I have spent over ten years in the film industry, six in visual effects. This is my personal guide to finding and applying for work in a very competitive market.
- Recruitment agencies can be good but do not rely on them, it is worth building your own network of contacts and email companies job departments directly. Set aside a few hours and email as many as possible.
- If relevant make sure you have a showreel available online and a pdf of your CV so you can direct a company towards your work in the first email. There are very few companies that still require you to send a hard copy.
- Check twice cut once. Check emails for spelling, the correct CV is attached, the link to your reel is the latest and most importantly of all, you address the correct company. When emailing lots of places it’s easy to cut and paste and put Dear wrong company.
- Keep a record of what companies you’ve emailed, what contacts you’ve made and if you got a response. That way you can directly email someone next time instead of the general enquires and know how long ago you last asked about work.
- Use employment networking sites such as Linkedin, follow companies, keep in contact with colleagues and people that recruited you. People are usually happy to be connected professionally. Keep an eye on feeds for job updates. As a side note keep sites such as LinkedIn professional and not use it for social networking, only connect with people you know or recruiters.
- Follow company recruitment accounts on social media such as twitter and facebook they quite often post jobs.
- Take the plunge and apply to other countries. One of the most amazing experience of my life was going to work in Australia.
- It’s worth having a skype account, you never know when a company might need to do an interview over the internet.
- Take part in social events if you can, post work drinks and company get togethers are important for networking and getting to know everyone. People talk about new opportunities and what companies are good to work for.
- No really make an effort to go down the pub on a friday night even if you don’t drink, people from all different companies get together. People have often told me about new openings over a pint. Drink responsibly kids.
- Keep the faith. It can be hard going, especially if you’re just starting out and have few contacts to call on. Don’t give up, send lots of emails, be ready to get no response and keep at it.
- Of course follow accounts such @animationjobs for listings.
We have all chosen animation as a career because we love it! Once we’re hired, most of us are naturally eager to start animating the most heroic, physical, or emotional shot we can get assigned so we can wear them like a badge on our demo reel.
However, it’s not up to us but our leads or supervisors to assign shots and, for good reason, these demo reel-worthy shots usually go to more senior animators. So if you’re recently hired to a job you are probably not assigned the most meaty shots.
Recently, I was in my first lead position at a commercial studio and realized how nice it is when everyone is project focused and not demo reel focused. The old adage here is “There’s no ‘i’ in team.” When we were in school, we usually worked alone and the goal was creating the best demo reel to be hired. But, when we are hired for a job our mentality must shift from demo reels to completing the project as a team.
On an animation team, especially at commercial studios with tight turnarounds, your mentality should be “what can I do to help get this project across the finish line.” You should put aside your aspirations of getting ‘the best shot’ of the project and imagine if you were leading the project, what kind of attitude would you want your team of animators to have? Would you want them positioning themselves to always get the best shot? Or would you want someone who’s going to take whatever is thrown at them with a smile on their face and get the job done?
Your love of animation needs to broaden in these cases, not dwindle or narrow, when you don’t get the best shots. You’re contributing to a greater whole with many moving pieces that all have to get done. Animating background characters or making a library of cycles for a crowd may not be the most glamourous animation you envisioned yourself doing when you were a student, but once you’re an employee, and if you want to continue to be hired, you need to develop a project-focused attitude and not ‘can I put this on my demo reel’ only attitude.
This also means you’ll probably have to continue to animate at night to get your demo reel-worthy shots if you want to move onto another studio, but if you’ve been project focused and not demo reel focused then most likely the studio you’re at will want to keep you for the next project as well.
Your demo reel can only say so much about you as an animator, so once you have the job take the opportunity to show you’re easy to work with and a team player if you want to keep getting hired. Your resume will also speak volumes if it shows a studio wants to keep you around, it means you’re doing something right.
Hi, I’m Lucas Ridley! I’ve been working in animation for 5 years and look forward to learning more each year. As I learn I want to share it and help others. These thoughts are my own and don’t reflect any of my employers. If you want to check out a Maya-specific animation resource, I made a free eBook on some tips I discovered when I was animating my 1st place 11 Second Club entry, you can download the ebook here and take a look at my demo reel here. Happy animating!
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