This month Jamie Denham from London based studio, Sliced Bread Animation offers his insight into a successful animation job application.
1. Always put your best work first and keep shots to a minimum length
We get an average of 5 speculative applications per day, other larger studios will get at least 50. In the first 10-seconds of a reel you will have a pretty good idea if the applicant has ‘got it’ or not, or indeed if there is something of interest that makes you want to carry on watching. If your best work is anything beyond 10-seconds it could be missed. It is recommended that you put your primary discipline first (animation, texturing or modelling etc.). Top and tail your reel with name and contact details (email and mobile). And keep those walk cycles to 3 seconds max!
I would also recommend getting a fellow student or tutor to feedback on your reel, as an artist you can become very attached to your work. Therefore getting third party feedback before you make an application, can be very helpful. Face-to-face networking is also good in this respect, in London there are a number of meet ups for animators, some even have Show and Tell events providing you with the opportunity to showcase your work.
2. Be very clear on what aspects of the reel you actually did
Showing that scene you worked on a Harry Potter film is all well and good, but which ‘bit’ did you actually do? It’s really important that you present work you can do comfortably, it will become very obvious, very quickly if you can’t and that’s not going to help build your reputation or career in animation.
3. Give the viewer some idea of how long the shot took
All studios are a business, and whilst we all want to create outstanding work, the time it takes to create that work is important. We have to cut our cloth to suit the budget. Often budgets are tight which means you need to be creative in your thinking and get the work done efficiently. Examples of work you did on a quick turnaround, and others where you had a bit more time, are really useful to see.
4. Sending email applications
Make sure you address the person directly (if you can), put a link of your reel in the body of your email, give a very, very brief description of the role you are applying for, and your strengths (including software competency). At Sliced Bread we like to see examples of traditional art, mainly life drawing. Support it with a CV, but to be honest we only really look at them after we have looked at the reels. Sign it off with you name, and contact details (again).
5. Ask for feedback
You may of course not always get it but there will be the odd case and it will help you when applying at other studios, but always follow up, expressing an interest to work with that studio. Timing is everything, I got my first break by my CV being the top one, in a drawer of many others. If other CV’s had come in that day, I wouldn’t have got given an opportunity.
Draw, draw, draw and draw! I can’t emphasis enough how important traditional art skills are, learning the software only is only a means to the creative process, it is not the creative process.
“You get a lot of reels that are the same type of reel all featuring the same exercises. But the ones that are rare are where the applicant has done something different in their approach.” – Pixar’s Andrew Gordon
With the new year at hand, you may have some refreshed ambitions about accomplishing the burning goals you’ve had for so long. For many of you in the animation world, this might come in the form of developing a story of some sort. All too often, it gets easy to fall victim to the invisible trap of flat, un-scintillating dialogue. To avoid this fate, here are three great suggestions to build your writing skills for more explosive and engaging dialogue between your characters:
1) Take an acting class or two! Yes, this certainly includes improvisation classes. This is especially great if you are in, or heading to, college and need to fill extra elective courses. It’s incredible for learning how to think like a character other than yourself. (On a parallel note: this is also a huge win for drawing better acting!) Remember, good acting comes from great reacting – from that comes better dialogue.
2) Watch both good and bad movies (or shows), and think about the dialogue from each character as you watch. Really try to isolate the dialogue by asking questions as you absorb. (This is easiest to do when trying it with stuff you’re super familiar with already so that you don’t get swept up in just watching it.) But ask questions like “Does where this person come from effect the way they speak?” and “Why would they say that? Would it work the same if they said it a different way?” and “What is the character trying to get across? Are they trying to say something different than what they’re ACTUALLY saying?” and other questions like these.
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3) Try to assign your characters to someone similar them. That could mean someone you know personally or maybe an actor. But let’s say your character is an insecure, irritable guy who only looks out for himself. Could he be like George Costanza from the show Seinfeld? How would he act in a scenario at work when he realizes the box of donuts is empty, except for a half of the yuckiest donut? And what if it was half EATEN, not cut in half? What if all this happened on his birthday? What sorts of things would he say in that scenario compared to if he was like Walter White in Season 1 of Breaking Bad? See how assigning other similar characters or people you know helps give them a voice? It becomes a lot easier to think of dialogue that stands apart from character to character when they all come from one person’s head.
Of course, as with anything, these methods take time and practice. Methods such as these, though, make it far easier to write dialogue that keep your audience far more engaged because your characters won’t all sound like you talking, or like sloppy caricatures of archetypes you might have stored in your mind.
Hope this helps!
Disney Storyboard Artist
Creator/Host of The Animation Network podcast
The goal of The Animation Network podcast is to excite and inspire people interested in animation, answer burning questions specifically about TV animation, and share a colorful spectrum of experiences that lead industry pros to where they are today!