It's the drawing stupid!
When I was at USC Film School in the Filmic Writing Program the slogan, "It's the writing stupid!" hung scrawled on a white board in our director John Furia's office. It was true and we all knew it. Yes, you could make excuses. Yes, you could procrastinate. But it all came down to the words written on our pages. The same holds true in animation.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but...yes, you have to be able to draw to work in animation (naturally excluding stop-motion, puppet animation, motion-capture, etc.)! Nothing changes this one simple fact. Yes, computers now play a big role but time after time after time producers tell us they would rather have someone who can animate and knows timing than someone who knows how to click a button. Friends, students, do yourself a favor. Do not neglect the drawing. It will be your strongest calling card.
Our annual Jobs and Education issue is an exciting one this year because we are kicking off Animation World Magazine's first two ongoing series: Glenn Vilppu's Drawing Online and Barry Purves' Production Diary. I feel that students will truly benefit from both of these series. Glenn Vilppu is one of the world's foremost life drawing educators. Besides working at the very prestigious California Institute for the Arts, he has also held training sessions in a number of large studios. Follow along every other month as Glenn feeds us a lesson. This is really a treat and absolutely free. Also included will be monthly installments direct from Barry Purves' production diary as he helms a series of shorts for the U.K.'s Channel 4, focusing on Gilbert and Sullivan. Want to hear all of the ups and downs and what really happens throughout a production? Barry has promised to supply us a very complete, sincere and accurate representation. Wearing his emotions on his sleeve as usual, Barry's first installment is delightful. We are honored to be taking this ride with him and wish him all the best of luck on a successful job well done.
As this is the Jobs and Education issue I'd be remiss if we didn't point out that the talent feeding frenzy of the early and mid 1990s is over. I think it will be a very long time before a phenomenon like that reoccurs. The launching of so many feature film companies, combined with the expanding production of existing companies, stretched recruiting to unbelievable limits. Now that balloon is beginning to shrink. Yes, there is a lot of work and yes, product for television is a market that seems to be still growing. However, gone are the days of those crazy stories about artists being held, without work to do, on incredibly hefty salaries, just to be guarded against competing studios snatching them up. Yes, talent is still in demand but it is for a very specific honed craft so be prepared to apply and get turned down a few times. Persistence pays off in the end.
On a more humorous note, the recruiting frenzy has led to some absolutely outrageous rumors. I recently received an e-mail that asked, "Is it true animators make $1,000 an hour in California?" Another recent e-mail declared, "I've heard that everyone is so desperate for people in the animation industry that you don't really even have to know how to draw to get in. So, do I have to go to school?" Once again it is talent and training, not luck, not fate, but talent and training that makes one a success.
Here's another myth. "Well, he got the job because his brother is friends with the producer..." It is true that relationships like this can help one get the old "foot in the door," but I know from experience when a deadline arrives and the work isn't done, it doesn't matter to whom one is related! What matters is that there is a red-faced producer jumping up and down and going over-budget by the minute.
What pays off is research. `Do animators really make $1,000?' Call the Union. I'm sure Tom Sito would quickly set a story like that straight! `Do I really need to go to school?' Write/call a recruiter at a studio. Ask them where their last recruits came from. You might get nowhere, that tried and true endless phone transferring into oblivion technique, but you might get a really kind soul, a Phyllis Craig angel, who gives you some straight answers. So. Check the resources. Poke around in the magazine, Animation World Village and beyond. Read the info on the sites and learn a thing or two before you open your mouth. People respond to direct specific questions that have obviously been written by someone who has done a little research.
Kudos go to this month's Dig This! 1001 Nights is yet, another use of animation that pushes the boundaries of how animation is perceived and used within the larger arena of the arts. I was especially impressed by the artwork exhibit that accompanied it. The pieces ranged from inspirational art to storyboard pages to the finished cels. Not only was the display beautiful but also educating to those that may not be animation aficionados. Exhibits that help describe to the public not only the wonder of animation but also the difficult, sometimes tedious, nature of producing this precision art form deserve support and recognition. I hope that the film and exhibit tour and urge you to attend if it happens to come to a town near you.
Until next time... Heather