Are you proud of what you do?

As my sons approach their teenage years I can’t help but think a lot about higher education and my experience at university and how my time there may or may not have guided my career in post production and how education fails us constantly in both its outdatedness and its price. All of this eventually led me to the notion that I’ve always felt a little embarrassed when describing what I do to strangers. Being a digital craftsperson has always had a bit of a stigma attached in my world.

How do you feel about what you do?


Funny ‘cos only the other day I was quick to correct someone.

“It’s not just commercials I make!”


I tell people I just make commercials. They think it’s the shit. They all think my job must be really fun. And for the most part, it is. It’s what I’ve wanted to do for most of my life, I’ve worked hard to develop my skill-set and make my niche in a major market. My work gets seen collectively by hundreds of millions of people around the globe, so yeah, I’m proud of what I do.

And my 2 cents: higher education is not all it’s cracked up to be.


Really good question @randy.

I don’t think very many of us got into our professions by majoring in Flame @ Uni… Crazy that there’s pretty much a YouTube video about damn near anything you might want to learn nowadays. It certainly challenges the value proposition of higher ed. I worry about the same thing with my young kids as well… I will say though, that the experience of responsibility and forming relationships away from under your parents’ roof is pretty formative. However, to think about how much college tuition has increased since I was in school is eye-watering. Can’t there be a cheaper “life-camp incubator” to transition our kids into adulthood?

There are many skillsets I’ve honed over the years that I’m proud of. All learnt through trial and success/failure. The most lasting learned through the latter. Communication skills, setting expectations, pitching projects / reading a room, having a good bedside manner, time management, choosing your battles, being kind, trying your best, making good work, etc… Still learning and working on them all, of course… Most importantly, I think pursuing what interests you at any given moment is key.

I had an existential crisis moment the year after undergrad, not having a specific “career” choice, but many interests. Music, Film, Animation, Graphic Design, Photography, Gaming, etc… How does that equate to being “x” when I “grow up”? My mom always asking when I’d get a “real job” with health insurance, etc… Once I went through the 5 stages of grief, I accepted the fact that it’s ok that I had many interests. As long as I was open to recognize and act on good opportunities that presented themselves, at some point something would come along that would combine those interests together. I’ve sadly seen talented people hold out on a myopic “dream job” only to miss opportunities that could have been stepping stones to those ends.

That all being said, I’m proud of what I do. Commercials are dope, infinitely varied in scope, and turn around quickly. The “value” of commercials from a 10,000 ft view is another topic alltogether. Though I think it’s a lot more interesting that our job is to make dreams a reality in an experiential space than having a more ordinary career. As flame artists, there isn’t and can’t be just one thing we’re good at, both from the people side of things as well as the artistic / technical side of things. Who knows, maybe being a Flame Artist is a stepping stone to something else down the line…

Realizing now that I pretty much penned a letter to “teenage me”. :person_shrugging:t2:


I told an old friend at a high school reunion that I made commercials and tv/film titles for a living.

He responded, “Oh, you mean all the stuff I skip and fast forward through?”

Cold. Blooded. :laughing:


His loss . . .


Whenever I tell someone what I do (like ytf, I lead with “I help make tv commercials”), they always say “Oh, that’s so cool! have you done any I’ve seen?” And then I rattle off that yeah I’ve done x, y, z, etc and it’s a nice little moment. I’m not curing cancer or saving puppies from burning buildings, but it’s a really fun career that I feel very lucky to have.


“Doing what you like” > “doing what will bring you just career”
At least as long as it pays you the rent etc.

Got asked what I do within a group once. Of course I immediately talked about the last 2 big international campaigns made, but noone actually knew what to do with this information. So a friend of mine saw that and just shouted about some rly silly national ad that I worked on a year ago and everyone was stunned.

Btw would have loved to skip university just to be a compositing artist earlier (and without the debts xD )


Hell yes!

And much as it ignites me, when I tell anyone what I do you can see their eyes glaze over and thoughts immediately drift to whatever occupies them. Editing, vfx, mixing…its all totally alien to most people so they just shrug and move on.

It all reminds me of a comment from a client decades ago. I had just spent a day in the field (literally) filming this new farm equipment he wanted to sell, then a day cutting it together with him sat beside me the entire day. He had never even thought about how a show is put together before and at the end of the project he looked at me, slightly shellshocked and said “I always wondered why the Editor gets a credit at the end of the programmes…never realised they did so much!”

and I think that’s the problem…make things look seamless and they all think it just exists like that.


The conversation i normally have goes like this.

“So what do you do for a living”

“I work in the vfx industry”

“Doing what exactly?”

“Explosions, gunshot wounds, stop a lot of dead people from breathing that should’nt be. Paint stuff out That sort of thing”

“That sound well cool, i work in a bank which is shit and i hate it.”

Its at that moment i reflect on how lucky i am to do what i do.


I still love what I do, I started in commercials back in the mid-eighties, but switched to movies in 2000,
I still get a kick out of seeing my stuff on the big screen and was particularly chuffed at reading this review in Variety of my 4900 frame shot in Alien Covenant:
“In the film’s best scene, David teaches Walter how to play the flute — an instrument that later serves as a deadly weapon. The moment is so compelling that we hardly stop to question how the filmmakers pulled it off with a single actor”


I love it! The problem solving, trying a new approach until I get it right — overall just trying to make things better.

I tell people I finish commercials, with an emphasis on color and retouching. If they ask for more info, I give examples of some beauty work, or a weird thing that was painted out of a scene.

The things I hate are the 11th hour Admergencies. Someone forgets a version of a spot for whatever social platform. Stop everything! All hands on deck! The ability to work from home means work can freely interrupt your home life.

I try not to let it get to me, but I still treat every job as if it’s my first and my last. It always feels make or break. Maybe that softens with time?


I’m not under the impression that other people will find my career interesting, and other than lawyers I don’t find other people’s jobs interesting. I’ll minimize my job in conversation with something simple like, “I’m the one who paints out boom mics.”

This is not to say I’m ashamed, but I’ve done this dance long enough to read the room. If someone wants to hear more I will regale them, likely to the point of their regret as I detail the specifics of how to remove reflections from a tracking shot.

But as a job it’s great; I’m super proud to be a flame op.


My line is “When they say 'they’ll fix it in post’ they mean me.”


It’s hard to quantify if the tens of thousands of dollars per year my family spent to make me a flame op were “worth it”, but I know without being in a physical place for years, living with a other art students completely changed my life trajectory.

With that sincerely said, college is a capitalist nightmare, leeching money from the working and middle class and showering it on the rich. It was bad when I went and it’s downright monstrous now. Student debt should all be forgiven.


I’m also not sure where I’d be without the “college experience” as well. Being exposed to so many different walks of life and trajectories other than my own was a huge experience.

The cost of college nowadays in the US is absolute highway robbery. The system itself needs to be overhauled, but the institutions of private and to a lesser degree, public universities are deeply entrenched in their ways. Forgiving student debt would be great, but a temporary fix and only from a federal loan perspective… Having all universities in the country taken over by the Feds wouldn’t be great either, given the inefficiencies, political ineptitude, and bloat of our gov’t.

Something needs to be done though… By the time our kids are of college age, these costs will only go up.


That is hilarious! I remember you got a great write up in Cinefex. It was cool to see flame listed in that magazine since everything is so Nuke centric these days.


Absolutely! Back in the day here in the UK, university education was free and it should still be free now.
We must invest in our future, not charge for it!


The only times where I was actually not proud of my job was helping to paint out an extremely famous singers lower ribs so we could make pinching in her waist look realistic and shrinking a couple of Vegas showgirls knees and elbows so they didn’t look grotesque with how skinny they were.

Those were some of the only times where I actually sat there and thought to myself, hm, I’m kind of helping to make the world a slightly worse place right now. Not a cool feeling.