January 10, 2017

PDI: The Closing of an Era

By Andrew at 8:19 AM

2015 began as a quiet year. We had finished up The Penguins of Madagascar at the end of 2014, and we were just beginning on a couple of other projects that were not scheduled for release until summer or after. However, toward the middle of January I started hearing rumors of a meeting, a meeting that would end up shifting the course of my career.

Thursday, January 22nd rolled around like most other Thursdays. I was on the morning shift at the time, and we were scheduled to have a company meeting in the afternoon. Amongst many indicators that there would be a big announcement, we proceeded with mostly normal responsibilities. The wrangler team headed down to the meeting in the afternoon to sit together.
At the meeting it was announced that PDI, the northern California location of DreamWorks, would be closing. Citing various box-office shortfalls over the previous few years, a couple of current projects were either shelved or postponed, one of which was already well into lighting. Many employees were slated to be laid off by the end of January, a handful more gradually through the spring, and a few to receive relocation offers for the Glendale campus. I would not find out until the next day that my last day at PDI would be in just over a week.
At the announcement you could see the shock and disappointment spread through the room. Some employees had barely begun their careers, but many had made their entire life and career around their roles. Managers, HR representatives, almost everyone heard the news at the same time, everyone wondering what would happen next.
Over the next several days, needless to say, very little was accomplished. I did manage to wrap up a few workflow projects I had been working on, at least one of which is still in use today. We made the best of the situation, just being there for those who needed to talk through the situation, and receiving meaningful consolation and support from our counterparts in Glendale who were less affected by the changes. A group of our close co-workers made their way up the following week for a goodbye lunch, showing their support through the unfortunate situation.
Other animation and VFX studios were quick to reach out to everyone impacted. Within a week or two I had several conversations with other companies in the film industry. Many tech companies also reached out since we were located near Silicon Valley, and we had a significant technical contingent in our office. DreamWorks put together a job fair for everyone impacted and held resume reviews with internal recruiters and HR representatives. In early February we were offered a resume writing and interview skills workshop, where a few individuals revised their resumes for the first time in over ten years.
It was fantastic to see how everyone came together during this time of uncertainty and immediate impact, even though the future was unknown and many had not experienced a studio closure previously.
I still have many friends and co-workers from PDI that I keep up with from time to time. Several have made the transition to ILM where I see them on a daily basis, but there are also some that went down to DreamWorks in Glendale, a number who went to Sony and other studios up in Vancouver, and quite a few in technology that ended up at places such as EA, Google, and Apple in the Bay Area. While we are not all in the same location any more, we all have a common connection to the past that serves as a reminder of the teamwork and adventures we had at PDI, as well as that one fateful day which ended up leading to many bright opportunities afterward.

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