Categoryinspiration & productivity

Enjoying the Process w/ SUPAKITCH & KORALIE

and a little more behind the scenes…

Riding the Ups and Downs

Recognizing and accepting the ups and downs is tricky. I don’t have any trouble recognizing them and labeling them, but accepting them is a different story.  By “accepting”, I simply mean that I’m always reminding myself that life isn’t always an upwards trend.  However, unless you can look at all the challenges as kicks in the head that may make you aware of alternate paths that might remove you from habitual loop. Kicks in the head help you learn, and learning is progress…    so I guess it IS an upwards trend.  Huh!

Last week I went to the waterfront to listen to some music and get some sun, but within minutes a storm started to roll through. I saw it coming, so I quickly ran under a tree for shelter. Under the tree I was forced to hide my music away and just gaze at the darkened view of the lake as large drops of collected rainwater snaked their way around the leaves, dripped onto my head and ran down my neck. Eventually a certain peace came over me and I wasn’t concerned about being wet. I saw some people stressed out by being rained on, and yet others seemed to welcome the cooling wetness.  After the storm passed I looked at my hand and noticed a small spider had joined me for warmth and shelter from the rain. I looked up through the branches and the sun appeared unusually sparkly. After a few minutes, I returned to my bench by the lake and relaxed in the silence. To exaggerate the dreamy state that I was in, the wet concrete was warm enough to steam, forming a light fog that crawled across the sidewalks and into the grass.

You can bet that I appreciated the sunshine more, after the rain came through.

The difficult part is keeping the energy up and remaining positive through the challenges. For me, it’s a matter of remaining optimistic or, better yet, just being grateful for where I’m at. I think it’s pretty easy to find these positive gems in nature…   but it’s a bit of a pain when stuck behind a laptop.

There’s still much to do this month, but in thinking back to last week’s trip to the boardwalk, I can start to feel where something good might come of all this. I will make something good come of all this. Life is pushing me and I will roll with it to see what direction it’s leading me to.

*takes deep breath*

Temporary Diversion from Animation

The last few weeks have been a bit dizzying. Spent a little time waiting for potentials to open up. I made sure not to waste too much time, though my focus has certainly been diverted away from more visually creative endeavors.

That being said, I still make sure to sit down with a pen and practice some sketching. Proportions are always a little funky, thus showing my habit of focusing too much on the details.

Spending a lot of time reading business magazines and blog articles. I did this last year as well. I love seeing the abstracts of successful or failed systems. It validates or challenges a lot of my own opinions.  So far, so good.

Here’s a pretty slick quote regarding innovations, by Dick Foster, author of Creative Destruction.

I’m convinced that for an existing company to innovate, they must first make the decision to get rid of something. Unless you get rid of it, it will always be more a more compelling argument to improve the old rather than commit to the new. That small decision over time adds up to a total deflection, and you are never as motivated to innovate as the unencumbered new entrant. I think this is enormously important.

The rest of the interview can be found at Forbes.

And now, back to the sketchbook so I can finish up some storyboard for my next animation…   in progress.

No Fear

I’m not sure which one requires more nerves. It would be pretty epic just to witness this event. I cannot imagine what it would be like to experience it.

Career Choice

“Hey Jer, I have a student that is great with computers, a gifted artist and wants to do something in medicine. Ideas for career choices?”

– Shannon

Hey Shan,

I’ve put more thought into answer. Sorry if it felt like I was blowing you off. It is a difficult question that I am I’ve only been able to figure out during the last 3-4 years. What I’m learning is that when I label my “career”, I feel like I’m cursing myself. More specifically, I’m limiting myself.

As you know, I love to draw and I pretend to be a talented artist, so I kinda see where he’s coming from. I can give him advice, but I cannot list career choices. If he’s truly passionate about his art and medical, then he’s already in the communities where opportunities will arise. If not… well.. . slap him on the head and say, “Duh!”


Siggraph is going to be in Vancouver Aug 2011 (THIS YEAR!!). As you remember, even when I was jobless, I managed to make it to California twice for Siggraph.  For me, it’s still the animation conference to go to.

To find some local meetups, there’s Michigan group called “SEMA FX”.  I don’t have their info, but Google will provide.

And to finish up my original point, keeping your mind open is the best way to make opportunities arrize.  I think the future “career” is adaptability. Sounds like he already knows what he likes, therefore he should dive into those passions. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to fit your love into someone else’s classification. I’ve seen this burn too many artists out.  The adaptable ones always survive and their passion remains charged.

That’s the opinion of a floater who shouldn’t have to look too far to find more work.


– Jer

artist / teacher / student / technician / dancer

Budget Film Making with Gareth Edwards

A month back I was forwarded an interview with Gareth Edwards, the director of Monsters. In the interview he talks about making a feature film on a small budget. I haven’t yet found out the exact budget, but the $15,000 number has been thrown around.  I’ll spare my opinions on this exact number as there’s already plenty of debate that can be found online. In any case, I certainly believe it could have been pulled off for under $100k, which is still way cheaper than most films of this quality.

Gareth seems to have gained much of his visual FX experience while working for the BBC.  For example, while working on Attila the Hun, he locked the camera and used cycled animations from live footage in order to fill a battlefield with virtual cast of millions. Smart time-saving moves, for sure.

According to this interview, prior to Monsters, Gareth was having trouble making money as a director and he figured it was time to jump in and make a film on his own. He knew the gamble of going off on his own, but he says, “If you always put things off till it’s perfect, you’ll never do anything.”  Jumping in and “pissing” himself was what he knew he needed to do to progress his career. He feels like everything he had done as a director for hire was preparing him for this moment of creative freedom. The 48 Hour Sci-Fi-London Film Challenge was exactly what he needed to prove what he could do.

Gareth Edwards
Uploaded by SFLTV. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.

I’ve heard a quote from George Lucas, where he stated that his goal was to use computer graphics in order to put the paintbrush into the director’s hands. Gareth seems to agree with this dream…  and has apparently executed it, with the help of a 35mm adapter for his video camera and a laptop or two.  Gareth designed the creature himself, with thousands of sketches over the course of a year.  The cast consisted of himself, two actors (who were soon married, after shooting the film), two line producers and a sound guy. For the rest of the cast, he would film random citizens in the cities he visited, including his assigned armed bodyguards in Mexico.

First there was Neil Blomkamp’s successful District 9, and now there’s Gareth Edwards. Both are convincing me that I have to start putting some time into learning compositing. Visual effects compositing is the final line where the 2D image is created and the more you can avoid time-consuming 3D, the better.

Are you wishing you hadn’t missed the showing of the film? Don’t stress!! The Vancouver International Film Festival has another showing on Thursday, October 14th at 11am. However, you had better act quick and request that day off work before someone else does. 😉

My opinions on the film?  It’s a nice jaunt through central america while being chased by giant octupi. It reminded of Romancing the Stone, with more focus on the romancing. The effects range from subtle to not-so subtle. I enjoyed the film, as did everyone around me. Don’t worry, I didn’t ruin anything you won’t learn in the first 5 minutes of the film.

Bruce’s Wisdom

Was reminded of this, when I heard it quoted in some music recently.

It’s probably Bruce’s most memorable quote is ,  “Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!

BlacKKawaru summaries it perfectly with,

It means that you should focus on the meanings behind action and not the actions themselves.
If someone is pointing to the moon and you focus on the finger, you do not see the moon.

If the instruction is to kick with emotion and you focus on the command, you are listening to the instruction, not improving your kick.
Even if your kick gets stronger (i.e. through anger) it will not become better.”

Ted Talk on Motivation

Does dangling the carrot really help motivation? NO.

[thx Dan Lyle]

Cooking for a Recession.

From Apartment Therapy‘s  “the kitchen” mailing list.

Even if it’s just a bowl of Ramen, to the bitter end I’m going to encourage you to borrow a sprig of cilantro from your neighbor, put the soup in a ceramic bowl, and use a cloth napkin, light a candle and give thanks.

Well said!  So cheezy, yet inspiring.

Thomas Schelesny – VFX Supervisor of “Enchanted”


Thomas Schelesny

In the afternoon of Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending Tony Chen’s 3D Animation Workshop in Gastown. The special guest for the evening was Thomas Schelesny. Tom is a Visual Effects Supervisor at Tippet Studios. He was the VFX Supervisor for Disney’s Enchanted and is currently supervising the FX for Sam Rami’s Drag Me To Hell.

Tom gave us a quick summary of his career, starting with Northwest Imaging in Vancouver, where he received his first experience at 3D animation on Softimage, working on X-Files & The Outer Limits.  While at work, Tom received an incoming call which he initially thought was a prank and promptly hung up on the caller.  The caller was a recruiter from Tippet.

Needless to say, he got the job at Tippet and was brought in as an Anima…er… a Lighting TD. After having the TD position for 1 week, Tippet quickly moved Tom to a more appropriate position, in animation. Tom spent 3 years as an animator and followed that up with 2 years as an animation lead, working on Starship Troopers and Virus.

Eventually, Tom was surprised by a visit from Tippet, who was showing a client around the studio. Tippet whispered to Tom, “So, you want to be VFX Sup on this show?” to which Tom replied, “Yes.“. Tippet immediately introduced Tom to the client as the VFX Supervisor that would be working on his film.

During our talk, Tom couldn’t stress enough how important it is to take risks. He said how rewarding it was to be confident in yourself, to not care what other people think. If you know what you need to do… DO IT. For example, when onset with an actress who needed to react to a monster that wasn’t there, Tom took his shirt off and started towards the actress, snorting and snarling. Throw on a dress? Sure. Pose for life drawing? Why not? He says that he’s willing to take take it all off, if it needed to be done… and he proved it. This is a point that resonated strongly with me. I’ve lost track of the number of missed opportunities due to shyness or stressing about making an ass out of myself. I mean, the entertainment industry begs for people like this, so  give em what they want!

I keep thinking of the song by The Kills, Cheap and Cheerful – “I want you to be crazy cause your stupid when your sane.

Speaking of being confident with your work, one thing that has surprised me since I came into this industry, was the lack of animator reference. I’m not talking about book or video clip reference, I’m talking about STANDING UP AND ACTING IT OUT. Tom told us how animators are treated at Tippet Studios. In the animation area, you’ll commonly find animators crawling and snarling. If other artists are making discouraging comments about an animator who’s acting, that person will usually get double the criticisms fired right back at them. At Tippet, they do whatever they can to encourage live reference. I know this doesn’t need to be said, but everything is sculpted before it goes digital. Reference is key and the closer to real life, the better. Tom pointed out, “This computer monitor, it’s 2D, not 3D.” This is something we all forget, too often.

Tony Chen @ Tom's talk

Tony Chen

He spoke of his preference to work with rubber suits. The experience is more organic, as your are directing the action, in the moment. If it’s purely digital creatures, a director will usually just shoot the set then save the footage to be dealt with later. However, if you’re working with rubber suits, “…you want a creature to look more wet, you walk up and spray on some water…” I should note that Tom does not dislike digital effects, it’s more a preference of the process.  He also stated that he feels that some 3D animated films are as perfect as you can get, simply because of the control you have over every single element. In a world of film that seems to be driven by digital effects, these comments were a breath of fresh air. Too often does the process oriented work seem too planned and not dynamic enough. It’s hard to pick out sometimes, but we can usually feel when it just doesn’t look right. A rubber suit looks more real, well… because it is real.

Thanks to everyone, especially Tony Chen @ CGMovement, for putting this together.  It was a very inspiring evening that will not be forgotten. – Twitter’s Free Alternative

“But I thought Twitter was free?”   It is, till they decide it’s not.  We’re talking “free bird” here, not just “free beer“.

Why do I use WordPress?  Because it’s free and open source.  I can archive my entries locally.  I don’t have to worry about the proprietary service (aka Livejournal) shutting down, and denying me access to my entries.    I can fully customize the look and function of my blog.  I can… well…  I can do anything. If I don’t have the time to setup my own WordPress server, I can go to and get a free account.  Then, when I do eventually get the time to setup my own server, I can archive ALL my blog entries and upload them to my own server.

This type of thinking applies to just about everything I do.  If I can find an open source alternative, I’ll use it… or at least give it a try.  My latest discovery was Identi!

Identi, an alternative to Twitter. Laconi (on which Identi is based) is open source & more scalable than Twitter.  What’s that mean?  You can download the software and set up your own server.  Also, Laconi servers can talk to other Laconi servers.   I mean, that’s kinda the whole idea behind the web, isn’t it?

Till another better, more free alternative to Twitter pops up, you’ll be hearing me talk a lot about Identi, so get used to it.

Don’t feel like downloading Laconi and setting it up?  Then just go to and and open a free account.   Don’t want to leave your Twitter followers high and dry?  Well, you can have your account update your Twitter account, automatically…  while you migrate.

Sorry about that… I just get pretty excited when people share through open source.


Quote on Development

Simplicity is hard to build, easy to use, and hard to charge for. Complexity is easy to build, hard to use, and easy to charge for.
Chris Sacca

Thanks to Michael Rubin for that one.

Personal Organization

For some reason, I move away from the devices that I know will assist me. At the moment I’m speaking of the fact that I keep avoiding the creation of this blog.

The above, is an example of a useful random thought that is customized for me. It carries just the right words, and my brain interprets the connotations in just the way right way. Every once in awhile, I’m able to discover one of these “personalized power phrases” (or whatever you want to call them). It usually involves me ending a mental loop. A reliance that I plan to break, as I just need 15 minutes of complete focus and silence to prevent myself from running around like a chicken with my head cut off. I need some time outside of my environment.

Blog: This is my psychological evaluation. No doctor will be able to find the true secrets in your mind as it’s difficult enough for us to do it, ourselves. A doctor would require 100% cooperation of the patient in order to be successful and there are so very few of us are able to comply 100%.

So now starts the blogging. I’m currently using my underused tool of speech recognition*. A tool which I plan to soon purchase. I am seated comfortably at home, alone. Nothing to distract me. No one to distract.

I should first line out my plan, my “dream schedule”.

6 a.m. The CD alarm clock starts. Luckily, I am already awake and am able to turn it off before it wakes up somebody else.
6:15 a.m. I’m finishing my morning warm-up and putting oatmeal into water which is already boiling.
6:30 a.m. I’m out of the shower and eating my oatmeal with flaxseed, cinnamon, raisins & molasses (or brown sugar).
7:00 a.m. I am on my way to the bus stop with a magazine for the bus ride.
8 a.m. At the studio, I check and respond to e-mails. Based on all this information I quickly to plan my day, which is recorded (somewhere consistent).
10:00 a.m. 15 minute break. I must get away from the desk by either doodling by a window, going to the gym or going outside to play.
12:30 p.m. Cook/reheat meal after walk outside.
4:20 p.m. DS time or semi-supine/nap.
6:30 p.m. Waiting at the bus stop waiting to head home

This would be the schedule I would like to have for four out of the five days. On the fifth day of my “five-day workweek”I will be available remotely via a VPN e-mail and/or telephone. If an employer is unable to do that schedule form he I must insist that I give me a reason that makes sense, because for me to schedule makes sense and has been proven to work.

7 p.m. I should already be thinking about what I’m going to be making for dinner, and lunch the next day. Dinner can be simple, light and quick. Just stirfry vegetables which are lightly spiced.
7:45 p.m. After working out I’m getting rolling on dinner.

At least three days a week I need to stay away from the computer in the evenings, so says doctor Me.

11:00 p.m. I better be making my way towards the bedroom, after cleaning up my desk, picking up my miscellaneous shit & then brushing my teeth.
11:15 p.m. Collect thoughts at the end of the day. Spend quiet time with my journal and my mind.
11:30 p.m. falling asleep

*Dragon naturally speaking is an incredible speech recognition program. This entire blog entry was created using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and about 25 keystrokes.

Randy Pausch – Last Lecture, Time Management and “Alice”

One day I’ll have to take the time to type out my thoughts on Randy Pausch. The inspiration that this video provided me is priceless.

Randy also has a great talk on time management.

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