Sunday, March 18, 2007

Face Up To The Past

Late last week, straight from work, I popped into Central London to nose around the displays of shiny discs and see if there were a few bits and pieces to pick up.

Atypically, London Underground was running a spectacularly efficient service. Which meant that, after virtually rocketing through the tunnels with no delays, I got there earlier than expected and arrived at street level just as some of the smaller stores were closing up and the nearby offices emptying.

With the pavements of the main streets clogged with people shuffling along like fat in an artery, I ducked into Soho, looking for a shortcut that gave me freedom to move, and almost immediately ran into an old friend. We hadn’t seen each other for going on eight or nine years – the last time was probably at an event at BAFTA I’d snagged tickets for.

We had a brief catch up. He had a handful of labelled discs from a facilities house around the corner and was on his way back to the office. Since we were standing directly outside the front of a production company I hadn’t had a happy experience with, I didn’t want to be out there when people left the building. We exchanged cards just before his mobile started buzzing and headed off in different directions.

Minutes later, turning onto Broadwick Street I spied one of the old studio’s animation directors heading in my direction. Head down, only looking at the empty pavement in front of him, I stopped still directly in his path and waited. Only when he eventually sidestepped to get around me, and I copied his moves to block his path did he look up.

My age, he had joined a competitor when the studio closed and stayed in the business. A pain in the arse at times, especially when it came to interpreting deadlines, he was a talented sonofabitch, that was for sure. He still looked the same. Perhaps there was a bit more flesh around his face, although maybe it was the beard that made it look fuller.

The biggest difference over the intervening years was his hair, which had gone from brown to dirty shades of grey. It made him look far older than his years, especially combined with his pale complexion – the typical pallor of animators stuck in doors day after day, hunched over the light-box desk.

We talked for a while. I told him what I was up to, with him it was “same old, same old.” Of the two of us, I was the only one who sounded at all enthusiastic. At one point I blurted that I was really glad to be out of the business.

It had been fun; I can’t deny that. But looking back on the years in animation, there had been plenty of times when I hadn’t been particularly happy. During the crunch times, with deadlines looming and me having to do the work of up to three people, I doubt I had been much fun to be around either.

In the run up to the studio closing down, after the producer let me go but kept on my cheaper assistant to help wind everything up, it wasn’t particularly the best of times for me. Although the job had virtually consumed my life I can’t say I was exactly skipping in the clover, and if the owners had changed their minds and kept going I’d probably have been back there like a shot.

Standing, talking with the animation director I actually was glad to be out of the business. The different jobs at the different studios had taken up a huge chunk of my working life. It was only seeing him again I realised how happy I was to be working on something that wasn’t paid off with a packshot.


At 8:39 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Those are always good moments...realizations or revelations that you're happier or better for it as opposed to having to tell yourself over and over that you're happier.

At 6:13 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...

Will, they're brilliant moments! After breathing a deep sigh of relief, it really put a spring in my step. Moving on...


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