Updates..

The Office

After a month of various consultations and whatnot, one of my colleagues volunteered for redundancy, which means that I am still working for SMG. It comes as a relief, since job hunting is not very pleasant and despite having some strong leads, the whole process was enormously stressful.

My heart goes out to those that are looking for new positions, of course, and sincerely hope that this industry does better to accommodate growth responsibility from now on. That said, Take-Two Interactive, the publishers of a certain much-anticipated game called GTA VI, are planning layoffs too – potentially up to 579 jobs.

So, for me, the answer is still 42 and I’m still not from Guildford after all[1] but a small, bankrupt town called Woking. As for the question, well, only the mice[2] can figure that one out.


[1] I just work there.
[2] Pan-dimensional beings.

Tax(i) Credits

As I await my fate with SMG – the details of which should be next week – and with the news that Dreamworks are about to layoff a significant amount of people, I want to mention something which one of the commentators in the above article mentioned: “Thank goodness for Uber and Lyft. You can immediately start making money while you wait for another gig.

LOOK! A BRITISH TRAIN! They actually EXIST!

Well, a good few weeks ago – just before we received the news about what was going to happen, I took an Uber into work (train strikes). The driver works in the film industry (and actually lives abroad for personal reasons which I won’t divulge here) and has worked on many of the recent big hit TV shows currently airing on Netflix, Apple TV (such as Masters of the Air) and Amazon Prime Video. But at the moment they were Ubering to make a bit of money, and it suited their schedule.

We were nattering about the state of the industry as a whole, particularly the dominance of the streaming services and how it’s affecting British production – the good and the bad – and the level of influence the big companies (streaming or otherwise) have on our film and TV industry – especially when it came to government support through tax credits. It was fascinating to learn more about the production side of things given that I’ve generally been post-production (which is kind of changing thanks to virtual production, which absolutely fascinates me and has restored my interest in VFX again especially given its close ties to the gaming industry).

But I could never become an Uber driver. Firstly, I can’t drive. Secondly, when you hear about the stories about the requirements that Uber puts on its drivers (I’ve had some very interesting chats with other Uber drivers over the years), the expense seems to outweigh any benefits. From what I remember one driver telling me, they’ve had to put their all electric vehicle plans back a bit due to a variety of factors. But then again, maybe if Uber either owned the cars or gave a massive discount to drivers, that plan may have accelerated by now.

But back to the present, I had a rather nice surprise when I got a call back from a company I had previously contacted but the salary on offer was somewhat lower than I’d have liked. Another Guildford games company has reached out to me after I put in a speculative application, so that’s another potential lead too. A few rejections – which is to be expected – but they probably weren’t right for me anyway. Maybe I could put an end to all this later this week? Who knows.

A little less conversation, a little more action, please..

A little less conversation, a little more action, please
All this aggravation ain’t satisfactioning me
A little more bite and a little less bark
A little less fight and a little more spark…

– Elvis

Well, I’ve made it to the end of another week. This week saw me take on three job interviews (the first already mentioned in the last entry). One of them has already lead to a second interview (in Wimbledon, no less). Plus yesterday evening I had an interview with a Canadian virtual VFX firm. The last one would be a fully remote job with a decent amount of flexibility. I’ve felt positive in all three interviews. I should find out if I have another second interview with the first company I interviewed with sometime mid-next week – I’m really hoping to progress on that one, so please – everything crossed for me.

There was one job position – another remote job – for a games studio in Northern Ireland. But they had such a complex and recruitment process which could potentially last TWO months and 7 interviews. It came accompanied by a diagram. Now, if ANY job – regardless of whatever it may be – requires a diagram, I’m not interested. I get it that a company wants to be sure about who they are hiring (and having to deal with many, many applicants), but it doesn’t make ANY sense to me that so many hoops have been jumped through to do so. It can be a risk for the candidate too! As ABBA once sung, “Take a chance on me!” – especially given there’s always a probation period. So this company was initially interested in me, but then when I saw what they intended to put me through I had to tell them that I’m no longer interested.

But I must admit the whole consultancy process is getting me down a bit. I really can’t go into much detail, but the problem is that I do not think management have thought things through enough when it comes to IT infrastructure and support. For example, this week I’ve been fighting something that which lead to the entire team having to get involved to assist due to the complexity and reach of the problem. It also required getting a vendor involved too and having to keep chasing them to get what we wanted done. And while this is going on, something has to give in delivering the IT service to the company – other projects, technical support, etc. until it was fixed. But that’s what the consultancy is for – to make senior management aware that – at least as a department – we’re ALL going to be be needed, or be prepared to suffer.

But I must still make plans to jump ship. This rat is a survivor.

Nonetheless, this is a rotten position to be in, it really is. I am desperately sad for everybody else in this position at the company and I’ve been reposting my colleagues (not just in my department) #OpenToWork posts on LinkedIn.

But I must give the lovely folks over at Afi.ai a special mention (especially Ingrid) who have waived ALL fees for my Microsoft 365 tenant backup which means that I can keep an online backup of all email, OneDrive and any Teams/Sharepoint sites I have nice and safe. It’s a service that I would highly recommend, and super simple to set-up and maintain. Please do check them out. They also support Google Workspace too.

Not bad for a Monday..

At least no shock announcements today. In fact, it was a pretty good day. I had my first job interview in over a year with an animation company that has won BAFTAs, EMMYs, and has nominated for an Oscar. Their portfolio of work is extremely impressive. If I were to get this job, it would mean that I have worked for more BAFTA, EMMY and Academy Award nominated AND winning companies than most people have had hot dinners. Okay, okay, I exaggerate – but it would be impressive.

I’m shooting high with this role, but I think I am more than capable of the job, and I would do it well and to the best of my ability. It would also give me a chance to get back into a senior position.

Now, I really enjoyed the interview – which surprised me as I usually hate the interview process. Everybody was extremely nice and felt that we got on. I felt very comfortable. And it’s not often one walks away from a job interview with a smile. Even if I don’t get the job, I will always be a fan of this company and its people.

When I came home, I managed to find the video I made from the A.I. audio that I created from my email interview with Jane Goldman. I remember having to find a good video on which to train the A.I. voice model (of both Jane and my own voice) and then have it generate each question and answer individually. It took many, many hours of retrying the A.I. to get the right vocal tonation as close as possible to having it sound human. As the A.I. system that I used (ElevenLabs) works best on American accents, one odd side effect is that it gives me a slight Scottish accent.

Once I generated the audio, I edited all of these in Audacity (which also took an absolute age – remember kids, make sure your filename conventions and metadata makes sense) and out popped an audio file that I think if you weren’t told it was all computer generated would pass as an audio interview.

To create the video, I use an A.I. image creator (MidJourney) and edited it all together in Final Cut Pro (as I’m no longer a Mac man, I now use Adobe Premiere Pro). The result of which can be seen below.

What a week!

I really rather hope never to go through another week like this again. But I’m still here. Everybody I know is still here. The world hasn’t exploded. Yet.

But in a week where not only is my employer is looking to restructure, the entire games industry clearly had the same thought. Bigger studios such as EA, Sony and 505 Games have all announced layoffs this week too. Last year saw around 10,000 made redundant from the video game industry and we’re already approaching around 7,000 this year so far and we’ve only made March. It’s absolute carnage.

Would I like to stay where I am? Yes, of course I would – and I will try to fight the good fight along with my colleagues to argue the point all of us are needed in the department. But at the same time I need to ensure that if things do not go the way I think they’re necessarily going to go (I’ve been through redundancy a few times already), I need to get a job lined up and ready to go.

Then we have the question: if I interview for a job and they like me, and I like them enough to leave SMG on my own accord – where does that leave my colleagues? Would they be safe because I’ve thrown in the towel voluntarily? What happens if one or more of my colleagues leave? I believe that could cause considerable damage to the company. Which is not my intent, since – as I mentioned in my post about first anniversary there – I work with some of the greatest people in this industry. I do not want to harm the company that has looked after me throughout the year, nor the people that remain there. But on the other hand, I have mortgage and many bills that need paying.

This is very complex situation – and as I’ve said, I’ve been through redundancies before. But not at this kind of scale or complexity.

But I am not panicking just yet. I have a couple of interviews lined up already and the CV is circulating nicely. At the moment, however, there are still unknown variables floating about. As Donald Rumsfeld once remarked:

Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones

Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense

And finally, I leave you with a video that makes me grateful for whatever time I may have left working for the company. Needless to say, I cannot comment on ANY of the content.

Time to put on my pith helmet..

.. and go job hunting.

I can’t go into any detail other than to link to this news article, but it’s looking likely that I’m going to need to find another job rather soonish. As such, if you know of any open positions for a (senior) systems administrator/IT Infrastructure engineer – please get in touch. I suppose I could always move to Japan (as opposed to commuting – it’s a bit of a trek) and work for Kojima-san.

A copy of my CV without my address and phone details is embedded below (assuming your browser supports it – otherwise please click here).

Please get in touch if you’d like a copy with full details. Essentially I’d be looking to work in the Woking/Guildford areas, or London, Farnborough or Basingstoke. Anywhere where I can commute to easily by train and bus. Hybrid working is good, and I’d also accept remote working too.