I’m sending out this e-mail a little early so that I can accurately describe what happened before I lose the details. Yesterday was something incredible.

I’ll try to explain how important all this was without sounding too cheesy or anything like that. I don’t know if it’ll work.

Two days ago, Nick happily told me that he’d received a call from Werner Zimmerman. Werner was our old Life Drawing teacher from Classical Animation at Sheridan. That doesn’t begin to explain it. He’s the closest thing Nick has to a mentor. And for me, although I never topped out in his class, I have the utmost respect for him and he helped inspire me when I was down and grind some bad drawing habits out of me. He’s taught Disney guys how to approach Life Drawing and his artwork is indescribable.

So… he calls Nick and lets him know that he’s passing through Calgary on a book tour and he’d love to stop by and see Aurenya’s studio space. Now, this may sound awful, but normally when people say “Oh, when I’m in town, I’ll look you up.” you just kind of chock it up to something people say. I honestly didn’t expect him to carry through on it. Now I know better.

The frustrating thing was that I was teaching yesterday and I figured I wouldn’t get a chance to see him. But, Nick brought him by the school and that’s where this really starts.

I’ve been worried about the course I teach and although deep down I knew that the students were producing quality work, there’s always that worry that you’re just fooling yourself. I mean, Nick and I came half way through the course for our first class and so they’ll have only had about 6 months of training from us before they’re out there getting a studio job. It’s scary for me and scary for them.

Werner loved the work that he saw and he was amazed that we were working with people who’d had little art experience before and that in such a short time we’d prepared them for the industry. He looked over everything and when he told us we’d done a great job, I was on top of the world. That kind of confirmation is hard to find. This is the teacher that fails a good chunk of the Sheridan students and he was really impressed with everything, especially the life drawing!

When I introduced him to the other staff, he gushed about Nick and I and it was really embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible, but equally embarrassing. After it was over, the place was a buzz and now I’m positive that Classical Animation at this school has gone from the backroom art class to the front door. Everyone complimented us… the owner of the school, the head instructor, the registrar… it was overwhelming.

Werner took us out for lunch and although I was exhausted in the morning, I was pretty pumped by then. He asked me “How do you keep so energized?”… but it was all because of him. Lunch went great and he listened intently while Nick and I recounted cheesy stories about the company. He came in to my afternoon class and gave them a quick pep talk. He described Nick as having “too much talent not to leave Sheridan early…” and me as “a guy with a personality just waiting to bust out of the hallways of Sheridan…” it was unreal. Nick was glowing. My class attacked their new projects and I finally confirmed to myself that with personal attention and inspiration, these guys would make it.

Nick took Werner back to the studio, introduced him to the staff and showed him some of our animation test footage. He was pretty blown away. Eric has been going bonkers with Maya and Animo to get the look we want and he never disappoints. Nick explained how we’d gotten to this point and when it was all done, Werner said he’d love to do guest lectures down the road and he’d stay in regular contact with us.

Sometimes you just feel like you “got it right”. I’ve had doubts out here and I’ve been homesick and had arguments but days like yesterday make it worthwhile. The momentum now is sprinting forward. It’s possible to dream and keep your feet on the ground and I’m determined to do both.

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