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Creative Career Coach: Spring Clean Your Portfolio and Reel

Tailor your portfolio and reel to the position you hope to win, making sure to include memorable pieces that reflect your mastery and strength.

Structure your portfolio and reel so they tell the story you want to tell. Select the strongest images that show off your skills and what you are interested in. Include sketch books in your portfolio. Sketch books give the viewer insight into how your brain works and what you are most passionate about. This is where you can explore ideas freely without assignments or work issues. It’s a place where you can explore characters or environments. Or new ways of drawing or thinking. Make sure you include life drawings in your sketch book. You should be drawing from life on a regular basis.

Portfolios and reels reflect your personality. What do you feel is most important? How do you arrange things? What is your favorite piece? Always put your best work up front. A portfolio should demonstrate what you are passionate about. Tailor your portfolio and reel to the position you aspire to. If you want to be a character animator focus on great acting, facial expression, and expressive body movement.

Remove old work. As manager of art at Virgin Games, I organized a weekly portfolio review, similar to what I had seen at Disney Feature Animation. I ordered lunch for the artists and they reviewed all the work from applicants. One week a portfolio review was going well when suddenly one of the artists exclaimed, “What’s this?” I wrested the piece from the artist and held it behind my back. I urged the artists to continue reviewing the rest of the portfolio. The piece I was hiding behind my back was something the applicant was proud of–he had won an award for it in middle school, decades ago. That work belonged on his wall at home, not in his portfolio. 

Imagery should captivate the viewer. Make them want to see more. Capture their imaginations. Include those pieces that speak to your mastery and strengths. The goal is to initiate an interview. Keep your reel under two minutes. It should only contain your best work and be memorable, unique, and engaging. Remember your reel and portfolio are only as strong as your weakest piece.

Never submit a portfolio or reel or post it on a website without contact information. There is nothing more frustrating than to see some brilliant work and have no way to contact the creator. Never include someone else’s work and claim it as your own.

Give your portfolio and reel the care it deserves. Aim your portfolio and reel at what you want to do. As you grow your skills, add new work. Approach your reel as if it is a project for your most important client. Because it is. Your most important client is you. A dynamic reel and portfolio that shows your personality and creativity and has great content will help you get noticed. These marketing tools will help you get the job.

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Pamela Kleibrink Thompson assists her clients to reinvent and transform, whether it’s starting new careers or businesses or starting new jobs or beginning college educations. Whether clients need encouragement, accountability, a game plan, or a road map, Pamela helps them achieve their goals. A career coach and recruiter with clients in animation, visual effects, games, and design, Pamela Thompson is available for one on-one career coaching sessions, recruiting, or speaking engagements. Contact Pamela Thompson, The Creative Career Coach, at PamRecruit87@gmail.com.

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