What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

May 2, 2011

*Ahem* "Our dying Animation industry"

I came across this recent post recently about our *ahem* dying animation industry.

One of the paragraph below.

4 years ago, I, like many other animator- wannabes, joined the bandwagon of a series of upcoming courses that promised us a lot of things. They promised us that if we take their diplomas, their certificates, we will join the ranks of animators around the world. With honeyed words, advertisements and more, me and my cohorts were misled and fell into a trap, a conspiracy."

 He is bitter that what was promised to him didn't appear after he followed the prescribed steps. And he start blaming the school. And what is most funny and insulting at the same time is the phrase "Unlike most polytechnic students, I and my like-minded friends saw animation not as a fan-boy obsession but a true career."

 If this dude was serious about animation, he wouldn't have need to be convinced by *ahem* honeyed words and advertisement. And at the same time, he just dissed his own classmates by saying they treat animation as a fan boy obsession.



Of course it is! Most of us got into animation precisely because we are fan boys (or at least closet fanboys if you want to get laid) For me Star Wars (not ep1-3. I refuse to acknowledge their existence), of Looney Tunes, Miyazaki movies, the awesome Paul Dini's Batman series, hell even He-man and Mask. Why else would we want to be sitting in front of the computer clicking the mouse and getting recurring Repetitive Stress Syndrome. And what the hell is a true career? CPF? AWS? 14 day holiday? BMW?

   Sorry to be brutal. But I am glad you is not in the industry because you will become a very angry young man. I think you will be glad eventually he is not working in animation.

Continuing,

"We met this man, an industrial veteran who is the managing director of a local CG firm in Singapore. He offered to critique our work and we were for a nasty big shock.
“You want to know something? The polytechnics have not prepared you for the industry. This kind of portfolio is below the standard of what the industry is looking for.”

And his studio "once had courses that only costed $2K with government subsidy. But now with government funding cut, the courses now costs $10K. These put a lot of financial pressure on artists with the passion for the animation industry but are financially tight."

Have it ever occurred to you that this man who is offering you advice also happens to run a course? That maybe.. just maybe there is a financial incentive for him to offer you the course at the expense of the govt. And perhaps.... just perhaps... the course isn't working which is why the subsidy was cutted? Did you manage to find a job after attending the course? Or did you also conveniently happen to be hired by his company? And is disgruntled because the wages are low because
" To make matters worse, the government managed to woo top foreign animation companies to set up shop in Singapore, effectively killing the local companies. Many of these foreign animation companies hire lesser locals and receive government funding while local companies are left to fend for themselves. If you think about it, with the billions of dollars it makes every year, does Lucasfilm Singapore require that government funding to set up shop in Singapore?"

Dude seriously, I know you are a student and I do not blame you. But such a statement just for sensationalism is dangerous.

Lucasfilm is in Singapore precisely because the govt is partially funding them to be here.

Animation isn't frying char kway teow or making fishhead curry. Or even making lor mee. It isn't a localise skillset that is catered to the local population. 

The skill and tool sets that you are competing against is international. Not local.

You can ask all the people working in these multinational companies if they have learnt a lot in there. The companies bring with them skillsets and expertise. And with that, it is opportunities.  If not there is no skill or knowledge transference to us.

If the govt make up his mind that bio science is not profitable, they will stop funding for it.

And if the govt makes up its mind in a few years that animation is no longer viable or profitable because they are not seeing any returns for the massive investment they are putting in... then I do not think the big companies will stay for long.

Then long term wise its even more determent for the people who worked in this field. But every country out there are subsidising their companies for a share of the pie until it have become part of the supply/demand equation. And the investment in proven industry players are a safer hedge.

Unfortunately the fact is that for most companies as most businesses they would rather lose the investors money then their own. Its just business and it is in the interest of the company to cut cost. Hence they are here.

You need to understand that it is to their advantage to take in Singaporeans. They are pressured to encourage locals because of the investment involved by the govt. And the govt wants to see returns by locals filling these positions. Unfortunately the level of local hires isn't there yet. But its is getting there. Just not fast enough for you.

The lower wage cg workers is a reality not only in Singapore but all over the world. But if there is two similar level of workers, the foreign companies here have more incentive to hire locals.

While ironically it is the local companies that hire the lower wage workers.  Because the quality and skillset that they are have are not at the demand level that can afford otherwise. (I do not like the word lower wage workers. I am sure given the chance they would like to have more too.) And if anything its an uneven playing field to your favor. You have an advantage more then the rest of the developing countries with the high end facilities and internet downloading speed. Do you think these fellow workers have any better lecturers or facilities then you? If so why are they here?

If they succeed, and are good enough, they will raise and maybe get out of Singapore because they can. Would you want to spend 1/3 -1/2 of your salary on rent and eat local food that you are not used to? But you will learn as well (Maybe just from the good ones.)

I remember last year the head of a local studio actually tell the students at a graduation show that he will not hire local students because they complain a lot, cannot take hardship and are pampered. (Not that I cannot see his point, but lets just say that the working environment and working hours there aren't the most socially friendly). I am more pissed off that he will make such off the cuffs comments to students. Then why is he doing at a grad show? Just to put the students down and hunt for cheap talent?

If the locals leave these big multinational companies, they will have more options. To go aboard, or to jump to another multinational company here. Their salary is pegged to the amount of talent and skills they have and shows that they have worked on. If they are only going to be working on cartoon TV shows and commercials (doesn't matter 3d or non 3d), its very hard to move on to movies and full length feature films and get more money. And then you are stuck. But the opportunities are here now. Its just whether you are good enough to get in.

With these skill sets transferred, some may open their own companies, maybe eventually do their own movies and expand the industry. Or even decide this is not the career for them and move on to other fields. (its common). But its options that was not really viable before these companies come in. So I do not think the industry is dying. Is it in the pink of health where everyone can have bonuses, creative working environment  and high salary? Hell No. In order for that to work, the companies need to make money. The IPs need to make money. And right now, they aren't. I am more worried about the locals guys in the local companies then the foreign ones. They do not have the mobility because of the projects they worked on. But its in a better state then it was 10 years ago. With more skills and knowledge transferal then some of the hacks that we got. And it will take time for it to filter down and you will need to be ready to work for it.

"My mentor’s studio was far from the only victims. In 2010, Egg Story Creative Production led by a local talent, Nickson Fong, has closed down in light of the recent downturn that hit the industry It has laid off about 30 employees and rendered a major production; Kung Fu Gecko, dead. A word with a former employee there spoke of funding cuts from the government which hastened its demise. Nickson Fong is now nowhere to be seen or contacted."

I do not know Mr Fong. And the word talent is debatable after the media painted him to be the great hope (I blame the media partially). But I believe he popped up in Malaysia where they are offering subsidies too. (hopefully they will offer him the 1.6k salary that he seeks for his staff. Best thing is its in RM)

Maybe someone should tell their PM if he wants to have lunch with Mr Fong too.

There are some policies that the govt makes that I feel is flawed regarding animation.And its mistakes from the early 1990s even until now....

I would not expect them to know what is a good project to invest in. Seriously there is no guarantee. But I take offense with the bloody wayang that is generated. And how everything is swept under the carpet.

Personally, I strongly advocate against govt subsidy courses for the animation industry. It is easy to say from hindsight but I always felt it cannot be subsidised because it is not a real reflection of market demand and is not sustainable. Because its cheap, people will take it and the people running the courses is making a profit from the govt. Its not a reflection of the supply and demand. Of course that might not be the case, but the motive is arguable.

My advice to you, do your best and give it a try. If your talent and skill level isn't going to allow you to compete with these lower wages talent then you are probably not going to succeed at a higher level.

If it does not work out. Then change career. Its ok. I know its a few thousand dollars and a few years down the drain for you. But I have friends who switched career while still relatively young and are happier for it. They still love animation and enjoy watching animation. (in fact even more since they do not have to do it anymore).

 You have a whole life ahead of you. To carry so much venom and anger blaming everyone for the next few years is going to be hard on yourself and your family. You need to ask if its worth it.

I agree that the current situation is severely lacking. But it is what it is at this point in time.

IF you wish to vote for a change where there is only perhaps hope for a better system and mentality, then by all means go ahead. Do it with your vote and ask your friends/families too if you feel so.

  But if the motivation for writing this article was to blame the state of the industry locally on the govt. Then I think you need to do more research and not do it just to vent your anger. It makes you look bad and to the rest of the people reading the article, the rest of the local animators look bad. We are better then this. We have to be for this industry to work long term.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for your posts. It's always a good read.

    I'm currently a student in a local private school as well, and I can definitely relate to some of the anger the above mentioned student feels. However, my anger stems from the fact that there seems to be nothing I can do to make things better.

    One of the major problems with the government is that they're investing so much on such courses, but our education system is one that has never placed much emphasis on arts. Many students come into schools with no prior knowledge or art background, and some have never drawn at all. The sad thing is how the school promises guidance for these people, but yet have failed to deliver. Although like many of my peers, I;ve never touched art throughout my entire compulsory school career, I was lucky enough to stumble upon people back in 2007 who showed me that it's possible to make a career out of art, as well as inspired me to be the independent learner that I am now, teaching myself how to draw and paint from ground zero. I'm happy to say i'm fairly competent in terms of
    2d capabilities and art knowledge, although nowhere near where I want to be. Anyway, the point is, alot of these students struggle with the courses because they're not armed with the basic skillset to fully benefit from the modules. I can only speak from my own limited experience, and I don't know if this is the case outside my immediate circle, (Im inclined to think so though.) but it seems to me that there is a REAL NEED for a FOCUSED program to teach the BASICS of all BASICS in drawing, painting, perspective, composition, light and color theory, anatomy, as well as art history, just to make up for the neglect the government has for the foundations of an art student career. It seems to me that the government is putting the cart before the horse, instead of properly laying down a strong foundation, they pump money into specialized courses in which their students aren't prepared for. This is not only detriment to the students, but also to the schools, because they are constantly struggling with the quality of students too to be able to improve their curriculum. This is one area I want to see change in, because I believe a focus in building up the foundations will get us there much faster than what we're doing currently.

    Another area I want to see change in, is the current way WDA is structured. I know youre against subsidized courses, but I think, if done right, it can be still be beneficial. I'm against the current way that things are being handled by the WDA. Like the SDP, i'm inclined to believe the education sector needs reform, and that the government has failed miserably in this area. Learning should be fun, not because you fear failing. I find a grading system in art to be totally absurd, and advocate a system based on open critiques aimed to help students improve their work. Students should not be judged on what they produce for their assignments. The emphasis should be on the learning process, and understanding the hows and the whys of doing things a certain way. Yet, the fun is taken away by the constant threat of having to pay back liquidated damages of 30k to WDA should one fail their modules. One can argue that you shouldn't be failing your modules in the first place anyway, but these are students, as I've mentioned above, who aren't prepared for such specialized courses, and are starting to discover that for themselves when they are struggling with basic drawing 101 for an advanced character design module. Yet, there is no way out for them as they are bonded by the contract, and dropping out would mean having to pay 30k in liquidated damages to the government, money in which I'd like to ask goes to where?

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  2. Again, it might not be the case, and I've only my own observations to base on, but right now we have a situation of students who come to school not because they want to learn, but because they 1. can't, 2. don't want, or 3. are afraid that they will have to pay back the government subsidies if they don't. And in addition, you have students who aren't learning, not because they don't want to learn or perform, but are just not equip with the basic skillset to be able to fully do so, and are struggling.

    So the question I want to ask is, who does the subsidy actually benefit? Is it not the focus of WDA to develop the workforce? Is the current system healthy? Why hold people on a chain with threats of financial penalties? Even if someone successfully completes their course, but comes out bitter and angry against the school and the government, what good will that do? It sure feels as if the government and its agencies have lost their focus.

    I've to say though, I'm not one to play the blame game, as I've learnt that it brings us nowhere. I'm inclined to see the best in everyone, and that people generally have good intentions and are doing whatever they know and are capable of, at that particular moment in time. However, I'm also inclined to see things as they are right now, and it doesn't seem to me to be working.

    So here I am, wondering to myself: is there no other way? Is there really nothing anyone can do to change the way things are done? Like yourself and many others, I want to see this industry grow. There's so much potential for things to improve, but it doesn't feel as if we're moving towards that direction sometimes. I love learning, talking and sharing anything art/film related, and I wish there can be a more fun, efficient and conducive environment for doing so, free from all the negativity that've been more of a hindrance than anything else. (especially to learning).

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  3. I`m currently a student and I can identify with the original article`s author.

    I guess it`s a little bit of what hilscreate says and what the author said.
    Like him, I was vastly shocked at the disparity between what the studios were looking for, and what we were capable of.
    But if he actually did more homework, more snooping around the internet, to seek more on his own, he would actually have found out about it on his own, and known that whatever the school provided was insufficient.

    It`s like this for any line of work, and anyone who is successful all have this one trait: They have a desire to excel.
    Rather than sit on the school` stool, if he truly had a burning desire to succeed, to better himself, he would have gone out to see what is required.


    Definitely, the government is to blame for opening the floodgates on the schools, but isn`t that what the government has been doing all the time? Whenever they see a potential industry, they just open the floodgates, be it foreign labour, or school courses.

    The astute ones will benefit from these courses what they can, and then do their own self study and learn on their own, while borrowing what resources they can.

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  4. Thank you for your comments Yang,

    I have to say the govt does not have any obligation to provide you with a education with art growing up. There are so much other things to cover in school and its already jammed packed as it is.

    You picked this because you wanted to. You draw because you want to. Because you enjoy it. Not because you have to. Foundation courses in the art schools offer that. That is basically the foundation year because going on to do animation or design etc.

    And also the time where you decide if this is something that suits you or not.

    I feel that the current education system does not encourage creative or critical thinking. And the role of the teacher is to administrate a set course of instructions defined by MOE. It can be rather inflexible and be bogged down with excessive paperwork.

    And I agree that the current WDA scheme is flawed. But I think they are seeing the issues with the current system and rectifying it.

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  5. So you said that you have friends who switched career while still relatively young and are happier for it. May I know what do they do now? I'm the other way round, I want to get out of the industry. :)

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  6. Some areas that they moved into are teaching. Still in the field but less hectic hours. But depending on the luck of the draw, might be more political or more liberating.

    Others move into Iphone/android game/apps development. Often in their own companies or with friends.

    Some actually move into completely different fields.

    One is in baking and confectionery making seems like a liberating while still creatively satisfactory field. Not so good on your figure though.

    There are of course some that moves into properties and sales.

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  7. Hi, I'm an O'level student,currently waiting for results.

    Firstly thanks for this page that i can ask u for some guidance for my next level of education.

    I'm really interested in animation to the point that I am trying to learn some blender and flash even when i dun take art(I didn't take art cos my school did not offer Pure Sci with Art)

    So I heard first hand accounts from students from Lasalle and NAFA , they compare saying that NAFA is more Visual quailty focused in their animation course while Lasalle is more concept/story Focused. and some of them said if People really want animation they should go for nanyang poly.

    Its a bit confusing for me especially when u have no seniors or friends studying in the field to know more and I just have the internet and the open-houses(Now no open houses yet since its just Dec)

    Haha I require your guidance on which institution has the optimum environment (teachers, modules) currently i cannot google any info for nyp animation modules lol. cos nyp website dun have list of modules for animation lol

    haha cos i dun wish to watse my parents money cos we considered to be low-income lol.

    Thanks again for this blog :) i really appreciate this , its just so rare to find animators first hand working in the industry to openly share their thoughts nowadays.. and for the information in this blog , thanks :')

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://hilscreate.blogspot.com/2011/02/choosing-local-animation-school.html

      and

      http://hilscreate.blogspot.com/2011/02/students-attitude-part-1.html#more

      But the 1st thing you need to do is go and find out for yourself what goes into making a animation movie. And find out if you are interested in doing that. Its not for everyone.

      Delete
  8. Ok thanks :) I'll also go and check out the open houses :)
    I found the modules seems like 3d is quite the main focus nowadays. Haha i like the artistic part not quite on the scripting part haha

    ReplyDelete