Word has gotten out recently that DNA is going to do some rather significant (dare I say “massive”?) layoffs at the end of the Ant Bully production. Well, yeah, seems that is true. After a nice 5 or 6 year run with the Jimmy Neutron film, then the TV series and now Ant Bully, they’ve come up against the realities of the entertainment business. If you don’t have another project lined up & ready to go into production (and it seems they don’t) then you don’t have any money coming in and so everybody must go. It’s like the clearance sale at the furniture shop- everything must go! Heh.
By the looks of it this is as major a shutdown as I saw at Big Idea a few years ago- as in even supervisors and department leads in the studio will be going once the film is delivered in June. Those are the people you usually hold onto if you can because they’re considered your core team. Even when Fox slashed Blue Sky down after Ice Age they kept their core leadership and core competency people with the expectation that they’ll need them again. Your core team holds your institutional experience and knowledge on how to make shows. Production artists can be replaced (although not without difficulty), but leads, supervisors, the leadership of the “we know how to get it done” crew… that’s a tougher pill to swallow. Here’s hoping DNA can get another project going enough by June to keep their core team.
So lots of folks who have been at DNA for lots of years are now enjoying the singularly fun experience of looking for work and moving to chase their next gig. Ahh, the life of the digital nomad. Til just before the layoff news folks were being led to believe that just as years before they’d be retained as another project was due to roll in. Whether or not those messages were sent by management or were the flawed assumptions of hopeful minds is difficult for me to discern. Personally I learned a while ago not to believe such rhetoric. Yet the shoe has been dropped and now many people are suddenly thinking about updating their websites, dusting up their resume’s, checking into their visa status. For the first time in years some folks are dealing with how to put together a demo reel- one that can’t use their best footage because their best footage is for a film that hasn’t been released yet.
(side note: why can’t all the HR departments for the major studios in this business- what, there’s like 7 total?- get together and just sign a group NDA? That way people can use footage from their film for their demo reel so they can find work. The way it works now you usually have to find your next job before you can even use footage from your old job due to the delay in film release dates, etc. And a typical film gig lasts more than a year, so your reel has to rely on work that’s older and not truly indicative of your current skills. I dunno, seems to me that’s a bit of a pinch for folks. Thanks for helping us make our movie. Best of luck in getting your next job, but oh, by the way, you can’t use any of your footage on your reel. Sorry. Yet another reason to keep doing stuff at home, kids. Anyhow, end side note..)
So like I was saying. for many it is quite an adjustment to make after you have tried to make the dream come true for so long. I remember when we went through this at Big Idea. For many of us there it was quite the schock to realize that our hope of staying here in the midwest where raising a family, good public schools, low taxes and affordable housing are the norm will be lost as we end up having to give in and move to expensive, crappy school California to make our living while getting used to life in an apartment again after owning a home for so many years. So it’s a bit of a tough time for many folks here who are coming to terms with this reality.
I took the job at DNA last year knowing that it was a temporary gig. I had a “permanent” staff position, but I know enough to realize that the difference between staff and contract isn’t the permanency of the position so much as the nature of the benefit package during employment. When there’s no work and no money to pay you it doesn’t matter if you’re staff or contract, you’re gone. Heh. So for me this is all business as usual. I’m just reminded of the similarities between this deal and the stuff we went through at Big Idea a few years ago. It’s kinda sad to see others struggle in the same way again.
Anyhow, my last scheduled day at DNA is May 20th. Give or take. It’s been a fun project. In some ways I think folks will be a bit surprised with how the movie turns out. It’s not quite the Antz/Bugs Life rip off it’s been called. The folks here are great and this is a wonderful animation team. Tons of talent. It’ll be sad to see it all fall apart, but such is the way things go in this crazy animation business. Oh well. We’ll all land on our feet someplace. That’s usually how it goes, too.
As for me, I have my own plans. Some pretty exciting stuff, Lord willing. More on that as the day draws nearer…