If you’re an aspiring animator you’re probably thinking of attending one of the many animation/VFX festivals, with a view to visiting your favourite studios in the recruitment area to nail that dream job. Easy right?
Not so much. But coming prepared will certainly help you stand out from the crowd, so as veterans of the recruitment stand we’ve put together our top tips on festival etiquette and how to make a good impression while you’re there.
Top ten tips: How to impress at a recruitment stand
First things first, you may be wondering why come to the festival? Will it really make any difference? Unequivocally the answer is yes. Aside from all the great talks and demos you can watch and learn from, you are meeting potential employees who love to put a face to a name (or showreel).
You’ll also be mingling with the wider animation community who are a great resource and a tight-knit bunch who can potentially open doors for you throughout your career.
If you’re nice, polite and attentive, people will want to work with you. It’s the same as in a job interview. Good advice for life in general really.
Even if you’re not the most confident person in the world, if you’re relaxed you’re more likely to make a good first impression. It’s important to remember that we’ve all been in the same situation as you, so there’s no need to be nervous.
Don’t ‘lurk’ (we can see you), give a firm handshake, ask direct questions so you find out what you need, have a two-way conversation so we’re likely to remember you, and don’t just take all the free stuff!
Google us! Research a bit about who’s at the festival and the kind of work they produce. We’re not going to believe that you want to work with us if you don’t know what we do!
Bring the right kit
Nothing’s more frustrating than having to wait 5/10 minutes whilst someone tries to access their film/reel, then having to try and view it on a phone. Bring a tablet or laptop, make sure it’s ready to roll, make sure it’s brief, and make sure the screen’s clean!
Oh, and please don’t offer us in-ear headphones (blurgh!!!).
Take notes and remember who you’ve seen
If you take notes, whether or not you read them again, it looks like you’re taking on board what we’re saying and are likely to implement our suggestions. It shows you’re taking things seriously, and on a practical level it will help you remember who you’ve seen and what they’ve said!
Don’t overstay your welcome
Have some consideration for the other people who are waiting and don’t overstay your welcome – lack of awareness will reflect badly on you. We don’t need to watch a 10-minute film to be able to give you feedback, so keep your work brief. Also, don’t give us business cards! Take the details of the person you’re speaking to and contact them yourself (we don’t have time to contact everyone we meet).
Stay in touch…
Staying in touch and making connections undoubtedly helps when you’re looking for work, and you won’t be forgotten if you drop us a line from time to time with new work or just to say hi. Don’t always expect something in return, and if you’re connecting via LinkedIn be courteous and briefly introduce yourself (we can’t remember every name!).
…but not too much
Don’t pester! It’s a good idea to have a reason to get in touch, like new work, but if not be professional, concise, and keep it to a minimal just to stay on our radar.
Listen to our advice
Most importantly – listen to us! We know what we’re talking about. We remember what advice we’ve given people and can see when they’ve taken it on board. As an employer, this is important to us as it reflects your work ethic. If you’ve no new work to show us, hold off getting in touch and concentrate on improving your skills. Patience and perseverance will pay off in the end.
Good luck on your recruitment journey!
From the team at AnimDojo and Blue Zoo Animation.
Blue Zoo is one of the UK’s leading animation studios with an enviable client list and a shelf full of BAFTAs for their trademark CG character animation. They’ve produced some of the most well-loved kids shows on TV, memorable commercials, and their animated shorts are rapidly gaining world-wide recognition for artistry and innovation.
AnimDojo is a new breed of CG animation training for the 21st century. It’s been designed from the ground up to be efficient, affordable & flexible, focusing on short, structured exercises to help build your self-critiquing skills.
MAKE ME LAUGH
Over the years I have looked at quite a few animation demo reels. From back when VHS tapes were the only media, to clicking hyperlinks. To me, every demo reel is like an unopened gift. There is always the possibility there will be something wonderful there. You might discover a huge talent!
Demo reels run the gamut from dreadful, to intimidatingly good. A reel of polished professional work is great to review, but those people don’t need my advice. The people looking for tips are students and recent grads are who want to break into the business. After looking at many graduate demo reels, I become accustomed to seeing the standard animation assignments. Dialog pieces, body mechanics work, creature animation, game cycles. All are helpful in judging the skill of the artist. If the quality is there, I will say, sure, that person can do the work. But some demo reels go one big step further.
They make me laugh. Or at least smile.
When I think of demo reels that stood out to me, there are two that come to mind. Many years ago, at the now defunct Duck Soup Studios, I saw a demo reel from a new animator. He had animated a simple little alien and composited it onto live action footage of himself. I can still picture the character. He seemed to be picking a fight with him. He had an attitude, and the two definitely related to each other. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it made me smile. When you entertain someone, you have connected with them. I was curious about the person who made it. We interviewed him and gave him one of his first jobs. That was Chad Shattuck, and he went on to be a supervising animator at major studios.
A couple of years ago, I got a demo reel with a few scenes from a short film the student had made. The scenes were very good, and made me want to see the rest of the film. I could tell it was visual comedy, and I wanted to see where it would go. After we hired him, I pestered him to see the completed work. That was Academy of Art graduate Hans Tsai, and his short film is called Knob. Here it is on YouTube.
When a student can make me laugh, I know they put something extra into the work. They didn’t just do the assignment. They got creative and took it further. As an artist, I want to work with creative people.
Make sure a good portion of your demo reel shows the kind of work you want to do. If you want to work on funny animated films, then that’s the kind of work you should show. Work with your classmates and teachers, and ask them for honest reactions. You should be able to recognize a sincere laugh from a polite one. It’s not easy, but it will pay off in the long run.
Jonathan Lyons is the author of Comedy for Animators, published by CRC Press and available on Amazon. Intended for animators, story artists, writers and students, Comedy for Animators is a book written to introduce you to the remarkable art of physical comedy. If you want to make funny cartoons, it’s critical to understand this unique history of characters and stories. Jonathan is also a professional animator with 30 years of experience in the industry. He has worked on commercials, video games and feature films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, and Seth MacFarlane’s Ted.