The Secret Life Of a Nerd Girl: Beginning Transition
A blogumn by Gudrun Cram-Drach*
An animate creature great and small
Welcome to Secret Life of a Nerd Girl. I am said nerd girl and, today I’ll let you know where I’m coming from, and next time, perhaps, where I’m going.
When I was 18, I moved to New York City for art school. After a decade-long fruitless pursuit of a career path (see my unpublished works), I decided it was ok to leave my beloved metropolis. I made the only lateral move you can make from New York: To LA.
I’d always wanted to study animation (though before then, not as much as I’d wanted to live in New York) so within the year I relocated to Santa Clarita. I lived in a beige condo with a carport and a pool and drove my 1988 Ford everywhere. I only had eyes for my new school, CalArts.
There is a rumor that CalArts alumnus Tim Burton based Edward Scissorhands on Santa Clarita. A world of gossiping faceless suburbo-bots with a magical house on the hill full of freakish wonder. The real story is, in 1960 Walt and Roy Disney had the idea to teach visual and performing arts under one roof. They merged the Chouinard Art Institute (the school that had trained some of Disney’s best draftsmen) and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, and by 1970, poof, the house on the hill.
There are now two animation departments, Character Animation, created as a training farm for the studios, and the one with the fine arts approach, Experimental Animation. The way I’ve always understood it, Walt asked our founder Jules Engel (who was still there when I started in 2002 but has since passed away) to create the experimental department to siphon off the weirdo artists. Now that I read the CalArts history, that scenario is impossible as Walt died 4 years before Jules came on board. Still, I like to think we were deliberately rejected by Walt himself, or at least quarantined to keep our crazy ideas from the real animators.
Most international animation can be considered “experimental” as it is a broad pickup category for work that falls outside the American studio system. People from my department work as commercial directors, they go to animation festivals, and direct their own low budget features (some of them are very successful too, but that’s another blog).
I graduated in 2007, and I’m not sure what I am doing. Over the next few months I’ll be discussing my search for happiness as an animator in LA. I’ll discuss how riotously fun it is to be single in my mid-thirties in LA, and how my resistance to “selling out” (read, having a stable job working for the ‘man’) will lead me to a pauper’s grave. Stay tuned!