Saturday, December 19, 2015

TWELVE DAYS OF ANIME 2015 My Shirobako Life

So, as I touched on in my post a few days earlier, I went to school for photography and I did so without a car. Not having a car in the US is the worst, I moved to a metropolitan area partially for the public transportation but even then that's a stop-gap solution, it's as if you have neither money nor time in your life.

So I wasn't able to work as a photography assistant because of it, I could get a few jobs but when a photographer and I chatted about trying it out and seeing if I wanted to be her assistant and work with her a lot we realized I simply wouldn't be able to get to a lot of the jobs. And realizing that, that I had graduated, I had done well, but didn't have a car, and didn't have one because I came of age in the second shittest economic period in American history so I had a hard time finding jobs as a student (and had divorced parents so they couldn't afford me one) and this was going to keep biting me in the ass until I magically got the money to change it threw me into a pretty deep despair for honestly a year. I had to stop assisting, I got a couple of retail jobs where I would go to the same place every day and could find one route to get me there and stick with it, all the while questioning my life choices every single day.

I panic way more than most people realize and at one point I hit upon a bit of an idea, why not work in tv? I had some experience working with film (since my teachers believed we needed to be well rounded) and with those longer contracts there was a better chance I could do something I liked and save up money for a car (since it had to pay better than $10/hour retail, photography assisting is $250/day for god's sake!). It's not wholly a coincidence that this was the fall Shirobako started airing but I hadn't watched it yet, seeing screencaps with the lines "people either become great and rise up fast or they burn out and leave" were hitting a bit too close to home. 

One of my many extended relatives worked as a producer in the area so I met up with her and just asked her questions about what all of this was like. She explained how non-fiction(ish) tv is made, what the entry level positions were, and gave me a list of all of the production companies she knew of in the area and I started cold-emailing them. That initial email was kind of terrible and awkward but amazingly enough one did respond and I trudged through a suburban neighborhood one day, snow still thick on the ground and I was becoming a little alarmed that this wasn't a business district at all and interviewed in a basement at some house. It was explained to me that they didn't have the budget for a paid internship, wishful thinking on my part, and after a bit of back and forth over the next few weeks I accepted with them, deciding to intern for three days and work three days a week creating a schedule that was "still not as bad as senior year".

By this point I had started watching Shirobako and found myself immensely attached to all of the characters and started noticing a couple of funny similarities which would only continue once I started.

People talk about first impressions as if they are just the first seconds people see you, which is true but I think it's also whole first meeting. In my case, as I sat waiting for the laptop I was using to update one of the guys explained the show to me, it was about military airplanes ("okay wow this is not my thing") and handed me a book on drones for a special they were planning to see if I could help with some of the research. Him, myself, and a third guy conferred a little later, we had an email from the producer on the project about what she had found on the first military drone strike and I said actually no, looking through this book it was on X date against Y, unsuccessful, still trying to work out who in the military chain of command knew what was going on since that was part of the problem, but here are the page numbers for everything so far. 

That is possibly the best first impression I've ever given in my life and seemed to ensure the fact that I would be doing all of the fact-checking for each, narration dense episode. As the winter melted I stayed on that project and found myself almost laughing, wasn't this was Diesel-chan's story was? An unpaid young person coming in to help with research and then so useful they pull her in for more? And on an airplane show too! 

Random "god Shirobako is ACCURATE" thoughts:
-president likes cooking? YEP (and drinking, this show severely underplayed how much alcohol goes into this line of work)
-kohais follow you around like ducklings? We had two interns after me, one I may have been unkind in calling a Tarou after finding out she didn't know how to send email attachments and one whose password hint was "Satoshi Kon"
-senpais trying to convince you to take a break and walk around outside? Well they didn't succeed but attempts were made!
-Last minute deliveries? Well I was gonna joke that no we were better but, someone from the lab finishing our show totally walked it across the street to the lab the channel uses during our holiday party (and there have been, multiple exciting moments since then, oi vey)
-Gotta know how to drive? My coworkers were convinced that I neither drank nor drove, I would like to state that they were wrong on both counts but neither are my favorite things
-you want/strongly recommend a longer production time but the higher ups want it in half? My show wasn't even the worst recipient of that!

I learned a lot with the show, I think the show had just finished pre-production so I saw all the bits of production and most of post-production (especially since I got put into a very cold room next to the only bathroom with the post-production manager, I spent half my days almost sitting on top of a space heater) and did like it. My last week was actually right around when I was writing my Shirobako review so it felt bittersweet to leave both at the same time (also I made my last day a Thursday instead of Friday so that I could cosplay Miyamori at the Awesome Con That Was Not Awesome). 

Almost exactly a month later I got an email saying hey, show is renewed, want to come back as an Associate Producer since you already know the show? 

I jumped at the chance, had to work out a few things with my old work (they were good people but I was going to be the third person leaving in two weeks and didn't want to leave them in a complete lurch) and since then have spent the past five months absolutely consumed by planes. Apparently this is a bit of a sped-up schedule, four months from the first day of production (shooting) to delivery of three, one hour episodes is apparently a bit intense, a coworker of mine explained she had worked on a 20 episode series with four teams, each with five eps, and they had 11 months for that amount of work! And it has been almost more than I can handle some times (I don't feel like I'm a Tarou but I totally feel incompetent a lot of the time, thankfully everyone knew this going in since they were the ones who trained me!), things never got quite as bad for me as they did for the Musani characters though, again, senior year was still worse than this. But like Miyamori it's made me question, do I want to keep doing this? At this point I have actually earned enough for a down-payment on a car (on the Shirobako payscale, if I was employed for a solid year I would make in the ballpark of a chief animator, this job literally tripled my income) and could try to go back to photography assisting but, I think I like it here more than I had hoped. 

I was never quite sure why Miyamori chose to continue working her way up the producer but for me, I like telling stories. Photography is one way to do it and film is another, a lot of my classmates struggled with our video classes and while shifting between the mediums is a lot harder than people think (and probably harder to go photo->video than vice versa) I enjoyed it and did well. At first I thought I might want to continue down a similar road and become a DP (director of photography, the guy with the camera) but now I kind of want to stay more in the producer area, since in this part of the industry, production isn't just wrangling people/calling foreign countries at 4:30 in the morning/updating a multi-thousand entry spreadsheet of every piece of footage we have, producers are the writers too, they ARE the ones who decide where the story goes. 

As it stands this show hasn't been renewed yet* so yes, I am worried about my future again and paying bills. I am in a better place than I was a year ago however, I can say I have experience, I have a few connections now to try and work for more work, and I do have money now that unemployment is still terrifying but slightly less so than before. Honestly in an ideal world I wouldn't be freelancing at all, I just get so easily stressed that it's hard to believe this might be one of the better jobs for me, but at this point the only thing to do is what everyone else does, to keep moving forward, working through the bad jobs and the good, and just trying to do something I can be proud of. 

 *and the car I was supposed to buy tomorrow fell through, considering my last Shirobako post was also when I was in a glum spot I'm tempted to stop talking about the show so it stops doing this to my life!

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