I was twenty three when I first moved to Santa Monica, some 6 years ago. After years of burning to death in Orange County, California, roasting in my small apartment, I had decided to take a leap of faith and settle for a better scenery.
The suggestion had been made by my business partner, Stephan, in hopes of both of us combining our talents to one day create a self-sufficient company that could produce new IPs and worlds for video games, films and graphic novels.
It was a pipe dream, and a lot of acquaintances questioned why I was going to do such a thing, instead of applying for a studio job. Truth was, often I had asked myself the same question, constantly groaning as my gut churned over the thought of not having rent that following month. But that's what a leap of faith is, so I had battened down the hatches and stuck to that otherwise annoying gut, and Stephan and I put our minds together.
It wasn't easy at first, shit it was incredibly daunting to be honest. Stephan was kind enough to allow me to crash at his place until I had made enough money to get my own. It took time, as various freelance jobs before it weren't truly cutting it.
One day, Stephan came to me and offered me a job to work on FOX's Aliens in the Attic. Try not to lose your shit over such an opportunity, but it was a film, and I finally got to work on one. At first, I was incredibly nervous, young and naive. Asking Stephan (awkwardly) to accompany me in my first meeting over the job, I had no idea what to do or say. I watched as these veterans spoke about the budget of a film, what went into the costumes and what my job was: painting silly aliens.
It was tough, as I originally had imagined that I would be drawing badass designs! Alas, this was a kids movie and no such design was needed. At the end of the day, the paycheck was fantastic and it gave me my first real taste of what Hollywood was all about. I just had no idea how much more grueling it would become, the more I pulled myself away from the artist' perspective.
Stephan was notorious for trying to persuade me to kick-away the dream of being a conceptual artist, and instead something more. He poisoned my mind once, asking "Imagine if instead of working for WETA, they would one day work for you?"
The idea was preposterous, as I had just gotten one film under my belt, and it was a pretty low-on-the-totem-poll job at that. Once my debt quickly faded Stephan's dream away, I realized that if anything, I had to pay my dues before I could ever dream of getting to that level.
My dues were paid differently than some. I never did apply to a studio, and instead did freelance, another film gig, Your Highness, for Universal and was DC Comic's cover artist on Gail Simone's Secret Six. I also worked on a pitch for Microsoft's Xbox, that Guardian's of the Galaxy's director, James Gunn, was also a part of. Difference was, people knew who James Gunn was, but no one knew who I was.
Stephan's words continuously danced in my head, but were often, again and again, wiped away by either debt, assholes, or more assholes. A lot of doubters came out of the wood work during those times, claiming that Stephan had no idea what he was doing, or that my decision to move out and do this for three years was a good idea.
Every day I put up with it, not to mention it was constantly reminded to myself by yet again, one of those assholes. After jobs began to crunch down, I soon felt the weight and had no idea where to go from there. Doubt and paranoia are a nasty combo, and when they combine they poison the mind and from there, it becomes a game of "Do you stick it out or do you bitch out?".
I wanted to prove myself all my life. Must have had a chip on my shoulder, thanks to my father, who was a hardass on my art. I wanted to be someone worth remembering. I wanted to create, and build, and deliver worlds one had never been.
Yet why was it so difficult? Why was the answer always no? Why did I not have enough money? Why was I not working out my relationship with my girlfriend? Why did I let such pompous asshole get in my head? I remember in 2008, towards October, it all began to come crushing down on me, and at the final hour I opened up Photoshop, and in an attempt to vent, designed a character that was inspired by what had been plaguing my mind: fear, anger, paranoia.
An archetype that could kick down all those barriers, burn them, and then kick them down again just to prove a point. An image that symbolized gut and perseverance no matter the obstacle or pain that came with it.
I named him Gabriel, and that bounty hunter would one day save my life.