Many people believe their careers will take off when they get to the big city, the prestigious studio, the big budget feature. My advice is don’t wait until you can move to the city of your dreams (whether it’s New York, London, Los Angeles, Singapore, Vancouver, Wellington or Mumbai). Wherever you live, and whatever point you are at in your career, you must start building your career now, today. There are many things you can do, including improving your drawing skills. All you need is something to draw with and something to draw on. Even if you live on a deserted island, you can draw in the sand with a stick. There are many online courses and schools available so you can educate yourself in the methods of animation, wherever you are.
A strong foundation in traditional skills, whether painting, drawing, photography, or sculpting, will help you in a career in animation, visual effects or games. Prepare yourself well and add as many skills as you can. If there isn’t a teacher in your area, find one online or find a book that will teach you what you need to know.
Opportunities exist wherever you live. Investigate companies that need artwork including local television stations, ad agencies, newspapers. Do illustration, design, graphics, animation or help out on a local film being made. Opportunities to build your portfolio surround you wherever you live. Think outside the box and create artwork. That’s how you build a portfolio. One career coaching client had a tremendous amount of art work he had done for an ad agency in the Midwest. Some of the work indicated an interest in character design and I suggested he apply for a character designer job at Nickelodeon which he did and it led to a job on Fairly Odd Parents. If he hadn’t done the work back in the Midwest, he would not have had the portfolio to show Nickelodeon.
Wherever you are, you can meet people in the industry. Start with Animation World Network. Contact the authors of the articles and blogs. Look them up on Linkedin and invite them to your network. Connect with others on Linkedin by joining some of the groups dedicated to your areas of interest. Search for groups that might interest you by typing in a keyword, or going to someone’s profile and seeing what groups he or she belongs to. Once you join a group, you can start a discussion, or message other people in that group.
If you live in an area where you can’t meet people face-to-face, you can virtually connect with others who have an interest in animation. Leverage the internet. You have an internet connection. Make connections. Build relationships. If you are lucky and live in an area where there is a local chapter of Women in Animation, SIGGRAPH or another animation related group, go to the meetings and get to know people in the group. Volunteer to help at events and meetings. Or organize your own group. An animator I know in Boise organized a group here called IAAGI–Interactive Arts and Animators Group of Idaho. (www.iaagi.org).
If you are a student, volunteer to help other students on a film project or theatrical performance. Learn to work collaboratively on a team project. Volunteer to help at the career services center. You might learn how to put together a resume, the best questions to ask during an interview, or tips on networking. And you’ll get to know the people in career services, who are the first to get job postings from employers.
Wherever you are, start to build your network. Your network is comprised of the people you know. Your friends and co-workers. Find out what interests them and share information they might find useful. If you are a student, your network is your peers–the other students in your classes. Do the best work you can on team projects and they will sing your praises when they land their first job and are asked if they know anyone else.
Make the most of opportunities that come your way. Start working on your career today. Build a fabulous portfolio and don’t be shy about sharing your work. A friend of mine lived in Chicago and worked as an animator at a small commercials company. He heard that some Disney animators were going to visit a local gallery. Erik made sure he attended their talk and approached one of the presenters afterwards and asked if he would be willing to give feedback on Erik’s portfolio. That animator mentored Erik, who eventually interned at Disney. The internship turned into a job at Disney where Erik worked as a clean-up animator on Hercules. Erik didn’t wait until he was able to move to Los Angeles and work for Disney to work on his career. He made the most of opportunities right where he was.
Start making your own opportunities. Work on your art work. Work on your portfolio. There is free animation software available on the web. Try it out and experiment with it. Create something spectacular and post it on the internet. Or enter it in film festivals. Your work can create opportunities you haven’t dreamed of. Don’t delay. Start where you are today.
©Copyright 2012 Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a career coach, recruiter, and speaker. She is presenting her Career Navigator Program at Digital Media Arts College in Boca Raton, Florida on September 5 and 6. She is also presenting at the Idaho Writers League Conference in Boise on September 28. You can contact her for career coaching, recruiting or speaking at PamRecruit@q.com.