7.05.2005

Louie


I first met Lou Hertz in the fall of 1995, in the lobby of DesignEFX, a (now defunct) animation/design house here in Atlanta (part of Crawford Communications), as I was in the midst of networking and desperately trying to find a job in the local animation scene. I had heard about DesignEFX through word-of-mouth and by seeing their work while working as a tape op at a film production/editing company, Majick Lantern. I was very impressed with the quality of work, and thus, I knew that I had to get my foot in that animation door, somehow. I began to ask around about who to talk to in getting an internship at DesignEFX, but I soon realized that I didn't have to ask too many people, as everyone knew Lou. "Talk to Lou," was the usual mantra I heard.

And so I called him. Getting his answering machine, I left a message. No reply. I called again the next day: answering machine. I decided not to leave a message this time for fear of coming across as TOO desperate. Still no response. So I waited for two days and called again: answering machine. At this point, I began to think, "He's so busy, he probably doesn't have the time to talk to a silly, young & naïve animator, fresh from graduation," but actually Lou was a very, very busy guy. I left a message and went about my business. Finally! he called me back and told me to come on in to show him my stuff. I was elated.

It was all set: I would come in, show Lou my resumé, we'd go over my portfolio, and have him take a look at my (meager) demo tape, and then I would be on my way. I was psyched.

As I was waiting in the lobby, I happened to thumb through some of the trade magazines they had on the coffee table in front of me. Soon I realized that all these mags had some article about DesignEFX, or mentioned some award that they had won recently: Clio, BDA, etc. I started to get a little nervous. Man, these guys are top-notch, I thought to myself. In came Lou.

"Hey there! I'm sorry I'm late, I just had a heck of day already!" he said with a thick Alabamian accent. I had not expected an older, graying man in his 60's. When I talked to him on the phone, he had this bold and youthful voice, so I figured that he was maybe in his 40's or possibly early 50's. But not some old dude! I was a little taken aback, but when he shook my hand and showed me around the place, he had this youthful energy about him. He was young at heart, and it was infectious. As we walked, I handed him my resumé, which had taken me quite a while to finesse and print out. He took one look at it, suddenly folded it -- TWICE -- and put it in his back pocket. I was a bit appalled by that action, but I figured, oh, what do I know, maybe that's the way they do it in The Biz.

The 2D animation department was located back in the warehouse of a former store, part of a small strip-mall of sorts. It was located off-campus, so to speak, far far away from all the busy-bee activities of the broadcast production world that consumed the main building. That was a blessing, I was told later. After walking past a couple of impromptu offices, filled with programmers, we finally entered the slight hole-in-the-wall corner that housed the animation department. I was so excited to meet actual animators, as such a creature was a rare find. And there they were, busily working, flipping, and drawing on animation discs, which I had only seen in Frank & Ollie's The Illusion of Life. I started to get more nervous. These guys were professionals! They do work that wins awards! Better yet, they do work that is seen on TV! My mind was racing.

Lou then introduced me to the group, "Hey guys, guys -- this here's Ward. He's gonna show us his portfolio!"

My heart sank. Us??? I thought to myself. I thought it was only going to be me and Lou! In his office! That's it! I can't possibly show these award-winning professional animators my feeble portfolio, filled with asinine scratchy gesture drawings and ignorant character designs! Sheesh.... I reluctantly opened my portfolio and turned the pages. As I did, I felt sweat stream from my armpit, down my side. Literally. I was doomed.

The guys were very nice in their comments about my work, but I wasn't ready for what was next.

"Okay, now. Let's take a look at your demo tape!" Oh dear Lord, help me.... Again, the guys were gracious in what they said about my work on screen, considering that it was a simple, one-minute animated short, shot on 8mm film, videotaped while being projected up on a wall at school (apparently I fooled them all), but I was dripping with sweat by the end of it.

Even though I had expected to show my work to Lou in a private manner, I did see Lou's intentions after looking back on it all. Animation is a communal art-form, employing many to complete one job. There is a common bond that we all possess, bringing us all together like a team. And so, Lou was basically introducing me to the team. If I was to be a part of this team some day, I should meet them now, and they should see what I can offer.

------

Lou Hertz had a great sense of humor, always the butt of his own jokes. He loved animation -- all forms of it -- even after being in it for so many years. It was as if he was always fascinated by the business, always in a state of wonder by it all. Eager to please, and never one to complain about the smallest of concerns, Lou was a great father-figure to many in this town, including me. With his aforementioned jovial voice, and his down-home sense of humor, Lou made you feel like you were family. Whether it was some odd story about growing up in Alabama, outhouse ethics, working at UPA, washing cels -- you just knew that you were in for an interesting conversation with Lou. I loved the way he addressed you as a friend, with his signature, "boobie."

"No problem, boobie!"

Lou gave me my very first job as an animator. I am forever indebted to him.


Lou, you will be sorely missed. Thanks for everything.

------
UPDATE: The Atlanta Journal & Constitution did a nice write-up on Lou. You can read it HERE.

12 comments:

  1. What a great tribute. I never had the pleasure of meeting Lou, but after your kind words, I kinda feel like I know him. I can tell he will be missed to no end.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's sooo sad. We all remember those people in our long journey who helped us through and kept us honest. People like Lou are rare birds. Your tribute was very touching.

    ReplyDelete
  3. a touching tribute and story. sounds like he was a great teacher and friend to you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, you didn't sweat all THAT much. But you WERE amusingly nervous. Here's to Lou; and more to the point, to his example that growing OLD doesn't have to include growing UP. I certainly will miss my favorite dirty old man. Thank heavens we still have Strandquest...

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey there, Pope. It was nice to see everybody, but I hated the reason why. It was a very moving ceremony. Made me proud to have known Lou.

    And thanks, all, for the nice comments. I really appreciate it. He was a fun-loving guy, and I wished that you all could've met him. He was a hoot.

    His wife, Judi, to his kids:
    "He had a blast."

    ReplyDelete
  6. A beautiful tale you have told. It must be very hard for you to lose someone who has given you all the necessity to be a great animator. I just realize something about Lou; aside from having the determination to make an exceptional company out of his team mates, he too has the quality and the charms that really inspire those who are close with him, a sign of encouragement to produce good works as well as a closure between each other. He will definitely be missed by all of us.

    - Glen!

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Just make it look good boobie."

    Rest in peace Lou.

    ReplyDelete
  8. It is a great gift to have such a mentor. Your words really moved me. My congratulations on having such a friend and my condolences on your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lou was a true friend. Any time you called him, for whatever reason, he would say, "I'll be right there.", and he was. When his crew in heaven starts to get rowdy he'll say, "DRAW A PICTURE, BOOBIE!" He will be missed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I was so sad when you called to tell me the news. lou played such a big role in the beginning of your career as an animator... such a cool guy. I like to think he'd love this drawing you did of him here, too.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've been away from the Atlanta animation community for what seems like a lifetime now. Lou kept in touch by email, regaling me with stories of trips to Zagreb, Ottawa and Annecy, and of being the "loud mouth" representative from ASIFA-Atlanta at the international board meetings. When I was still in Atlanta, there were many times when the two of us would get together to go over ASIFA details and just chat - about animation, about dogs, about families, about life. These are the times when you want to remember all the details of the conversation but can't. He joked mercilessly, never once showed up without a twinkle in his eye, and made me laugh plenty; so maybe the words are fading but the feeling persists. I can't begin to describe the joy I saw in him in being a part of the international animation world. His enthusiasm for the art was contagious and his appreciation for those who can pull it off boundless. He was always saying how incredible it was to see what the young animators were doing these days, humbly claiming to be an old fart past his prime and not up to the new gadgetry. But he knew the essence of the art was far beyond any new-fangled toys or tools, and he constantly shared his sincere and heartfelt wonderment at its magic. This energetic spirit, full of spit and gumption, has made a lasting impression. You know I think you're the greatest, Looie.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello Ward,
    For a 25th Anniversary Crawford tribute video I am working on, I need a good picture of the wonderfull Mister Lou Hertz, and need it better than matchbook size. The B&W headshot that acomes up in a google images "Lou Hertz" search would be good but I'd take anything. If you or your peeps have something along these lines msg me at troche2255 then circle-a then gmail.com.

    I need a pix of Ran Coney too if you go back that far....

    'Tis an entertaining blog you got.

    Best regards, Tom Roche, 21 yrs at Crawford.

    ReplyDelete