Seoul Sessions: Production memoirs 1.

My normal day usually starts with me waking up twice.

The first time is at 9 am. That’s my first alarm gettin’ at me. But i usually fall back asleep, which then consists of me waking up and sleeping every 5 minutes or so until the second alarm–set at 9:30 am– really jolts me out of bed.

I get up, hop in the shower for 10 minutes then get dressed and out of the apartment by at least 10 minutes to 10am.

I live in Gasan-Dong. it’s a neighborhood of Geumcheon-gu, which is one of the 25 districts in
Seoul, South Korea. It’s South West of the Han River and most people don’t know where it is ( not even some cab drivers ). It’s haven to many of Seoul’s technical companies and head offices. I am the only male, African-American, commercial artist for animation production here. I’m also the only African American Living in all of Geumcheon-gu ( to my and my co-workers knowledge, lol).

Since its a business district, GeumCheon-gu is not very pedestrian for the most part. The party’s over at 6pm in this area, not unlike downtown Los Angeles.

JM Animation ( [link] ), the Korean-based animation studio i work for is just a 15 minute walk from my apartment. A stroll i take fancy to normally. Saves tons on time and money, especially since i dont have to take the train to commute there. but having to adjust to being away from living in a prolonged, New York City-styled winter in nearly 5 years of LA sunshine has changed that recently. I take a cab. Yeah i’m lazy, and cold! so what! it’s only 2,400 won, anyways ( about $1.75 USD).

I get to work between 10:10 and 10:30. I work till , usually around 12am-3am ( depending on how obsessed i am). Keep in mind, these hours have not changed from living in LA. We work Monday-Saturdays. we have Sundays off usually.

Bowing is a custom here so i do it often. very. Even after not seeing someone for, say a period of 20 minutes, if you see them again, you bow. It’s custom, i gather. I like it. My workspace is small. Like many of the the behind-the-scenes featurettes on dvds of japanese animes i’ve trolled over for inspiration, square footage is of important value here, so there is little of it. Sardine style. There are many sleeping cots here and many sleep under their desks. It’s gangster.

Working and creating with the staff–particularly the younger staff– is inspiring. I’m playing a role in the development and its very interesting and enlightening sharing information about both processes: domestic and abroad. It’s refreshing seeing we all have a common love for quality animation , french japanese and American. Even American movies. Even the Directors, here. We’re all geeks, they are just a wee bit more introverted than the average american geek, lol. Swapping artbooks and me blessing them with rare gems they didn’t have access to ( Claire Wendling Artbooks. They never heard of her here!).

It’s refreshing to be in a circle of creativity that lends itself directly to my aesthetic tastes. Going from being a hard core anime-influenced guy at the US studios and expressing that love through my distinct style– surrounded by more traditional artists in style, comparatively– to being here in South Korea, in a studio surrounded by guys & gals who draw exactly in my style range and on higher levels than i ( they are animators after all ).

I feel even more comfortable, creatively.

Most studios here in Korea produce an alarmingly large portion of the animation for American shows you and i have loved. Many people don’t know that. Simpsons, Family guy, Batman, ben 10, chowder,avatar the last airbender , gi joe resolute, Spectacular Spiderman, Peter chung’s stuff, the vast majority of MARVEL & DC DVD animated movies, etc, etc, etc…. it’s all done here. There are currently no American studios providing the main animation production for their own popular action shows( action shows as we know them). All of the animation is outsourced to be done here.

Yet, ironically, most studios here in South Korea have no common knowledge of actual pre-production. Moreover, how its done in the states. My job here playing pseudo-consultant on creating original content and a proper system that works to the Korean System helps. it’s also fascinating to witness first hand development of content for a completely different culture in another country….as a contributor as well.

I think my presence creates a level of excitement here. It gives them a chance to practice their English and learn more about themselves regarding interaction ( as am i) with a foreigner everyday. I am an obvious presence ( skin color notwithstanding lol ) here at the studio and after 6 months, we all do many things together: eat, work, go out and eat and drink. its very “group-oriented” in these productions. Not unlike in the states. and we work pretty damned hard. Animation is a group effort and building a bond with your teammates is about as important to moral- and ultimately the QUALITY of work produced– as it is to the project itself. Everyone is comfortable and glad i’m here it seems.

I also get the small, but wonderful opportunity to dispel any misconceptions about African Americans they’ve ever had from just watching us on TV and movies and music and other American, mainstream media outlets available to them….and vice versa I’d imagine my reason for living and working along side them as a black man is dispelling enough. I certainly suck at rapping and playing basketball, lol.

*To be continued in SEOUL SESSIONS : PRODUCTION MEMOIRS 2*

6 Comments on Seoul Sessions: Production memoirs 1.

  1. G1toons    

    thats wicked, i was wondering where you were at, so what are you working on these days TV or feature, how are you adjusting? a

  2. John G    

    This is really great. Thanks for posting this!

  3. Carlos V.    

    Loved this insight. Thanks for sharing, I was wondering how you were doing there. I am a friend of Sacks and follow you work a bit. Your hours are crazy dude! Do your co-workers have families?? LOL

  4. thejohnsondesign    

    This is making me happier with each line i read. i'm glad that either you don't bring the negative aspects about the move to this blog or you seem to be really adjusting well to the change of scenery and the culture. trendsetting might be tough but your positive energy's reaching me over here for sure.

  5. Emre    

    Hi LeSean,

    You might have read them but I would like to recommend 2 books, just in case.

    They are Pyongyang and Shenzhen, from Canadian artist Guy Delisle, telling about his time in North Korea and China, while he was there working for animation studios.

    Here's the amazon links:
    http://www.amazon.com/Pyongyang-Journey-North-Guy-Delisle/dp/1897299214/

    http://www.amazon.com/Shenzhen-Travelogue-China-Guy-Delisle/dp/1894937791/

    Peace.

  6. Darrell    

    That's dope man. This sound like my dream job right now.

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