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Getting Started in Your Home Town

Here at Animation World Network we frequently hear from folks who want to start in animation from their home town. While we don't claim that animation exists in every corner of the globe, here are a few suggestions to seek out what is in your area.

Here at Animation World Network we frequently receive desperate e-mails from folks who want to start their animation training prior to attending college or want to test out the animation waters without moving to a major city. While these folks swear that no animation exists for miles, we have been very surprised many times by where animation does exist. I don't claim that animation exists in every corner of the globe but here are a few suggestions to try to seek out some animated help in your area. Get ready to e-mail, call and hunt...

Let Your Fingers Do The Walking...

Start with the phone book. Call your local colleges and schools. Do they have any animation courses or do they know of any local workshops and courses? Often times, even if animation isn't included in the official curriculum the art professors might know of other art teachers or outlets in the area that might offer some opportunities. Also, check out our School Directory for additional animation schools in your area.

Also, try alternative places of education like adult education centers or extension centers, which sometimes offer specialized courses.

Call your town's Chamber of Commerce or equivalent. They can help you in a number of ways. They will be able to tell you if there is a small animation studio hiding in your town and put you in touch with the city's arts branch. Here again, these folks might know of animation alternatives going on locally or special yearly festivals and events.

The town library is also a good resource. Not only can they hook you up to the system's books and resources regarding animation but they might also know about special events and activities going on that are animation related. Libraries always have bulletin boards and librarians are pretty in tune with local events, groups and government.

Call the local television, public access or cable station. Do they need an intern? It might not be animation directly but if you can start helping out in graphics it is a good place to start. Other related businesses might be: art supply houses, architecture or product design firms and ad agencies. Many design firms use the same 3D software and hardware as animation productions.

Then call businesses that might be closely related to animation. Perhaps an art gallery or comic book store knows about an animation screening that is happening or the art supply store on Main Street might offer some life drawing classes. Who knows? But it is worth a try. Always start your inquiry with a broad question as opposed to a narrow one.

Seek Further...

Did you know there is an ASIFA chapter in Mongolia? And did you know that in Worthington, Ohio there is a studio that has done work for almost every major Hollywood studio and been in the running for Oscars? The most cutting edge CGI feature in production today? Japan? Silicon Valley? No, Honolulu! With a little research you might find that you are pretty darn close to an animation hub.

Go to Animation World's Animation Village to find a few places to start hunting. In the Associations Directory for instance, you can find ASIFA-International's Website and see if there is an ASIFA branch in your area. If there is one relatively close (i.e. an adjacent state, province or country), contact them anyway. They might know someone in your neck of the woods.

Also, check our Career Connections. You can search for jobs by location and post your resume. You might be able to find a business in your area.

The same goes for festivals. Check our Calendar of Events frequently. If there is an event somewhat close by, call. Ask about volunteering. Some festivals, like SIGGRAPH, have whole student volunteer packages that will pay for plane fare and hotels. Not saying every festival has such luxuries but again it is worth a try. There are plenty of students who arrive at the Annecy festival and camp nearby for the week. And maybe while you are talking to the festival director they will mention the great animated short they received from the independent animator living one town over from Ettrick, Wisconsin where you live. Independent animators often need help painting cels, or might at least answer a few of your questions if you ask nicely. Volunteer for the arts events in your local town. You might meet someone who knows someone, who has a brother-in-law who knows...

Do It Yourself...

Finally, you can do it yourself. These days a computer set-up with the proper software to do simple animation is possible. In fact, in an interview with Paul Fierlinger he makes the suggestion that instead of paying tuition one should get software and buckle down to do some serious self-learning. While this approach might not be right for everyone it certainly is an option. Plus, you can post animations and get feedback almost immediately thanks to the Web.

You can also jump into discussion forums like the ones on Animation World for help and advice. Our parent company, Creative Planet, has an entire community center complete with many discussion forums. One of the most helpful is Larry Lauria's "Animation Tools and Techniques." With the Internet one is never completely disconnected. If you post questions here you are sure to get a response from a professional who can actually give you solid advice from experience. You can also meet others and share ideas. The Web is home to many online classes as well and more are always popping up.

The lesson to learn is to be resourceful. To find one lead and follow it to another. An e-mail sent off to an organization might take a few months to get a reply, but in the meantime continue to search and find new roads. While it will take some time, if you search the Internet, read animation sites, and contact the organizations discussed you are sure to become more in tune with the animation community at large.

Have you had success finding animation in your area through a method not discussed here? Please, let us know and we'll include it next time.

Heather Kenyon is editor in chief of Animation World Network.