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It’s never business as usual in the film industry

Posted: 07.31.13

A ruthless commitment to cooperation drives business

The Siggraph show is just about our favorite show of the year. I love movies and Jon knows just about everyone in the business. Come to think of it, by this time we both know an awful lot of people in the graphics industry. I used to say that there are only 40 people in the graphics industry. It seems like more because everyone is moving around a whole lot.

The industry has grown so much that it is an even more stupid joke than it was when I first made it. It isn’t a bad description of the film production industry. Everyone does move around a lot and everyone does know each other. Also, the fact that people are asked to work within strict budgets means a few people do the work of many more. They aren’t movie stars you know.

But honestly they are. There are so many heroes of computer graphics and their names are bandied around by the knowledgeable like baseball cards.

I’ve always been struck by the cool famous guys including director Eric Darnell, sound designer Gary Rydsrom, animation supervisor David Schaub, Imageworks VFX supervisor Rob Bredow, Zoic’s Mike Romey, and Pixomondo’s Joni Jacobson are such nice people. I know I’m name-dropping but the fact is you couldn’t be luckier if you were seated next to these people at a dinner party. You can’t always say the same thing about business moguls, movie stars, or even writers, who you’d expect to be able to keep up their end of a conversation.

This year, as I was thinking about all the standards that have emerged and the amazingly efficient production companies that come together around a project, it occurred to me that in the trenches of the film industry being nice is a survival skill.

I have known people working in the film industry for a long time. I was a film student and some people stayed in the business, more of them worked for a while in production and got out because the work has always been back breaking and badly paid but they all honestly loved movies and that’s why they do the work. And for every one that gives up and quits there are three or four more who are more than happy to take their places.

So, in order to work in the film industry, you’ve got to be good, you’ve got to have talent, stamina, and, I suppose you’ve got to be nice. With all the stress and strain of doing the impossible it sure makes it easier if everyone can get along.
Granted, this isn’t much of a theory and it’s entirely based on my experience of people, but so far it’s held up.

History on the hoof

Jon used to say that we’ve been tracking graphics since 1984 until I made him stop. In fact once a young whippersnapper asked if there was even such a thing as computer graphics when Jon was starting out and well, no, not exactly, but Jon was ready and waiting when computers became capable of gorgeous graphics. This year at Siggraph Jon’s book, the History of Visual Magic in Computers was showcased at Springer’s booth on the show floor. We also gave books out at our luncheon, and the Khronos Group had a few they raffled off as prizes.Jon signing books at Khronos’ BOF Bash (source: JPR)

There were a lot of nice people who came by to share stories with Jon and make sure their names were spelled right in the book. It’s really wonderful that computer graphics is such a relatively young field. The people who have invented this technology are still with us. Many are still working and they too are generous with their knowledge and expertise.

I left Siggraph feeling thankful that I’ve been involved in this field and I’ve gotten to meet so many really brilliant people. It’s just a great bonus when they turn out to be nice as well, right?