VIEWPOINT (CONTINUED) My Lunch with Howard

When I look at Howard's life and work I can see his influence all over my career path.

As we all know, a school such as SVA costs a pretty penny, and it naturally leads one to ask if a costly four-year animation program is worth it, especially since there are so many alternative ways to learn this craft. Without SVA, I would not have been introduced to Howard Beckerman. Words cannot describe how encouraging he was in my formative years. I was not the best artist in the room, but instead of giving me up as a lost cause, he kindled my interest in writing and storytelling. His sensibility of gentle cleverness inspired my thesis film and also my first post-school film, "Snow Business." I think by nurturing my writing side, Howard actually challenged me to play catch up with my other skills. After all, how could one realize the ideas in their head without being able to put them down on paper?

When I began my career with Michael Sporn, Howard was freelancing for Tony Caio's nearby DMA studio, so we frequently met for lunch. Our relationship once based on the student/teacher scenario now became a valued friendship of peers. Together with my job at Sporn's studio, those lunches made me feel like I was now a part of the industry. As a result, I still make a point to meet up with former students for lunch or coffee whenever they ask me. I know how important it is to feel in the first few years of a career.

Last week, Howard and I met for lunch at Molly's Pub near SVA. I showed him four new gags I drew for consideration at the New Yorker. I learned that, for a time, he had also submitted gags to the magazine. And, just like me, he eventually had to stop because of other commitments. Our lives and careers are really a series of choices. Despite our ambitions and abilities, we don't have infinite time or energy to branch out in too many directions at once. Some plans don't stay with us for the long haul. Life and a bit of luck steer us toward what is most important.

There are many kinds of hero worship in this industry. I know from personal experience that I clung to Walt Disney and Chuck Jones hardest in those years before I made real life connections. As a world animation community, we'll always have those heroes in common. But, it's not until you start to make your own important relationships that your true heroes emerge.

It is almost a clichê that your heroes are bound to disappoint you. You may like someone's art but that doesn't mean that you would also connect with that person one-on-one. Howard Beckerman is that rare mixture of talent, class, and kindness. Why not allow a little Howard into your life? Pick up a copy of his warm and informative book, "Animation: The Whole Story."