I've had my first two days at SGRT now (awfully decent of them to let me start right before public holidays, all of which they're paying me for - go SGRT!) and it's nothing but good news. The office is great. The coworkers are great. The equipment is the best I've worked on (HUGE Wacom Intuous tablets, widescreen twentysomething inch dual monitor setups for everyone in the Art Dept). The pay is fantastic. The location is great. That's the summary; more detail below:
The office is separated into the corporate side (downstairs) and the arty side (upstairs). The art department is like every animation studio I've ever worked in: action figures on the desks, silly drawings on the whiteboards, cartoon posters and photocopied drawings plastered around the walls. My Art Department coworkers are funny, talented, easygoing, and attractive people in my age group. So far there's only one other girl upstairs with me, an adorable tomboyish Polynesian animator, but there's another girl called Katie starting next week, as a Graphic Artist like me. I went out for lunch with the Art Dept yesterday and though there's still that new-person awkwardness, it was good.
One of the guys in my department, who is sadly leaving next week, regularly pulls out his acoustic guitar during the day and starts quietly playing in that kind of fingerpicking spanish guitar style, and he's amazingly talented... yesterday someone told him the tune he was playing reminded them of Super Mario and he immediately slipped easily into the actual Super Mario theme for the next five minutes.
Not since my last animation job, at Disney back in 2003, have I had such an immediate feeling of belonging. They think and operate in ways I understand and connect with. They overuse the word 'awesome'. They laugh at YouTube vids and shake fists at Michael Bay and wear Astro Boy t-shirts and make stupid in-jokes and geek out about upcoming films. Most of them went to the same university and did the same course as me and learned from the same teachers. These are my people. We're working on poker machines, not films or tv, but animators are animators no matter where you go.
The other happy surprise: Me being me, I put monumental amounts of pressure on myself. "Oh god, I hardly paint digitally at all, what if I can't pick it up fast enough?? Oh man, what if I'm too slow at this? What if my colour sense sucks too much? What if I'm too forward with my ideas? What if I'm not forward enough?"
From the night before I started, I began having work-stress dreams... which strangely enough are never ABOUT work. They're about other stressful things, it's only the timing that reveals the cause. For me, these are dreams which come when, and ONLY when, I'm working in a creative job. I didn't get them at all working at Fuze because that job didn't engage my creativity and I could count on it to be comparatively manageable and predictable.
On my first day, the other Graphic Artist there, Johnny, smiled at me and told me that it's a good job and I should approach it by just taking it easy and not stressing. He then added that when he started, he'd never digitally painted in Photoshop in his life. My relief was immense. Further relief came when I began to get an idea of the time allocated to the creation of artwork: here, the emphasis is not on speed, it's on perfection. The central idea is that we want to keep a player in front of the same poker machine as long as possible, so the illustrations and symbols on the reels must be clear, visually appealing and in no way annoying. The workflow / dealine system seems to be geared completely differently to that of anywhere I've worked in the past.
A system that puts emphasis on perfection over speed is perfect for me.
Let's see, what else is good... FREE FRUIT. That's excellent. Free biscuits, chips, and sometimes-cheap, sometimes-free soft drinks and chocolate. There's a pet store next door that has kittens out the front. I pet them after work every day without fail, and watch with interest which ones have been sold and which ones are newbies.
The commute is great: ten minute walk to the West End Ferry terminal, five minute (incredibly relaxing) ferry trip, then a twenty minute uphill walk to work - good exercise without taking up too much time. Waiting on the dock in the morning, hearing the water lap at it and watching kayaks slip by in the river... I can feel the stress running off my body like water.
Work hours are flexi-time; I can start at any time between 7:30am and 10:00pm and finish anytime between 4pm and 6pm, providing I have worked 38 hours by the end of the week. Lunch is generally half an hour but subject to the 38-hour rule, we can take up to two hours if we need to. So far I'm falling into a pattern of starting at 7:30am, finishing at 4pm, and then finishing at lunchtime on Fridays (which pretty much everyone there does).
Oh yeah, and next week I'm apparently being taken out for a research trip, spending a day at a club somewhere, playing poker machines with the company's money. Hee. Sadly, I think this makes any winnings I may amass the company's winnings. ;)
In conclusion: I am cautiously optimistic.