Insights For Getting Started In The Animation Industry

Insights for getting started in the animation industry Achieving a solid start in any industry is difficult, and getting started in the animation industry is no exception. I’ve received great questions from Kendall, Megan, Liz and Jay, all of whom are curious about the journey of getting into animation. Their questions, like those of others aspiring to work in the animation industry, include what you need in a portfolio; what to expect as an artist and a woman; and whether it’s a feasible career path or whether animation coincides with the “starving artist” scenario.

Where to start?

Perseverance. Determination. Love what you do. I’m a big believer in finding your passion in the work.

Draw, draw, draw!!! Whether you’re going into CG or traditional—draw! You will learn so much from life drawing and gesture drawing (see Walt Stanchfield’s books Drawn to Life, Volumes 1 & 2) that will help you have a better eye when you animate or do story.

Know what part of the field you want to be in. Story? Animation? Visual Development? Layout/Camera? Lighting? Backgrounds, etc.? Traditional and/or CG? Do your homework; find what interests you (passion!) and aim toward that goal. When you submit an overly broad portfolio, studios see that as a sign of indecisiveness.

As women, sometimes you have to work harder, sometimes you don’t— it really depends on the studio. The boys club of the film and animation industry has many different facets—some are truly awful, and others are practically nonexistent. You will have to feel the lay of the land in each place and make your own judgments accordingly. Just be true to what you know you are capable of.

I was originally hired back in 1987 at Disney because I was a woman. I was fresh out of CalArts, and Disney was getting flack because they had no women in their story department. I put in my student film as part of my portfolio, with the storyboards—it was unique and showed what I could do at that time. (A side note? I had prepped my portfolio for clean up because all of my teachers said, as a woman, that was the only job for which they would consider me. I included my film and storyboards to indicate that I would eventually like to get into story. My teachers at the time thought that highly unlikely.) Surprises of surprises, I fit Disney’s criteria—I was the right price, because they could hire me as a “trainee,” and I was the right sex to get that particular monkey off of their backs regarding the story department. I didn’t take that for granted, however. I worked hard and almost lost my job because my draftsmanship wasn’t where they wanted it to be, but I doubled my efforts and was able to stay. My fellow story artists were very supportive and mentored me, and that made a big impact. They could see what I brought to the story department—a different point of view.

Speaking of portfolios, yours shouldn’t only demonstrate your skill set, but also bring out your own uniqueness.

Although we in animation consider ourselves artists (and we are), we’re also craftsmen/women. Animation is a commercial business. If you are willing to go with the changes needed in technology, then the “starving artist” scenario does not apply here. You may not get stinking rich, but it is a decent living. There are those worthy and honorable animators who have refused to stop drawing in favor of the more technical approach of animating on a computer, and I know some of them do struggle. But that is their choice. (And, as artists, I respect them for that.)

I hope I have answered your questions—or at least inspired you to dig a little deeper into what you want out of an animation career. I wish you the very best of luck!!

Image by VFS Digital Design via Creative Commons

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