Saturday, June 26, 2010

End Of June Recap

What a month it has been. It's crazy that in only a couple weeks we'll be flying to Seattle for Matt & Amy's wedding and then Raj & Kristin's the following weekend. We're so psyched!!!

So far I have worked for three weeks at Children First Montessori, and it has been a tremendously fun challenge for me. I don't know if I've mentioned it, but we have three sets of twins in a class of 30. Aiden and Brendan are identical Chinese, Adithi and Adwaith are fraternal Indian, and Maya and Reya might be identical but they have quite a few differences so it's tough to say. Most of the kids are Indian or from some similar ethnicity. Aiden, Brendan, Kavya, Vivin, Maya, Reya, Sidhuk, Sai, Jasleen, Arushi, Kavya & Vivin (sister and brother), Jayden & Billy (sister & brother), Siya, Diamond, Arjo, Mikhil, Arya C (boy), Arya (girl), Sreya, Dhyan, Meher, Samaira, Armaan, Arshaan, Eesan, Ishaan, Aditya, Kaia, and Muis (baby comes sometimes with a teacher). I have them all memorized. :) There are other children that apparently come to the school, but I haven't met them because they are either visiting India or are otherwise away for the summer already.

Me and the kids on Miss Sangeeta's last day.

The ones that are the most well-behaved are Armaan, Arshaan, Aiden, and Kavya. It seems I can always count on them to help or listen well. The ones who are the most problematic are Sai (a bit hyperactive, disobedient often, and may actually have trouble with English or a slight learning disorder), and Dhyan (who is small enough for diapers but likes to make trouble). I try to take the time to speak directly to them and see if their needs are getting addressed. The other kids seem to fluctuate - sometimes listening well, other times being noisy or disruptive. Usually if they're causing trouble I've found it is because they felt no one was listening or that something happened but wasn't acknowledged. They seem to want more than anything to have that acknowledgment.

Highlights have been playing outside, snack time, naptime, singing graduation songs, playing the quiet game (who can sit on the red square with fingers on their lips and stay quiet the longest - winners get stickers), craft time, and crayon coloring with two dozen kids wanting me to fold their papers into fans. Armaan, one of the older kids and very sweet boy, drew a picture of a fence and let me keep it:

Obviously not everything is fun. Gross alert, for those of you squeemies. Thursday I witnessed a boy's milk being projectile-vomited onto the lunch table, after bouncing around and shaking himself up like a soda bottle. Thank goodness most of the other kids were done eating and had already put their things away - otherwise we would have had a much more complicated mess. Friday another boy threw up as well, a little in the classroom and all over the bathroom. I wish there was better ventilation in there - the acidic smell lingered even an hour after I disinfected the surfaces and mopped up the floor. I just think it's funny how quickly the kids bounce back to normal as if nothing happened.

As far as Speakeasy, Hot Dog & Hamburger is now showing in the UK on BBC's website:

Unfortunately, we can not view it in the USA, but we're pushing for more exposure. Supposedly we'll be able to get it on a worldwide website soon. Still no word on Sesame or anything else. Still a waiting game on other job applications. Still getting better at my at-home schedule as far as animating and other priorities, including a cute short film I'm starting to flesh out. More later!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Abby's Flying Fairy School" Gets Emmy, "The Gruffalo" Awarded at Annecy 2010

For its tenth anniversary on children's bookshelves around the world, The Gruffalo was adapted for a Christmas television special on BBC One last year, and it has been doing quite well, including an award for best TV special at Annecy 2010.

Since I am so new to television production, I still find it perplexing that the animation studios behind the shows are rarely publicly recognized. It took some hunting to find out who worked on The Gruffalo. Personally, I'd like to throw a shout out to Studio Soi in Germany, who with the help of some fellow Animation Mentor graduates, brought this story to life in a 3d / cg world.

Similarly, I'd like to recognize the crew at SpeakeasyFX for the amazing work on Abby's Flying Fairy School, which just won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation. The award went to Peter de Seve, Character Designer and a great artist, but because of my bias and desire to see the animation studio gain credit as well, as it is an animation award, I must mention our amazing team of animators and our in-house art director David Michael Friend who fleshed out the characters, school design, and overall look and feel of the cg show.

These productions are two of the many productions out there today backed by fellow animators from Animation Mentor - who deserves some congrats as well for driving to bring high-quality, well-educated animators to the industry.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Winds of Change in June

Where has this year gone? Time is flying. Things are changing.

I am still an animator, but as of today and for the rest of the summer, you can call me "Miss Laura," part-time assistant teacher & caregiver at Children First Montessori Preschool. ;)

Two weeks ago, I was getting very restless, even depressed to some extent. Since our project ended, I sorely, deeply miss working at the studio, collaborating with other animators, interpreting scripts and bringing characters to life. Motivation can be hard to find at home by yourself - but moreso than that, it is very easy to allow your brain to get wrapped up in the "what if's" and second-guessing every project idea, every move you make. You can find yourself asking, "Is this going to get me anywhere? Is it worth my time, or should I think of something else?" Indecision and splitting hairs and staying at home full time is not a good recipe for me. So that's changing.

Me & My Nephew/Godson Zander

The Friday before Memorial Day weekend, I drove around to about 13 local schools. I decided, I've always loved interacting with young kids, especially when they're first learning to speak and work with their hands - so why not see if there are any schools who need assistants for summer camps and programs? Obviously it's preferred if you have an educational degree or certification of some kind, but who knows. So I wrote up some cover letters and made a plan to get around to the dozen or so of them, and just see what happens.

As expected, the public schools required a certification, and most of the others seemed to prefer it - at least, I think so, since some looked at me pretty quizzically when they saw that I was coming from an animation background. I don't blame them. I was appreciative that a few schools indulged me, heard my interests, and were willing to make constructive conversation about the idea.

I felt really good about two of those schools (preschool / daycare facilities). One of them gave me a 6 page application packet, and the director wrote "Sesame Street" on the front to remind herself about meeting me and talking about my experience with them. The second school's director wasn't available to meet me, but the couple of staff people I spoke with were simply very nice and eager to hear my ideas.

After the 3-day weekend, I was admittedly a bit shocked to get a call from that second school (Children First Montessori), and they wanted to hire me. "I think these things happen for a reason," the director said to me. Apparently the way things happened for her, when she arrived back from Memorial Day Weekend on Tuesday, she found out one of her afternoon employees had to quit, and basically my resume was the first thing that fell in her lap. She thought she'd give me a try before even placing an ad anywhere. How's that for luck!

She asked me to come in the next day to meet her. She was incredibly friendly and eager to place me there. After speaking with me for a bit to get to know my personality, she took me around inside the school where about 30 kids (two classes together), all under the age of 5, were rehearsing a musical performance for their graduation. She warned me that there are the messier parts of the job (cleaning up bathroom accidents, vomit on occasion, runny noses, etc), but that didn't make me flinch.

She introduced me to several of the teachers and assistants, and I was amazed to find out they were all very happy to meet me and wanted to show me around the project area, the nap area, snack area, etc. I had gone there, totally prepared to insist how much I respect the educational profession and hoped that they might accept me as an apprentice in their field. I was concerned meeting them that they may be frustrated at my lack of educational degree. I must say, I am adamantly opposed to the thinking that a teaching position is something a person could "fall back on" - as students of any age suffer from feeling a lack of sincerity and dedication by those kinds of so-called teachers. But I was surprised to find how open and inviting everyone was. One assistant was a mother who had been out of work for 18 years with some kind of business background, had been hired since March and was well accepted; another was a Christian youth dance instructor; another was from Italy, recently married and now pregnant - it seemed that she was the one who was about to leave the school, by the way.

As far as my commitment level, the director asked if I might consider working year-round. Again I was stunned. I thought I was interviewing just for the summer afternoons. I told her I am thrilled she is so eager to bring me on board, but I personally need to take things one step at a time. She is aware I very much consider myself an animator and will return to that position when more work is available. I want to treat the summer as a probationary type period, and see where things go. She seemed agreeable to that.

Last week was extremely stressful and emotional, because as excited as I am, this is a risk for me. I don't want anything to adversely affect my animation career. But I've decided that the pros far outweigh the cons, and if anything this will inspire me creatively, and allow me to tap into a different part of my brain, and even provide structure to my day. For the first couple weeks I'll be coming in about 2-3 times per week, and then move up to 5 times per week for the remainder of the summer, either way, afternoons only.

As I spoke with the director last week, after being presented with the possibility to work with the preschool on a more permanent basis, I grew such a heartache for animation, and I can just sense that feeling can only help me move ahead with my personal practice and applications.

Dwight's Insights.. The More You Know, Doo, Dooo... (Random Interjection

How many of us are scared of failing miserably, and let fear inhibit our ability to make decisions - even the simple ones, or ones that should be joyous or regarded with happy anticipation? This job, for example, is something I think I will really enjoy, at least to try it - but it took me several days to get over some initial fears about money and my animation career. This job will pay next to nothing; I don't consider this a step down, but a step to the side; I think I am going to love this, and the truth is that 3.5 hours on weekdays isn't so much that would keep me away from animating - it will provide structure and the drive to do what I have to do to get better.

Another thing that has come up is the issue of a car. I've never owned a car. I've always managed to do without one - or that is to say, I've always managed to find ways of getting where I need to go, whether that mean public transportation, borrowing or renting vehicles, or hitching a ride with my trusty husband who always goes the extra mile. Frankly, this method is becoming more and more difficult, and less and less practical. We are now pushing forward and considering a car purchase in the *VERY* near future. One of the reasons we hadn't done that yet is expense, and considering we may move out west sooner or later. But now it's apparent that we could have the two vehicles now, making life much easier on us, removing the hardship (in our time and also in mechanical stress) of sharing the van, scrapping the many limitations particularly in my life which keep me from moving forward. So, we're starting to shop around. Any advice or suggestions are appreciated!

There is a change in the wind this June.. can you feel it?