AGEING IN ANIMATION
A series of illustrated thoughts on ageing within the animation industry, created during the Spring of 2021 are include to illustrate the range of ideas generated by this exchange.
BIANCA BENEDUCI ASSAD
Even at my age, I'm starting to feel the damage I've done to my body from hunching over a screen for years. My hands and backache more often, my eyes are blurrier and I'm growing less tolerant of long days. My body asks for more movement, and my eyes want to look away from the screen. It makes me wonder, with the ever evolving demands of commercial work, if I'll be able or even willing to keep up with this pace in or my past 40s or 50s.
NICOLA JANE FRANCIS (NICKY)
Babies! I would like them, but I also want to continue pursuing my career and not relinquish any steps I've taken in that direction so far. But also babies! My concern as I age is that it feels like there is growing pressure to "succeed" in my field so I can take time away, and the need to achieve that before conceiving could become an issue. It can feel like an endless cycle of wanting both and not feeling that there are resources within the industry to support freelancers who wish to start a family.
We decided to have a baby, knowing it might be the end of my freelance career. It was a dive into the unknown, but being in my early 30s I felt that clock ticking and had to jump one way or the other.
I had a year off after the birth and am luckily working again now, but it's hard. Freelancing and childcare is a minefield I had never thought about navigating. Part of me wishes I'd done it all when I was younger, I am tired a lot! The days soar by, trying to fit everything in, and things inevitably fall through the gaps.
ANIMATION DIRECTOR, 41
I think things get better with age – when I hit 40 it was almost a relief like suddenly all my years of experience had value after all and were recognised. But then again why should it take a woman to hit 40 to experience that when a man reaches that recognition in their career so much earlier on.
I don't worry much about getting old in the industry, but I do wonder how I'll balance having kids and work. I'm not questioning if, cause I'm totally going to do it, just how.
ANIMATION DIRECTOR, 61
I wake up every morning and can’t wait to get started on my animation. But first I go swimming and play the clarinet, some days I even have a walk too. Then if I’m on track I start work about 10am and finish around 8am. I have always worked hard but as I get older it’s become more important to keep my mind and body fit.
My children have just grown up but doing animation when they were small was challenging. I ended up turning to writing and illustrating children’s books, as this was easier. I also found that people didn’t like to employ female directors with children much.
After I had my second child my partner and I were both very ill. I think overwork, when we were in our twenties and thirties, didn’t help our health, so I always say to younger people be careful not to burn yourself out.
When I returned to animation and I started to get my new films into festivals I realised I was now one of the oldest female directors around and I was surrounded by young people and I no longer knew everyone. Luckily animators are good people and I quickly made new friends.
One of the things that has helped keep me energised, is doing a small amount of teaching. I always feel I learn as much as I can teach and also make friends for life.
Two of my ex-students are working for me now and we make a great team. Their fresh minds coupled with my experience is great, it’s a pity that so many older people can’t keep in the business and that it is so youth centric.
I don’t blame people for dropping out as the financial awards are often so poor relative to the amount of work animators do.
I am now making a film that I wrote in 1998. It took me 22 years to get proper funding for this work.
I am looking forward to presenting my three feature idea to broadcasters.
After dawdling for 10 years after I graduated, I came to animation pretty late in the game. I guess, I worry if the stuff I want to make is even relevant, much less the trash that comes out of my mouth.
2D ANIMATOR, 43
I feel like I have grown together in line with the changes in the Animation industry. I’ve always felt lucky I was paid to do what I enjoy doing. When motherhood didn’t happen for me, I felt that even more. I was so glad I had a job I could carry on and immerse myself into.
I feel more free and relaxed since I’ve turned 40. I realise now that there are less pressure to be good at everything. I know the styles I like, and what I’m good at. I know how to spend my free time and how to be creative. Turning older isn’t a bad thing at all. You just understand yourself and your work life better, so you can enjoy them both without being stressed!
Saying that, I always remind myself to carry on learning as well, so I don’t get left behind. It’s so I can stay relevant, and I can better myself. TV Paint will be my next challenge💪🏼
It’s been a few years now that I started dyeing my hair just before job interviews. It may sound silly, it probably is. But even if I actually like the way I normally look, I became worried that if people saw my white hair, they’d realise I’m actually not so young anymore. Maybe they'll think I’ll probably have children soon and I’m not worth the effort of employing. It's definitely silly... But I can't help feeling that women are broadly considered 'fit to work' for just about 10 years of their lives. From around 25, when we’ve finally acquired enough work experience to be worthy of a proper job, until about 35 when we’ll no longer be seen in any other way than as (future) mothers, who won’t be able to juggle both a family and a career. The closer I'm getting to this point in my life of starting a family, the more worried I get of being moved aside from the industry.
I worry about what I’ve achieved so far. My main goal after graduation was to work at a studio to create animated films and series, but now it’s been mostly four years as a freelancer and I worry that my chances are getting slimmer.
I'm curious to know, if you wanted to start a family and continue to work freelance, would studios still bring you onto projects and be able to accommodate flexible hours? I know animators often move to series or full-time positions when having kids, but what if you don't want that kind of work? Can we stay in the world of advertising if we want to?
Our perception of age is a weird thing as it changes with time and the experiences we make along the way. When you're growing up 2 years of difference feel like the world, but that fades away quicker than you can grasp and by that time the lines will have completely blurred.
While I don't really feel all that different in my heart from like 6 years ago when I was just starting out, energy levels aren't the same anymore, both physical and mental burnout is always very close by, and finding the right balance is a constant process of adapting in itself.
I feel so much more tired and detached at times, there is also a sense of loss that comes with it – of days when it all seemed easier and every opportunity exciting. But there is also an understanding of shifted focus, that some things are beyond your control, work can just be work and you can exist as a person outside of it.
I've struggled with my self esteem my whole life. I have to work hard to suppress that voice in my head that tells me I'm not good enough and it's definitely something that has held me back in life! I've had a very non-linear career path in the Animation industry and now that I'm getting a bit older I'm constantly battling with my inner demons thinking: "You're too old to be doing this!" or "Just give up!". I find it very hard to not compare myself to all the amazingly talented people in their early 20's who've already made it big in the industry. But I will keep working on my own thing and hopefully, things will fall into place eventually!
ANIMATION DIRECTOR, 38
Since having kids, I struggle with time management. I find there is never enough time with my children nor enough time to work, let aside any personal time. Also, I found my head kept on drifting where I couldn't be at the moment, I often found myself thinking about my kids while working and about work when trying to play with my kids, instead of fully focussing in whatever I was doing at the moment.
It's getting better with time. It's really helped accepting my time limitations in every aspect instead of pretending I could be a super mum while managing three different projects simultaneously.
Giving myself achievable goals in life and work has improved my mental health and I'm more satisfied with work and I have a more balanced and enjoyable time with my family.
Still trying though, nothing ever works as planned, routine is off every other day and sudden school lockdowns don't make it easy. But hey, that's what makes life interesting, isn't it?
2D ANIMATOR, 37 ABOUT TO BE DRAGGED TO 38
Over the years I've experienced the look of shock, double takes, to people thinking I'm lying when I tell them my age. Sometimes, I have found that attitudes towards me change once they discover that I'm older.
Respect should not only be given to older, taller, or fairer people.
ANIMATOR/MOTION GRAPHIC DESIGNER
A few years back, after years as Fashion Designer I transitioned to Animation. Everything about it excites me. It makes me feel like I’m back to my teenage years discovering new passions. I try not to worry about what the future holds for me in regard to my age and my career. I believe there is a place for everyone in this industry. What makes it even better is how helpful and generous people in this industry are. I think I wouldn't mind growing old working as an animator.