I'm 23 today! 23 is a very scary age where you start seeing wrinkles on your forehead and your hairline recedes as gradually and imperceptibly as your memories of being a teenager. I've been getting quarter-life crisises every year on my birthday since I was 18, so I guess the thing about your birthday being shitty and a reminder-of-death as you get older is real. Somehow I thought I'd be "above" that.
When I was in my teenz I used to use NG to blog about life updates every year on my birthday - a sort of post mortem for everything I'd made that year. This post is a little like that, but I'm just gonna blast through the last three years all at once and talk about why I'm surprised I still have a job in animation.
When I first started working on Pencilmation stuff I dropped everything & left school to go work on it, since I'd never been offered a full-time job before and was compelled to seize the opportunity (as anyone would, after trying and failing to get a foot in "the industry" for four years or whatever it was.) Part of that decision was that I'd seen so many YouTube businesses go belly-up after some algorithm change, sudden mysterious decline in views, or "adpocalypse" (actually that hadn't happened yet?) - in any case it seemed dumb to wait around and finish school while a tenuous first job sat in the balance. So in Late 2017, I dropped out of school, moved back to America, and worked remotely on Pencilmation for about a year.
Around Summer 2018, I realized I wasn't very happy to be in total isolation all the time (I was living out of some guy's attic in Buffalo,) and I had saved up enough to pay for my last year of school out of pocket, so I went back to school. At this point I felt a little stupid because my job still existed, so I very well could have finished school on time and then taken the job offer - Instead I had to complete my fourth year with a whole new class of people, which isn't a lot of fun when everybody knows each other except for you. In spite of this, my year rocked and we made a bangin senior thesis game, which is a pretty big contender for my favorite project I've ever worked on. If you haven't seen it check out this post.
Then school ended, and somehow, my job at Pencilmation was still there waiting for me. While I don't deny Ross' business savvy, I genuinely didn't expect to be able to do Pencilmation for this long - I've even publicly maligned the idea of making all your money on YouTube ads as being stupid and unstable. When I first dropped out of school I really felt like a hardened internet animation veteran making a tactical decision to ride with a channel for a few months, and then resume my life when it inevitably went bust, but none of that ever happened. In fact, Pencilmation is doing better than ever with something like 11 million subscribers, so I guess I'm just retarded.
It's only occurred to me just yesterday that Pencilmation has probably now entered the upper-echelon of YouTube channels - some people have theorized there's a kind of "Too Big To Fail" zone on youtube where some content just makes so much ad money that the higher-ups at YouTube are more lenient with rule enforcement and you actually have some weird level of job security. Actually, I just looked it up and this isn't just a weird allegation, YouTube moderators have confirmed this to exist. This isn't just some random weird moral failing from YouTube - a the very same phenomenon can be seen on Twitch in a really transparent way. It's interesting stuff.
In the last few years, the weirdness of how people make money on the internet now has made itself very apparent and I feel a little uncomfortable participating in any of it. I don't know if it's always been this strange or if that's just when I started listening to Reply All, but it all makes me very nervous about the future. Pencilmation defied my expectations by persisting in the notoriously difficult YouTube climate, but it's doing so well that it may now be benefiting from the slanted system that has quashed so many other animation channels. It feels weird to be on this end of the equation since I've been so vocal about my distaste for this whole thing (at one point I even seriously tried developing an alternative revenue stream), but as a hardened internet animation veteran, I've learned to take what I can get.
(I like my job btw)