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college student needing advice on career

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college student needing advice on career


I am a creative advertising major who just switched from an animation major who wished to hear some feedback:

I know I enjoy narrative animation, and I have a passion for feature films. I believe I should be a film producer, because I want to initiate stories and work with other story artists in the studio. I have researched the animation industry all my life and from what I've observed many producers begin as animators. I never really liked the idea of working on someone else's idea, esp if I can place no creative imput into the film's development. But I was willing to study animation anyway only in order to realize my future aspiration of being a producer.

This past semester after taking animation 101, I found that animating didn't seem all that exciting (Even though I got an A, the class and the teacher weren't very inspiring or of great quality). To me, story writing and animating are two different things and I don't think I should be an animator if my heart is not in it. But I know I want to produce. Is this nonsense?

Can one work in the industry as a story artist to work on the creative development and not be an animator? If so, how do I enter that path and prepare for that work? And just to be sure, I thought since I didn't really like the program I was in, I want to do some personal animation projects just to see how I like animating, in case I'm wrong. Maybe my class was just a bad experience. I think if I do some work on my own it'll give me an indicator of how well I might be at storymaking. Though I switched majors and I feel sure of my decision, I am still active in the arts community and I study other's animated work and I get feedback for what I've done so far so that I can improve.

P.S. - I switched majors b/c I feel I have a business side along with creativity. Since the animation industry is flaky, I am also interested in film marketing/promotion as well. It should be a good back up.

Sorry if this was lenghty and I appreciate any feedback.
Thank you

I've been in the animation industry for 22 years now, and I have never really been bitten by the "animation bug", as they call.
My desire to animate is very, very low and that's quite fine.
I've spent the past..........oh, almost 15-17 years doing storyboards pretty much exclusively.

That sates my own interests in cartooning and storytelling, and gives me my dose of creative input as well. I have animated before, and have brought some of that experience to my storyboarding, but its not the major influence in my abilities. I know of several colleagues with no animation experience at all that have been storyboard artists for many years as well. People come to this craft from many directiuons it seems.

Now, with your case........

You will end up wherever your focus directs you to--be that a desired place or not. The intensity of your focus will determine whether its where you actually want to be.

Now that seems like the vague easy answer, but it really does all stem from that. If you want to produce, and nothing is going to stand in your way, then you will produce.
If you want to do stories, then the same applies......if you persist and persevere.

I'll be frank here, talent plays a role in this as well, and a measurable industry-level talent is an asset. Many people have desire in spades, but lack the talent, and they often give up because they see development of that talent as being insurmountable.

Persistance and perseverance are the key--I said that before.

Talent can be developed, with the above attributes. It takes time, effort and patience but it can develop. The more "iffy" ones' talent is the more they will hear the word: "no".
If one puts all their focus into developing their talent then "yes" will pop up more often, albeit possibly over time.

The major obstacle you will face is your own life-agenda. Family, friends, age, finances, lifestyle--all these things will contribute to the time-line you have to attempt this kind of thing. One of the common traits I've found in people that gave up on this career choice is the need to have a more ready income that animation can initially provide. Those that survive in the business develop the skin to weather "rough times".

If the instruction you have been exposed to was a less than positive experience, its POSSIBLE the instruction was less than top-notch. Some times its the students that's lacking, sometimes its the program or the instructors. Animation schools without reputations for being good at teaching animation can be very hard to qualify for students that do not know animation.
The bright-side of all of this is that none of if is obstructing.

I'm self-taught--never spent a day in animation school (aside from teaching in them)--so a "bad education" need not be an obstacle.
I "grew up" in the industry in a time just before all of the wonderful materials and resources appeared, that people have nigh-immediate access to now.
That I, and more than a few of my self-taught colleagues, could thrive 2+ decades suggests that putting too much stock into the "degree" may not be the best course.

My advice is this:

Look closely at what you are DOING, as much as whatyou are desiring. If you are drawing and creating stories on your own, rather that just admiring stories and consuming them--then a pursuit of story is very likely a wise move. Gauge your artistic abilities carefully--are you drawing constantly and is your work at or near a professional level? Honestly, many people approach this field as an affectation--something they'd LIKE to do, but not fully understanding the demands of it.

You will be a good fit for this kind of career if you are already creating material that could be used within the field--that is making your own movies, publishing stories, drawing comics and cartoons etc.
If this is NOT you, but you have a modicum of skill, working under others in various roles can be the catalyst for deciding what you really like and are meant for. Don't knock this approach before you try it--even though it might be less creatively fullfilling, the experienced gained can make you a better contributor down the road.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Excellent advice

Thank you very much Ken.

Your insight is valuble! I was expecially inspired when you stated people enter animation from various directions. That reassures me because now I know that I don't absolute necessarily have to follow this "defined" path to where I want to go. In addition, it was helpful to know that you can teach yourself.

I am glad that the degree is not quite as important as I exalted it to be.

If you dont mind me asking, how did you teach yourself animation? How can I develop my storytelling abilities? And last, where can I learn also about the marketing industry for animated films. I thought it would be cool to advertise theatrical releases.

Thanks again.

If you dont mind me asking, how did you teach yourself animation? How can I develop my storytelling abilities? And last, where can I learn also about the marketing industry for animated films. I thought it would be cool to advertise theatrical releases


Read everything you can get your hands on regarding the mechanics of the craft. Film theory, story structure, camera moves etc. I've read Film Directing: Shot by Shot, Story by Robert McKee, The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler, Storyboards by Mark Simon, How to Write Screenplays by J. M Stracinzski, On Film Directing by David Mamet and probably several dozen other books --and hundreds of articles on-line and in magazines. add to that every dang book I could find on drawing/cartooning and comics how-to, plus formal instruction books on drawing the human figure, animals, perspective etc.
A great deal of information is on-line.

I came from a background with a keen interest in comic books, and just barely enough insight into how to create those to parlay that into storyboards.

My first attempts were pretty bad and a LOT more "seat-of-the-pants" than most peoples. I made a LOT of mistakes, but I was blessed with a lot of patient supervisors too. Learning some simple principles and having a decent level of drawing ability helped me last through the initial jobs.
I learned animation the "long way" by being an inbetweener and assistant animator for about 6 years.
I was coached alot by colleagues and mentors on the job, and I owe a lot of my career to them, so I was self-taught in the sense of not having a formal education.

I took cinematic principles, and then watched movies to see them applied, and then watched other films to see if there was common ground with those principles.
I made note of WHEN and WHY a technique was used, so I could then use the same idea in my own work.
Probably the key idea I formed was learning to develop my own creative opinions with regards to the work, a willingness and drive to put something of myself into it--that applied to the job at hand.

I suppose I've been lucky, because I've largely had a good sense of what was needed--without imprinting things solely for ego's sake. I used very simple storytelling systems to add to established ideas and held to the main story points.

Marketing film is just like marketing any other product, the same principles apply and the same psychology is at work. Any programme that deals in depth with marketing products is probably going to be sound.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

On the degree--

There are fellow professionals that will disagree with me here, but..........
but.....I maintain a POV that a degree is less valuable than ability (than they do).

I say that because a student can complete the academic standard of a school's programme and still LACK the ability to work at a level needed by the industry. This is because there are few if any common standards shared by any of these degree issuing schools. There are NO national or international standards to qualify an animation degree--just as there are few if any standards with other degrees, like medicine for example.

So, with that in mind, ability, rather demonstratable ability, is the only real asset a newcomer has to the industry. You either know the stuff and can show people you know it, or not. A pedigree from a school means little, except to ignorant and lazy-minded studio recruiters.

HOWEVER, if you combine a degree from a recognized school WITH pronounced ability, then you have a undeniable asset that can serve you very well in your career--but the ability is the greate of the two.
Also, this kind of thing will really only matter for the first 1/2 dozen jobs or positions you land, because after that, its just your ability and job credits that will determine your hiring. An education stops being of use in landing a position, unless its a teaching position.
This is why I, personally, place more stock in ability.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)