The Career Coach: Portfolio Essentials

Whether you are a traditional character animator or a character animator who uses the computer (remember, it's just a tool) you will need a portfolio. All companies whether they are feature film producers or video game producers want the same basic stuff. Here are guidelines to putting together a portfolio that will help you get interviews. Remember a portfolio is a sales tool, like a resume and demo reel. The purpose is to get you an interview which could lead to a job.

I often hear the following questions - "I know traditional animators need portfolios to get jobs. But do I need a portfolio if I am going to be a computer animator? And if I do, what should I put in there?"

Whether you are a traditional character animator or a character animator who uses the computer (remember, it's just a tool) you will need a portfolio. All companies whether they are feature film producers or video game producers want the same basic stuff.

Here are guidelines to putting together a portfolio that will help you get interviews. Remember a portfolio is a sales tool, like a resume and demo reel. The purpose is to get you an interview which could lead to a job.

Portfolio tips:

1. Label every piece of artwork and the portfolio case with your name, phone number and email address.

2. Limit your portfolio to 25 pages total (a sketchbook or video reel counts as one page).

3. Never send original artwork. Photocopies are fine.

4. Don't include loose artwork.

Contents:

1. Several pages of current life drawing from live subjects.

2. Sketchbooks (or mounted pages from sketchbooks) with gesture-style drawings of people and animals in motion.

3. Head drawings--both quick sketch and long poses.

4. Some samples reflecting color and design sense.

5. Some figurative drawings reflecting knowledge of lighting.

6. A few samples that display cartooning skills. Do not include copies or interpretations of classic cartoon characters. Show samples of your own cartoon creations.

7. No more than two or three samples of comic-strip, comic book or fantasy illustration.

8. Some work based on imagination.

9. If you are interested in character animation it is not necessary to include graphic, advertising, industrial, jewelry or textile design. Character design would be more relevant.

Other tips:

1. You may want to label your sketches and poses with the length of time of the pose.

2. Remember that character animation is all about acting. If you can convey an attitude in your sketches and life drawing it will stand out.

3. You don't need a huge case to showcase your work. A simple presentation book with sleeves for 8 1/2 x 11 pages is fine.

4. Make several copies of your portfolio so you can have it in circulation at more than one company at a time.

5. Include several copies of your resume in your portfolio.

6. Remember, include only your best and recent work. One time an artist nearly didn't get a job at a video game company I worked for. He had included a piece he had won awards for--back in 7th grade. The man was in his 40s. The piece belonged on the wall of his house--not in his portfolio.

7. Your portfolio is a sales tool--it should be designed to get you the job you want. Be sure that it showcases you in the best possible way. Emphasize the areas that you want to get work in. For example, if you are interested in storyboarding, include samples of storyboards.

Remember - if your resume and portfolio don't work, neither do you!

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter and career coach. She is currently recruiting for Macromedia. She frequently speaks at colleges, universities, and conferences.

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