I’ve found that big life changes have been terrifying, but ultimately worth it in the end. Like stepping off the high dive. Hard to take the step, but you are glad you did it when your'e in the water. 2017 was one of those years of big life changes for me and my family.
I’ve always been driven to make things. Write things. Create. For the last few years I’ve felt like I was no longer doing what I was meant to be doing. Granted, I was doing VFX for TV shows millions of people love. But the reality of that translates into long hours of sitting alone in a room, clicking on a mouse and keyboard. Yes, a small creative part of something great, but a long way from the over-all filmmaking created process. I was a carpenter not an architect. But I was a good carpenter. Successful. You can’t want something else if you are a success, right? You can’t derail a perfectly good train because you want to be on a different train. Can you?
Years ago, at the dawn of the computer animation age, I had a boss who would periodically walk around the workstations, and upon seeing an artist struggling with something he would turn off the machine with no warning! No changes saved, everything lost. And a funny thing happened. When you start again from scratch, you have the benefit of everything you’ve learned on v1.0, while no longer being mired by the mistakes and false-starts that might be baked into your work. The things you couldn’t possibly let go were the very things holding your creative process back.
Back to my career angst. My wife was pretty straight-forward supportive about my work struggles, saying, ‘This has been going of a long time. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, chuck it.” She didn’t say it exactly that way, but that was the gist.
And she wasn’t alone. I’ve talked with a lot of friends, all around 40 or 50, and this seems to be an extremely common notion. Many have told me that they’ve chucked their safe, lucrative career and gone after something they simply needed to do. They’ve walked away from a carefully built foundation of financial stability and followed a dream. And to a person, they are all happier on the other side of that decision. Uncertainty about the future turns out to be a lot less stressful than the certainty of not fulfilling your life’s purpose.
So with the full support (urging, actually) of my wife, who at every point in my career has been willing to take risks like these, we all took a risk and made a big change. I chucked it.
I want to make movies. So, we decided close the company, sell the house and come back to LA. If just to dip our toes into Hollywood and just see what happens. What is life if not an adventure? And from the moment we made that decision, things started to happen.
I told some friends that we’d be back in LA for a while at least, and got a few interesting opportunities right off the bat. One of these eventually led to an offer to be an on-set VFX supervisor for the second season of Westworld. So before we knew it, we were not just going to be six month tourists in LA, I was arriving with a dream job in hand.
The kids took the move in stride. They resisted too, but they have been very happy here. I like to think we planted and sprouted them in Kansas City, but we’ve re-potted them here in LA and they are growing and thriving like never before.
The job has been amazing. I’ve replaced that lonely computer screen with 100 of the most creative, talented and knowledgeable crew I can possibly imagine. Every day on set has been a Masterclass of the filmmaking world. Relationships are forming that will be important to me for decades. I have loved every minute on set and there have been a hell of a lot of minutes!
My wife says she’s never seen me work longer and harder at anything, but never happier with my work/life balance. They miss me due to the long hours that a production like this demands. But when the day is over, I am home and relaxed.
So, thank you 2017, for pushing me to a place where I wanted to chuck it, so that I could get back on the path of doing what I was meant to do in 2018 and beyond.