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How to Pursue Career as Story Artist

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How to Pursue Career as Story Artist

I really want to be a writer/story artist at an animation studio, but I'm not sure how to get my foot in the door. I have some questions and would really appreciate any advice.

1. What do I include in a portfolio / demoreel for this position?
2. Is story artist an entry level position?
3. Do I have to live in San Francisco or LA before I could get a job there?

Thank you so much for the help!

Thanks so much for the help. If I could continue I have a few further questions.

1. I was referring to full time positions instead of free-lance. Do I have to live in LA before getting an entry level full time position?

2. If story artist is not entry level, what job could I do to get my foot in the door?

3. Should I look for jobs online, or do I have to know someone? Where is a place to look for animation jobs online?

Thank you again!

Wow, this is very helpful. I am a student who is just about to graduate from a liberal arts college. I double majored in Art and English. As for a portfolio, I have some large scale drawings which I drew in pen and painted for my senior exhibition, small drawings and sketches, and a few small Flash animation samples. I would really appreciate if you could tell me what kinds of positions I seem fit for with what I have to show. Thank you again. I really appreciate the help.

Thank you so much! You really have helped me, and if you could answer one last question, I would really, really appreciate it! What I would really like to do is be a writer at a studio, and I thought working as an artist could help me get a foot in the door. Could you tell me the steps I would take to become a writer at a studio? Again thanks so much for giving me your time.

Bluman, in response to your last question, I would suggest that you start writing. And once you've completed a script, revise it and then show it to people for some feedback. Revise again, and then start on the next script.

I'm sure that there are a number of things you need to do to "get in" but none of that is going to help until you're really comfortable writing. It really doesn't hurt to have a ton of practice under your belt.

Given that the thread originally started with a "becoming a story artist" topic, I also thought it would be fitting to ask a couple of additional questions that I have:

[LIST]Does anyone have a list of gaming industry or animation industry companies that would hire story artists?[/LIST]

[LIST]Does anyone have suggestions on "how" to find the contact info of any given recruiter at any given company? Example: How would I find the name/email address of the recruiter at Disney Feature Films so I could send a portfolio directly to them?
[/LIST]

[LIST]Are companies averse to "cold mailings" of portfolios? Is it best to blanket the market with your work? Is it better to do these cold mailings to features? Or TV? Or to gaming industry companies?
[/LIST]

[LIST]How clean does your clean-up work need to be? Can you have construction lines in your clean-up work? How do you get better at drawing characters "on model"?
[/LIST]

[LIST]Should your portfolio have storyboard samples that are only clean? Will it hurt you to have rough work in your portfolio?
[/LIST]

[LIST]What types of board should you have in your portfolio? Example: fight scene, dance sequence, comedy, conversation, montage, etc.
[/LIST]

Hi Ken, thanks for taking the time to compose such a good response. It's great to get some solid feedback.

To answer your question about the work I am applying for: I am currently trying to get into TV animation as a revisionist. While I try to send out a portfolio to ANY opening that appears, the ideal show would have some kind of comedic element to it. I really love drawing the action/adventure stuff (think Marvel characters) but I think that starting out with comedy will help me build the skills and a good sense of timing for the "dream job" in feature animation someday. But this does not mean that I'd pass up the opportunity to work with some action show like in KungFu Panda...beggers can be choosers. Gaming sounds good too, but I really have no clue what they're looking for. My strategy is to learn as much about acting, story flow, technical drawing, cinematography, directing while in TV and then those skills can easily be transferred over to some gaming company or on a feature film.

Thanks for posting up an example of your work. I really like the screne direction/camera information that you included with the tracking shot. It's good to see that tight rough is acceptable because creating drawings that are 100% on-model happens to be very time-consuming for me. The characters I draw look "close enough" and have good expression/gesture/silhouette/volumes however they're nowhere nearly as perfect as what an inbetweener can produce. And I'm finding that there's a balance between how much time I have to make it pretty and how much time I have to plan/think out a board to make it good.

Incidentally, I have been learning about all of the aspects of film that you have mentioned (180 rule, staging, composition, camera angles, psychology of a shot, script analysis, add infinitum). I almost feel like a director at times when thinking up all of the elements needed in a story beat!

Can I get your thoughts on including acting into your drawings? And by acting, I mean all of the subtle facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language changes that can correspond to one line of dialogue from the script. There are times where I am working with one line of dialogue where I can easily include 3-4 drawings to express the complexity of emotion that a character is feeling, but when doing this I feel like I'm setting up key-frames as opposed to concisely telling a story. In your experience, do you think it necessary to "pose out" characters that much? BTW, my gut tells me that I should include as many drawings as is necessary to convey a story point.

And finally (sorry, I just love talking about storyboard stuff), I liked your last comment about storyboarding being a tough job to get into. It is tough work because there is just so much thinking involved before you can even start drawing. It seems like there's 80% thinking/planning and then 20% drawing and that doesn't include the changes that need to happen. It's funny because my storyboard teacher says he can tell who's a "real" storyboard artist when he sees the pain in their eyes. :D

Back again! So I was hoping that we could examine the differences between feature and TV boards in regards to “what” an aspiring story artist should put in a portfolio. Moreover, I am curious as to which type of formatting is perceived to better show off storyboarding skills.

From what I gather, feature boards are drawn loosely, typically do not have that much notation regarding camera movements/timing/slugging, and have multiple panels drawn out with different backgrounds as a function of camera movements. Also, feature boards will probably NOT have the expanded panels of tracking shots and truck out shots, rather they will have a sequence of shots that have the same aspect ratio.
ex.

Notice that each image has a different BG.

Conversely, TV boards WILL have all of the notations included as well as the expanded panels that almost look like layout work. Also, TV boards are a bit tighter and more on-model (but still not “perfect” in referring to comments from a couple of posts back). In order to understand this next image, it would be wise to have start/stop bubbles drawn in along with some information regarding how the camera will move.
ex.

Notice only 1 drawing with 1 BG, but information is missing.

**pardon the lack of technical quality in the images; these are ruffs

In how this relates to the topic of the thread, I’m wondering what types of images recruiters and directors more interested in seeing. I'd like to know what "reads" better when looking at both of these sets. Do TV recruiters expect aspiring artists to know all of the camera movements and notation? What about feature recruiters? Is it better to have storyboards as images sequences? Should we have all of the camera notation? (these are rhetorical questions)

I am starting to wonder if it would be best to only include one continuity board (all the camera movements, expanded panels, notation) in my portfolio. And perhaps all of the other storyboard samples should include a selection of images that only show the main story-points from your board. I suspect that recruiters will look at whatever you give them, but a small sampling of strong imagery would better help them decide if you're the right artist for the job. The rationalization for this is that recruiters do not have time to read all of the notes about hook-ups/(IN)(OUT) notations/BG references/etc. Instead, if you bombard them with your best images that show good staging, composition, technical drawing, etc. they’ll be able to ascertain if the aspiring artist is capable of studio quality work.

Ken, do you have any thoughts on this? I'm starting to think that it might be a good idea to dwindle down an 80 page storyboard to the best 12 images that tell the story. What do you think? Potential for disaster? Or perhaps a really concise way to show off your talent?

Thanks Ken--dynamite advice.