• Wouter: how is your life as a professional animator? Are you able to have a life outside the studio? Do you feel the life washing out of you each year? Are the standards brutally high to maintain a balanced life? Is it more a dream of a nightmare?

I wanted to make sure I still follow up (and don’t forget) with whichever questions you guys had. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to answer to some of these to everyone on the blog, as this seems to be one of those questions many people have.

Wouter, my life as a professional animator has been exciting, difficult, inspiring, challenging, gratifying, special, rewarding…all together. It’s been unique and special because of the people you meet and the movies you get to work on. That in itself, has no price. At the same time, because it’s not always easy to stay creative constantly, you have to find ways to keep the momentum going. You get a shot every week, and with every shot, a lot of creative energy needs to be put in it. It’s so truth the quote “You are as good as your last shot”. It’s not a job where you can relay in what you did 5-10 years ago. And to keep yourself motivated and excited year after year is not always easy.

In a place like Pixar, where people are really talented and passionate for this, you have to continue finding something exciting in every single shot you get…regardless of whether it’s a great juicy shot or not. Sometimes you’ll get great shots, and other times you may not. Sometimes a production needs certain shots to be done sooner than later…they may not be the most exciting shots, but the bottom of the line is, they need to get done and when you work in a team, you have to help your neighbour in whichever ways you can sometimes. There has been productions where I worked after hours (even if I was in a different film), just to help the remaining crew finish a film, as so did many other people. As years go by, it’s difficult to continue doing this as it can be physically exhausting to be in front of the computer for that many hours especially for those who have families to get back to.

That said, I’ve been trying to balance what I do. Since it’s my job, I’ve been paying more attention over the last few years at how I’m taking care of myself, physically and mentally. This I hope it doesn’t sound too new age. But back 10 years ago, I was easily spending 15-18 hours a day on some projects. Barely getting any sleep…and going out with friends on the weekends. Pretty soon my body starting telling me that I had to chill the hell out and figure out a balance between work, personal life and health. I still struggle with that balance to tell you the truth.

Like you said, I had to find a life outside the studio. Otherwise, I would of burn out fast. I’ve seen it happen with other friends, and didn’t want it to happen. For me doing things outside work kept bringing me back to work with energy and motivation to do things. This inspiration outside came in a variety of ways: Live-action, shorts/videos, photography, music, artwork, teaching. The AnimationMentor School I co-founded, was great for me, because I found myself going back to really figuring out what I was doing everyday in order to pass my findings to other people as clear as I could. Additionally, doing other projects and learning things outside animation but whithin the world of Filmmaking, has become an amazing hobby and personal self learning process that has helped my animation as well. So my life outside the studio these days, I keep myself busy learning things I always wanted to learn, but never had the chance/luck to learn. I never went to Film School…so when I started working at Pixar, I told myself I was going to study it on my own and learn what I could from different areas, projects, films, Directors, co-workers. I’m still there…and hope to be there for a long time. I love what we do. I try to pass on whatever I can, but I also try to keep myself learning. What I sure don’t want to do is to be at a place where I’m done learning.

As for Pixar, it’s not a brutal place. People there have a life, and they do maintain a balance. Are there standards? Of course there are. Are they high standards? Yes I think they are. And I’m glad that they are, because that shows in the work the animators put in these films. A shot will not go by if it’s lacking. Too many people will catch it. As an animator/artist there I’m always challenged professionally and it’s the best creative environment I’ve been lucky enough to be.

I hope this helps.
Have a great weekend everyone.