... more than a year? It's kinda crazy, when you consider that this site used to be my online home. I'm afraid Tumblr and YouTube have taken that role these days, when I actually have a decent enough connection to take advantage of it.
The reason for my absence is manifold. The long and the short of it, 2015 was shitey. To say the least. Sure, it had some great moments, but they were the diamonds in the manure.
I haven't had a chance to put this into words yet, and it's something I've been meaning to do. I may even put this on my personal website which is a thing that exists.
Possibly my tumblr too.
So, in too many words, let's give this a go.
Last year started off pretty great. I had been working at my animation studio at the time (most of you know which one) for about a year already and things were going great. I'd recently gotten a big raise as the studio moved into full time production on three animated kids shows simultaneously, and over the festive break I'd recovered from from the burnout of 6 months of intense After Effects 2D rig development for those shows (don't think I ever got a credit for that in the pilots).
But, from January, things started to get shakey. Salaries where already arriving on the 30th as opposed to the 25th on account of most of the cash coming through the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as other skill development programmes. Some delay is to be expected through the government, even when big cash isn't involved. We were used to this, it had been happening since August of 2014. I'd learned to budget for it.
However, consistently from January onwards, salaries were delayed by up to 10 days. It was inconvenient, but ultimately we were paid, it just meant I had to lean a little heavier on my wife for support than I would have liked as she finished up her contract at her studio and started looking for new work. She also was in the midst of planning a massive round the world trip funded by her uncle. I'd opted to join her on one stop, being what we could comfortably afford at the time. We saved the necessary money, late or not (it was only ever on time once...).
Jess set off on her lone trek around the world, and things got worse at work. People slowly started leaving the company, and when client and government weren't being blamed for salary delays, the "rats jumping ship" were. Never at one point did upper management tell the whole story. The only reason I hung in there is that when I WAS getting paid, it was enough to maintain a two person household comfortably. Not many jobs in my skill level in this country could boast the same. Plus, there was always the promise of a massive foreign investor coming in to save the day. That carrot kept many a donkey following.
So come June, I went off to meet Jess in the Ukraine for her last stop. Got to see Kiev, Chernobyl and Pripyat, striking out a big bullet on the bucket list. Was such a great break and it was great to see one another after weeks apart. Videos and photos are floating around. I should probably upload those.
But when we got back. Nothing. Nada. No salary for June AT ALL. Aside from cash I borrowed from my dad to book flights (which I could have paid back as soon as I go paid (we budgeted it this way)) I now ended up having to borrow money to just feed myself and Jess, as well as pay rent until she got paid for her first month at the new job. Things were pretty bleak, and July was the crappiest time of my life. Excuse after excuse rolled in and still we only got paid for June salaries in August. Incrementally. Never enough cash to get our heads above water, just enough to keep going back to work to get spoon fed more stories.
Ultimately I resigned in August. Right after all my birthday gift money was used to put food on the table and to keep us getting kicked out of our flat (that moment got hairy). To date I am yet to see a cent of July or Augusts salary. And to that end it is the MD's former partners who are footing that bill and fixing the companies taxes. That mystical investment we were promised vanished as mysteriously as it appeared.
So now I'm out many thousands of ZAR to my dad, which is better than owing the bank (who constantly try their best to get it that way) and I should be able to pay him back in the coming months when my new job kicks off next week. Just surviving to the end of the year entailed freelancing all over the place, and learning how many of those studios loaned money to my original studio to pay our salaries. None of them have seen a cent either.
But what hurts most? How I was taken for a complete ride and didn't see the signs. Or over-optimistically hoped for the best. I beat myself up about it regularly about how dumb I was to not duck when I had the chance. My patience and belief in the goodwill of my boss was stretched to breaking point and I can't believe I held in that long. I feel like my good nature was taken advantage of and that hurts. I always hold out for the good in people and this boss of mine took advantage of that and it hurts.
I've resolved to start 2015 on a clean slate. Take a break from the industry and try my hand at academia for a bit. I was good at that. It was hard, honest work and I want to try it out again. The industry can take a couple years to shake off this disaster and I may try my hand again when I get less jaded and more nostalgic. It's gonna take a couple of years for both to happen.
Needless to say this heavily impacted my personal projects. 2016 is a chance to try revive a few of those, and maybe actually add some art here again.
For some press on the oddessy this year has been, see below (do yourself a favour and listen to the radio interview (sweet sweet justice)):www.marklives.com/2015/09/humm…www.marklives.com/2015/10/mict…ewn.co.za/2015/11/17/Hummingbi…www.702.co.za/articles/6439/bi…
2016 can only be better than this. I venture forth, ego bruised but optimism restored, ready to help out some fresh faces in the industry, to teach them how to kick ass at animation, but also not to get stuck in the same disaster that seems to surface every couple of years.
Anyway. That was way too long. How are you doing?