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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.
By Elyse Gymer – Animator at Creative Assembly
In an industry where if you’re staying the same, you’re falling behind: How do you get ahead?
As anyone in this industry knows: It’s tough. It’s tough to learn the skills, it’s tough to get hired, and it’s tough to stay talented. The reason for this is that everyone in the industry isn’t doing their job for the money, or because it’s easy, but because they have a burning passion for it, and the competition is fierce. If you are not striving to better yourself as an artist, there is someone else out there who is willing to put the hours in. I don’t think much expresses this better than this quote by Milt Kahl; One of Disney’s Nine Old Men:
This is why it’s so important for people in the industry, and trying to break into the industry to do personal work. Personal work can be anything in your chosen medium that is pushing your skills outside of work; A competition, a new short animation, a model based on some inspiring illustration. It is this one thing that can distinguish you from being a regular artist, to an incredible one.
If you are not currently employed, it is important to showcase pieces of work that relate to the industry you’re applying for. For example, if you are applying for the games industry you should try and showcase some cycles. However it is also just as important to work on personal work that speaks to you as an artist. This can show the employer that you’re not just someone with the mechanics of how to do the job, but proves that you are a person with interests outside of work, that has a pure love for the medium of which is hard to not take notice of. This freedom and time to create whatever you fancy becomes limited during the time you get in industry, so use this time preciously because it can be some of the biggest leaps in your skill you’ve ever made.
If you are currently employed in the industry, it can be surprising how hard it is to keep being artistic after a full day’s work of being an artist. The realisation also hits you that a piece of work that should take a few weeks, now has to span over months of your limited free time. At work however, you are often asked to do work that is not necessarily pushing your skills, but is just something that needs to be in the game. Also if you’re working on a similar style of animation/modelling/character design at work, you can find yourself struggling with unfamiliar areas artistically. I’ve also had friends that have worked religiously on a project for 2 years, and the project was cancelled and they can’t show any of their work. They then fall into the trap where if there is no personal work over that time period, suddenly your showreel is 2 years out of date of your current skills.
When you start a new piece of personal work, make sure it is something you are passionate about creating- but also that it is outside of your comfort zone and in an area that you specifically want to improve. The passion will push you to complete the piece, and the comfort zone will increase your skills.
Keep the heart of a student, post your work online, and help others by giving feedback.
We owe it to ourselves, to be continuously striving to work hard and do a great job, and to work on our own work that we feel passionate about.
I believe that every person reading this has the passion for the art the create, but ask yourself: Do you have the perseverance, to be truly great?
[email protected]. Animator at Creative Assembly. Currently working on Total War Warhammer. 3 Years industry experience.
-Animation Tutorials on Gumroad https://gumroad.com/elysegymer