In this month's "Mind Your Business," Mark Simon touts the benefits of living where the work is.
Move. Thats right, move.
If you want to succeed in your career, move to where the jobs are. Now.
I was speaking at a university in Indiana last fall about getting started in the entertainment industry. After my talk, a number of students came up to me to ask questions. One student, Rick, asked if I would review his demo. We loaded it into the DVD player, held our breath and sat back to watch his work.
What I saw surprised me. It was good. Really good. I mean, it was so good that I told him to drop out of school and move to L.A. Really.
In the creative arts, talent means more than a degree. If you have the talent, waiting for the degree often just delays your career. It was clear that Rick was ready to work at a hot studio, and there arent any big, hot studios in Indiana.
At least it was clear to me. Rick wasnt too sure.
Actually thats not quite true. Rick looked scared shitless about the prospect of moving to Los Angeles.
Rick is a natural talent. He could fit into any Flash animation studio. I could see it. He couldnt.
Rick gave me every lame excuse in the book. He wanted to live in his hometown. He wanted to stay near his girlfriend. The excuses just kept coming and he never moved forward in his career. What a waste.
Dont think that you will always be able to get a job from where you live now and that a studio will pay for your move. Most animation studios are in Los Angeles, especially around Burbank. For the best possibility of landing a job at a studio, you should live near the studios.
Sure, we all hear about recent graduates who get great jobs at a major studio in another city. However, those are the exception, not the rule. To increase your chances of landing a great job, move.
One of the main reasons is simple economics and the other is relationships.
The economics of landing a job is that there is tons of great talent in Los Angeles. It is easier, faster and cheaper to hire someone already living in Los Angeles than to hire and move someone from elsewhere in the country.
Relationships are also important. All studios tend to hire animators they know. This is because we often have tight deadlines and we need to be sure that we will hit our deadline. All of you know a bunch of artists. How many of them have problems with deadlines? Uh huh. Thats my point. Thats why we hire artists first that we know and trust to finish a job.
Tom Moser moved from Orlando to Burbank a few years ago to advance his career. Tom did great work for my studio, but he wanted more. While living in Burbank he kept meeting more people in the animation industry and worked on a number of smaller gigs. On one job, he met a supervisor who moved onto a job at Marvel Animation. Since this supervisor knew and trusted Tom, he offered Tom a job animating on a Marvel straight-to-DVD movie.
Had Tom not moved to Burbank, he never would have landed that job.
The good news is that animation companies are now all over the country. Jimmy Neutron was produced in Dallas and Laika Studios (formerly Vinton Studios) is in Portland. Do your homework and get to know the people at the studios you want to work with.
How do you get to know them? Move nearby and introduce yourself. Help out at local events. Participate at film festivals.
The week after I graduated, I moved to L.A. I didnt know anyone in Hollywood. But every time I worked on a job I met someone who helped me land my next job. In less than a year I was designing feature films.
So get off your ass, say goodbye to Momma, load up your DVD collection and move. Its the best thing you can do for your career.
Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer/director and speaker. He also helps people to sell their shows with consultations, samples and training. He is the co-founder of www.SellYourTvConceptNow.com and hosts a three-day conference working one-on-one with people on perfecting their development and pitches of their TV concepts. The next one is March 3-5, 2008. Mark may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.