Gone “Back To School” (83/366)

“Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool. I’ve got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight. Ohhhhh back to school, back to school, back to … school …”
~ Adam Sandler as Billy Madison in “Billy Madison

I’ve always loved school and learning new things, but I unfortunately still have not gotten a college degree. That’s a somewhat sensitive issue for me – almost everyone we hang out with has at least one degree (most have more than one). When I was in school, my grandpa got sick so I dropped out, then Nick and I got together and I decided to work full time so that he could go to school, and shortly after Nick graduated and started working, my mom and I started our business, so I felt that I had no time for school then. Today, we’re still paying Nick’s student loans off and I can’t bring myself to take out more loans to continue my college education. In my opinion, those are really all BS excuses, but whatever whatever whatever. That’s where we are.

The fact is, that now I don’t feel like it’s right for me to incur more debt for us just so I can get a degree when it’s not a necessity in the industry I want to be in, in today’s world. I have, for a long time, been interested in film, editing, and visual effects. I’ve gotten certifications in Avid, Final Cut Pro, and Photoshop, but I’ve never really done anything with the varied things I’ve studied. Ever since dropping out of school so long ago, I’ve been kind of just floating as far as furthering my education goes.

I’ve always had an aptitude for computers, aesthetics, and composition. I enjoy using Photoshop to manipulate images and make them better. I had originally been interested in editing for feature films, as it speaks to my technical side, but recently I’ve felt that I’d do well in a bit more creative focus like compositing, which is basically image manipulation for film instead of a single photograph. I’ve thought these things for a while, but aside from buying books or putting them my wish list, I’ve never really acted on these ideas. I shared these things with Nick, and while I didn’t do anything for a long time, he recently took charge. On Sunday this past weekend, out of the blue, he said to me, “Okay, so I’ve figured this out … you’re going to have three day weekends.”

Eh? What are you talking about, Sweetheart?

Nick went on to tell me that he understood my appreciation for formal schooling, and that the schedule of classes was a main factor in that. He said that he thought I was one of the most intelligent people he knew, and that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. The trouble was, that I just really wasn’t putting my mind into accomplishing anything in particular. I needed some structure. He said he understood how I didn’t have time for school before, when we were running the teahouse, and that he wanted me to have some time off to relax after we closed, but now he realized that my lack of a focus and goal was getting to me. He saw that I wanted to do something, to aim my energies at a target, but that I didn’t know where to start. So he made me a “school”. He took the things I’ve been wanting to learn, and put them together in a “class schedule” that I could follow, so that I wouldn’t be so aimless and have so many silly excuses. He made me a school!

Nick has become my academic adviser of sorts, and he’s created a curriculum and timeframe for me. It’s awesome. Here’s what it looks like:
9:00-11:00 Nuke 101
11:00-2:00 Lunch/CrossFit
2:00-4:00 3D Short Film Production

9:00-11:00 Character Animation
11:00-2:00 Lunch/CrossFit
2:00-4:00 Intro to Programming (I started with JavaScript on Codeacademy.com, but we’re looking for a good Python alternative)

9:00-11:00 Digital Compositing
11:00-2:00 Lunch/CrossFit
2:00-4:00 Intro to Maya

Like I said, I’ve always been interested in these types of programs, and I’ve worked with software like Final Cut Pro and After Effects, but I never really had any kind of schedule on which to base my learning. Once I’m finished with the books I’m going through now, that will be a jumping off point for something more. It may sound extremely elementary, but it’s so important and helpful to have a schedule and a deadline for whatever it is you’re trying to achieve – and to see a bigger picture and have goals along the way that you’re focused on conquering. My goal right now is to become proficient in Nuke and Maya, and then to use that basic knowledge to help me create a 3D short with Nick, which will go on my demo reel, that will hopefully help to show potential employers what I’m capable of.

I know those are somewhat lofty goals, but I don’t care. The trick is to not get overwhelmed, which causes you to give up. I’m taking this one step at a time, focusing on the learning process – which is like what students have the luxury of doing when they’re in school – I’m just following the curriculum, and doing the work. I know that my “continuing education” isn’t the same as many peoples’, but that’s okay. Ha! I’m not really much like other people anyway.

Related Links:
Nuke 101: Professional Compositing and Visual Effects
Professional Digital Compositing: Essential Tools and Techniques
Inspired 3D Short Film Production
Character Animation: 2D Skills for Better 3D, Second Edition (Focal Press Visual Effects and Animation)

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