For those of our readers considering starting a career in animation by picking one of the many, many, many animation schools popping up around the country—consider this advice from our expert panel (made-up of executives, studio owners, decade-long freelance success stories, etc) about which schools they look to when hiring new interns and employees.
Here are the responses from our Interview Series subjects about their go-to schools when looking for new graduates:
Richard O'Connor, Ace & Son
We've hired from SVA, Parsons, RISD, Pratt and University of the Arts. These are mostly local schools since entry-level positions don't offer the best salaries for artists who need to relocate.
Joe DiDomenico, Applehead Factory Design Studio
Most of the artists we have worked with over the years have come from either the University of the Arts in Philadelphia or the Digital Animation and Visual Effects school in Orlando. That said, it's more about the artists portfolio and even more important, their personality. We try and work with artists that will work well with the existing team.
Matthew Teevan, ARC Productions
We are fortunate based on our location (Toronto, Ontario) we have some really good animation schools locally – Sheridan and Seneca are world class – and there are others too. We have hired several people right out of college and they are thriving.
Robert Stava, ARUP
We get our referrals mostly (99.9%) from the community itself - in our case, the local 3ds Max and After Effects user groups. It's the best place to network and find new talent, really.
Glenn Barnes, Big Sandwich Games
I've found that Capilano University in Vancouver has an excellent 3D art program, and usually produces a good crop of talent every year. If we're actively hiring junior talent, that's usually the first place we look. We don't value one school over another when reviewing applicants though; it's all about the portfolio. I once looked over a portfolio from an artist with a Masters' degree in illustration, who seemed to have only mediocre drawing skills. I've also worked with, and hired, some immensely talented and productive artists who were simply self-taught.
Trevor Davies, Core Animated Effects and professor at Sheridan College Animation
Sheridan College, St. Clair College and Centennial College.
Andre Lyman, Clambake
We have developed strong relationships with the career centers of various local art schools, and look to their career advisors when hiring. These schools include RISD, MassArt, AIB/Lesley, and Emerson. We've also got a couple of SCAD alums on our team now.
Mark DiGiacomo, Digital Elixir Studios
This is a tricky question. Right out of school is often our hardest choice, since sometimes they show a great reel but too often they seem very limited in scope and capability, even if they are good. Often the work is not that great, but in the last couple of years we've noticed the reels looking a lot better in general. I can't recommend a single school, since submissions are so varied from around the globe. I can tell you that some of the work from students coming out of continental Europe is incredible.
Link Starbureiy, Creator of Egglepple
I'm biased. I did all my research stuff at The Ohio State University, so I'm loyal to the 'Campus in Columbus'. Rightfully so, because they have some really great programs, labs, and institutes, namely ACCAD and HCGL. Anyone with that training gets noticed by me (and many others, I'm sure), right off-the-bat!
Darcy Vorhees, Flaming Medusa
I am always keeping my eyes out for artists that come from animation programs in Cincinnati, and the Columbus College of Art and Design is a very well respected school that is also nearby. Really, though, the portfolio is all that is a requirement. I prefer to receive emails from people who are interested in the company with a portfolio website in the body of the email. I also look for connections at conventions, artist-centric events, and during other arts-networking opportunities.
Jerry Chambless, Illum
There are several great schools that are turning out talent, both formal & virtual. We have contractors from Ringling College, Cal Arts, Savannah, Sheridan, Columbia.
Mark Cappello, Invisible Entertainment
We are not snobs when it comes to requiring specific educations. Some of our owners graduated from college (Sheridan and NSCC), and some of them never graduated from an animation course at all. The natural talent combined with an opportunity to lean in the actual industry can be much more of an education than 3 or 4 years in school. I like the Sheridan graduates who are not already convinced they are ready to be art directors, and I really like the graduates from Ottawa’s Algonquin College, they have a strong work ethic, they benefited from great instructors, and unlike some Sheridan grads they have a refreshing lack of arrogance and entitlement.
J.J. Sedelmaier, JJ Sedelmaier Productions
Good schools that seem to prepare their student are: Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), School of Visual Arts (SVA), Ringling College of Art and Design, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), CalArts.
Joddy Eric, Madwerkz
We recruit from many schools in the Midwest, some of which are Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland Institute of Art, Columbus College of Art and Design, Pittsburgh Institute of Art, Kent State University, Virginia Marti College and Cleveland State University
Michael Domgard, Outpost12
While we don't favor any school in particular, but we have often found a wealth of talent from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at UNL, and from Full Sail University in Florida.
Brad Graeberm Powerhouse Animation
Since we are in Austin, we have folks from the University of Texas and The Vizlab at Texas A&M. We also have several folks from Savannah College of Art and Design, Sheridan, and Austin Community College. We do not specifically recruit from any school or program. We receive many demo reels and portfolios and look at the work.
Kyle Clark, Reel FX
We recruit from Ringling, Texas A&M, SCAD, University of Texas Dallas, and a number of other schools.
Nadine Zylstra, Sesame Workshop
We don’t generally recruit new hires from schools, but we use a broad network to commission animations directly from filmmakers. We do not have a preference- if a filmmaker is fresh out of school but has a great idea that is good enough for us.
Brendan Burch, Six Point Harness
We have had a lot of success with Sheridan in Canada, Cal Arts and USC.
Kathy Rocchio, Slap Happy Cartoons
Cap College, VFS and of course Sheridan are favourites, however we have hired people without any previous animation experience. Since a big part of our business is development, we are continually looking for new design styles that will work for our 2D projects. We often troll graphic-artist sites for people with unique styles to help create an initial pass of design that will help us sell a show idea.
Sean Hall, CRASH&SUES
We recruit from schools locally. MCAD for the most part. We have an internship program, and that's usually where we find our talent. We again don't have a large staff, so we like to find people who will come on as freelancers for our bigger projects. Of course though we welcome talent from anywhere.
Brian Deans-Rowe, Stone Fence Studios
Boston University Center for Digital Imaging Arts is educating a new generation of great talent, and I have the privilege to work with them often as an Instructor there. As a New England company, SFS is fortunate to have access to other great area schools, such as RSDI and Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Terrence Walker, Art FX
We all know CalArts is the premiere school from which talent comes these days, but I believe the internet is far more important in these extremely busy times. Although I mostly deal with contractors, it is from their online presence that I find them. When I come across an incredible talent on the net, through an art forum, YouTube video, or their own site, I will bookmark it, make note of it, knowing that I may want to work with them in the future and that I will call them if I think their work can fit a current project. I think it is important for any artist, whether fresh out of school or not, to make a website, join other popular art websites and showcase their work. I know of a few artist who got real industry jobs because of their gallery on the Deviant Art website.
Todd Schowalter, Studio Todd
Most of my animators are those who have either approached me, or I have found through their websites.
Mary Nittolo, The Studio
I have taken several students from NYU, SVA, and Ringling College, but we interview and hire from anywhere. It's the work that counts.
Bert and Zeea Moss, The Untitled Animation Project
I'm not really interested in what school someone went to and I don't think it's particularly indicative of how good an animator they are. I've seen some awesome animators come out of SVA and I've seen some that thoroughly suck. If you suck as an artist or animator and go through the art school system, you'll come out the other end as a sucky artist or animator with a diploma. I hire mainly through referrals and networking, but I sometimes advertise on Craigslist, Mandy, Motionographer, AWN and other industry sites if I want some new talent.
For more tangible advice from our panel of experts check out the rest of our Interview Series, here.