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What You Need to Know to Pursue a Career as an Animator
So you want to be an animator? Sure you have seen the “behind the scenes“ look of an animation studio via your special features on your favorite animated DVD. But do you know what it really takes to be an animator? As a career advisor for animators I have seen first hand the steps that it takes to pursue a career in animation. Here are a few simple steps to help you along with your journey to becoming an animator:
There are now hundreds of schools that have curriculum specifically structured for animation. A simple Internet search will bring you various educational programs set up to help you understand not only the software, but also the various stages of animation. Take a look at each school’s curriculum; make sure it not only helps you understand the software skills needed, but also gives you an understanding of the industry. Find a school.
Knowledge of the Animation Pipeline
Did you know that there could be over hundreds of people working on one animated film? The animation pipeline is one of the most important things that you can learn. A lighting position is different than a 3D character animator so having the background and knowledge of animation will help you hone in on your skill level and passion. You must understand the types of positions available. It is easy to go to a general job searching site, type in “animator”, and look at the job descriptions. Pretty soon you will notice similar patterns. Do you have all of the software skills required? Do you have the professional skills required from your past experience? These are the questions you need to ask yourself and skills with which you need to arm yourself for the future. If your dream job requires a certain type of software, find out how to learn it.
Tailor your Resume
Your resume is the best way to show an animation studio that you have taken the necessary steps towards learning about the animation industry. If you have studied formally through an animation program or have learned the skills on your own, this is the best way to show that you have an interest in being in the industry. The best advice that I give is that all experience is good experience. Even if you feel that a past position is unrelated look at key skills that can be tailored for animation. Have you worked with a team? Did you work under the direction of a manager or supervisor? Use action verbs to articulate the types of roles that you have held in the past to show that your experience is relevant.
Demo Reel Website
The first thing a recruiter or animation supervisor looks for in hiring an animator is their demo reel. It seems that it is more common to not only have a traditional physical demo reel but a video version that can be seen online on a personal portfolio website. This website should be very easy to navigate. The demo reel should be the first item that appears on your page. Somewhere in clear view should also be your contact information and either a tab or area where the reader can view or download your resume. If you have a flatbook or additional work to show then that can be on a separate page.
The single most important piece of advice that I tell each and every animator that I advise is to get feedback on your demo reel. Professionally, the ability to not only give but also receive constructive feedback is extremely valuable in this industry. I cannot count the number of times where a graduate completes school with a demo reel they are proud of but have never once asked an industry professional to take a look at the final product. In this industry you need to learn that you will always get feedback, criticism, and opinions from many parties regarding your work. This is not meant to be negative but to point out pieces that you may have missed on your own. Throughout your career you should always strive to improve your reel with better work to not only be relevant to the ever changing industry but also to show progress in your skills.
Start searching for your first position
Now that you have your demo reel and resume completed you are ready to start looking for work. A quick search will begin to help you understand the different types of animation positions available today. If you are looking for a specific role be aware that they might have different titles at different studios. It is also fine to have your first step into the industry be a short-term project as long as you are getting valuable experience. Also be prepared if you are asked to do an art or animation test. Animation tests are set up, not to see how much animation you can prepare in a short amount of time, but to determine the quality of animation work you can complete with a given timeline.
For more information about schools and programs available online please visit the Animation Programs Section.