when you can’t tell…

When someone approaches you about a movie, they usually have you sign a contract before telling you the fine details of the project. Actually, in some cases, they’ll have you sign something before they’ll fill you in on even the most basic stuff – like what kind of work you’re expected to do, what kind of movie it is or even who they are. Before you’re hired, before you know what the job pays and before you have any clue. The contract is called an NDA. Non Disclosure Agreement. What this means, in essence, is that this thing that you’d like to shout about from the rooftops – maybe the coolest job you’ve ever had – you won’t be able to talk about. At all. In fact, if you do, they can sue you for pretty much anything you own.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

It makes sense, though. There’s a lot of money involved. Any spilled secrets might result in another movie company stealing the ideas and releasing an almost identical movie… or some newspaper or internet site getting hold of vital information. There’s just too much at stake, I suppose.

Being overly cautious, I wasn’t even sure I was allowed to talk about the movie companies that have hired me, or what movies I’ve worked on. In some cases, you see, this isn’t okay. For instance, I can say that I’ve done work for Disney – but I’m not allowed to tell you for which movie (since it’s not been announced yet) or even what kind of work I’ve done. I’m allowed to say, I know this because I’ve asked, that I’ve done work for New Line Cinema, on a movie called The Golden Compass… but I can’t tell you the particulars of what I did. So the fun anecdotes I have about how I shot reference photos for this project… I can’t share them, no matter how much I want to. Let’s just say they involve a stuffed toy animal, some string and a cat that totally mistook my hard work for fun play.

It’s difficult to do work you can’t talk about. I can’t vent. I can’t ask for advice or critique on the images I’ve painted. Some exceedingly cool stuff that I’ve made, I might never be able to show off – I don’t own the copyrights to any of it. It’s really up to the movie makers. I’m not even sure I’ll get any kind of credit for my hard work though as far as I know, I might well have been the first artist involved in a particular project. I’m still new in the game.

Worst thing?

Chances are some movies I work hard on and am proud of – are never actually released. I’m involved at such early stages that I have to face the possibility of the movies being cancelled.

It sounds as though I’m unhappy. I’m not. Maybe I’ll never be able to talk about what I did, and maybe I’ll never get credit for any of it – but I’d be hard pressed to find any kind of work I’ve enjoyed more. Anything I’ve been more excited about. When Disney first called me, back when, I thought I would have a heart-attack – that’s how thrilled I was. For someone who watches as many movies as I do and is so obsessed with them, the mere prospect of having been part of the process is almost overwhelming. It’s not about the money and certainly not about getting credit for it – it’s the whole thing… knowing that, wow, I designed that, I was part of that, I helped. I have a feeling that when the first movie I’ve worked on is actually showing on the big screen – I’ll be climbing the walls with excitement.

I guess I already am.