Don Cameron

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What is your name and your current occupation?
Don Cameron and I am currently background and prop supervisor on the Ultimate Spiderman at Film Roman.

What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Probably Dead Space. When you consider the schedule we had the fact it was even completed was astounding. It was cool to be a part the The Batman Animated Series but I was a small part of that.

How did you become interested in animation?
Warner cartoons and Disney, wouldn’t the answer be pretty much the same for anyone my age?

Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Glasgow Scotland. I got into animation from a chance meeting at the Christmas party DC Comics used to hold out here. It was at the Wilshire Abel Theater and I was introduced to Chuck Patton by Mike Vosburg. Chuck offered to let me try doing props on G.I. Joe and the rest, as they say, is history. By the way it was at that party that I also got to meet and talk to Jack Kirby. He shook my hand the whole time we spoke.

What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Turn on the computer at 10 in the morning and work through till 7, eating lunch at my desk with headphones hooked to a portable DVD player. I’m not a sociable guy.

What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The job itself. There’s nothing I love more than having the whole day ahead of me with a big involved model I have to build. I love a lot of intricate detail…always have.

What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Conversations about how bad scripts are. I’ve been in the business twenty years and it never changes- endless complaining, which in and of itself I don’t mind if there’s a solution put forth. But if you’re one of these people who likes to sit around and complain about the stories without ever having tried writing yourself, you probably need to keep quiet.

What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Knowing what the right choice is. At some point you’ll probably find yourself in a position of having to choose between two jobs (or more if you’re lucky/good). And for years you’ll wonder how the other one would’ve turned out. That’s just the nature of the beast, we’re all on an ice flow just trying to find the biggest chunk and stay afloat.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
I sit in front of two monitors and a Wacom Cintiq. I do all my building in 3D Studio Max which I work in tandem with Photoshop for textures.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Without a doubt working the graveyard shift at 7-11. Weekends were as crazy as it gets. I had a guy walk in at four one morning and put two six-shooters on the counter. He said, “Don’t worry. I’m not here to rob you, I got arrested and they confiscated my car”. 
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I bumped in to Chuck Jones one night in the lobby of Disney TV. I got to tell him how much I loved his work growing up. That’s the thing I feel most fortunate about- I met my idols and got to tell them what their work meant to me. The highpoint was getting to assist Gil Kane on one of his comics.

Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I was finishing up a twelve issue run on a comic book I was doing. I was completely burnt out working on literally the last issue when the phone rang. It was a guy I had worked with for 8 years at a machine shop, Bryan Scott. He told me he had cancer. He was 33. I was sure he was joking since that seemed the more likely senario playing out but he was dead two months later. Just like that it was all over. That hit me hard and profoundly changed me. I think about Bryan a lot and am grateful for all I have today.

 

Any side projects you’re working on you’d like to share details of?
This would be what we call an awkward seque.I have always kept a hand in comics- building sets and props for various artists. The latest one is a book called Undying Love from Image Comics by Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Be willing to learn and try any job. I have survived because I have done props, backgrounds, storyboards, character designs, directing and even voice acting. Keep abreast of what new technologies are out there and try to anticipate the effects of those technologies. I can name people who are no longer working, or getting less work than they should, because they refused to learn Photoshop. In my case I was at Saban doing traditional 2D drawing when they offered to teach us 3D. I jumped at the chance and can say without hesitation it saved my career. I’m busier now than I ever was.
Get used to the idea that you will be laid off- a lot. Being laid off is like getting thrown in the rapids; you can fight it and use up all you energy. Or you can relax, go with it and see where it leads you.
And the biggest thing- be willing to look at your own personality and take responsibility for it. I have burned a few bridges in my time but I would never blame such burnings entirely on the other parties. It always takes two to tango. I know my involvement and I own it. This is a business in which the way you conduct yourself will come back to you, trust me.
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