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CTN Animation Expo: The Saturday Experience

The CTN Animation Expo is a new animation event based at the Burbank Convention Center in California. The Expo is mixed with traditional artist, computer artists, schools, software companies, book publishers, Women in Animation and ASIFA, recruiters from well established companies, and several other animation related companies.

written by Maureen "MO" Whelan

The CTN Animation Expo is a new animation event based at the Burbank Convention Center in California. The Expo is mixed with traditional artist, computer artists, schools, software companies, book publishers, Women in Animation and ASIFA, recruiters from well established companies, and several other animation related companies.

I attended on Saturday, November 21st 2009.  Young men stood outside the convention center spinning bright yellow signs directing patrons to the parking lot. The parking lot was full and I had to park across the street in another lot.  The inside of the convention hall was no different, packed full of people, slowly moving from one seminar room to the next. Clusters of people formed in different corners of the main lobby watching live art demonstrations and lectures.  Lines of people curved around every corner of the building with patrons trying to squeeze into main rooms to watch the seminars.  The expo floor was crammed with people slowly shuffling from one booth to the next. The booths were packed tightly into the expo area, allowing only a little room for foot traffic.  It was a claustrophobic's nightmare.

Within the slow flowing crowd of people I discovered Frank Gladstone.  He took a moment to say “Hi.”  He’s doing well, traveling and working on several projects.  I also bumped into my comic book friend Frank Forte from Asylum Press.  He was looking for a daytime storyboarding gig to help fund his after hour’s comic book habit.  On the expo floor I found world renowned artist, Glenn Vilppu and his family.  He informed me of a “Sketch & Paint in Italy with Glenn Vilppu” workshop he has scheduled in June of 2010 and showed me some of his new books.   I also saw Pam Hogarth from Gnomon School of Visual Effects.  The school is doing very well and their classes have been booked full of students.  I spoke to a few random people who crossed my path and noticed the events attendees mainly consisted of students, freelancers and people looking for work.  Luckily there where a few recruiters running around from Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, and other companies reviewing peoples portfolios and taking the time to speak with them.  

I attended the five seminars listed below:

“I Agreed to What?” Ellen Ann Mersereau was the Entertainment Attorney speaking at this event.  She gave a brief description of what the ‘red flag’ terms are that she looks for in contracts that are given to her clients.  This is to protect them of damages, abuse and being ripped off.  She mentioned to look for terms that suggest issues such as “Contractors contemplating looking for work with other companies”, “Not being able to approach companies related to the same field for work”, “Companies owning the copyrights to all your work created during the term”, “Company not allowing contractors to work on other outside projects during the term”, “At will employment”, “Confidentiality and non-disclosure terms”, “Indemnification”,  and “Terms expiring after a pitch is completed and project is locked.” These are all ‘red flags’ and should be negotiated. Be aware that most companies have several different contracts for people who are independently represented opposed to represent by legal counsel. She said to especially be wary of one page agreements and “Artist Agreements.” She advised everyone to clearly read through their agreements and make sure they fully understand the terms before signing anything.

“Steering Your Career” Hosted by Greenlight Jobs Founder Lisa Kaye, Kim Mackey – Head of Recruitment at DreamWorks Animation, Josilin Torrano a Recruiter at Nickelodeon Animation Studios, and independent recruiter Debra Blanchard.  They all agreed the job market is picking up and are optimistic about 2010.  The studios have been hiring steadily due to their steady workflow.  The studio recruiters did notice a return of interns to their companies looking to complete a second internship.

The recruiters mentioned what look for in each applicant. Each agreed to the following: Enthusiasm, a good personality, dressing professionally, best artwork presented, a diverse portfolio, technical skills, the availability to work various hours, flexibility to travel, and the ability to work in other job positions that aren’t related to the job they are seeking.  Some studios offer job training but others don’t so it’s best to be a multitasker with artistic and technical knowledge.  Ms. Torrano also suggested working an internship at a studio and working your way up the job chain.  They also like people who follow up and stay in touch but do not appear to be a stalker.  All believed networking is a key to finding a job in today’s economy.  So, go to networking events, set up a Linked In profile and even a Facebook profile and start networking today.

“Sup of the Day” The speakers for this event where Carl Hurts a CG Supervisor at Sony Imageworks, Bud Myrush Digital Effects Supervisor at Rhythm and Hues, and Robert Lurge CG Supervisor of Lighting and Compositing at DreamWorks.  They each reviewed what they did for various types of productions at their company.  Their tasks would vary from project to project depending on if they were working on a feature film, or commercial.  Their tasks also changed through out the production process starting from pre-production to final delivery.  Each wore many hats, from recruiting talent, to deciding on the execution of the project, creating a treatment, supervising all aspects of the development process, directing, working with the marketing teams for promotional purposes, and final deliveries.  All the supervisors are very hard and dedicated workers.

“The 5 Successful Traits of an Animator” The speaker at this event was Andrew Gordon of Pixar Animation.    He said the qualities a good animator possess are good draftsmanship, knowledge of their characters, knowledge of appearance, understanding how objects work together, understanding the entertainment value of what you’re working on, knowing how to bring life to your character, and study acting.  On a personal level he said to show enthusiasm, have a good personality, the ability to communicate well with others, ask questions, be open to feedback, push ideas, be flexible, organized, be aware of schedules / deadlines, have a good instinct and make good choices.

“How to Break into Animation” Was hosted by DreamWorks Director Steve Hickner. Steve had a great personality, he spoke of his experiences in the industry and how he worked his way up though the job pipeline. He told people to have a good attitude, be able to ‘light up a room,’ be aggressive, be optimistic, flexible, be open to jobs that aren’t exactly what you’re looking for but will help you get to your goal, network, don’t be afraid to talk to an executive at a company, and to just start saying “Yes.”  Steve recently wrote a book about career longevity and is waiting for it to be published.  I personally can’t wait to read the book once it’s available.  I believe a lot can be learned from Steve.

All-in-all I thought the event was very informative and the seminar topics were appropriate for today’s job market.  It was clear the people who spoke at the event where there because they like their jobs and wanted to share their knowledge with others.  Artists were able to share their art with each other and build a network of business professionals along with newbie’s.  A good vibe flowed throughout the crowd.  The only down fall was the event was overcrowded.