But last night, I pushed it a bit far and didnt get to sleep until late. This morning, even after I had a cup of coffee, I just wasnt going to make it. I decided to take a nap - but not before checking my emails.
We've been working for several years now on this project. It is so tedious and has required an enormous amount of work just to get everything at a stage which we can finally begin to see what we are making. With anxiety, you look to one another to know "are we doing this right? Is this going to give me the result I want? Is there a better way? What if we did something different?"
All filmmaking - and many endeavours - are like this, but perhaps none quite like animation. Everything is a rough mockup, a partial vision, all the way until you are ready to render it all out. You truly don't know what you are getting until it's too late to get something else. You plan for it, you have a vision for it, but you play jazz with it at every stage.
This morning, I checked my emails and I saw a shot. It was like taking a week long trip to a natural preserve, and then finally, after an exhausting search, some exotic animal finally peeks out from the bushes and you get one short miraculous moment with it. That's what you came here for.
The shot was a work in progress delivered by my teammate, DJ Baylon, who has been a real champion of the project. Despite the occasional tough weather, he has stuck it out, and been a part of it in one way or another since it's first week.
DJ had finally rendered out a fully lit shot. We've done some before, but now that we are finally doing this full time, it is quite a landmark in the project. It means we are finally at a stage where the fog begins lifting from our eyes and we are starting to see what we have been making.
I looked at the shot on my phone, and so exhausted, only had fleeting notes in my mind. It didnt look quite right, the colors were a bit hot, the anxieties of knowing "this is the moment of truth" set in, all of that stuff artists understand all too well.
So, anyway, I decided I would need to check it once again when I got to my computer and make my revisions. And then I fell asleep.
I woke up an hour later during the middle of a peculiar dream.
I was on a live action film set, but I was kind of wandering aimlessly. This familiar state of mind I knew all too well - idleness. Not idle because I was lazy, or idle because wanted to be lazy. I was idle because I did not know what to do. This film set in my dream was for a film I was directing, and there was a bunch of activity around me. People preparing sets, people getting ready to shoot. All there for me, but I didnt even know what we were making, or what I should do.
Finally, Viktor, my former boss and visual effects supervisor from years ago, pulled me over to the side. He sat me down, and seemed really disappointed in me. He said "Tyler, can you please find a way to work quicker? I mean, can you please stop doing all these drawings? Can you stop drawing all over everything?" He was anxious and disappointed, and I felt the ax coming.
I told him that he chose me, to please have some faith in me, I needed to do that, I needed to do these drawings, I knew what I was doing, I was doing it right, I just needed some faith. I asked him to please let me do what I knew how to do.
The dream ended with smiles and warmth, a mutual respect and friendliness. But I woke up rather abruptly and with a question on my tongue. I dont remember the question, but I awoke wishing I could have continued the dream, because my answer was coming up next.
Lethargic, I found myself a second cup of coffee and dragged myself to the computer and pulled up the image DJ had sent me. It looked different, brighter, better than it had on my phone. I began my automatic analysis method - lower the exposure, see where my values are. Break it into compositional elements, all the repeated motions I have done before.
But this time, there is one thing I refrained from. I did not draw on the image. I did not correct what could not be corrected in the pipeline. I worked with what was there, desaturating colors, bringing specific colors out better, adding and taking away things on the simplest level - color correction and masks - no "wishing it was something else." Soon, I knew I had done all I could do.
I looked at the final and realized we were making something beautiful. I sent the image out to friends and loved ones, and congratulated my teammate on the hard work. I received back messages of confidence and thumbs up. It was approved.
Then, I remembered my dream.
Find a way to work quicker.
Stop drawing all over everything.
And now, as I write this, I am remembering DJ was stressed out a couple weeks ago and needed a hiatus. During his hiatus, he also had a dream he told me about. He was riding in a car with two of our characters, who just happen to be the antagonists in the story. They were as real as ever, they were talking to him, and he was fascinated to be in the car now with characters in an animation which had somehow come to life and were visiting him in a dream.
He is going on his own journey with this project. I am not alone in this. Remembering his own anxieties, I suddenly made the connections, got the message the greater world is trying to tell me.
It's important to have faith in one another, in ourselves, in our own abilities, and in the reception of the audience. It's important not to "draw all over everything." It's important to listen to what others are saying, and listen more deeply to what they mean. Sometimes, you have to know that you already did the work, so let it breathe it's own life, let it come together on it's own terms that you have guided it into.
Attached is the color corrected version of the delivery I received this morning. We are finally starting to see the fruits of the tremendous tasks we put forward for ourselves and our work.
The Journey Continues
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