Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Force and Forty

I saw Star Wars: A New Hope in a Bay Area theater as a child. It was the night before our first family trip to a place strange place called "Lake Tahoe" where we shared a cabin with the Yokota family. 
While I could hardly follow the story at that age, the visuals from the film had a lasting effect on me, as did The Empire Strikes Back (seen at the old Hilltop Drive-In in Richmond) and Return of the Jedi. I have been drawing monsters and spaceships ever since. When I watched the behind-the-scenes specials from the Star Wars films, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be there, wherever "there" was, along side those brilliant creatives building models and monsters for film.

My childhood bedroom was a drawing and painting studio, model shop, research library, writing studio, and more. I would even work in my parent's garage under the low ceiling of the storage loft just a few feet away from the cat litter box and whatever spindly arachnids decided to make the space their home.

Since then, I have nurtured a quiet ambition that remains vulnerable to the pressures of being practical with life and career choices. Somehow, I aged into an industry outsider/insider, often the jealous voyeur raging under the toxic haze of "what should have been". And yet, I keep drawing and painting, never letting go of that dim, fool-hardy candle of a dream.

When I saw a screening of Vimana in San Francisco a few years back, I reveled at the sight of my spaceship and space probe designs on the big screen. They were rendered and animated with so much attention to detail that I found myself feeling a rare sense of pride and satisfaction. Somehow, while taking a heavy part-time load of studio classes for my MFA and teaching at three schools, I managed to find myself again through that project. It was a validation of sorts that left me a bit bitter but hopeful.

Around the same time, a friend said to me, "I hate to say it, but ain't nobody gonna hire you." or words to that effect. I was an MFA student at the Academy of Art University, beyond my 30s and noticeably older than most of my classmates. Had I waited too long to take the leap toward what had been drawn to since childhood? Would the shady reputation and bad press of that for-profit art school (with sports teams! Imagine that!) put me at an even greater disadvantage with so many potential social and demographic strikes already against me? Persistence won out and I kept going.

And then came a giddy, almost surreal moment when I heard of the 40-year anniversary of the release of Star Wars on a local radio station. I was at my drawing table designing sci-fi stuff for an actual animated show. The work has been 10x harder than anything I've done before and I'm loving it and improving constantly. And having to put a lot of fun and entertainment on hold hasn't been a problem at all, and I don't miss Facebook and Instagram one bit.

ASIFA-SF Animation Shorts at CCSF

This Friday evening we will host our first joint screening with ASIFA-SF, the organization for animation in the Bay Area. This will include 32 short films from the Bay Area and beyond, with six films created by students in our own VMD program! Please spread the word and attend if you can.
The screening will take place in lecture hall V114 at 6:30pm this Friday, June 16. The event is free and family-friendly (except the last two films as noted in the attached program).
Hope to see you there!