We had the good fortune of connecting with Jie Meng and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
As a visual effects artist, I’m 90% of time working indoor. Sometimes when I work on big feature films or TV series, there will be plenty of overtime. When I just started couple years ago, I was trying to working non-stop all the time, I wanted to make things perfect and kept improving the quality of my visual effects. Especially when I was working on my first big Hollywood film, I devoted myself to it, I wanted to work more and learn more. And soon I realized time just flew by, and I looked back of some period of time, there were only work related memories. Then I started to realize I should probably go out more on the weekend and spend more time with others.
Balancing between work and life is always hard, especially when you just started up, you have your goals and dreams to catch. You would want to give everything to build your business or career, which is not a bad thing, we always need passion and enthusiasm which motivates ourselves to go further in our career path. However, we are human beings after all, we are not working machines. Physically, our bodies and brains need to rest, and emotionally we need small breaks time to time to allow us have more energy to face the work problems.
Maybe you would think, “Oh, since the Covid-19 came up, you must be working from home. And that should be easy for balancing the work and life since you can go to work with pajamas on”. But unfortunately I think work from home has made it harder since the working environment is exactly where you live – the line between work and life is blurred.
Here are some tips that I personally found it useful.
1) Separate your working area from your living.
For me, I personally separated the working area and living area at home. I moved my computer desk to a corner of the living room so I know that if I’m at that corner, I’m working instead of just “hanging at home”.
2) Tracking how many hours your work every day.
I’m also tracking how many hours I have worked every day, I marked down working hours and break times and if it passes certain limit I will just call it a day.
3) Go out on weekends
And since I stay at home for most of the week days, I would definitely go out more in the weekends. I’d like to go hiking or hanging out in the woods with my significant ones. The nature phenomenon always attracts and inspires me. It will definitely relax my mind and refresh my thoughts. So when I go back to work later, I will have more energy to deal with problems and work loads.
4) Don’t try to be a superman/superwoman
This is one of the most important advises. Do not try to be a super hero, you can’t finish everything by yourself in one day. If you want to impress your boss or client, instead of impressing them by the quantity of the work loads you have done, the quality of the work is much important. And if you got yourself tons of work and could not finish, that is the worst situation. So know your limit, and make a best out of that.
5) The next version can wait till tomorrow
Instead of thinking “I must make this version perfect and flawless today” maybe try “I can make it better next time, let’s do another version tomorrow”. If your work is not the final version to send, there is always time to improve it. If you already pass the working hour limit, that version can wait till tomorrow.
6) Know your pace and learn to set a manageable deadline
This will all comes from experiences. After you’ve done some projects, you will know your strength and working pace. You will have a general idea of how long you can finish the work. So you won’t push yourself too hard by setting the deadline way too early, and you will have more flexible time to spend which maybe enhance the work efficiency from the lovely evenings over the weekends.
7) If you are off work, try not to think about it.
This one can be hard to do, because it will bother you from time to time. And to be honest, I’m still learning and trying. So instead of thinking it all day when you are not working, learn to put it aside and enjoy your time with friends and family. If you can’t completely ignore it, at least try not to let it bothers you too much.
Those are the advises I think help me the most when it comes to balance my work and life. It might not suit for all people, but I think those are my ways to deal with it. I help my answers and tips can help others who are seeking a balance between work and life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a senior/lead visual effects artist. My specialize in creating vivid CG effects elements into movies, games, TV shows and commercials, etc.
I graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2015 with a master degree in Visual Effects and was hired by Method Studios as a VFX artist. Later in 2018, I joined Ghost VFX. And at the beginning of this year, I joined Digital Domain team as an effects development artist for a new big marvel feature film. My professional credits includes movies such as Captain America: Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Avengers: Infinity War, Godzilla: King of the Monsters etc. TV series like Hawaii Five-o, The Walking Dead etc. Video games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Quake Champions etc. And various commercials for Target, Mercedes Benz, Farmers Insurance, Samsung etc.
I became a VFX artist simply because of the movie series The Lord of the Rings. Those movies are so epic to watch, I think I have watched them more than 20 times, and at that time I was thinking it will be cool to work on those kind of movies and create non-existing environment or effects. Also I was fascinated by art when I was young, and under the influence of my grand parents, who are both math professors, I was able to combine my artistic mind with the technical solutions to create computer graphic art works.
For me, the most challenge parts to become a VFX artist is that working in this field, it requires you have both artistic side and technical side of your mind. Just imagine using programming and mathematics knowledge to create art, it was not easy at the beginning, And balance these two is important too, since I am an artist, I can’t go too far to the technical side, after all what I create is image sequence to make vision impact. But I can’t abandon the technique either since the foundation of how to create the effects is really technical related. But it all comes together with experiences and also the passion for my job.
And as I graduated and entered the industry, the most important thing I’ve learned is to always learn from the people around you. In VFX industry, or any creative industry, there are always more than one way to achieve your artistic goal. Everybody comes with their own solutions, and learning from others can really open your mind and broaden your horizon. Even from those who has less experiences than me, sometimes I was surprised by their unique thoughts.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If it was a week long trip, I will take them go all the way to north California and drive down on Route 1 to enjoy the great ocean view on the right side. And this was exactly what I did when my family came to visit me.
Also there were some beautiful small towns to stay over on the way. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a must go place, it has an amazing ocean view to see. It’s also a beautiful town, so many artists open their galleries there. Big Sur is another place to go if you like to dive into the woods. Solvang is a great place to visit as well, it’s known for its Danish-style architecture and many wineries. Also Ojai is worth to go by, a small and quite town with many galleries and olive gardens.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ll shoutout to my girlfriend Cynthia Chen, for the kindest support and encourage in many of my life aspects.