Presenting: Paul A. Teolis – World Traveller, Successful Hollywood Animator and Travel Photographer

8. You went on a very special trip to Antarctica. Tell us more about that.

Antarctica was a dream trip. A region I had always wanted to see and a place I would like to go back too. I was there in 2005 near the end of the season joining a lot of GAP employees along with some other friends I had known from travelling. We were aboard the famous M/S Explorer; an incredible ship. We got dealt the best and worst weather-wise, seeing the fury of the Drake Passage on the crossing. Snow, sleet and grey days. It made for very monochromatic picture taking and I thought was a nice change from blue skies in every shot. You truly felt you were in a place few would ever see.

It was nothing but penguins and Icebergs. And seeing your first iceberg is an incredible rush. Of course penguins aren’t all that bad either.

9. You also lived in Los Angeles for a while and worked as an animator in the movie industry. What was it like to live in L.A.?

I could write a book about being a Canadian living in L.A., and I do have to honestly say I loved L.A. and even more the surrounding areas, specifically the desert. There is so much to do in California and with the great weather you can’t beat it.

Things happen in L.A. and they happen fast. In Toronto people couldn’t make a decision if their life depended on it. They sit and wait for six months and then they still haven’t come up with a plan. I miss the buzz and I really miss a lot of my friends. The city gets a bad rap mostly due to the news I gather but there is a real energy there, unlike Toronto.

It wasn’t long before I got into the Canadian social circles through the Canadian Consulate in L.A. and enjoyed meeting many prominent Canadians. People that I never would have met back home. Not only people from the entertainment industry, but politicians, ex Prime Minister Kim Campbell was the Consul General, musicians and just well known figures like architect Frank Gehry.

Being part of DreamWorks in the first years was incredible. An incredibly rich and creative environment, your peers were the best in the business, we had access to amazing resources because of Steve Spielberg and you’d frequently find yourself in his private screening room at Amblin watching movies.

Working in Hollywood taught me something very important thing about myself. I have too much integrity. I was brought up in a way that was opposite to what I was seeing. The film business is full of leeches, and I don’t fit the model, which is probably why I hung out more with people outside the entertainment field
than in it. But that is part of the game to climb that ladder. I left wiser and realized sometime getting what you wish for is not necessarily a good thing.

10. Why did you decide to move back to Toronto and how is your life different now?

The decision to move back was difficult because I originally had no intention to
return to Toronto. Never say never, eh! Time will tell if I go back, but the decision to return home was made simply based on economics. Work in feature animation
was drying up as the industry was drastically downsizing from the boom of the ’90’s.

A lot of studio executives made some very bad decisions as our industry seemed to be taken over by people who had no experience in how we work and why things are done the way the are. Money was thrown about like there was an endless supply, but when animated film started tanking at the box office mostly due to
poorly conceived concepts, the artists were blamed as the problem. It really opens one’s eyes.

I know a lot of people who left the industry during the mass layoffs at Disney and DreamWorks and after Warner Bros and Fox closed their animation divisions. It was impossible to compete. I was lucky because I didn’t spend away my wages and could take a long break to explore other avenues. After 9/11 everything changed as a foreigner, and so I left in late 2002 and cut my losses.

Toronto is not L.A., but the Hollywood experience opened my eyes to not getting caught up in your surroundings, the money and most important, no job is permanent. So it’s ironic that I was able to begin launching my fine art and travel photography side career once I came back; something I tried to do in L.A. but failed.

Life is great. It’s positive. It’s rich and creative and I am finding I have more ideas than hours in the day to complete work on images I have long taken but not been able to print. I am settling back into my life style and getting grounded once more. Where this road takes me is any one’s guess.

11. You have made a transition into travel photography and you also sell your work at various art fairs and special events. Please tell us about that.

Well here is some more irony. I display my work in the Village Gallery
( in Port Credit because the owner (Alison Goodwin) I knew in Los Angeles where she also lived and she was already familiar with my work. My association with her has been great and I have been rotating work within her gallery to see what sells and what doesn’t. It’s been educational for both of us. Photography is a tough sell.

I started doing studio tours in Northern Ontario in 2003. Its rewarding to see your work sell especially when the buyers are real down to earth people. I love sharing stores with them about what’s behind my photos and its great seeing them return year after year. Ending 2005 as part of the McMichael Gallery Autumn Show was a real honor. Such a prestigious gallery and the artists showing all had
phenomenal artwork. It helps widen your circle. It’s a lot of work to do small shows but the rewards, you can’t put a price on.

13. What insights have you gained from your travels? How has your view on life changed?

Travel has slowed me down in some ways. Most countries I have been to have a
different concept of time, not everything runs on a clock. I have learned to be patient
more and have a far greater appreciation of cultures and an even greater appreciation of what we have in North America. We have so much, we have nothing to complain about. Seeing a 4 year old shoe shine boy in Quito, hands covered in black polish, hearing his parents are alcoholics and this is how money comes in the family really puts things in perspective, don’t you think.

I don’t believe in the rat race and clawing one’s way to the top at the expense of
other people. Seen too much of that already. It’s not worth it. I don’t get attached to projects I work on in animation anymore, frankly we aren’t solving work hunger here, bottom line its just a cartoon! I just do my work professionally, do it well and go home at the end of the day. I work with a great crew of people in a fun environment, so what more could one ask for.

14. What’s in store for Paul A. Teolis?

Too many things to list really, but first off is to go travel and I am working on a destination to another very remote location to photograph, Rapa Nui. 2006 is a marketing year for me as well. I have two shows so far to do in Northern Ontario in the fall, l waiting on acceptance to a third, and I am trying to get my work to a broader audience through magazines.

With some more photography lectures my work should broaden even more this year. I am trying to keep in circulation while at the same time create a newer body of work and that makes for a very full schedule. I hope to have a selection of hand tinted infrared photographs at the vGallery soon.

I am setting up short term goals, goals that are doable and I have a couple of aces up my sleeve which I will bring out when the time is right. My years of freelance has really taught me how to pound the pavement with my work regardless of the medium and having always worked commercially in film and television, this is a huge asset when putting my photographic work in front of agencies and such.

Where I once was passionate about animation, I find I am more passionate about my photography.

Thanks, Paul, for sharing your personal story. I already look forward to publishing your travel photography tips, something that will hopefully help me pick up the quality of my picture taking. And all the best for all your upcoming projects!

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