Back in 2010, i left for Los Angeles a starry eyed 17 year old ready to pursue hopeful of all the wonders this city could bring. My past had already been terrible, just plain awful and art was the only thing that got me through it; I believe had it not been for art and music, i would literally be dead. I enrolled in a bachelors degree in visual effects and motion graphics, and quickly made friends with everyone i could, because it was the first time in my life when i felt at home, like i was finally with a group of people i belonged with.
I had taken a couple classes in photoshop and illustrator as a kid and already had begun making a bit of pocket change on the side as an amateur graphic designer. That kind of thing came easily to me but i was more interested in Visual Effects because it was a lot more challenging and something i hadn’t done before, and the movie industry seemed so amazing at the time. I spent the next 4 years learning every software i could get my hands on, every tip and trick that existed on youtube, or gnomon, and i found i could absorb the same information as the other majors and teach myself things like audio design and photography and speak on the level with people who had devoted their whole lives to those things, and i found that visual effects was the perfect intersection to pursue an eclectic set of interests and unite them in new and interesting ways, but i failed to specialize early on and all too late learned that recruiters are extremely superficial and capricious with their recruiting process, its not enough that you can do the work, they want to find the “perfect fit” to everything. And that didn’t work with my philosophy, because i understood the 80/20 principle, that 80% of the skills necessary for mastery are done in 20% of the time and the last 20% are done in 80% of the time. I wanted to cover 80% of 5 different skills rather than focus incessantly on just one, but that doesn’t advertise well. People think you’re a jack of all trades, master of none and then even once you seek mastery on something and go for that last 20% by the mere virtue of including that you can do something else depletes the worth of what you can do by mere proximity. Every year I found less and less freelance jobs at cheaper and cheaper pay than i was as an amateur graphic designer.
By the time i left school, i was 30 grand in student loan debt, and 12 grand i owed the school directly and is now affecting my credit because they failed to file the student loans on time despite the fact that i left 2 dozen voicemails for my financial aid officer and spoke to the dean of student affairs warning him something like this would happen. I’d been applying to jobs when i had time, looking for work to put me through school, and i had taken 2 internships that both later turned out to be illegal that i did not receive school credit for, where i was promised an increase in career prospects and “experience”, while the only experience i learned was how to do my bosses job for him for no pay with zero creative control. When i left school, it was more of the same, but a full time more of the same. The career services department which was promised to get me a job right out of school at a bullshit 90% success rate they pulled right out of their ass gave me a couple pamphlets of publicly available information, and considered their job done. I did not hear from them for another six months despite calling them constantly and i finally ended up just hunting down the information of the career services director and she explained to me that for the past 6 months there has just been no one in that position and they’re not obligated to help me find a job since those 6 months are up.
So at the end of the day i was left with only debt and regret for paying tens of thousands of dollars for what i could have gotten with a 300$ subscription to gnomon with the promise of “networking opportunities” that never panned out. But i wasn’t about to leave my fate up to a failure of action on my part. I set out to apply to every single VFX studio in existence, which is no easy task. After a long while, probably hundreds of unsuccessful applications for all i know, i realized it was probably better to keep a tally of how many studios i applied to, which ones were successful, and to what degree of success. Here is the number in each city/country according to my notes.
Finland - 3
Belgium - 25
LA - 135
New York - 73
All of canada:
Vancouver - 47
Montreal - 29
Toronto - 39
All of australia - 60
All of New Zealand - 13
Most of the netherlands, including all of amsterdam - 25
All of Norway - 12
All of Sweden - 13
All of Malta - 1
Most of the UK, including all of London - 150
All of florida, hawaii - 8
All of copenhagen denmark - 9
To each of these i either applied to the job that best fit my abilities, or a general application for prospective work. About 38 different studios gave me a response that from what i could gather was not an automated, canned response, asking to keep my information in their records if future work came up. None of them has contacted me about it, so from what i can assume, they forgot about it and it is lost in their records. I remind them every now and then and ask them if they need any work, but this is not a successful method. Email and web forms are useless.
So i changed my approach. I printed up 100 resumes and passed them out at malls, coffee shops, burger joints. The promenade, the beverly center, century city mall, every mall this side of LA. I never stuck to just VFX jobs, its what i’m trained in, but i really just need to pay the bills. I got a lot of “while we’re very impressed with your qualifications, we have decided to look at candidates who better fit our needs at this time.” Which is weird considering many of the jobs i applied to were minimum wage with a description that literally states “no experience necessary.”
So after pursuing a career in VFX, i am apparently no longer qualified to flip burgers. Or work at starbucks. Or stack boxes, or clean floors. I went into this with the specific intention that if i didn’t make a whole lot, it would be okay, just as long as i made a liveable wage doing something that i love. I thought i was being pessimistic. I realize now, that was optimism. Because even with a 4 year degree and the 10,000 hours, i can’t even get an entry level job as a PA.
I’m going to be homeless in a month. I’m going to be homeless because i was foolish enough to choose something i love and think that talent and passion and effort were enough to get me by. I can’t pay my rent, i’ve maxed out my credit cards just trying to eat and the bill collectors call every day. And i don’t know what to do. I’ve done everything i can do, everything i can think of, everything within my power to an exhausting amount (and i know its probably exhausting just reading this). I’ve called up everyone i know asking for recommendations, referrals, a couch to sleep on, any suggestion that i haven’t tried. And i look at my art, what i can create, and i wonder if it was all worth it. In not too long, it may be all i have left… Again.
I know i might not be the best artist on here, there are so many amazing people who have spent their lives doing this. I just want the ability to spend my life doing art as well. Or at the very least to have a roof over my head. There has to be something i can do to help. There has to be some place for me here.