by Stephen Mayfield
In the past week, I have been grieving the loss of a significant and influential person in my life.
On Sunday, February 1 at 4:34 pm CT, world-renowned animator and international internet icon Monty Oum passed away.
I’ve turned to writing this article because of the difficulty of attempting to explain the significance of this loss is to me. Nearly all of us can relate to the passing of a loved one, but by that token we are also quick to assume that a loved one always defines itself as a friend or family member or at least someone we’ve met face to face in our life at some point.
Before I joined the Newspaper Club at Folsom Lake College, I was on the staff for my high school Newspaper, The Eagle Eye at El Camino Fundamental High School. During this time in 2010, a brilliant and talented animator by the name of Monty Oum joined the team at Rooster Teeth Productions, an online entertainment company whose content I have followed nearly every day of my life for 7 years. Rooster Teeth is most known for its “machinima” (a form of animation in which video game software is used to film) comedic web series “Red vs. Blue,” so when its CEO at the time, Burnie Burns, revealed Monty’s contribution to the show, the series took an entirely new action-packed direction.
While his work brought an epic flourish to the already established properties of Rooster Teeth, Monty’s work as the creator of an animated show “RWBY” (pronounced “Ruby,” standing for the colors represented by the show’s four main characters: Red, White, Black and Yellow) resonated with me because of its compelling story, depth and breadth of characters (and of course the signature adrenaline-pumping action scenes).
Prior to his work at Rooster Teeth, Monty was mostly known for his personal project “Haloid, ” a 10 minute animated action sequence between the characters Samus Aran from the video game series “Metroid”, and Master Chief from the popular video game franchise “Halo”.
“We’re in a huge ‘fan-culture’ at the moment, where everything has spawned off of something [else]. If you look at something and you intend to use it, you have to emulate it, which means you have to understand it” stated Oum.
This is what inspired me to become a creator.
I was inspired by what I had seen someone else do, and knew that in some way or some form I wanted to do the same. When a position for a Graphics Editor opened up on The Eagle Eye staff later in 2011, I asked for it immediately. I had prior experience with Adobe design software at home and now I had a way to direct and utilize that experience. While still very much a beginner, I now had direction and purpose in my life, seemingly much sooner than most of my peers. The drive to get better at something by just doing it and working at it was and still is reflected in my work. Despite whether one of my manipulated images or vector designs comes out good or not, there is always value in practicing and honing my skillset.
Without this inspiration I would never have taken advantage of the opportunities that have presented themselves in my life. After I graduated High School and began attending Folsom Lake College, I immediately began looking for a Newspaper to join. To my luck, I learned that a Newspaper Club was just starting back up with a new direction after being unchartered for a few semesters. I ended up becoming a founding member of the newly revamped club, designed the first version of the The Talon logo, built the website with the direction of my fellow club members and ultimately design the logo for club banner. Until this recent news, I had struggled with acknowledging these accomplishments but after some reflection I now see the root of my motivation and hope to continue being a part of awesome projects like the Newspaper Club.
I find incredible difficulty in sharing this because the loss of someone so influential on my life is a person I’ve never even met before. It also seems fitting to share in this manner though because the only method of interaction I had with Mr. Oum was by actively absorbing his content, commentaries and interviews. But while there was no personal relationship in the traditional sense, Monty’s openness about his ideas and philosophies have become rooted in my life, as it has in thousands of other like-minded creators around the world, be it digital artwork, animation, costume design or anything creative.
I would not be a member of this club, much less its president if not for the motivational spark of Monty Oum and the brilliant lights of those around me who foster it.
Click here to view Rooster Teeth’s tribute to Monty Oum.
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