It takes energy to actually hate someone and that is unfortunate.
It took me more than 20 years to pay off my college student loan and I seethed with each payment. Payment was completed about 7 years ago and I no longer put forth effort to feel actual hatred but this story is worth telling:
Imagine the thrill I had when I was told the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) was
on the forefront of using computer graphics as an artform. Now imagine how the professor that was behind this didn’t even do his own art nor his own research while glomming off students pretending HE was doing everything.
I introduced myself to this person and told him of my ambitions to work in the film industry using makeup effects and computer graphics. He was overly friendly and suggested he become my advisor for choosing classes to put myself on the proper path. This turned out to be another mistake.
Because I did not take his course and in order to gain access to the computer graphics and electronic imagery room I had to become his assistant. This meant making copies of the computer program instruction manuals (for whatever reason I will never know and this got me in trouble with the administration because it backed up the schools copy machine as well as copyright infringement problems), making copies of paperwork for his art history classes, and cleaning the room because he wouldn’t allow the school’s maintenance to enter. It was during this time I went head first into learning the new graphic design program Pagemaker as well as Paint Studio…on my own…and then I had to instruct HIM on what I was learning and creating.
At this time I also began contacting companies like Disney and Industrial Light and Magic for more advice and job opportunities. He insisted I post these letters on my “Progress Wall”. This is where students posted copies of EVERYTHING they did within that room. I was to discover he used this to spy on what to take to the largest gathering of computer graphics professionals convention called SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Computer GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques).
He was a very volatile little person and incredibly nit picky. He hated the letters I was sending to companies claiming I was “kissing their ass” while another time I had to take time off during finals week in order to prepare and he became livid. Mind you none of my work was of high importance of any degree.
Oh and I received a lot of positive mail from Disney and ILM.
The following semester I was still his assistant and enrolled in the Computer Graphics class. It was here the I became interested in the communications media course that other students were taking. As he was my advisor, he advised against it because he “didn’t want me involved with those uncreative types of people in the comm media department because they weren’t artists”.
During class he had me make and hand out copies as well as my other duties while not getting paid. This didn’t sit well with me because I wanted to be working on projects like everyone else in the room and I missed out on specific project themes and his brief lectures. Come to think of it he didn’t do ANY teaching but only giving rules of the room and Project assignments. This is where it gets very wrong: these projects where used to get grant money for himself and to take to SIGGRAPH claiming it as his own. No credit was EVER given to any student. I found this out from a few upperclassmen that already went through this dilemma.
Other students did projects the way they wanted but he insisted I do projects they way HE wanted. For instance: one project was to create an animated transition between the old IUP logo and the new one. I wanted to do an 8 bit Mike Myers type slasher attack on a billboard revealing the new logo underneath but he insisted of having a “Pong” pixel traveling on the screen erasing the old logo revealing the new. He copied it and whatever he did with it I’ll never know because he never finished the book he was claiming to write and received grant money for.
The other projects were a digital self portrait (I had to instruct the class on how to use the video capturing equipment) while another was an animation that had to involve a teapot as the main subject matter. This was due to SIGGRAPH’s theme of the year was the teapot because it was the first 3D object created inside a computer. I created an Alice In Wonderland like chessboard on the Mac II GS with a teapot and chess pieces moving around based on his idea. He loved it and I never saw it again. I hated it and didn’t even make a copy.
He mentioned he would be attending SIGGRAPH and that he could get students in as ushers and volunteers but we would have to arrange our own traveling plans to Chicago. Again…he was taking our work with him to show at a lecture.
When he returned the only thing he mentioned was an MIT student programmed a drummer animation that synched with the slowing and speeding of music. I remember thinking, “if this is all he got out of this…the school wasted it’s money because this is Teddy Ruxpin technology that was done 10 years ago.”
That semester I devoted so much of my extra time to learning in that room while I was excited to take the “advanced” course the following semester. Time spent wisely because the following semester the college eliminated the entire course and got rid of all the equipment.
Since I was known among the Dean’s staff and he knew of me I scheduled a meeting with him to find out what happened. I told him of the importance of computers and emerging programs that are essential to the art field but he claimed no one was using the room due to it’s poor access. There was definitely a sense of reluctance of a full explanation and I found out through the grape vine it was due to the poor use of grant money. Essentially he used the grant money to travel to SIGGRAPH and never turned in any progress of the book he was working on.
I had to scramble to readjust the concentration of my major. It was this time I became involved with the Theater and Communications Media departments much to the chagrin of my “advisor”. He criticized my every choice harshly and insisted I take his graphic design course. Whenever I would bring up what happened with the CG & EI course he would say, “it’s up to the students to ask the Dean to bring it back.” This showed me what such a liar he was. Students were even blocked from receiving the work they did in class because it was under “lockdown.” He did something very wrong and we all knew it. His tenure is what kept him employed at the school.
His Graphic Design course was elementary school styled projects with color theory and figure drawing I learned in high school. Here he became a complete asshole: Somehow he discovered a new found ability to brag about himself and demean people. The class was berated with his boasting of attending Parsons Art School in New York while we were attending a college in the middle of nowhere. In one instance he told a student to draw a particular subject. When the student was near completion the professor argued he didn’t suggest it. This was a heated discussion in front of the entire class.
There was an older man who was a local contractor that did some work on his house that he convinced to take his class. This guy had no prior art instruction and even came to class in his construction work clothes. During one project this professor ridiculed him because he didn’t understand a project and brought incomplete work. When the student asked, “then what can I do with this?” The professor tore it up in front of everybody and threw it in the trash. We all felt bad for this guy. He never returned after that.
The class organized to meet at lunch in order to gather our thoughts and complain about the professor. They all spoke to the Dean individually as well as in groups. The Dean and assistant Dean wanted to speak to me privately and verify the accusations. Which I did.
It was during this semester I quit being his assistant and found a new advisor that proved so much better. Pat McCreary the theater set builder was introducing computer usage into theater and he propelled my education to where I wanted. My luck changed DRASTICALLY.
As I announced my resignation of being his assistant and finding a new education advisor. He asked if it was personal. I said “it is. I had to restructure my entire course outline, have no access to art I created, and did not do projects I want in my portfolio.” He had no answer, not even an apology. As I met more artists outside of school I discovered the Art Institute of Pittsburgh had been implementing computer graphics for years and way ahead of what this moron was professing.
There are many silver linings that came out of this situation: I kicked my makeup instruction into high gear, got work as a Zombie on THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD remake which lead to an internship, loved my photography class in the comm media department, and learned to write screenplays but what burns me the most is the amount of money I lost while losing nearly a year of education that would have benefited the future I was paying for.
I tried searching for whatever happened to this guy. Apparently he retired and the only nice thing was written in the 1970’s. That was it. Best he is forgotten because writing this certainly has been good therapy because I never mentioned this beyond the time it happened and I really had a hard time accessing any memories of this.
The last few entries may seem like I’m bitter about my past and that is not the case which is why I want to write about another chance I had when I first moved to Los Angeles thanks to opportunities I created for myself.
As a Martial Arts instructor and being a teacher at a few makeup schools students often hear about the successes and accomplishments of my life although there are times I fill them in on the reality and troubles it takes in between those moments.
Dedication and luck (when opportunity and experience meet) are the keys to success but the spaces in between shows us our real mettle.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles I was in contact with SHAW BROTHERS STUDIOS in Hong Kong who were interested in my martial arts abilities. However their studios closed down. The first letter they sent me is still framed hanging on my wall of martial arts accolades. I’ll never forget the excitement I experienced because I contacted them on my own and they showed interest.
The years of 1993 through 1996 I was working for Greg Cannom as a production supervisor assistant which meant my job was sometimes 24 hours a day and not getting paid for those hours. However one of the benefits of this schedule they allowed me to go to auditions during work hours on a few occasions. Trying to get acting gigs while working full time is grueling and frustrating because it is an incredible amount of footwork and waiting for the phone to ring.
Prior to getting an agent I was a member of Joni’s Stunt People thanks to the recommendation of Gene LeBell which was an answering service at that time for stunt professionals. The BACKSTAGE paper came out every Thursday and I sent a headshot and resume to every possible part I felt was right for me. One of those times landed me an audition at David Heavener’s condo for his film DRAGON FURY (which stars my friend Robert Chapin, who I didn’t know at the time). I didn’t get the part but David liked me and invited me to an acting and audition workshop at his house. David is quite a character so click in the link and dig into that rabbit hole. He was always nice to me. His tenacity, ability to get movies made, and never quitting is something to be admired.
It was at this seminar I met my agent. He liked my auditioning and that I looked very young for my age so he approached me and asked if I would be interested in auditioning for the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS that Wednesday. Everyone in the group was excited for me and I jumped at the chance.
I took the day off to travel to Culver City early in the morning and entered an unassuming large warehouse where I was guided into a locker room to place my gym equipment. It was the crew’s first day back after a holiday break and a few members of the original cast were there getting ready for their day. They introduced themselves to me and wished me luck.
As with any audition you’re going to get the loud mouth that wants to stand out. I was the earliest call and no one else was there to audition except for this middle aged stoned out surfer dude that just wouldn’t shut up talking about himself. While trying to stretch he kept forcing an issue of BLACK BELT magazine in my face because he was on the cover in a karate uniform as the victim. I didn’t care nor was I phased by his bravado. The magazine looked old and beat up and I minded my own business until I was called in.
Issac Florentine was the stunt coordinator at the time. He asked me to perform some kicks then asked if I knew any gymnastics. Unfortunately I didn’t. Just simple rolls, falls, and landing. No flips of any nature. I heard him say, “I told the casting department to only send gymnasts.” I knew then and there I wouldn’t hear from him although he did ask how I got my SAG card and what stunt gigs I did. Besides Power Rangers was strictly non-union.
Either way it was an interesting experience and if felt like a step in the right direction of becoming a martial arts performer for film.
This opportunity lead me to a co-starring role in a Jean Claude Van Damme film which ended my pursuit in martial arts films. But that will have to be another blog.
Growing up everything seemed impossible when it came to my career aspirations and hobbies. Hollywood might has well been the Moon. There was no chance of getting there and dreaming out loud only got laughs and arguments at home and at school. Learning martial arts was a constant struggle of begging and it wasn’t until classes in the local community building opened up that fortune finally favored me.
My love for monsters inspired me to unleash my creativity and enabled me to pursue art. FAMOUS MONSTERS magazine and THE MONSTER TIMES introduced me to the creatures and obscure cinema. CHILLER THEATRE with CHILLY BILLY introduced me to the films every late Saturday night while FANGORIA shined the spotlight on the makeup effects artists. It was in those pages I discovered Tom Savini and George Romero were right out of Pittsburgh filming DAWN OF THE DEAD which was an hour and half away but it might as well have been China. If I couldn’t get there on my bicycle then it meant I wasn’t going anywhere beyond Windber, PA.
SLAP SHOT and ALL THE RIGHT MOVES were filmed in Johnstown which was only a few miles away and I was dying to catch a glimpse of what a film production looked like. I was too young to ride my bike that distance.
In order to make a few bucks I did a lot of work for my neighbor who was a taxidermist. Although he showed me very few techniques of his craft I paid attention to what he was doing and recorded it to memory as the words of Rob Bottin echoed in my brain that makeup effects was just a step above taxidermy.
I never owned a camera so the only documentation of my attempts are left to memories.
Nearly everything I read about effects was misinterpreted. I attempted to glue alginate to my face in hopes of creating prosthetics while my effort to make an IRON MAIDEN “Eddy” mask out of aluminum foil and plaster is particularly embarrassing although I did have a lot of success making Ninja weapons and recreating the retractable screwdriver filled with blood from DAWN OF THE DEAD.
During 7th grade I was VERY fortunate to have Mr. Lambert as my art instructor. He took teaching art very seriously while the rest of the school used the art room to make run-throughs for the football team or the stoners to draw about their love of Lynyrd Skynyrd. He put me in my place when I was asked to design for sports ball events by telling me my own work was far more important and I need to focus on it.
From 8th grade through 10th the art class was a joke because the teacher was anticipating her retirement. Every year the projects were EXACTLY the same: make a folder with a cover and write your name nicely on it. These folders were never filled with anything beyond that. The basics were never taught and I focused more on my Martial arts training as a distraction.
DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY! was the dream book I’ve been wanting for years and I was lucky enough to find it in a bargain bin for $2 This taught me the basics I had no idea I needed. Fortunately I did stick with industrial arts class which taught me the proper use of tools as well as drafting but I was discouraged from moving on to Metal Shop because I was forced to take the college prep studies which I hated and I failed miserably most of the time.
When Mr. Lambert became my regular art teacher I quickly tackled the projects and got them out of the way in order to work on my own things. This got me into a lot of trouble with guys that were grades above me.
For the life of me I never figured out why they hated that my work got more attention than theirs. They physically threatened me and vandalized my work. It’s even funnier to me that I never cared about the recognition I received and they were terrorized by my 80 to 90 pound frame. This wasn’t going to get me anywhere out of Windber, PA. I just enjoyed doing it as the perfect escape and never thought of it as a competition. The only competition I was concerned about were karate tournaments that I also excelled in.
The school kept all of my work year after year or someone destroyed it before I could finish it. I didn’t think I was any good but I kept on learning. Thinking on it…I find it funny these jagoffs got so butt hurt and continued to feel this way long after graduation I’ve been told.
My Junior year of high school a rep from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh gave a presentation which ignited my interest. He talked of my idol Tom Savini visiting the school and I was super excited to know I could possibly actually meet him if I went there. Their industrial design course which eventually became the makeup effects program was in it’s infancy in 1985.
My passion for wanting to go there was met with yelling, receiving remarks like I could “never survive in that city”, “that’s not a career”, or having my interests deterred thanks to hearsay from some unknown so-called mystery artist that was always brought up to me that someone in my family allegedly knew.
Many of my friends that graduated from AIP have nothing but disdain for going there and the campus doors recently closed forever. They all are very successful, very talented, and made great connections because of that place. I still wish I went there but for reasons I am sure that will never be fully admitted to me I applied and never heard from them again except for the times I interviewed for a teaching position. The money they offered was a joke.
During high school my parents forced a meeting with the “guidance councelor” in an attempt to set me straight. This person continually tried to persuade me from attending art school and went on to say, “your grades aren’t good enough to get into college. Have you considered the military?” At least she didn’t goes as far to tell me I had the gifts to be a garbage man which was continually hurled to me at home while being called stupid over and over. She didn’t even recommend a trade school and I learned at that moment to keep my goals a secret because no one will listen.
In order to prevent sounding bitter I’ll put this in a nutshell: I always wanted to work in the arts and up until college I was constantly discouraged by EVERYONE except my art teacher/mentor Arthur Lambert. He was the only one that believed in me and told me that I am responsible for what ever happens in my career and life. Words that I have lived by to this day and I’m honored every time he comments on one of my FACEBOOK posts.
What seemed to be a stroke of luck I somehow easily excelled above the smartest classmates in the introduction to computer programming class during my senior year and I actually enjoyed accounting (Mr. Morrison was another great teacher from High School). However I had to turn down a job with the FBI (yes, really) so Cambria-Rowe Business College seemed like an easy way out of getting yelled at more than usual.
College for me started three days after graduating high school where I majored in Computer Programming and Management. The year I spent there was well worth it and it was very beneficial. My management and accounting skills helped nail my college internship at Optic Nerve Studios over three other applicants and it was a tremendous help to my Grab-it Pack business. The management training was also beneficial when I went on to supervise departments in Makeup Effects shops. My grades were decent despite having five classes a day and working a stressful a job in the evening.
Remember how being a bus boy at a disgusting restaurant was my second most hated job? Well stocking shoes at a shoe store was my all time most hated job I ever had. On top of a lot of homework and studying I had to call in everyday to see if I was needed. It could be from half an hour of work up to eight when the mall locked up. They never told me what I was in for day after day nor was I told when my paycheck would arrive so I had to check on that weekly. The old lady supervisor was a tyrant. I would hate her too if she wasn’t such a pathetic person that I usually laughed at. I could never take her seriously when she attempted to be mean with her lisp. The only time I gave that place any thought is writing about it now. The owner was a nice guy though and she buttered his ass every time he came around. He liked me and she hated that.
To make matters worse I just wasn’t happy with the subject matter I was studying and having a social life was more frowned upon more then usual. While speaking with my friends that went off to college away from the vortex of small town thinking I saw how happy they were and the new opportunities they were discovering. I REALLY wanted to experience that.
In order to get into a college I had to find one that would accept the credits I accumulated. Slippery Rock University did and I got in. I enjoyed my time there because I met some amazing people that I am still friends with. I was introduced to hardcore punk, Eides Entertainment, the Electric Banana, Bob’s Subs, got in touch with SHAW BROTHERS STUDIOS, met some great professors, and gained a giant VHS movie poster collection for free which eventually saved my ass financially on eBay years later. How I regret having to sale all of those.
This was my first time truly being alone. I could get caught up with life and finally develop some social skills that I severely lacked. Much to the disappointment of some I changed my major from Business to Art. This was the first step of doing what was right for ME.
SRU was a decent school but I wanted more out of my education. After purchasing Tom Savini’s Grande Illusions and trying to decipher the lessons I approached my sculpting instructor to help me out. This was the second time I mentioned to anyone that I wanted to be a special makeup effects artist and work in the film industry. The first time was my dentist. I look forward to writing that story because he deserves a full post. Another major step in doing what was right for me.
The art professors were an honest group and they all knew me even if I wasn’t their student. The writing was on the wall when they all told me I was too weird and out of place at SRU.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania offered more of what was aligned with my goals and it wasn’t out of State. The art institute was still out of question (remember the “Make a Thing. Make a Living” ads) and make up schools that advertised in Fango were way out of the realm of reality. Like I said Hollywood might as well have been the Moon.
Going to IUP just felt great all around. I loved the campus, there was a great comic book store I visited regularly, I really liked the town, and I was over whelmed with the courses I could take as well as the interest some professors took with students wanting to learn beyond the courses they taught. Most of all I discovered where my talents were severely lacking and it was time to get caught up. My creativity and ideas were there but my technical skills were very sub par. It was because of this that my major was fine arts so I could take classes in theater, communications media, and art. This was perfect for my goals.
Sprowls Hall was home to the Art department and brief home to the Theater Department because their building was being renovated. This was a blessing to me because I was introduced quickly to most of the instructors that would shape and support my journey.
During my exploration I discovered the Computer Art room which was mysteriously locked at all times. WILLOW and YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES introduced CGI and I became fascinated with this witchcraft from reading INDUSTRIAL LIGHT AND MAGIC’s book from the library. Wouldn’t it be great to combine my knowledge of computers with my love of makeup effects? This was brand new and where I wanted to go! I needed to find out more.
The Art department office personal were always extremely helpful and treated me very well. They informed me cautiously about who was in charge of that room and class.
I will not mention his name because he doesn’t deserve the exposure especially since I can’t find anything on him online.
For a brief time during college my focus was on digital art. I say “briefly” through no fault of my own because this turned into a train wreck. I learned quite a bit about being screwed and taken advantage of which I will divulge in another entry.
Fortunately I taught myself some useful programs on the MAC II GS system during this time. Yes. I taught myself. In college. That I was paying for. The Computer Art professor had no idea how to use these programs all the while leeching off student’s knowledge and work in his class which he took to SIGGRAPH where HE claimed to be doing revolutionary art. I have so many stories to relay about this time and just writing this gets me fired up. I don’t hold a grudge with many people in my life or actually hate…only two…and they are both professors from that college.
There were two software packages I loved: one was a painting program and the other an animation tool. The professor hated both of them which told me I was on the right track of what I wanted to do as a career computer artist.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Indiana is a county in PA and not associated with Indiana state) in 1991 then moved to Pittsburgh that Summer. My best friend throughout grade school and college and I got an apartment for $380 a month. Through Nancy Mosser casting I got tons of Extra and Stand in work on local productions and even an occasional production assistant gig. The Pittsburgh film industry was booming at this time however to pay bills in between I had a job as a busboy at a restaurant on Penn Avenue. This was one of the worse jobs I ever had and the reason why I really don’t like eating at restaurants due to the disgusting behavior of waiters as well as the sloppy owner’s disregard for being clean. His son, the head chef was a complete douche as well. I made $1.25 an hour plus shitty tips. That place vanished long ago.
Because I was constantly seeking new employment opportunities I found a listing in the help wanted section of the paper for digital artists needed for a computer gaming company. I immediately sent out my resume. Within a few days I received a call for an interview. It kind of sucked that the job was in Jeanette which was a 30 minute drive from Pittsburgh.
The initial interview went well and they liked my portfolio which lead to a second interview where I had to do an improvised digital sketch. During this time they showed me some test footage for the game they were working on called DUSK OF THE GODS. I immediately knew everything about the game because I’ve been heavily schooled in Norse mythology and this secured my position.
My first day was an orientation and they filled me in on the company’s goal, ambitions, and fringe benefits of working there. It seemed professional and I was excited. Paid sick days, health insurance, and a raise after three months of employment. I used one sick day, health insurance was a nightmare to obtain, while asking about that raise after 5 months of employment helped get me fired.
8-bit role play computer games were an alternative to the consoles like Nintendo and were big business. They had a small bit of success with their strategy game DARKSPYRE and were planning on a sequel that I started to work on before my termination.
EVENT HORIZON SOFTWARE were three ex-employees of a company called PARAGON which was still in business. They formed the company from their dislike of Paragon’s business practices and of course creative differences. However from what they told me about Paragon and what I gathered, they were no different.
I worked in a room with another artist who was a very pleasant person and extremely helpful with teaching me DOS and informing me the specs of the art required. This was a few year before WINDOWS. I always asked why they didn’t work on MACs and it was like I brought a plague into the room.
I was in charge of creating character icons and transition animations when a boss was encountered. Due to file size constraints I was only allowed 8 colors per item. It was a challenge at first but I quickly caught on. It was rarely stressful and I did enjoy the work however the president wanted me to do sketches at home to bring in the next day to scan and draw on top of. He was very cavalier about this as if it was easy and cool to do. Mostly he made me do that because I didn’t own a computer or play games (I couldn’t afford it with what they were paying me) so this was a jab at me which he did admit to doing during my termination meeting.
Their self imposed deadline of completing the game was fast approaching so I was asked to come in on weekends…without pay…just to show “loyalty” to getting the project done I was told. I did and this is when I asked about the raise I was promised. It was never addressed and I was given a one time $100 bonus when the game was sent to press.
Upon completion of the artwork I spent weeks game testing which proved to be a challenge dealing with bugs and quirks then reporting them. Due to my lack of knowing how to really play games this came as an advantage because I found quit a bit the programmer missed.
There would be meeting of new game ideas which never came to fruition. One was called SENSELESS VIOLENCE where people started losing one of their five senses and it was up to a detective to find out what was happening. My input was asking where does the violence come in and they didn’t like that. The president mentioned his goals of conquering the film industry at one point and I asked him what kind of experience he had in that area. Again he felt this was a threat because he had none.
DARKSPYRE 2 was quickly put into play without any discussion. This would be a bigger game requiring more computer space so I was given a bigger pallet of colors to work with. I recall scanning a piece of shale and having a gargoyle face emerging from it as well as creating gameplay pieces of a green knight, a floating hand with an eyeball on the palm, a venus fly trap vine creature as well as numerous character generator creations. All of which they used when the game’s name was changed to THE SUMMONING and they did not give me any credit.
During one lunch run to a local food court at the mall with two other employees a group of their friends noisily approached our table. They were former co-workers at PARAGON and they were just gloating how they were all fired. I sensed my time was about done because they all had similar personalities and mine just didn’t fit in. I was a very moody punk heavily into industrial music at this time. I never had an ego but I was definitely a smart ass. Never a gaming nerd.
Pittsburgh in the early 90’s was a haven for the Industrial scene. Nine Inch Nails played clubs there during this time while industrial acts sold out every show. I got to hang out with and become friends with SKINNY PUPPY and many others in the local club life. It was incredible. There will NEVER be a club like METROPOL in the Strip District. It was the embodiment of industrial. I miss it terribly as I write this. More on that some other time…
Their friend’s being fired was news of the workplace for weeks and I became very disgruntled. They were asking for more free work and I wasn’t having it. Both of my grandparents died within a few weeks of each other and I was in a shitty mood constantly so I had my very close friend Greg Funk shave my head for the first time which made me feel better for some reason.
Within a few weeks I was called into the President’s office with the three owners where they were giving me my termination meeting. I was a smart ass because it was pretty fucking funny and I knew it was coming. They handed me a laundry list of reasons for my termination (I know I saved this somewhere but it is buried among my storage) and I laughed at each one because they were only excuses with no grounds for validity nor were ANY of their gripes addressed during my employment. As a matter of fact they were pretty fucking happy with my abilities.
One reason they gave was I talked about movies too much and not enough about computer games. I retorted “how do you expect me to own a computer on the salary you were paying me and I find it funny that you fire me when I ask for the raise that was promised.” I also mentioned it was funny how it happens that all their friends are now looking for employment. They were silent on that one too.
I asked if it was ok if I gathered my things and left now. They shook my hand and that was that. I drove to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where Greg Funk and Jerry Gergely were teaching. As I walked into his class Greg looked at me and laughed stating, “so you finally got fired.” I laughed he knew me that well.
This time off allowed me to finish two scripts and do some work with Tom Savini in his shop and house. I had to convince him not to throw away a box of EXTREMELY RARE DAWN OF THE DEAD magazine posters and he hit me with the sledge hammer that was used in the movie. I’ll write about that sometime.
This time during unemployed also brought about quite a few surprise jobs in makeup effects as well as getting my SAG card. Soon I kicked my ass into a higher gear and moved to Los Angeles.
In all honesty I didn’t harbor any hard feelings towards these guys. I knew what was coming, they took advantage of me, and I wasn’t happy. They were young and a new company with grande ideas. Tacky ideas but big nonetheless. The company didn’t hold together and from my googling I saw they formed a new company called ‘Dream Forge Entertainment” wait…I’m sorry…Dream Forge INTERTAINMENT…see what I mean about tacky ideas?
DUSK OF THE GODS was released by Interstel. I received credit but never a copy of it. Of course not. That cost them money. Doesn’t matter now because you can play it free online and there are walkthroughs on YouTube
I still get an occasional email from someone asking about the experience during that time. It was an experience but that was about it. I did learn that sitting behind a computer all day was just not for me and learned this even more when I took classes at GNOMON and UCLA because I believed CGI was going to take over the industry. Makeup effects has really evolved and I’ve been proud to be a part of it whereas CGI hasn’t ignited anything in me since the first JURASSIC PARK.
I haven’t done much professional digital art but the most notable has been Alec Gillis’s book WORLDS which was a lot of fun to work on and I’m incredibly happy with the work I did.
Upon moving to Los Angeles in September 1993 with the aspirations of being a special makeup effects artist, stuntman, actor, digital artist, and writer I searched every possible employment venue I could get my hands on. This was pre-internet so most of the time was spent searching the trades, newspapers, and specialty magazines.
Having special makeup effects experience with Optic Nerve Studios and Tom Savini as well as digital art for computer gaming company EVENT HORIZON SOFTWARE when I lived in Pittsburgh gave me a great foundation but I also included 5 complete screenplays in my arsenal and tackled every opportunity I found. Some fell flat and some lead to opportunities while others made stories.
This is one of those stories:
I’m not exactly sure where I found the posting but I believe it was in the LA TIMES help wanted section for writers for video games. I sent a letter and synopsis of my screenplays then a few weeks later received a call saying they were interested in reading my vampire action script called BLOOD. I made a copy and sent it off. Within a few weeks I landed an interview in a small town just North of San Diego.
At that time I had a beat up Toyota pick up truck with no power steering that was used by the Navy. It was super reliable for $1200 and having it landed me a job with Greg Cannom which I will write about in another blog entry.
I was not aware that the interview would be with Rick Dyer the inventor of the technology behind DRAGON’S LAIR and the Hologram Time Traveler game. The town (that I have forgotten the name of) left quite an impression on me to this day. High in the mountains, it was snowing, and looked very rustic with a small town feel. I was early for the appointment so I got to explore the town and found a great little used book store with some great paperbacks that I stocked up on.
The old Thomas Guide Map placed me properly to his office which was on a lonesome road on the second floor of a very unassuming plain building that smelled of fresh concrete. As I got into the office it seemed empty and devoid of accolades like a startup business that just got the keys. Only two people were in the building.
His assistant that spoke with me on the phone greeted me so we talked about my script and writing. He liked what he read and stated my style of writing would fit perfect into the new interactive video games they were planning. A live action “choose your adventure” game and I was shown some test footage of teens with poor acting abilities in a haunted house. My makeup effects knowledge and portfolio also came in handy because he didn’t understand the process of practical effects nor any idea of costs that could be involved. Another “you mean you can’t just pull this out of a box and put it on an actor” routine.
When he came across magazine articles and ads of computer games I worked on he questioned the validity of them. The cause for concern was how could something like this be done in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania with no money. It was getting more stand offish and my instincts were serving me well because being involved in the gaming industry working for $3 an hour on a no budget project that was very ambitious while working with a lot of people with undeserved egos I felt like this was the same territory.
There was a lone tv stand in the conference room and he put on a video documentary of Rick’s life. It felt like I was being indoctrinated into a cult but poorly so due to the incredibly sappy piano music intertwined with completely uninteresting bad story telling. They certainly needed a writer in their employ.
Afterwards Rick was briefly introduced to me. Although he had some energy in him it seemed like he wanted praise from me or to get excited to work for an “icon”. Sure it was cool to meet the guy who was a technical genius and millionaire but I am far more impressed by my friends in the effects business so he seemed butt hurt I didn’t care.
There was no talk of the company’s goals, future projects, pay scale, benefits, or work environment which made me believe this was like a student project looking for free work.
The interview simply ended without any excitement on my part and the premonition that I was wasting my time but at least I discovered an interesting town. It didn’t matter to me if I heard from them again unless it was a surprising super sweet deal.
Because this was a time before cell phones I gave them my work phone number to contact me which was at Greg Cannom’s shop Cannom Creations. The excitement behind MRS. DOUBTFIRE was still in play and the success of the remarkable creatures and makeup for Francis Ford Coppolla’s DRACULA were still freshly on display in the shop.
Although there were issues with some of the management at Cannom’s there were times I was given decent advice and this was one of them.
Dyer’s office called me during the day and one of the managers listened in during my conversation. The call was to congratulate me on being chosen as one of the writers to compete for the job. I was surprised to hear this and curious of when the next interview would be but this wasn’t the case. Usually another more extensive interview process is involved and more details of the position are revealed…but not this time. He went on to inform me I would have to meet at their offices once a week and compete in a weekly contest with other writers vying for the job.
“Let me see if I heard you correctly” I asked then repeated the situation out loud so my supervisor could hear this ridiculous offer. His face immediately became quizzical and shook his head “no”. My feelings exactly.
The drive would have been exhausting and I mentioned I have a job I need to be at during the day so I can’t take a day off every week for something I may not potentially land. He asked if I was serious about the position so I asked about the possible pay scale of the job simply to check if it was even worth considering and he had no answer. I then asked if this is a project based job and he couldn’t answer that either.
I told him, “sorry I can’t jeopardize my current job for something that even can’t answer what potential pay might be or if it’s a permanent position.” He seemed taken aback that I would address him in this manner and I felt an intense butt hurt scramble for words on the end of the other line. “You’ll be competing with other top writers and it will be a great experience to finally work with an industry leader.” So I answered, “thanks for the opportunity but I’m not interested.” He responded, “well don’t expect a call back from us.” So I answered, “thanks for your consideration let me know if anything changes” and hung up.
My supervisor couldn’t believe the audacity of this kid on the other end of the phone or the gall of competing for a gig like this. Mind you this was pre-reality TV. It only added to my discomfort I felt when I was working in the gaming industry. Although that seems to have changed somewhat. Maybe because there is a console in every household and not just the recluse creeping with a role play floppy disk on a garbage computer that required a genius level to operate?
I never looked into whatever became of the projects or the company until now due to the recent interest in the DRAGON’S LAIR live action film in talks. I found a few extremely high budget games they developed including the HALCYON system which they didn’t even mention to me. Reading about the multi million dollar budget they had I can tell it didn’t go into the writing or the artwork.
Just because you may be a tech wizard it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great artist and have amazing ideas let alone an honest business. It looks like he was looking for lighting to strike twice by rehashing his work on newer systems. Lucky for me I’ve already been working with great talents that have integrity and I continue to do so.