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

December 23, 2012

On ‘Imagine: How Creativity Works’ by Jonah Lehrer

  If you are a person interested in unearthing the methodology of things and fascinated by neuroscience, this book is for you. Creativity is a rather intangible idea, yet in this book Jonah Lehrer presents the myth of creativity in substantial scientific information, giving the reader a physical grasp on the anatomy of creativity.  

  Lehrer answers questions as such: Why all the geniuses seem to appear in the same era, why certain cities have better creative output than others, how did Pixar simulate creativity by making their staff use the same restroom area, why famous artists deem drinking and taking drugs fuels their creativity..... so on and so forth. 

 The book is roughly broken into two parts, discussing creativity in terms of individuals and groups.Every chapter presents the reader with new material. This book offers explanations to some creative rules commonly offered on the web (to which some people raise a skeptical eyebrow debating whether its a myth or fact), like the one below: 

(Creator of this image unknown. Taken from here)

  Lehrer presents his findings with clarity for those of us who are not exactly qualified neuroscience experts. Coherence, simple choice of vocabulary and the lack of jargon made this book a fairly relaxed read, given the density of the subject. Although I must admit I found it rather statistical and factual at times, like reading a report.

  On a side note, media coverage of this book had been somewhat negative, due to Lehrer’s self-plagiarism and fabricating Bob Dylan’s quotes. Despite that, I still feel that it is worth reading, especially for those intrigued by the science of creativity. 

  If you happen to be a Bob Dylan fan and is easily offended by anything that 'harms' your idol, it is not the best of ideas to read the first two chapters. The rest should be fine. 

Hardcover: 279 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1st edition (2012)
Language: English

[This book had been removed from the shelves but is available on Amazon as offered by sellers. 
Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City still had some stock the last I checked.]

November 7, 2012

Expectations of working in overseas animation/cg facilities

After working in different outsource facilities as well as a major studio, talking to different individuals and observing all kinds of people pass through the doors... I think maybe its a good idea to write a bit about the expectations that one should have when they consider to work overseas with families. Again.. most of these are my opinions and views. Feel free to disagree or share your experiences and I will revise the article. But keep it civil at least.

What are the expectations to have when you work in an "outsource" overseas animation/cg facility?


- Its in another country. Learn a new culture, chances to travel around the region. Expand your horizon.

- Your children (if you have any) will be exposed to different cultures and mindset. They will get to see more of the world rather then the confines of the same city you are in all the time. 

- If you are a fresh graduate or only a few years of work experience, its a stepping stone to the big boy studios. Heck its even easier just to find a job and get hired. Lets face it, the competition to get hired is easier because they need the manpower and are in expansion. And once you've got some movie credits under your belt, it is easier to move around to other countries that need a certain amount of work experience to get a visa. 

- If you have some movie experience prior to going into a good outsource company, there is a greater possibility of career advancement, for the fact that these companies always have fresh people coming in and they need senior and experience people who can relate to them to manage the newbies. And you can be in a comfortable situation of running a department.

- Most importantly, Opportunities. With more and more work coming to the region, there will always to work available if you are willing to travel. If you become someone important enough with responsibilities, you can have a pretty decent gig going for the next 10-20 years. Also, with the rapid expanding of media in the Asian region, the possibility of running your own studio won't be a far fetch dream. 

- Easier to get laid. There are other individuals that are traveling to a new country and working in that country. Opportunities to get wasted and travel the region. And get hook-up etc... People do not want to hear about this but there is a huge white superior complex out here. There will be asian girls that lurve white boys and/or the economic promises that it brings. Even if u look like Jabba the hutt. 

That is basically it...Unless anyone has got anything to add.

Cons (Dun hold your breath, its lots)

- It should be clearly understood that being an outsource studio means that you will not always get the cream of the crop in terms of assets to work on. Then again, even if you are in a major studio does not mean you will get to animate hero shots. Jobs will be balanced between the main company and the outsource one, but the work you get will always be the work that no one wants to do, which is why it was outsourced in the first place. The main company tends to keep the major hero assets in house. Nevertheless there are still quite a bit of possibility for cool work to be done.

 - It must also be clear that the reason you are recruited to the company is because they need you to get the job done and transfer skills to the locals. With experience, you can get reasonably high pay. However, if your motivation is to get as much money as possible, be sure to know that the company will have much higher expectations for you. If you cannot match those expectations , you will be very vulnerable.

- Due to different HR policies between countries and companies , you must be fully aware of the health and insurance policies for each of them. Even human rights are different. Being the foreigner, it is your responsibility to understand what is at stake. Do not blindly trust the recruitment people, some of them will be painting you the rosy pictures. Because their job, obviously, is to get you into the company. And don't do drugs.. At least do not get caught. Especially in Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia and Indonesia. You will be royally fucked.

- Most studios have to be ran according to the parent company. And that means delays in approvals, pipelines not working. Lots of fires to put out. This is one of the most painful and frustrating aspects of working at such companies. Not to mention management that wants to micro manage. 

- This is something contentious but I have seen this happen when the guys at the main company are under the impression that the outsource facility are doing a better job, outshining the guys over at the main branch. Fear of their jobs might led resistance and to calls and politics to ensure work stays in the main company. Be aware of this. BUT that is already changing. At the end whoever can deliver the most bang for the buck. 

I always think of it like the 1st time car manufacturing get moved out of US and Japan to lower cheaper places. The craftsman and mechanics that used to work at the plants are made redundant. But there are those that recognize the changes and evolve. There will always be a market for quality work at a premium price. But you better be damn good at it.

- Tax regulation is different for different countries. Do not spend all your money on rent and booze. You might not know how much money you will need if the company you are working for goes tits up.

- If you see mattress tucked away underneath a desk, stay the fuck away from that company.

- Finally....my personal opinion from previous experiences is that there are too many managers, coordinators every fucking where....There is so much fear and worry from the producers and the managers pleasing their overseas overlords that  they hire more and more people to keep tabs of the people doing the actual work. And see the wage bill go up and blame the artists for it.That is precisely why there are so many incompetent people in management. They are not capable of actually doing the work.  THAT is the ABSOLUTELY worst thing about working in a facility. And they will fire the artists first before ever firing themselves when they are the problem to start with. (duh..)...Hiring these coordinators and managers just to manage the artists because they don't trust the artists?. Seriously. What the flying fuck. The irony is that they are suppose to manage. Not micro manage.
So Please...IF you see there is 1 coordinators for 2-4 artists, then the company have an issue. Either the company does not trust the artists or the artists are not very good. Stay away.


Its not for everyone. Especially for people who are used in their comfort zone. It can be a nightmare. But also it has a lot to do with mentality. Go with a positive attitude and good mindset, manage your expectations accordingly.

For a lot of the cg artists in asia, getting into one of the bigger companies is a huge step up from the local studios they work in. Both in career prospects and financial remuneration. So they will work their ass off. Obviously if you are brought up in a western culture, it is a different mentality to get used to.

React and adapt to situations you might not have foreseen. Its part and parcel of a outsource studio. Often people with unrealistic expectations get pissed of by what they receive as it is what they imagined it to be. Understand that different culture will have different mindsets and mentalities. Do not assume they are all fuckwits or idiots. Face is a important aspect of the asian culture. you would do good to remember that.

Lastly and most importantly, Keep your fucking ego in check. Not all the companies are out there to screw you. Its hard to believe for some of you.. But its true. At the end of the day, its a business. Its not to their advantage to get rid of you after flying you all the way here. If you are valuable and reliable, there is no reason to screw you. in fact they will be more appreciative of you. But if you act like a cunt and believes you own the place, do not be surprised if things start to go pete tong....

Again, I will be refining on this article as I go along and evolving it with inputs from peers and friends.

Thoughts about Lucasfilm Employee Terminated After Tending To Pregnant Wife

There have been lots of comments over at VFX Soldier about the termination of an employee at Lucasfilm Singapore after tending to his pregnant wife who suffered from a medical condition.

I like reading VFX Soldier. Its informative and while highlighting a lot of the negative aspects of working in the industry. But its always with the constructive purpose for the rest of us. To understand the rules of the game that we are in. But in this instance I feel that is unfair to write an article like this merely from listening to one side of the story. Its very easy to paint this as a big evil corporate company against the little helpless CG artist.

I not disputing that there might be a legitimate case happening but I feel that there is always 2 sides to the story. I do not know this individual but I wonder if there is something that he might have done that contradicts with the terms of the contract? Or perhaps that the level of work performed in the eyes of the management does not justify his pay package? Are these issues made aware by that individual for the article?

I think that I am going to get flamed for this but prior experiences with working with people have lead me to understand that there is a difference in management of expectations. Many come expecting the pipeline to be in perfect working order or that they will get good shots. Maybe the recruitment who are desperate for the head count sold them a rosier picture than expected and when they arrived, it's a shock. Some are just too trusting of companies to think that they will want to grow the individual. Obviously there are some that have egos bigger than the fucking death star but none of the talent to back it up.

Others come here with a sense of entitlement, that they are the top dogs in a outsource facilities and that they should get the best shots or assets because they have the big movies under their belts etc... They happen in any facility, any industry whether in US or overseas. There are a few who just plain suck but because of good ass-kissing or office politics what not... managed to move up in management... you get the point.
Again I must iterate that not all are like these. A good majority of CG artists whom I had the pleasure of working with locally and overseas are genuinely nice, decent and capable people. All I am saying is that there are always two sides to the same coin.

It is unfortunate that this happened and I empathize with the situation that Luis is in, I genuinely do. It sucks big time to be in that situation. And I wish him and his family all the best. I just hope to know the some truth in what actually happened that resulted in this so that everyone else who wants to work overseas can be prepared.

August 2, 2012

A Personal Opinion on Passion and Commitment

According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, passion is ‘a strong and uncontrollable emotion’. This is the word that many had used to express their enthusiasm and (used generically here) love for something. The subject may range from an individual to an object or activity. It could be anything. However, since this is purely from a personal standpoint, I’ll mostly deal with the activity part, loosely based on the art discipline (again, art here is used in a generic manner). 
  Let’s assume that Oxford Dictionary is completely correct about the definition of the word. ‘A strong and uncontrollable emotion’ seems to have a negative connotation, as of the word obsession, besotted and possessed. In this sense I am referring more to the uncontrollable part. Regardless, strong is a relatively vague word too, and is dependent on the situation as presented. 
  People may want to indicate that they have the fierce love for art, and here is where the commitment part comes in. Commitment is defined as ‘the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity’. By saying that a person has passion for certain things, it mainly indicates emotional qualities, consisting more sentimental value. Commitment, on the other hand, seems to imply a psychological and physical sense of involvement in the aforementioned situation. 
  Putting both together, by saying that one has passion for art, does not certainly indicate the presence of commitment to the discipline. It simply means that one possess an intense  emotion for something, not necessarily dedication. Deriving from that, a lack of dedication also implies an absence of responsibility. That would be the problem here. 
  Passion is an emotive word, and we all know that emotion is something extremely indistinct. People can get away with things by using emotion (as observed in all complicated situations that usually involves the phrase ‘I love you’). Hence, when a person says, I have a passion, it merely states that he/ she has an intense emotion towards a subject matter. You have a passion, so what now? Having an emotion simply isn’t sufficient to make things work. 
  So far all these seems to put passion in an unfavorable light. Actually no. It’s simply the fact that we all use the word passion too dismissively, too lightly. We instantly relate passion to a positive meaning when we hear it, hence we use it. It is a straightforward word. 
  All too often, you hear people in the art discipline saying ‘I have a passion for arts, that’s why I’m here’ (every other art student, including yours truly); ‘You must be passionate about arts to do it. Live it, breathe it, shit it and sleep with it’ (every other art lecturer who is actually bold enough to use the simple word shit in a sentence. That was sarcasm if you fail to detect); and of course there’s the institute that goes ‘ We are passionate about arts and we are here to teach intelligent young minds who share the same bloody passion’. Certainly, there’s the parents ‘ I want you to study something you have a passion for’, or, ‘Passion for arts is plain ridiculous, you need an education that can get you money’.  
  ALL these people use the word passion. It’s just like the first day in art school and someone asks ‘What do you think creativity is?’. More than half the people will answer ‘To think out of the box’. Personally, I do not find ‘out of the box’ a constructive phrase, it does not explain creativity either. It’s simply a term used too unconsciously, like an involuntary action. And here we go on the improper use of vocabulary before carefully digesting every morsel of the definition. 
  So as I was saying, the word is used too dismissively. We may be saying ‘ I have a passion for arts’ without realizing we could mean: ‘I fucking love arts to bits and pieces but I could ditch it any time I want because it’s just bloody emotion.’ Inappropriate choice of word. 
  Regardless, passion itself is not a problem. I am in fact giving it credit. True, passion is emotion and emotions are unstable and not based on hard facts. Yet, let’s face it, we are all in some way influenced by emotion. A lot of things stem from emotion. Emotion doesn’t accomplish things, not directly. It is a driver.  
  We all do things because there is something inside that is driving us. Hunger drives you to leave the keyboard and make food. Sexual deprivation and mental instability drive the rates of sexual assaults. It is only because you have a passion for something and that is what’s making you do what you’re doing (hopefully). Passion is intense and it could drive people to unusual extents. That is when commitment comes back into the picture. 
  Due to this passion thing we all claim we have, it makes it easier for commitment. I’m not saying passion creates commitment, it is not absolute. If a person has the passion, committing becomes less agonizing. Committing comes naturally for some people because they want to do the thing that they love, and they are ready to take the responsibility that comes with it. 
  I know a lot of peers who have passion for arts, and they come to an art school. That was first step to commitment. Initial commitment isn’t enough. All the hours spent doing things like painting tiny squares of perfect colour value, hue and saturation can kill people on the long run, because it interferes with their online gaming, social networking, clubbing and all the normal things that normal people do. They’ll leave after a semester or two, simply because of workload and the fact that, they don’t want the commitment. Sure, passion makes it easier but it just doesn’t work if you don’t want the responsibility of being physically and mentally involved with what you do. That was simply an observation, not judgement. 
  Here’s a summary to celebrate the fact that you spent 10 minutes reading a long- winded, relatively insignificant article: One, passion is equivalent to emotion and is unstable. Two, people use the word passion too lightly. Three, passion is not commitment. Four, passion can drive us to commit. Five, commitment involves responsibility. 
  So, the next time before you say ‘I have a passion’ , it would be nice to remind yourself that out there somewhere behind the computer screen, a jobless nutcase is looking up the word definition and criticizing your inappropriate choice of vocabulary in the said context. And writing a thousand word commentary about it. 

March 8, 2012

the economics of animation industry. part 2

 Its been a while since this post or even any posts..... But the industry have been changing very rapidly in the last 6 months

Dreamworks is opening in China, Rhythm and Hues opening a couple in Taiwan.

Rumors abound of more US/UK companies setting up shop all around Asia. Yes sire.. exciting times ahead for these countries.

Cheaper eager workers, no union laws, pro business environment. Higher skilled and better quality workers compared to 5 years ago. You can understand the sentiment of the companies to re-locate or move some of the operations to Asia.

March 7, 2012

Andrew Stanton: The clues to a great story (talk on TED) transcript

This is one of the best video I have heard about storytelling. The man talking in the video is of course Andrew Stanton.

Below is a transcript of the key points that he made on the video for personal use.