Reeling From It – Part 1

Recently, i grabbed a Groupon for VHS to DVD transfer, and i decided to convert my student demo reel and share it with you all, along with the sordid tale that goes with it. Here’s the reel:

And now, the tale.

The Tale

i graduated from a condensed 3D graphics and animation program at Seneca College, after dropping out of Sheridan. i left Sheridan because i somehow got into their Illustration program despite never taking a single art class all through high school, and i found i was unable to keep pace with my excellently talented classmates. Stepping into Seneca from Sheridan was like leaving Downton Abbey and stepping into Welcome Back Kotter. Or the Wire. It was bad.

Stay classy, Seneca.

The school was clearly out to make a quick buck (and not much has changed here in Toronto, with Seneca being far from the only culprit). My program was accelerated, clearly so that they could churn more students through and increase their profits. The “campus”, at the time, was in a strip mall at Finch and Dufferin, across from a peeler joint called Charlie T’s – the outdoor signage of which, on a daily basis, invited me to “come get wet with the hot tub girls”. A good number of my classmates actually DID heed that call, and would come back from the strip club half-soused, ready to “fukkin’ model some three fukkin’ dee”. Their resulting work was often big-titted chrome robo-babes. Sigh.

3D model by Keaton3D (note: NOT a Seneca student from my class. The give-away is that the quality is way too high.)

It was one of those schools where like so many others (Centennial comes to mind), the program “offered” a co-op placement. What this means is that the school really only had a connection with one studio in the city, and could only place two students there – their own pick, naturally. The rest of the thirty students had to fend for ourselves. The co-op “class” was a prerequisite for graduation. One girl got a placement typing up schedules at her uncle’s trucking company. i found my own placement teaching technology at an elementary school.


My on-campus classes ended in May, let’s say, but my co-op position ended in June. At the time, a wild rumour was circulating among students that if you could only arrive at the promised land, the SIGGRAPH conference, you could land a job no problem with Pixar or Digital Domain. Cinchy. So naturally, i ponied up the cash for a plane ticket to Orlando so that i could shop my reel around the conference. The problem was that i didn’t have a demo reel.

A Reel Problem

A week after my co-op placement ended, i booked Seneca’s edit suite for a weekend, with my plane leaving the following Monday. The pressure was intense. i had to assemble and edit all of my school assignments together in a reel in that one weekend so i would have something to show in Florida. What’s more, i didn’t live in Toronto – i had to commute an hour through the worst part of town to my geriatric great uncle’s condo, limited by whenever the buses stopped running. So off i went.

In the middle of my sleep-addled Hell Weekend, the big gruff Eastern Bloc guy who handled equipment bookings stormed into the edit suite. “WE HAV PROBLEM,” he announced.

(you’re going to suplex me?)

“Wh… what’s the problem?” i asked.


In my defense, i told him that my last class (for that’s what my co-op placement technically was) had ended the week prior. i also pointed out that it was a dead weekend, and that no other student had the room booked.


i was in shock. My reel was only half-finished. “What’s the big deal?” you ask, because you are young and don’t know any better. Well, this was in 1998. All of my work was on these thick-as-a-dinner-plate ZIP disks. This weekend predated digital editing – everything was done on tape editing machines. To complete my reel, i’d have to book time in an edit suite in town somewhere, which also had to run 3DS Max and the other software i needed to produce rendered frames. So i was completely hosed.

Nothing says “completely hosed” quite like a ZIP disk.

i walked down the hallway to the President’s office carrying my things in my arms, feeling weirdly like an assault victim. i remember very clearly standing in her office, the stress and pressure of the weekend and my plane tickets bought with money i didn’t have and my lack of sleep weighing down on me, and begging her with tears in my eyes to allow me to finish cutting my reel.

Think about that: Seneca College, which took my money and gave me the bum’s rush, booting me out the door of their computer animation program without even offering a portfolio readiness course or sufficient time to produce a demo reel, made me beg them to let me produce the one crucial artifact that would help me successfully land a job in the workforce. This is why until now, you won’t have caught me mentioning i ever attended that school. i have actively avoided them throughout my professional life.

Proclamation and Banishment

The President waved her sceptre and deigned to let me use the suite for one more day, sternly warning me that i was not to return to the school, and cautioning me that if i partook of any food or drink while i was there, i would be trapped in Seneca’s Finch and Dufferin strip mall campus forever, never to return to the lands above.

i had no urge to return. i cut the rest of my reel as fast as possible, left the place, and have never looked back.

So if i’m ever hard on Ontario colleges these days, i feel justified; they were first hard on me.

Then What Happened?

More on how this steaming turd of a demo reel was received in Florida, and elsewhere, in the next post.

9 thoughts on “Reeling From It – Part 1

  1. Zeebarf

    Oh man, that brought me back. I survived until the 1st semester of the 2nd year of Classical Animation at Sheridan until they finally booted me out along with half the other students. I still have the “textbook” one of the teachers made and forced us to buy. I keep it to remind myself that if overcame that hell hole, I can overcome anything.

  2. Pingback: » Reeling From It – Part 2

  3. Pingback: » Reeling From It – Part 3

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