My experience at Ecole Georges Méliès, And why i quite the animation profession


#1

Ever since i was little ,I wanted to be an animator,
when i was 3 my mom took me to see Jungle book,
and i remember myself saying THIS ! is what i wanna do for the rest of my life,Jungle Book
is the best animation film EVER,Milt Kahl is my God!!, so much observation man…don’t just
animate,BE the character!!! feel what its feeling,seriously, I would literally kill myself(preferably
by animating until 4 in the morning) ,just so i can meet my heroes-the 9 old men,in the afterlife
and tell them how cool they are!!!1

Nope,not me, not even close

I was a ballet dancer,a mediocre one,which is the worst kind…
and i wanted to entertain people,preferably in the biggest circus possible,with fireworks and
elephants and stuff. Unfortunately,Santa didn’t like me,and i had no soul to trade with Satan
(I already sold it for candy), so i didn’t get my wish.

I see animation (and storytelling,lighting and compositing,which I’m specialized in) as a craft, like
ship building,rug weaving. I’m self taught,and a series of weird,unlikely events has given me the
skills i have that make me good* at it,before I was even aware of animated films or even touched
a computer or a piece of paper.

*Yes,the adjective “good” is merely a semantic choice, I’m “X” at it. X = what other people say,
jobs i landed/didn’t land, awards i won/didn’t win. while It = an ever evolving thing, i see the It i
was X at yesterday,not the same It I’m X at today. so the endless chase and bottomless search
are what will make an IT very appealing to me.

In reference to the question,how good do you think you are? (which clearly shows a
misunderstanding of the above paragraph) I will say I’m pleased whenever i reach an optimal
result considering the conditions given, usually I think I suck.
and i will refer you to the articles “Low self esteem and how its being compensated on Instagram”
,“the hashtagging #ImFat ,so that SM will say your hot ,catch 22 and its socio narcissist
consequences” and “how to be a good person on Facebook - DIY’s,Ideas and charity pages with
a one click share”. together with all those who answer “I’m a perfectionist” when asked what are
your flaws,at job interviews…

Ok,Onward…misery,despair,mutilation,self taught,won stuff,more despair but with drugs,worked
for a wile,wasn’t a good experience,will specify later, Decided I want to go to school to have a
better understanding of the field of work i have chosen,travelled,compromised on a school
(aimed for Gobelins,but just like the Paris Opera - Its filled with old farts who claim that being
older than 25,you should start looking into burial plots,not schools)

I was accepted to Georges Méliès school of animation in Orly,France,into the second year(out
of a 4 year degree). Got to Paris 6 days before school started,knew 5 words in french,had no
money,no visa,nowhere to stay and a massive ugly array of psychological disorders.
why?,because i wanted.

Background

How come I was good at animation before i did animation?
Being a mediocre ballet dancer,obsessively had me wonder,“how come it doesn’t work”
how come an individual will perform a movement with relative ease,and you will struggle with it
no matter how much you practice,so I began to obsessively look at how things move,human beings
,animals,even objects. comparing movement,comparing anatomies,practicing on imitating
movement,imitating others,from simple gestures to complex combinations,studying anatomy,and
comparative anatomy,so maybe,it will help me find out whats “defective” in my movement
patterns. however,I’m not that intelligent…back then it was basically - How come that F…ing
bitch is doing triples,and i don’t manage a single,F…K?!

so the moving stuff skill is self explanatory.
I became fascinated with how the organic thing moved,i would sit for hours on a street corner
looking at people. how they move,gesture and interact,and what makes a thought become an
impulse become a movement. as a result came a storytelling skill.
Studying all that,combined with a large amount of literature (eventually,i became very ill and
couldn’t train as a dancer anymore),had me seeing patterns. how a collective memory is shared,
how the human machine works,simple stuff like at what body part will a human being look first
and when, to very complex ways of sensory suggestions that will work the same on any given
audience.

rendering something visually pleasing is a sort of physical manifestation of the above,
the collective cause and reaction(deliberately not using “effect”), being meticulously studied,
together with a massive collection of art,film,music and whatever crafts created by human beings
,that, accumulated over the years,has led to the simple dumb ability to say pretty,not pretty,
works, doesn’t work. Also studied 3 years at a kinda famous oil painter’s atelier, that’s how i do
lighting well,I recommend all lighters and renderers to have a basic classical oil painting
education,does wonders, like squats…

combine all that with physical illness and isolation for a long time,and you get “talent”
for “creativity” i will refer to -Cobralingus by Jeff Noon, he explains it and some of the above way
better than the no patience i have right now,i wanna get to the whining bit already…

So all that, was there when i was first introduced to animation and digital imaging,therefore i was
“good” at it,and yet,i still feel like i know nothing.

*Why did i want to go to school? I’m already good (refer above)
I am genuinely interested in the profession,but the worst sin of all - I cared deeply for the craft,
and as we all know,nothing good can come out of that…the road to hell is paved with good
intentions…love’s labour’s lost and all that crap,many warnings,and yet…Its like starting a story
with " this one day,I had a ladder and a chainsaw…" I felt that having no formal education,I was
lacking many parts of the puzzle,and “I should do things properly, like everyone else”
but mainly,after 8 or so years,I have finally decided on marriage,this is what i wanna do,i have
chosen etc. little did I know…

The nature of the industry is nurtured in its schools

First day at Georges Méliès ,or - Here i started to get suspicious.
For our first day of school we were given a very tedious 20+ pages homework assignment,which
was to be completed during “summer vacation” and handed on the first day of school, in a pdf
format,with specific naming paging and numbering instructions. for some,like myself,it was the
first year and first day there,for others it was the first time they where asked to deal with a digital
image(pdf format).

they where grading the work,
grades where given and read out loud,publicly, in front of the whole class.
a student that failed to produce a pdf format-failed
a student that failed to number and name correctly-failed
I managed both,since i had work experience(which of course none of the others had,that’s what
you go to school for…),but the resolution arrangement and the numbering wasn’t to the teacher’s
liking,hence-failed

the next note was given on the work itself
a large body of the work was “life drawing” or what you call “drawing from observation”.
In Hebrew it has a very accurate name that gets lost in translation but defines it very well - it can
be translated as “impression”,and that is what a drawing from observation is - an impression of
the object drawn, as seen through the filters of the drawer,that’s why they are so interesting to
look at, its like looking through someone else’s eyes and hands,and that’s why they are
impossible to grade.

they where grading life drawings…
Its like saying “you look pretty,you look stupid,you have a really weird mole,it freaks me out,and
you in the back,nice boobs,i like…” based on the staff’s personal taste or i don’t know what the
hell they where basing it on. you cannot grade a point of view.

I come from 20 years of ballet,thick skin is an understatement for me,so the whole ridiculous
fail symposium didn’t bother me much,but the rest of them,some very young and privileged kids,
where devastated…because they failed to convert a stupid file,on their first day,that they where
never taught to do,on a machine they never used.what a tragedy.

Its a matter of life and death! ,we cannot handle the consequences of failure!!,the client MUST
have the dog food karaoke spot on facebook redone all in 0205 pantone pink instead of 0219
and ready to post online by 23:00!. My god! the 0219 pantone is unusable!!! the horror!!
sounds familiar?

First day,so…what is your first impression on the animation industry?
fascination? being inspired by others way of solving a problem? the joy of research maybe?
Noooooo…
A glorious celebration of failure and humiliation,the bitter winter of discontent, in an epic made up
idiotic competition of nonexistent skills in order to please an imaginary, deranged,made up client.
Deadline - yesterday.
sounds like a pretty accurate description to me.

I let it slide

Next - A sweatshop slave = An accountable worker
classes and workshops where from 9-10 in the morning to 5-6 in the afternoon,some lectures,
most practical work,sometime you would sit and draw for 5-6 hours,which was great. this would
follow by a massive volume of tasks to be completed as homework assignments and delivered
on deadlines. obviously,if you where studying until 17:00,then those would be completed starting
17:00 to late at night\early morning. we were explained that this is how you improve,and that
this is the way to “show your dedication”

we had a color script and matte painting workshop,acrylic painting - which I’ve never done before
,for my classmates it was a sequel to the first year,so i was completely clueless…
it was strictly work and we had no homework assignments.

After a few days of work and feedback from the teacher(which i adored,that teacher was
a treasure), we put together everything we had done. the other students suddenly stared at me
terrified, I’m not being poetic here,they had a look of horror\concern on all their faces.
“This is everything you have done???”
Me - a stare of wtf…(my main way of communication)

They explained to me,that even when I am not given homework, i should make an effort and stay
after school to work, and also continue to work at home. I am expected to present the extra work.
I asked why, after 6-7 hours of work you are pretty much useless,the extra time is 60% browsing
facebook and 40% producing crap,and that is if you are skilled.
Answer - Doesn’t matter,you have to show you’ve tried…you have to put in as many hours as
possible, and prove it with a volume of work(meaning- time invested is only valid if you can prove
you were working).

Here i should state that during that time i was suffering among the rest, from severe eating
disorders. I would leave once a week an hour early to go to therapy,and the rest of the week i
would leave school when classes are finished or a bit later(5-7 evening),to train, rest and attempt
to have a life.

This mentality was made very clear to us by the “head teacher” and all faculty staff in all courses.
working long hours will favour you over anyone working less,the only way to learn is to spend, or
have your peers assume you’ve spent a lot of time doing so. leaving early to go to therapy was
frowned upon,not staying to work until 21:00 would alienate you…

If you cant do the hours this profession is not for you !

One teacher even told me "you have to work harder! everyone wants it !!,and there are is always
someone hungrier and more passionate, that works harder and wants it more!!!
To which i replied with my stare of srsly? Its a job! not a fucking reality show…

You must show as large a volume of “presentable” work as possible, to prove how dedicated and
passionate you are. idiotically - a learning process ,of course,does not involve failure,we are
talented artists!, so you cannot show failed attempts or research as “work done”. Consequently,
students would sometimes just plainly copy stuff from image banks just to have enough paper
to show how accountable they are.

I deliberately use this word, “accountable”
our head teacher(in France its called “Pedagogical Director”),lets call him T (he is hardly worthy
of a Mr. surname) ,had a very clever way to keep the sweatshop in line. and this sweatshop is
the future leads of the industry’s sweatshops, and they will do the same when they “grow up”

a person that doesn’t stay long hours is - not an accountable worker - unreliable,
what if you have a group project with a deadline, and you cant count on this person to stay and
work, you have a member of your team you cant trust,do you really want to work with him\her ?
he taught us submission and obedience = trust. A friend from ESMA confirmed same mentality
there too. sadly,this follows into animation studios later.

as a result,the industry is full of “time inhalers” ,people who spend as much time physically in the
studio,and filling it with futile made up tasks\presentations\dailies\questions\research…for the
false pretense of “hard working”. Inefficient,expensive,sterile.

sweatshop mentality is the norm, they even teach it in animation schools as part of the program.
you are expected to work overtime,and you are expected to work for low fee to none,because
you are “passionate”. Unfortunately, They don’t teach you to value your work enough to demand
to get paid for it.

Survival of the socially fittest
Its common knowledge that office politics skills are the most important skills you should have.
I have the social skills of a phlegmatic teethless pygmy hamster. I tend to, either be terrified of
people ,or be jealous of them. I function well in a group, only when I’m completely passive and
told what to do,or when I’m the leader and decision maker. anything unclear in between will be
a disaster.

I am very well aware that I’m impossible to work with. However,I’m harmless. completely
incapable of manipulating people or situations,therefor,can do no harm. on first impression,
people will almost always define me as “shy”.

Some say I had a bit of “bad luck”,since it happened that my year’s class was composed of a
majority of girls(kind of unusual in the industry,and girls are harder to deal with socially than guys)
,and the average age was very young. so most where inexperienced,young,naive with a tender
pure soul, and i was old,bitter,and soulless and didn’t quite fit in. But I think it doesn’t matter,
I will be socially challenged in any given group.

I wasn’t the only one though,all “misfits” where methodically shown the door, the method was to
make their school life as unbearable as possible by the faculty staff in various very creative ways
(at least there is some evidence to creativity in the animation community). If i recall correctly,in
my class there where 4 dropouts from 2nd to 3rd year,and 3 more from 3rd to 4th.

The most talented one in our class was A,she was also the youngest. and came in straight to the
2nd year,with me. its very rare to see a 17 year old with a hand of a 50 year old,not exaggerating,
she was phenomenal, extremely versatile, in style and medium, everything she did was “mature”
and very well crafted,and she knew what she was doing.

Unfortunately,A had problems…you can call it clinical depression,but,hell ,in her age it might be
just puberty…anyways ,she didn’t survive our first year. The faculty staff didn’t like her,and me,
from the get go. naturally, she was one of the easiest people for me to interact and get along with.

Knows what he\she is doing, seems distracted, opinionated, doesn’t blend in, doesn’t blindly
obey, anxious, inventive, one step behind the pack ,one step ahead of the pack, Is a profile the
industry tries to avoid at all cost.

If you cant work within a team this profession is not for you !

Schools pick out the odd ones at the edges of the pack,avoid them from graduating,
consequently denying them of even putting their foot in the door of animation studios, problem
solved. I heard similar complaints also from Bezalel academy of art students (in Jerusalem),
claiming that Bezalel faculty encourages and rewards mediocrity and obedience.

Several times I would find myself in animation studios refusing to “lets all wear Hawaii shirts to
work and spend 2 hours in dailies watching the Incredibles frame by frame, and stay after work
for a foosball tournament, that would be sooo cool because we are all Animaterrs, yea… lets
have dailies at 20:00 cause we are all crrazey here…”

I think the only way to bypass being socially impaired is to somehow manage to land at the top
right away, in a lead or an art director position,or an independent film maker,but you have to be
so phenomenally gifted, together with luck and support…so its very rare. Knowing i have social
problems ,my plan was to finish with a graduation film that will be good enough to land me such
a spot\contract. I was not allowed to produce a graduation film at Georges Méliès,
and I’m not that talented.

Thou shalt not pass judgment,I am an artist
Or, how information is shared and treated in the field.
I am not a psychologist, therefore i shall avoid using the term Ego, so i will use the word essence
instead. My essence is an 11 year old spoiled fat girl that cries for ice cream, I am not very proud
of it ,its kind of embarrassing, but,1- I am aware of it ,2- this is all i have to work with.

My class mates where great people,they where really patient, accepting and welcoming,even
though i was very different and not easy to deal with.They even went on an Italian strike when it
was very clear to them that I am deliberately given failed marks on good work,until the mark was
changed. It did not come from me,i had no idea about it,and i think I have never had anything like
this done for me by strangers (french people have an overly sensitive sense of justice).

Directeur pédagogique T and his staff weren’t very fond of me from the get go. I am not saying
he is a bad person,He was doing his job,and this is what he thought his job should be - raising
his ideal future generation of the animation and digital imaging industry. Since I’m a social and
political disaster,even though I’m one stubborn bitch, I made so many mistakes, I didn’t stand a
chance, I survived until the second semester of the 4th (graduation) year. Lucky me,he left GM
a year after…time and space, very important.

First,I was ruining it for him, since constantly my classmates would see me producing good work
on time WITHOUT staying overtime,they would see me, god forbid, negotiate on a deadline, and
worst of all, they would see me solving in 2 clicks problems he couldn’t solve ,and would dismiss
with “you cant, do it all over”. so maybe…just maybe ,someone was just messing with them…

As for the latter,I’m not that stupid,I would always go fix something or help someone after the
teacher has left, never to his face,but everyone and eventually him knew i did it.
And here comes the ego thing into play. from my understanding of previous years students and
from a friend from another school he worked before, This was very characteristic of that
individual, and its not the first time he has been practicing favouritism.

As for classmates.
when i was working in studios, i found out that information is rarely shared,artists who are
confident enough in their work will be happy to teach you, or show you how they solved this or
that. others, the more insecure the artist is, the less he will give you. because every contract is
so uncertain and people are terrified of “the competition”

In school i was happy to see that most where confident enough to teach me stuff,and i put a lot
of time and energy to teach others what i know,If more will know what i know,everyone will be
able to do what i do as well as me,so the film will be better, right?
No.
apparently,Its extremely complicated to give feedback ,or correct someone in a way that will not
come off as condescending .add the fact that most if not all decisions i made during projects
where correct, but peoples “essences” where not letting them follow my advice repeatedly,
eventually finding out i was right,and having to do it anyways,made everyone really pissed at me.
And you know those people who are just lovable? charismatic with a great heart that always
know how to cheer you up?
I’m not one of them…
In short, a big mess.

Its ok to not like someone,Its also ok to think a student shouldn’t or does not deserve to graduate
,however, its not you decision to make.

What is not ok?
Deliberately reducing grades so that a student will fail a course.
rewarding only favourite students with equipment\software they ask for.
"gently persuading "a student to leave by disconnecting him of something every morning,one
morning i don’t have network,the next morning i don’t have power,the next no screen…(and it
takes half the day to fix…and only if you are stubborn like me).
Instigating other students to refuse to work with a student(she’s unreliable,are you sure you want
to work with her?, he’s always late,because of him, you wont make the deadline)

Refusing a student to present his work in front of a jury, e.g ,on date x we have to present our
progress at work on graduation film to jury, I am leaved of jury and not allowed to attend, also
wasn’t allowed to attend a jury where there where people from animation studios coming to see
the work, this however,i managed to bypass by waiting outside and shamelessly grabbing the
guy from MacGuff in a very silly way, convincing him to see my stuff,I’m very good at being silly,
so it worked.

T would constantly stir up fights,and when a class is made up of mostly women…coughing at the
wrong timing is like flicking a lighter in an oxygen tent. After 4 months of very strong efforts on
my side to work in a group on the graduation film,I decided it was just too much for everyone,and
quite the group,It really just didn’t work and was a waste of time and energy, no fuss, it happens
(3rd year project and 2nd year project i followed trough all the group projects successfully).

To save words - you know how women are…none of the other groups would agree to take me in,
T didn’t allow me to work alone on a film of my own and that’s how it ended up like that.

I tried talking to him, writing letters, trying to defend my case…Gornisht as they say in french

So i tried addressing Frank Pettita, the director of our school,for advice.
Mr Pettita is a very kind lovable guy and always available and willing to help, so it was very
surprising when he did not agree to see me,ignored letters and avoided me at all cost leaving his
poor secretaries to get rid of me. obviously, T was always a step ahead of me. I have no idea
what der Directeur pédagogique had told him, but it should be something really magnificently
evil, for someone like Frank to react the way he did.

This kind of sneaky ,manipulative behaviour, and all those patterns above are very common in
the industry. you call it camaraderie, I call it messing with someone else’s livelihood.

Finally

My glorious graduation film
I dropped 4 months before the end. Here is the interesting thing.
A year later I watched “my graduation film”(my initial group’s graduation film) when it was
released online after screening in festivals and winning awards. Everything I did in the 4 months
we were working together on it, was left in the film and completely untouched, shot per shot the
film is identical to the video board and creative ,which i alone was responsible for, and upon
which they where complaining so much. I wasn’t credited anywhere,not in the body of the film,
not on the website,my name is not mentioned anywhere, I don’t exist.

I don’t really mind much, because I’m not very sensitive to people using my stuff ,and because
the film is not good(still, I’m not a saint). But , its kinda ethically wrong…

I believe that all those habits and mentality in animation and post production studios,should be
referred to ,and can be improved if not changed. for a more efficient, pleasant and ethical work
environment and overall line of work. And it should be first established in schools.

I have a problem with the concept of animation, analogically or digitally manufactured artifact.
The fact that i can make something that doesn’t exist seem like its alive and breathing,doesn’t
make it really there,you press delete and its all gone…just like that, because there was nothing
there to begin with. doesn’t correspond well with my existential anxieties…
I’ve been doing animation for about 18 years now i think.
for some reason a painting or a statue or a toy or a piece of machinery makes more sense to me
now.

To sum it all up, after several failed attempts freelancing (compositing cleanups for phone apps,
3d for online gambling, the usual stuff), Really, like…honestly, i think this is not for me… its the
sitting down, just sitting too long, cant sit so many hours,have to move,its not healthy.


#3

Hello cookepuss
I saw your post,which was very interesting, but didn’t have time to reply

you deleted it,so i wont ask specific questions, but i assume you didn’t find
the same difficulties you found in the academic system, in the workplace

referring to your question,
I wrote it, to bring awareness to those issues,
I think the sweatshop mentality and other flaws you find in european
animation studios and other “bad habits” , can be improved.

also,for students who consider those kind of schools,
most of what was done was unethical(like screening your work without
crediting you for it and winning awards for it).
and it has been a long enough time to complain about it without hurting
anyone.
I did try to publish it on bigger platforms,but was refused ,due to the
obvious nature of it…

Thank you for reading and sharing your experience :slight_smile:


#4

FWIW, the only reason why I shared my story and then deleted it is because it felt like a “humble brag” in places. I inadvertently do that sometimes. I deleted it to avoid appearing blatantly immodest.

Having said that, as far as the workplace goes, finding your own way is never easy. I’ve worked in studios before. My first experience was less than ideal. It was like working in a dungeon, except less pleasant. :stuck_out_tongue: Nobody communicated with one another and the working environment was a potential #metoo disaster waiting to happen.

The climate itself was so toxic and stressful that I literally gained something like 5 or 7 pounds in the first week. I probably would’ve died had I stayed there. Incidentally, my uncle was a photographer there and it did nothing for his health either. He ended up gaining ~100 pounds and had a heart attack. I kid you not. He lived to tell the tale, but abandoned ship after a few years. I totally get the sweatshop mentality. It can break you physically and mentally.

As I said, I’m the sort that moves faster when I move alone. With that in mind, I found more success cultivating a client base all my own. It wasn’t easy given the feast or famine nature of the beast, but it made me happy for a time. These days, I’ve shifted my focus from graphics work only to game development. The studio is my own - small, but growing. Going it on my own is probably much harder than just accepting a regular job, but it’s actually easier on my anxiety, which is severe.


#5

Bragging? Have you been to instagram lately? today is the bragging age,
so i wouldn’t worry about it too much, together with what others think or assume.
(also,if its more than 2 paragraphs, has long words and no # symbols no one reads it
anyways).

for some reason, many describe post production work environment the same way
you do, and i think that it should be looked into, the result that all those problems
lead to is that an individual cannot balance his work with the existence of a life
outside of it, which in its turn leads to an inefficient worker.
bottom line 1 shift turns into 3 shifts -a waste of time,money and human spirit.

employers should look into it,especially in commercial work, where everything is
fast and grinding.

as for the pool of human talent in some places… due to the nature of it -sitting
in front of a screen all day, it attracts certain types of people, which gives that
“revenge of the nerds” kind of vibe.

this one time at a very big commercial animation studio, I had a guy coming
to our lead on monday saying - Here, I took Hagar’s shots and animated them
during the weekend on my free time - WTF??

conclusion - change the nature of it (less screen hours, time spent is not to brag
about, frequent days off with rotation between workers, or days dedicated to r&d
,not encouraging overtime, pricing shifts for trial and error,etc.)
and you will bring different types of people into the pool.

I’m happy for you ,that you have found a way to make it work for you.