.

That was neat. After the family get-together, we came back to a cold and dreary MN and got our vacation underway. The kids all had a ball together and Bren and I got some alone time. A Double Feature of Indy and IronMan is hard to beat. IronMan - Awesome. Indy - Um, yeah, about that...
Indy meets Area 51, replace Nazis who can't shoot with Russians who can't shoot. Kype some scenes from The Mummy 2, tack on the happy ending wedding and you've got a franchise that will never die. Shia LeBeouf ain't no Marlon Brando. More like the Disney version of a West Side Story Jet. Without the dancing. Lucky bastard. He's like Will Smith showing up in every major summer blockbuster 14 years ago. Bren loved it.

Anyway, we also did the MN Zoo and took the kids fishing. Ginny was so proud. Even landed a couple small mouth bass that were keepable and took them home for dinner. Even let her drive the boat around. Big day for V.

Finally, Daddy got a little fun time too going out with Bill and shooting guns! Bill had a whole stockpile of ammo he had to get rid of so we packed up his arsenal and hit out for the range. Handguns: 357 Magnum, 380 snubnose, a 22 and a glock 9 (my favorite). Rifles: a 22, a 30.06, a 30.30 and a 12 gauge shotgun that beat the shit out of my shoulder. I thought I was holding it wrong but Bill's shoulder was pretty bruised too. Plenty of spent targets and shell casings. I haven't held a gun much less shot for about 20 years but memories of Boy Scout camp came back and I managed to save some face.

Don't take this the wrong way, but I don't want to make that trip again for a long time. I hope we can go again next year. Or sooner if I'm employed.