So I have gone full circle. Back to the Future. I have returned from Vancouver back to London. And after some umming and arring over jobs I decided to take up residence with Framestore Commercials/Advertising. The very place I started my career many moons ago.
So I have returned home. Returned back to where it all began. A strange feeling to enter a building where I once was a runner and (I must be honest here) the highlights of my day was to fabricate a fake 'Run' so I could get 5 mins to myself without having to make someone another cup of tea. Now I wasn't alone in this occasional skiving. At times it was a form of inventive entertainment for all us runners. Even those who are now most respected and ingrained within VFX (no names of course) all had their bag of tricks. It was the small acts of defiance I think that reminded us this job isn't forever.
We all had degrees in relative fields of study, but to be frank, our degrees weren't worth the paper they were written on. We did not posses the skill levels to get the desired job we wanted or didn't know what we wanted to do. Running was our perceived route into something we all wanted to be apart of. Often the path wasn't a linear one. My first seconded project was as a Cloth TD, I knew F-all about cloth sim, but had a set of buttons I learnt to press, and pressed them I did. Most of the people I ran with now have Jobs in integrated media and VFX. Some with the dream job they wanted. Some doing something completely different from what they set out to achieve but enjoying it nonetheless, and others, getting the job they most desired only to change path and found they are happier doing that.
Anyone who has ran for a large company knows how rough it can be. Those were tough days looking back. Earning minimum wage while renting in London, walking to work to save money on travel, watching friends and old uni mates steam ahead in their careers, spending every spare waking minute training in your selective field of study so you can escape the running trap. Formative years now glancing back.
Once while on a run I bumped into an animation supervisor who visited my University when I was a student. I instantly recognised him and said hi. He was clueless to who I was. After explaining how I knew him and why I was wearing a hoodie with framestore on he recited to me how he actually wished he was a runner when he started out. I looked at him like it was an idiot. He had an almost romantic vision of being a runner. Like psychically running through the cobbles streets of soho with a can of film under your arm on an import mission to deliver on time. We went our separate ways and i was left a little frazzled by this encounter.
Now looking back on that encounter I see his point more clearly if that was his intended point, regardless I have made my own from it. For someone who is running a project with people asking him a 1000 questions a day and all the responsibilities that come with that, the relief of fantasizing about having a simple task of being a glorified delivery boy must of had its appeal. The same appeal as me daydreaming about becoming an animator.
A animation lecturer once told me don’t become a runner, they just make tea and you won’t get a job. That off the mark comment really stuck with me and when I left university I applied for animation jobs and didn’t dream of becoming a runner as i thought his advice was sound. After all he was my lecturer and has been in the industry, he knows what he is talking about. Well I didn’t get a animation job and I applied for a runner position. I wasn’t good enough, I was rubbish, not for lack of trying or hard work, but not learning the right way, not even knowing how to learn the right way. People ask me where did you study? I answer Portsmouth University. In reality, and how I answer that question now, I’m self taught. I don’t say it with any pride, I taught myself terribly. It wasn’t until I was at Framestore working with other talented and experienced animators that I really learnt how to animate.
A handful of friends once said to me they wouldn’t ever do what I did. They wouldn't ever become a runner, it was beneath them. They weren’t in VFX but other fields of design and media. I was slightly irritated as they were effectively looking down on me. I do believe what they said was true though. They wouldn’t ever be runners or even couldn’t. Some people run for a week, some for a year or more. One guy I know couldn’t even hack running for a day. Pride gets in there way. I have a friend who started to run at the age of 28, now back in the day I thought that was old to start running (it’s not). He took a complete change in career and started at the very bottom. I’d go as far the say that he is a proud person. But he didn’t let it get in the way of doing what he wanted. That must of taken a lot of guts and it’s a commendable character trait. And by the way, he rose up through the ranks and become an animator. He might never have done that if he adopted the attitude of running is beneath him.
So for anyone who is running right now; living on the crap wage, feeling like the poorest person among all your mates, feeling judged about your job and just a little fed up of it. Just know that you are being paid crap, you probably are the poorest among your friends, you are being judged and being fed up is totally okay. I ran for well over a year and a half off and on and the people I ran with can tell you I wasn’t always a laugh to be around. It won’t last forever and If you keep at it you can make it, it might not be in the company you run with or the job role you thought you wanted, but you can make it.
And please don't compare yourself to the people around you or friends. To paraphrase Mary Schmich: The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.