In 1999 I was a Clean-Up artist in Fil-Cartoons. Although it seemed that I was settling into this job quite nicely, I still dreamed of the day when I would become a full-fledged animator. That opportunity soon presented itself when in the early months of 2000, Fil-Cartoons conducted a test to select artists for their in-house animation training program.
Since I never hid my intention of being an animator, I considered myself a virtual shoo-in for the test. In my mind, to be an Animator is to be part of the elite and most glamorous group in the animation industry; and that test which I was going to undertake seemed to have been brought about by fate working in my favor.
So I took the test. After several days of anxiously wringing my hands, I learned that I passed, thus granting me a slot in the training program, which would commence in two months. I can’t say enough of how excited I was with the good news. In the days that followed, I basked in the fleeting fame that goes with being a successful examinee.
Little did I know that ensuing events were about to deal me a nasty blow.
One unique aspect I came to observe while working in the animation business at that time was the prevalence of freelancers or “Journeymen”, a term that some freelancers used to call themselves.
During peak seasons, the studio would bring in freelancers to help ease the production load. Thus, it came to pass that I was introduced to the lifestyle of freelancing. These journeymen, as the term implies, are free to take on jobs in any studios as the need occurs and as they please. They can hop from one studio to another without any contractual obligations other than to make sure the work is done on time (or so I thought). On the other hand, we, as regular employees were bound by contract to work exclusively for Fil-Cartoons only. Naturally, we were banned from doing freelance work for other studios. (It was only fair since it was Fil-Cartoons who spent money for our training as well as having provided for our allowances during the training period.)
In the animation industry there are peak seasons and there are low seasons. Work can come in torrents during one bountiful season and then come in trickles – before finally screeching to a halt the next.
When Fil-Cartoons was hit by a dearth of work, I was forced to try freelancing. Tempted is probably the better word, actually. During those dry times, whispers of good pay from “fly-by-night” studios slithered and wafted through the aisles of our department. Almost everybody I knew were doing it; that is, they were getting work from another studio, right under Fil-Cartoons’ nose! Being a newbie, I got caught up in the hype and made the misguided move of joining the bandwagon.
I was in it for only a good two weeks when the studio got whiff of this shenanigan and immediately conducted a massive crackdown. Caught by surprise and a sudden guilty feeling, I was totally horrified at what I had gotten myself into. The repercussion of the crackdown was felt throughout the studio, and unfortunately I was one of the embarrassed culprits caught red-handed. I was in complete shock.
Although the ramifications of my misdemeanor did not cost me my job, it did lose me the exclusive slot in the animation training program that only a few weeks earlier was the source of my pride and joy and the start of my dream to become an animator. Needless to say, I was absolutely heartbroken.
During the next months, the repentant me could only watch helplessly as my would-have-been fellow animation trainees breezed through the animation program. I never forgave myself for that mistake I did in 2000. I swore from that day onwards that I shall never, ever do anything that would result in a breach of contract and trust. I learned my lesson the hard way.
After a few more months, I was finally given a reprieve from my misguided lapse and was told that I would be automatically included in the next batch of trainees. But, as fate would have it, that training program never came to pass. The instructor for the animation program resigned, and our group’s fate was suspended in limbo.
Thereby, my quest for my Holy Grail had to be redirected elsewhere.
And of course, as should be expected, that tale would need another post!