Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Year in Review: 2019

Hello! It's the end of 2019 and this is my ELEVENTH annual year-in-review post! (See also: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009.) This is a self-centric and navel-gazey exercise, but I keep it up because it helps me keep track of my goals, remember what happened each year, and take a moment to say "thank you" for the year.

2019 Accomplishments / Highlights:
  • I did three big items from my bucket list this year: I made art pilgrimages to Monet and Frida's homes in Giverny and Coyoacán, and I presented a short film I directed ("Exchange Student") at Annecy! :D
  • It was a great career year - my team finished Exchange Student, and I got to see it screen at El Capitan Theater with the other Short Circuit shorts. I learned that the shorts would be released on Disney Plus, and all of the Directors got to go to D-23 to screen them and talk about them. I spent most of 2019 working on something I can't talk about yet that I'm SO excited about! I was named one of Variety's "Top 10 Animators to Watch", and got to go to a swanky Hollywood party with my friend Michael Herrera to celebrate that and rub elbows with other animation folks. I gave a workshop at Gallery Nucleus that had SUCH a great audience, I went to Tennessee for the first time to give a talk and a storyboarding workshop to the passionate students of Tom Bancroft at Lipscomb University, I gave a solo Comic Book Commentary (who knew I could speak uninterrupted for 45 minutes?! I did not), Chris Oatley invited me onto his Visual Storytelling podcast, and I spoke with SyfyWire at Emerald City Comic-Con:

  • I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation went back to print soon after its release! Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but that's the first time one of my GN's has gone back to print, so I was thrilled. The book was also nominated for a Ringo Award for Best Non-Fiction Comic Work.
  • After book promo stuff died down, I was really good about holding the line and saying "no" to extracurricular commitments, interviews, and side-quests. I desperately needed the time and focus this year to move forward on my next projects.
  • I got to go on a nice France trip in June for work as well as for personal travel. I gave a solo talk at the Annecy international animated film festival and that was so awesome!!! People told me they got in line 4 hours early just to get in, and they were so kind and enthusiastic! People were even willing to sit on the floor and wings and stairs to not be turned away! :0 I spoke on a WIA panel and was able to give portfolio reviews with Disney. I finally got to meet one of my Skype WIA mentees, Sarah Vettori, in person. I did a casual meet-up at Café des Arts that turned kind of crazy when more people than I expected showed up. Thank goodness for Jerry Huynh, who jumped right in and helped entertain and manage things. I saw Giverny, rode bikes to Monet's house, went into the Catacombs, and visited Le Fiancé's sweet sweet family in the countryside.
  • I made it to Oregon 3 times this year! Le Fiancé and I went on a trip to Cannon Beach in March, plus Portland trips for Thanksgiving and for xmas. Got to see many members of my extended family in Bend as well. It's great to see my friends who still live in Portland; I really love them and I'm glad we've been able to stay close despite the distance.
  • I also went to Mexico for the first time! Carrie Liao, Amelia Lorenz, and I spent a long weekend discovering Mexico City and we LOVED IT. I want to go back immediately. The pyramids! The food!! The canals! The crowds! Day of the Dead! Wow!
  • Went to SDCC this year with my friend Kellye Perdue, and my brothers flew down to join me!
  • Mom came to visit LA and I brought her as my +1 to the Frozen 2 wrap party.
  • Le Fiancé's fall visit was great. He was here for Halloween, which is SO much fun with him, and he was here for Thanksgiving in Portland with my family. While he was in town we also finished his visa application, built him a custom wood desk, threw axes, hiked to Pittock Mansion and looked at wedding venues in the woods, went on a distillery tour and a triple winery tour, and visited the good folks at Helioscope Studio.
  • I unfollowed everyone on Twitter, so I can still use it to post my art, but I don't have the compulsion to scroll through the feed. I spend much less time on it now, and I think it's helping me feel happier.
  • I started streaming on Twitch and I'm having fun! 
  • Got my blue "verified" badge on Instagram!
  • I was proactive with friends this year, and I especially enjoyed a Halloween double-feature movie night I hosted (The Craft, Lost Boys) with home-mulled wine and spiced cider.
  • I found time to read several new (to me) books this year: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bulle de suif, Save the Cat, Pride & Prejudice, The Bluest Eye, Au Bonheur des ogres, Morphology of the Folktale, and Screenwriting: the Sequence Approach
  • I've kept my expenses low even though my salary has increased over the past few years (roommates, wink!). This year, I lived off of 30% of my post-tax income and put the rest in savings! :0 That feels good. I would like to own a house and/or retire someday.
  • I was way over-taxed in 2018 and I got a big tax refund HAYYY
  • The first Lightbox Expo was great! That promises to be a strong new tentpole event in the LA animation industry. I sold out of books and walked around for half of Sunday just admiring the other tables.
  • After 4 years of freezing every day at work (in LOS ANGELES! In the SUMMER!), I finally procured time with the mystical, elusive AC man and convinced him to shut off the AC valve in my office. VICTORY!
2019 Shortcomings / Lowlights:
  • They moved me to a new office a couple of months later. Booooo.
  • Waiting on visas suuuuuuuucks. We have a good lawyer, but it's a ton of paperwork and money and uncertainty. We just want to get on with our lives, TOGETHER.
  • I'm house-crazy and I can't afford anything. I don't know when/if I'll be able to afford something in a city where I can work in animation.
  • I still have TMJ, but now I have braces, too. Ha ha. They come off in January, looking forward to that.
  • I still have back pain off and on. :-/
  • One of my roommates moved out and I miss him!
What Did We Learn?
  • So...presenting a short at Annecy has been on my bucket list since 2014, and it was INCREDIBLE to have the privilege of doing that this year! But...I thought it would feel better than it did? I saw so many objectively better shorts than mine that week, and I saw how incredibly niche our little world is. Even in this tiny world of animation, so many people had no idea what we were up to at Disney. Most people had lovely things to say about Exchange Student, but I also got critical feedback on the short, some of it legitimate and some of it just dumb lobs aimed at Disney in general. I think it was just a good reminder for me not to let myself be ruled by external validation. I wrote on the back of my office door in big sharpie letters: "Don't chase gold stars from other people. Make stuff YOU think is good."
  • At home over the holidays, my parents pulled out family videos that I had never seen before - them as young parents with baby-me! HONESTLY, this made me understand a lot more why people would want to have kids??? I've been ambivilant about it, leaning towards not having them, but this tipped the scales a bit the other direction. Mom and Dad just looked so happy (and hey, it was very nice seeing how much they loved me), not like the poop-covered, underslept, bickering trainwreck that I imagine parenthood being. It was fascinating how quickly babies grow and learn! :0 I was shocked how much just watching those old family videos with my parents changed my perspective on parenthood.
  • I got some very practical convention-life advice from another exhibitor at Lightbox, and I think I agree with her philosophy. She believes that merchandise has a 2-year shelf-life. If it sells out before 2 years, you can go ahead and order some more (still aiming to sell out at the 2-year mark). If it sells out around 2 years, congratulations, you ordered the perfect amount and you don't need to buy more. If it doesn't sell out after 2 years, don't mark down the price. Just take it off your table and make room for more recent art that better represents you NOW. You can liquidate the old merch online, give it to friends, etc., but don't keep straggler merch on your table.
  • I really miss having animals in the house and spending time around animal-friends. :,( 
  • I found Natalie Lue's Baggage Reclaim podcast episode on "Jealousy & Envy in Friendships" EXTREMELY helpful. I've posted before about professional jealousy. Envy is absolutely the deadly sin that I relate to the most. I liked Natalie Lue's reframing of envy as a teacher, which tips us off to things that we didn't know we wanted, or things we think deep down we are supposed to have by this point in our lives. I have absolutely been envious of people for things that I don't even want, just because they seem so happy knowing what they want. Anyway, I felt like 2 hours of listening to this podcast untangled a LOT for me.
  • That meet-up I organized at Cafe des Arts in Annecy this year was a learning experience. I organized identical meet-ups in 2014 and 2016, and 3-5 people showed up, so I was expecting maybe 10 this time? Well, we had 40 or 50 people show up! It was a BLESSING and I loved meeting everybody, but we really confused/crowded the restaurant and it was hard to talk to everybody. I felt bad for the restaurant and I felt responsible for people having a good time. I believe that when someone organizes an event, or manages a website or a fandom or whatever, it's their responsibility to keep things safe and respectful for the group, and I could have done better with this event. In the future, if I don't know how many people are coming, I'll probably do it somewhere more suitable like a picnic on the lakeside lawn.
Goals for 2020: 
  • Get le Fiancé over the the US! Plan a wedding! :0
  • Do a big roadtrip around the American southwest
  • Do a good job at work on (exciting thing I can't talk about yet)
  • Thanksgiving - maybe travel with Le Fiancé? Japan? Mexico? National Park? Think ahead of holidays, try to book trips earlier this year.
  • Keep studying film theory, watching classic movies and movies from lots of different cultures / perspectives, hosting movie nights and making it more fun/social
  • Go to the gym after work, or swimming before work, at least 2x/week
  • Stretch every day
  • Write something every day
  • Start fostering kittens
  • Schedule all the medical checkups I need, plan ahead (I haven't been to the eye doctor in 5 years. Adulting is hard!)
  • Find a new counselor / therapist who specializes in career counseling, stress, & anxiety. Preferably one who doesn't believe in crystals (or god, tbh).
  • Self-Care Sundays: I won't make plans or commit to anything on Sundays. I will get my chores done on Saturdays, save Sundays for myself, and do whatever I feel like when Sunday rolls around.
  • Schedule more lunches with friends / people I want to know better in animation
  • Finish the first draft of my next GN (!)
  • Do Inktober again! Break the rules, pick a theme that's fun for me, draw 30 finished colored pieces (5x7") and frame them to sell at the Disney holiday craft fair in December
Notable Media:
Films: Do the Right Thing, Parasite, Knives Out, Trainspotting, The Favorite, Cleo from 5-7, Us, About Time, Virgin Spring, My Fair Lady, Peau d'Ane, The Taste of Tea, Moonlight, Jojo Rabbit, J'ai perdu mon corps, Raising Arizona (somehow I'd never seen it before!), Cyrano de Bergerac with Depardieu
TV shows: Killing Eve, His Dark Materials, Fleabag season 2, the end of Broad City, Russian Doll, Derry Girls, Mrs. Maisel season 3, One Day at a Time, Salt Fat Acid Heat, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, The Good Place, the Matt Smith Doctor Who episodes, Love Death and Robots, Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Shorts: Kitbull, Perl, Inocente, Acid Rain, Fille dans le Couloir, Je sors acheter des cigarettes, La chanson de l'elephant, Memorable, Mimi, Nuit cherie, Per aspera Ad Astra, Symbiosis, Toomas dans la vallee des loups sauvages

Favorite Memes / Jokes / Whatever :
The #1 most quoted piece of media in our household this year: "It's an EMU"
kn0nker: Lion King animation
Jack Bensinger: "took a picture of myself every day for 10 years"
Ayla Kirstine: running like a horse
Lewis Vaughan Jones: Drone runs out of battery over a lake
al.nesta: "you're not weird for liking anime as a kid"
Whoever mashed the headbanging dog video with "Jump Around"
zachrecker: squirrel TikTok
Pretty much every Gritty meme
McVaporwave: "Ash minding his own business"
thechrispycream: "JEANS"
TikTok has just been giving me life this year. Thank you, TikTok.