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COUNTERPUNCH

When Talent Was Biggest Job Factor

March 27, 2000|BOB FOSTER | Bob Foster is on the board of the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists Local 839 (the animation union) and has worked at most of the major animation studios during his career

Talk about a patronizing, sexist article! Not only do I resent the title ("Move Over, Old Men," by Michael Mallory, March 19), but the author is obviously pandering to a readership that almost exclusively does not work in the animation industry. How would they feel if it had been titled "Move Over, African Americans" or "Step Aside, Women Over Forty"?

When I started in the animation business, people were hired on the basis of their ability to draw, to paint or to apply those skills to specific jobs such as storyboarding, animation, layout or background painting. Each job has a specific set of requirements and disciplines above and beyond basic drawing skills.

When I began at Filmation in 1969, I worked with LaVerne Harding and I liked her as much as anyone else who was a great animator and human being. I really didn't care if she was a woman, nymore than I cared if the greats that I've worked with over the years were gay, black, Asian, disabled or fat. If they did great work, I liked them.

Until the early '90s, the standards for hiring were based on skill and ability. Sometimes even experience counted for something. In the last 10 years, skill, ability and experience have all taken a back seat to new standards that include being under 40, being female, Irish, Canadian, Asian, black, white, gay, Latino or a friend of the producer.

I don't know how many skilled artists have been passed over for jobs because the person who does the hiring is not an artist. More and more, the job of portfolio screening has been delegated to people who generally don't know what they're looking at. More often than not, that person tends to favor pals they went to school with, or who are white, gay, black, cheap, fast, young, female, good dancers, party animals or any number of irrelevant labels that are used to fill positions in the creative process that once was performed by people with old-fashioned ability, who aspired to high standards of quality.

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Like hires like, and if all the crap you see on television these days offends you as much as it offends me, I can tell you why.

I'd like to think all the people mentioned in the article got their jobs because they were good, not because they were women. Otherwise, I'll have to create a false resume and dress differently when I apply for my next job.

By the way, if there's such a boom in the animation industry, how come more than 1,000 members of the animation union in Los Angeles are out of work while studios in Canada, Korea, Japan, Australia and the Philippines are thriving on American-funded productions?

I'm one of those who, due to a lack of inexperience, is currently "between jobs" in this "animation boom." I'm good and I'm fast, but I'm no longer willing to work 65 to 80 hours a week just to look better than the other guy or to meet unrealistic deadlines. I live in Los Angeles because that's where the work is/was, but I can't compete with the cost of living in Third World countries, where $30 a week is big money.

Add this letter to my lengthening list of negative attributes--like being over 40, being white, heterosexual, American-born with 30 years in the business--and I can kiss off any hope of ever working in this town again.

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