Reeling From It – Part 2

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In the last article, i posted my student demo reel from 1998. The reel got me very nearly physically kicked out of Seneca College. i produced it in a single weekend as i nervously clutched a plane ticket to Florida, so that i could use it to seek my fortunes at the SIGGRAPH convention. This is the story of what happened next.

But before we get into that, here’s another artifact from 1998. This is a Leica reel for the animation starring that Jell-O-headed underwear-clad character from my demo reel, Dr. Delicious.

Mr. Creighton, You’re Trying to Seduce Me

i try my very best to be pleasant and helpful to students and recent graduates. There’s a very good reason for this: there are few more devastating transition periods in your life than moving from your “i’m gonna take the world by storm and kick off my career with a sky-high starting salary” phase, to your “no one will give me a job and my mom converted my old bedroom into a home gym so i’m going to be moving back home and sleeping on an exercise mat for the foreseeable future” phase.

And as of July, you’re no longer covered under your parents’ health insurance.

The two years between graduating from my el-cheapo, rushed 3D animation program at Seneca College, and giving up all hope of finding a job in my field, were two of the most discouraging, difficult, and humiliating years of my life … and i played a silver lamet-clad disco vampire in the high school musical.


i’m Going to Fizzny World!

When last we left our intrepid me, i had escaped the overly-hostile strip mall campus of Seneca College with my new, extremely mediocre student demo reel and a plane ticket to Orlando to attend SIGGRAPH, a computer graphics convention. Students like to circulate wild rumours, including “starting salary is $60k”, and “everyone who goes to SIGGRAPH is guaranteed a job”. In video game schools today, i’m sure that a similar rumour circulates about the career faire at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Excuse me, but is this where they hand out the jobs?

Off i flew to Orlando and the show, where lots and lots of dudes were really, really friendly to me. Like, really friendly. i mean, they were promising me jobs without ever even seeing my work. i felt like i was a real talent. One fellow worked for Fizzny, and after a private recruitment meeting of JUST TALKING, he gave me a ticket to this exclusive party at the top of one of the Fizzny theme park’s hotels. His name was Joe. i saw him the next day on the show floor, the day of the party, and other young college dudes like me had apparently been given the same glowing treatment. It turns out, i was not the only one who had been offered a ticket to that party.

Excuse me, but is this where they hand out the “jobs”?

Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

When i finally arrived at the party, Joe seemed disappointed to not have more of my undivided attention. i was trying to work the room. Joe pointed at a guy standing near the buffet, with a small crowd of people around him. “See that guy over there? He’s the VP of Fizzny feature animation.” Joe clapped me on the back and said, in resigned tones, “Go get ‘im.”

Through very careful detective work in my mindbrain, i pieced it together. The realization slowly crept up on me: Joe was gay, and he was spending the conference hunting college dudepoon. He realized he couldn’t have me, because he wasn’t important enough, and (as he saw it), i was a real climber. The feature animation VP was, presumably, also gay. i could go farther in my burgeoning career if i was gay – if i offered any of these gentlemen my sweet virgin bumcakes.

i didn’t end up talking to – or doing anything else with (or on, or in, or at) – the Fizzny VP. i decided i wasn’t quite prepared to sleep my way to the top.

i almost regret not doing something i’d regret. Two years later, after my job search had completely failed, and if technology had allowed, i likely would have booked it back to that party in a time machine, flashing hot pants and jazz hands.

These days, i can’t even blow my way into a five-hour freelance gig.

Apart from that episode, i made it into all the right parties and talked to all the right people at SIGGRAPH. i was even interviewed by Digital Domain, who made vague promises about following up with me and slotting me into one of their departments. That was the first time i learned that people lie to grads, and can’t be believed. But it wouldn’t be the last.

10 thoughts on “Reeling From It – Part 2

  1. Pingback: » Reeling From It – Part 1

  2. Jake

    Wow. So. Ryan. You and I have met once out there in the real life, last summer at the Penny Arcade Exposition. What you don’t know is mere moments before I spotted you walking out of a panel and dashed over to say hello, I’d been sitting in a line for some other panel. Someone else in the same line started bragging incredibly loudly and confidently about how her boyfriend is going to FigiFen, where he is learning absolutely everything there is to know about making video games, and he’s going to be introduced to everyone who’s anybody in the video game world, and all of these people will be fighting over him when he graduates, begging him to accept their $100K-a-year jobs, and he’ll have his pick because he will be more qualified than anybody else. Now, I don’t ordinarily take it upon myself to pick fights with strangers, but that week marked the one year anniversary of my graduation from FigiFen, a year mostly spent living with my mom and working for near-minimum wage in a miserable position at Fest Fuy. (I’m much better off now – I’ve gotten back the job I used to do during my summers in college, at least until my contract ends in a few months.) I wasn’t out to crush all hope for this poor girl that her boyfriend might make something of his life, but I didn’t appreciate having someone shout that the very depressing reality I was living was, in fact, impossible, and could never happen to a FigiFen graduate, but there was no convincing this kid that a bit of caution, humility, or not-yelling-ignorant-nonsense-in-public was in order.

    Then you walked by and I had a great way to escape an irritating debate that was going nowhere.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      i watched a really solid documentary a while back about joints like Figi Fen, the students of which qualify for government-issued student loans. Private schools like Figi Fen, Pull Snail, and the Schminternational Asplademy of Fart and Resign, all have sky-high tuitions, and are in the bidness of cranking out students as fast as possible. When these students graduates (with high hopes, as you mention), and they can’t find work, they fall into that deadly cycle of debt. The criticism the documentary makes is that the government is contributing to a system that sinks its citizens into inescapable debt.

      i won’t have anything to do with private schools any more. i was recently approached by one of them to teach, and i told them to go fly a kite. The most i’ll do is bring their graduates in as interns, because i feel kinda bad for them. i’m almost running an injured bird sanctuary over here – the unpaying business of scrubbing oil off of wounded pelicans. i should really apply for not-for-profit status and start taking donations.

      Anyway, kudos to you for yelling. The world needs more yelling, if only to cut through the delusion.

  3. edvella

    Whoa, for a moment there your story reminded me of the Tattooed Rood. That sure is a good tale about someone who meets his fortune after his sweet virgin bumcakes got taken away.

    Anyway, it seems that it sure was a devastating transition period for you if you have been holding a grudge for all this time. I say it’s just a part of growing up. Probably the people who have had the worst experiences are the ones who have learned quicker.

    1. Ryan Henson Creighton Post author

      To be absolutely, 100% clear: my sweet virgin bumcakes remain intact.

      It might be considered a grudge if the world has moved on, but this wound is re-opened any time i’m involved with a college. i’ve taught at colleges, i’ve been on their advisory councils, i regularly speak to their students, and i hire their graduates, and i am constantly reminded of what a disservice colleges do to young people. If that is fixed or improved, i’ll drop my grudge. Until then, my dissatisfaction motivates me to work towards that improvement.

  4. Pingback: » Reeling From It – Part 3

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