What is your name and your current occupation?
Dan Long and I am a freelance animator currently working on the adventure game Cognition from Phoenix Online Studios and also on the web series Eight Bit Strange.
I have been a bouncer at a bar, a commercial fisherman, a race horse groom where I lived on the racetrack in a tack room, a telemarketer, a roof truss designer and builder, and tons of other jobs. So many that it’s really hard to recall them all.
I am really proud of Eight Bit Strange. I was brought on at the very end of the last episode so I only go to animate a few seconds in it, but the next “season” is in production right now and I got to animate, co-write and co-direct one of them and I hope that people think that it’s as funny as I think it is. Eight Bit is not about money, it’s about the love of animation and having fun animating.
How did you become interested in animation?
I got into it way late in life. I’m 42 now and just graduated Animation Mentor last year. I wanted to do something different in my life so I went back to college to get a degree in graphic design. One of the classes I took was basically a quick run down of Maya. I learned a little bit about modeling, rigging, animation, and I was hooked. I had only taken that one Maya class, and since I have always loved video games, cartoons and really, any kind of animation, I signed up for Animation Mentor full time and put all my energy into that.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I live in Phoenix Oregon which is a little town about 20 miles north of California. While I was attending AM, I had come across a studio that was working on the fan game, The Silver Lining, which was a continuation of the King’s Quest series, but in 3d. Since it was a non commercial game, it was strictly volunteer. Nobody makes any money from it, it’s a strict labor of love. I decided to volunteer on this project and worked on episodes 3 and 4 while I was attending AM. To make a long story short, when they got funding to do a commercial game, I was asked to join the commercial team. If you love adventure games, this is an awesome project called Cognition and the script advisor is Jane Jensen! The art director is Romano Molenaar! Both of these people are big names in their fields. I’m lucky to get this opportunity.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
I wake up about 8-8:30, walk across the hall to my office and sit down in front of my PC. I get my head together and go through emails, look at my google doc to see what I’m doing for the day. At 10am, we have an online scrum meeting via Skype with the animators, artists and the leads. We all say what we are doing for the day and ask any questions to clarify things. We have a super detailed schedule about what we are doing and about how long it should take. I try and stick to it as best I can, but it’s tough work because we have so little time to work on our shots. It is definitely not like AM where we have 3 weeks to work on a 15 second shot, or whatever. For example, today, I am doing my second pass of blocking on 6 different shots. I have to be super efficient with my time. I am getting really good at prioritizing the most important things that need to be done, but sometimes I feel like I am barely keeping up, which is OK because it really pushes me to be faster and better. At 3pm, we have a dailies meeting via Skype. The animators post all the work that they have gotten done for the day on a private Wordpress blog, and the leads and director will look at that and guide is in the direction we need to go. Since I can’t get all my work done between 10 and 3, I work for another 3 or more hours on my stuff. I post that on our Wordpress so that it can be gone over in dailies the next day. Then, I work on my side projects, like Eight Bit Strange, and my new demo reel that will be ready soon. I also spend that time networking and watching tutorials, anything to learn something new. There are also a few blogs that I watch that always post animation shorts every day. I like to go through those and get some inspiration.
What part of your job do you like best?
I like the fact that I get to stay at home. Why? I get to stay home! I love being in my little cave.
What part of your job do you like least?
Even though I love the fact that I get to stay at home, the part I like the least is that I have to stay at home! Why? It would be awesome to be in a studio environment and just soak up all the knowledge around me. I think I could learn so much more just by being around some great artists and programmers than I can sitting at home watching tutorials. Plus, my taxes would already be taken out of my checks. I wouldn’t have to worry so much about what I have to pay at the end of the year.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I have a PC with 3 monitors and a 32 bit operating system. Nothing special and it works OK unless I’m working with multiple rigs, then it slows down a bit which sucks. I am definitely going to upgrade soon. I mostly use Maya for animating, but I’m learning a bit about 3DS Max.
It’s rough dividing my time between working and my family. My wife is great though, she is the most beautiful and understanding person in the world.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I did go to an Animation Mentor picnic a couple of years ago and that was inspiring and at the same time a smack of realism across my face. I know that being my age, I have to work harder and want it more. I am behind the game. I see these young 19 and 20 year old animation rock stars that I admire and it makes me want to be that much better.
At the moment, thinking up an answer to this question is tough. My life has had huge ups and downs and I am thankful that I am where I am now. I don’t think that I have ever been as satisfied with my life as I am right now. I live close to my folks, have a gorgeous and wonderful wife, a beautiful and sometimes, very sweet daughter (lol), and in a few months, a beautiful baby grand-daughter named Isabelle Rose will join my family.
Besides 8 Bit Strange, I have some ideas bouncing around in my head for some 2D shorts. Nothing solid yet, just tons of ideas and concepts.
I have been playing guitar since 4th grade and can play classical guitar. That’s funny since my favorite type of music is hardcore and death metal. The older I get, the more types of music that I like though. My wife and I make it a point to watch American Idol every week.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? Work hard, harder than you have ever worked in your life. Try and make every shot that you do, a shot that you want to put in your demo reel. Have fun and network, network, network. You never know who could be your next boss, or even your next best friend. Treat other people the way that you want to be treated. This industry is so small and so many people know each other, it’s freaking crazy. If you are an ass to someone, screw someone over, or talk crap about someone, chances are, you are going to run into someone that knows that person, and you just might have a bed reputation and not even know it. Nobody wants to work with someone that is a known jerk.