Saturday, July 25, 2009

Improvements and Anxiety

Things are improving. Next week I will finally start on a proper project, and ad for the Scottish postcode lottery. Haven't quite understood the concept of this lottery, apparently if your postcode is selected everyone within it wins a truckload of money.

Anyway the ad will have a lot of gold dust flying around, and a female presenter.

On the job seeking side of things, I have heard some no's from applications I did, the normal thing, but the amount of jobs available seems to have increased in the past weeks which seems to be excellent news.

The reason I put anxiety in the title is that it's something I have been thinking about. In the CG industry there is a lot of it flying around. One would expect creative and upbeat atmospheres at work places, but no.. they are all very competitive and anxiety ridden. This is wrong for such a young profession.

One sees al the trendy dudes hanging around, but it it all fake, when one gets closer what one sees is a lot of insecurity, politics and competition. The atire to work in this industry is the cool dude one, but one should not fall for these appearances. There is normally a cold war going on.

Where is the fun? Why should people in such a cool industry think like stock market brokers? Is this attitude something the employers seek to keep productivity high?

And then there is the deification of programming skills. Nowadays if you are not fluent in programming it is very hard to find a job. This is extremely irritating and wrong. Until recenlty I was proud to survive and know very little about MEL scripting. Now it is something I have to hide!

The industry values the non-creative bookworm artists. Visit any studio and you'll see the same: the creativity is dealt by a select group of politically savy people, who most of the time play safe to maintain their status quo and artists are mostly valued for their knowledge of computer programming, not their artistic talent.

It is because of this that everything one sees looks the basically the same. With such a technological potential to do creative stuff it is dissapointing to see that things have become so uniform. Being a CG Artist is now a technical job, even in animation it is like that.

OK, I am not naive and understand that productions cost millions, that there must be a return for this investmet and for this to happen one has to organize things, but hey.. can you imagine if football teams started to hire players on the basis of their technical knowledge of the game? Goals would never happen.

The tools have taken over. When will human creativity and talent claim it's space back?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Weird Stuff

Today I was looking through this still of an advert that I was unexpectedly invited to do by Kombat Films in Rio de Janeiro, and was gobsmacked when I noticed that the background plate was the corner where I grew up.

In my mind, and I hope the agnostics excuse me, this is more than a coincidence. I mean the chances of work turning up in Rio are next to non-existing nowadays. I just happened to be there to look after my ailing mother and was invited to do the modeling and it's lighting. Before the events of this year I only went there once every three or four years. Then just by chance these guys put my street as a background to the film, producing this weird image above. This just goes beyond the realm of chane.

The plate was taken looking away from Copacabana beach, so the hoover waiter is where I would play as a boy.

Could this be a message that I have been inhaling too much toxic air around me????

If anyone can explain the meaning of this I thank them.

Kombat Films is owned by my step-son's very talented friends Jera and Gabriel ( who also happen to be ace skateboarders and surfers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Continuing the saga

Yep... my conscience tells me to cut out the juicier parts. Not officially separated yet and I have a daughter, which the most valued asset I posses and that I will ever have.

The focus of this blog are the "plagues" together with the diary of my life improvement that I hope will come after them.

As they say in Brazil everything ends well, if things haven't improved it is because you are still in trouble...

This is the feeling I had after coming back from Brazil, the Misses living life as if nothing serious was happening, both of us jobless. To my surprise the work that I had been doing before I left suddenly took off violently (despite the agreed finishing date had already passed two weeks before).

It was the normal thing, everyone stressed out, a pissed off, a merciless client, last minute cock ups. After receiving a ridiculous deadline I managed to deliver everything on time, to my total disbelief. Despite this it was now that the nightmare began (or continued); there was a misunderstanding and I was only going to be paid in a month's time.

I had counted on this money while I was in Rio, and even when I bought the ticket, so my finances became stretched to the limit.

One good thing that happened during my absence was that an application for me to do a photo exhibition at a hotel here in Glasgow was accepted. That kept me going. I spent o lot of time in the preparation of the event, the pictures looked pretty good considering it was my first exhibition. The outcome was a success in terms of people showing up and saying the pictures looked great but the sales were nonexistent.

Meanwhile the guy who was posing as my literary agent gave me a deadline to finish, and shorten my book. It was, and is, looking good but as I am not a writer it needed(s) some grammatical polishing. This is what he told me at least, and proceeded to ask for a fee to make it presentable to editors. I don't blame him for that, after all he must have been the only person to have the courage to read it (for free) and no one works for free, including myself. Still the fact is that this project also had to be stalled.

Anyway, when the time came for me to finally receive my money after receiving several overdraft fines from my bank, I phoned the guys up to confirm the date etc... To my utter disbelief, the financial guy proceeded to give me abuse and told me to phone a week later. I waited for a tight week and phone the guy up again only to receive more abuse.

This was a client I wanted to keep since, as I said, he was/is part of a plan to eventually open my own CG company. With the best of my diplomatic skills I contacted my friend who took me to the company in the first place and explained the situation. After a few days of silence it finally came out that the company was waiting for their client to pay, and only then would they pay me. At that point, with all the bickering going on at home, my worries with my mum's health and her finances, I took this as just another heavy brick on the wall. I ended getting paid but a lot of financial damage had been made.

Time to call the taxman. As I said in the previous post, I had this gigantic tax bill to pay. My accountant had negotiated a payment by installments with the authorities, but because I had had to travel to Brazil, the late payment, my mum's health plan etc... etc... etc... I failed to pay one of the parts of the agreement.

I called them up to try to explain my situation. Big mistake... I was treated as a bloody criminal. They have a naughty technique; at first they are really friendly and let you talk, once they suss you out they become like mafia extortioners. They gave me a real rough time, and said that I had basically two options pay the whole debt in a down payment or go to court. No mercy whatsoever.

It makes me wonder if they talked the same way with the bankers who lost all those billions.

Anyway that was the end of the introductory saga. No money, a dead quiet job market, no pictures sold, the book project on hold, marriage in the brink, my religiosity balancing on the scales and the big question, why and how did this all happen?

Now the blog will actually begin, this will be the saga of recovery against all odds from the bottom of the hole. A saga inspired by Lula and Barack Obama, similar to the one where Moses led the Jewish out of the land of impurity where people thought they were gods, Egypt, or in Hebrew: Mitzraim to the promised land.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I am in serious doubts if I give continuation to the story.

The problem being is that because of the fact that I was personally blessed by a very senior Rabbi on Mount Zion itself in front of King Davids tomb, and spent the highest Jewish hollidays praying with these guys, when the shit hit the fan I had a bit of a loss of faith and went back to doing some very bad habits, specially when I went to Brazil to look after my mum.

I did not do anything to her if it's that what your dirty minds are thinking, but because my marriage was stale and I needed to talk to someone, wrong things happened.

Because of this, momentarily I'll give a pause for reflections:

One of the worst things that happen in a personal crisis is rejection.

This was true for me even before I got into the computer graphics business. Guys go through an enormous amount of rejection throughout their lives, the more genuine you are and the less crap you are prepared to accept the more rejection you get.

In my case I took the decision of getting into my very competitive profession at the age of 30 and then the one of trying trying to re initiate my career in the UK at the age of 36, it is obvious that I was asking for trouble, but until I went to Israel things were going unbelievably in an upwad trend.

I once read a (unorthodox) commentary about the existence of the giants in the Bible. It said that the story of the giants and their dissapearance talks about the impossibility of spiritual growth, or the growth of personal dreams in the "real world". When one grows too big there is an impossibility of relating yourself to what is around you. The air on top becomes too thin and it is unsustainable to maintain a righteous and coherent situation for too long, there is not enough purity around to permit that kind of existence

This kind of growth is a vertical one. The horizontal kind translates into relating oneself to the world's imperfections and to mix with it in order to survive. If one spreads oneself too wide here we never really leave the ground and can easily get lost.

According to the Bible the giants were self sufficient creatures, they did not produce children and were supposed to live forever and acheive the goals G-d had set them in their long and lonely saga.

In our world we should be able to grow together and reach things together. This as we all know never happens so we are caught in between the impossibilities of growing horizontaly or verticaly, which is very sad if one comes to think of it.

This is probably why rejection is so hard, one should really be able to count on helping hands, we should be growing together. Rejection sometimes feels like the certainty that there really is nothing out there.

The Jewish sages teach that behind all the rejections and acceptances there is the invisible Hand.

If one sees the examples of president Obama, a black guy who made it to the top, and the brazilian president, Lula, an uneducated factory worker who lost his finger in a job related accident and who is now doing well in his second term, one can think that maybe, just maybe, they are like light houses put into those positions to prove to us that growth is possible if one is determined and that rejections are just tests, or doors that were not supposed to be opened in the first place.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The many plagues

There was no plan B for what had happened, I was supposed to stay in Israel for at least a year and a half according to what was said in my interview. We had no place to stay neither in the UK nor in Brazil. The way out was to extend their stay in Brazil with her relatives, I was lucky enough to get a freelance job in Cardiff, Wales in a company where I had managed to build a reputation.

After that I went to Brazil for a month before the apartment in Glasgow vacated. There I discovered that my mother had lost a lot of money in the stock market and now was asking me and my sister to help her out. My sister and her husband had been sick and both been recently operated so the situation wasn't brilliant for my her either. I then managed to fall out with and old friend who was now really well off and had wanted to start up a CG course with me until then. Paralel to this effort I tried to set other things up in Brazil but despite a lot of effort and travelling up and down nothing seemed to work out.

The best solution was to come back to the recession hit UK and try to sort myself out here with the contacts I already had. After a few rejections in places I had taken as certain an oportunity came up to work in helping in the pre visualisation of a hollywood film "Gullivers Travels". But the dark powers of 2009 continued on their rampage, I fell sick with a very inconvenient and painfull thing in my back hole (seriously). At the same time I was never so poorly treated in a job. My immediate boss was an insecure novice girl who chose the guy with a wierd accent to show her "leadership" skills. To my "luck" the company owner was working on the project in the same room as both of us making this the perfect opportunity for her display of arrogance and insecurity to take place with no possibility of answering back.

During this entire period what kept me sane was the writing of my book "The Real Thing" about my wild youth in Rio de Janeiro. I advanced a lot with it during that month because I stayed in a convent next to work, the only available place in the outskirts. It was dead silent at night. The closest commerce was about a half an hour on foot from there. It was litterally in the middle of the countryside, no tv, and no other possibility of distractions. My writing and the pain in my backside were probably the liveliest things going on...

In the middle of the job a friend of mine sent me an e-mail saying that a job I had helped to pitch while I was in Cardiff was going to happen. I decided to leave the more glamorous job and go for this one for several reasons. The first one was because of the abuse I was getting, the second was because it was the promise of the beggining of a more enteprenerial way of placing myself in the market and thirdly was the commuting. Because of the credit crunch I decided to commute to Pinewood Studios by bus. The only thing I learned from thisis that National Express is the worst bus company I ever used. Intercity buses in Brazil are infinitely better. It was a night one where the lights could not be turned off and there was a retard "host" who imagined he was a stand up comedian because of the bus's microphone. He tried hard to amuse the passengers throughout the night with his "refined" humor about the toilet and the ethnic minorities in the bus.

It was due to him and the microscopic chairs that I could not sleep neither on the way there nor on the way back. I would end the weekends worse off than I ended my weeks.

Meanwhile we were already back in the apartment we had rented before leaving for Israel. Coming home was worse than expected, the relationship became unbearable. I wasn't welcome back, my wife wasn't working, there was constant bickering and the financial situation just made life hell. In the background there was the looming prospect of having to pay a lot of money to the British tax man. This would be a ridiculous amount when I was employed at full steam, now it just added definition to the nightmare.

In the middle of my new project, which I did at home, I received the news that my mother fell sick. She had never had anything in her entire life, and a cancer was very worrying. My sister was still passing through her hellish period and my presence was absolutely necessary. I had to go back to Brazil with little money coming in and no prospects in the horizon despite the frustrating fact that companies where I had worked (and done well) were hiring.


This blog is more or less a diary of how I will hopefully get out of the worst personal crisis I have had in the past 25 years.

It is kind of the inverse of the coin of a previous blog I created when arriving in Israel about a year ago.

Back then I was over the moon, working on an animated film in Jerusalem. Both factors together summed up basically all of my aspirations at the time. I had finally the opportunity of showing my talent in a proper project, taking my career to the height I had always wished and there was the excitement of bringing my family over to the Holy Land, a great spiritual achievement in my view. It couldn't be better.

The optimism quickly faded away when confronted with the inexperience and the appalling mistakes I witnessed at work, but there was still the hope that things would gradually sort themselves out and that my experience could help them in doing this.

There was another aspect, I was to live together with my family. I had been a freelance Computer Graphics artist in the UK, which meant staying away from home most of the time, only returning to Glasgow, where I lived, on weekends.

Finally there was the fact that I was in the holiest of cities where one can go to the wailing wall whenever one wants and there is an abundance of Torah knowledge which I was thirsty for. Ultimately I was in a land where most people shared a story similar to mine. I believed I could flourish and was genuinely proud and happy to be there.

Everything seemed to indicate that things were falling into place. The company got me a beautiful apartment overlooking the Old City. The main street leading to the studio had, by chance, a flag on each side: one from Brazil, where I come from, and facing it was the Scottish one. I was invited to attend classes on the Holy Scriptures on Mount Zion itself, and became friends with the TV Globo's, Brazil's main TV station, Middle East correspondent who happened to be a neighbour.

The international economic crisis was to change all of this. It would put in evidence the incompetence of the team in charge of the project. Drastic decisions had to be made: first one third of the staff was fired to cut costs and a few weeks later the company was shrunk to one tenth of it's personnel. That was when my dream fell into pieces.

Previously to the firing my wife had a high risk pregnancy and had to abort on it's first day. This was shortly after a very strange event happened: One of her sisters became terminally ill, in her desperation she went to the Wailing Wall to pray for her sister's life. Her prayers were attended and the sister survived, but on the same night she got better another sister unexpectedly died of the same illness.

She proceeded to go back to Brazil with our daughter to look after her surviving sister and was away from Jerusalem when I lost my job . The relationship was not great before these events and only went down hill form there. Despite my efforts to comfort her through those mad days she seemed totally indifferent to the painful events that happened to me.

After loosing the job I had to stay on in the flat for another three weeks on my own not really knowing what was going to be and with no one to talk to, the war broke out and there were many more questions than answers ahead. I could not understand why after so much devotion and personal effort I had been abandoned to the material powers of the world.