Everyone feels insecure when up against the best. – Kurt Belcher, zombies, props and backgrounds, THE TRIP – THE ANIMATED MOTION PICTURE.
We just recorded a session for my first feature, THE TRIP – THE ANIMATED MOTION PICTURE. I cast one of the actors because his voice fit the role, and he knew about one of the anime from my youth that heavily inspired me, AKIRA.
If you’ve never seen AKIRA, I strongly suggest checking it out if you’re an animation fan. It’s a beautifully animated film though after almost 30 years, I still can’t figure out what the hell is going on. (I have a number of the manga from when they were translated into English in the late 1980s; the story is very different in the film and they really don’t help)
During the interview process, Scott Sederquist mentioned he’d seen AKIRA and remarked on how beautiful the animation was. I think I remarked I agreed, how I saw the movie when it came out, and it holds up as one of the most beautifully animated movies I’ve ever seen. Then I think I commented that this being my first project, I aspire to be as good but I’m probably not coming close. We had a good laugh about it during the read, and the session was a good time as well.
In between I was talking to zombie/prop/background designer Kurt Belcher. I said the same thing, how I can’t compare to Akira. Kurt had the most down to earth advice for me – everybody feels insecure when compared against the best.
Everybody Starts Somewhere
After talking to Kurt, I said to myself damn, he’s right on the mark. My film won’t look like a Disney/Pixar movie, and it sure as hell isn’t going to look like AKIRA. Do I want to get there? Hell yes. Will I get there? I hope so.
Everybody has to start somewhere. If there are people you admire in your line of work – whether it’s writing, filmmaking, music, painting, software development, whatever – those people at one time were just like you. There was a time when they didn’t think they had the chops; I promise you there was blood, sweat and tears and hard work to become what they are today. I personally think anyone who claims they had it easy is probably lying. Sure, I’ll allow for an edge case here or there, but this is extremely rare.
Artists have insecurities, and in the beginnings of our artistic endeavors it’s even worse. There are going to be times when you sit in a class, or a workshop, or a festival, or a conference, and you see someone you perceive as better than you.
There will be people who compare you to the greats. You don’t make movies like X or write like Y. You work in genre and call yourself a writer? We have Z, why should we take you on?
At times it will make you sad. At times it will make you angry. And at times you’re going to think you’re never going to get there and you’re going to want to give up.
It’s Not AKIRA – And It Doesn’t Have to Be
As I thought about how no, my first animated feature isn’t going to look like AKIRA. That’s not the point. The point is to tell a compelling story, work in a medium I’ve dreamed about exploring since I was a child, and build an audience for future work. After walking around comicons and researching animation – including what gets nominated for Oscars – I think there’s plenty of room in this medium for a wide range of styles. There will be some who turn their noses up at it and call it crap, but those people I’ll never be able to reach. There will be people who love it as well, and there are plenty of people who will support a cool indie for no other reason than I’m a cool indie. Those are the people I need to reach. You do too.
If you work at it and do your best, yes, I think you can. You can’t expect it to be easy and it sure as heck won’t be quick, but it is doable.