For the past six months I've been working only part time as a swim instructor to allow more time for my films. The paycheck I receive twice a month usually has about 15 hours a week on it and does not cover my monthly living expenses. At this point, I'm slipping into debt. Why put myself into what looks like a constant downward spiral of financial woe rather than get out there to find more substantial work?
When I had a job working on a TV show, I was miserable. The task I was asked to do did not appeal to me: I was working every day on three characters who all had very similar body mechanics, the style of animation had limited capacity for emotional range, and by the time the shot landed in my lap most of the challenging creative decisions had been made further up the pipeline by the writer, director or storyboard artists. I frequently found myself literally falling asleep as I poked and prodded the characters into place. Eventually, my lack of curiosity about the job brought things to a head and I found myself back in the line of work I'd first taken up as a high school sophomore: encouraging toddlers to blow bubbles and put their faces in the water.
Perhaps ironically, I was more challenged, rewarded and excited to go to work as a swim instructor than I had ever been in my one year of "animation industry" experience. I was ecstatic to be free of the animation factory that had been my first and only nine to five. There was twice as much time to dedicate to Germans in the Woods, which had been in limbo somewhere between a sloppy storyboard and something that vaguely resembled animation. The project was finally becoming a cohesive film whose direction I could control.
The finished film has really changed how I think about my place in the "world of animation". I feel like someone who has found his corner of the sandbox instead of an outsider looking in. At this point, I am curious about finding more substantial work but as long as I can at least keep my finances on life support while continuing to work on my own films I have no great desire to get back into a regular nine to five. I'm young, I'm healthy, I'm just getting started, why not take a few risks? I'm willing to bet the rewards over the long run will make all these peanut butter and jelly dinners worthwhile.