One thing AnimationCareerReview's readers and I have learned throughout our Interview Series is that animation employers are looking for far more than a technical animation education and a thrown-together, hodge-podge portfolio. Technical skills learned at school must be blended with softer, business-world skills—then combined into a stellar application, portfolio and CV that showcases individual creativity.
To help new animation graduates land jobs in the industry we have put together the best responses from our interview subjects, to show our readers exactly what studio owners and execs are looking for when they hire new animators. So pay attention animation job applicants and adjust your portfolio, cover letter, CV, and interview responses accordingly—especially if you are applying to any of the studios below:
Richard O'Connor, Ace & Sons
Technical versatility, solid draughting skills, intellectual and artistic curiosity.
Industriousness and teamwork. Curiosity and a healthy ego.
Arthur Kautz, Aniben
We are looking for creative individuals that have a strong work ethic. Being on time, working as part of a team and realizing that animation is a business is important to us.
Joe DiDomenico, Applehead Factory Design Studio
We look for problem solvers. Anyone can learn the software, but few have the ability to think on their feet. At the end of the day, we are paid to come up with creative solutions. A good problem solver beats the rest hands down.
Joe DiDomenico, Applehead Factory Design Studio
A level of expertise in a particular field – be it Modeling, Lighting or Production Management - is essential. Equally important is understanding the context of the whole process and ‘owning’ your piece of it. Film-making is truly about the sum of the parts, and in animation, where you are creating every single aspect separately it is essential that you understand where and how your part fits in. Both technically how it fits together, but also how it works emotionally and creatively into the work.
Glenn Barnes, Big Sandwich Games
We're a smaller studio, so we value generalists as much as specialists. We might hire an artist to build, say, vehicles, and then move on to a game that doesn't have any vehicles in it. That artist will need to move on to environments, or characters, or whatever it is that needs to get done. In short, the answer to you question is: excellence. With an artist, that's easier to measure, just by looking at a portfolio. With a programmer, it gets more difficult, and we have to rely on looking at code samples or on references. Overall, when hiring for any discipline, we want to be sure that the applicant will mesh with the team and with BSG's culture.
James Rumpf, CartoonGems
The skill that we require the most and seek out in new hires is Flash Animation skills.
Andre Lyman, Clambake
When seeking out new employees (and we're constantly receiving resume submissions through our website), we look for individuals with a sense of humor, who are flexible, talented, and possess a strong work ethic. Being a fan of what we do is key, as is drinking beer. (Well, not really.)
Mark DiGiacomo, Digital Elixir Studios
Due to not being in a major film/production hub, we focus primarily on utilizing contract talent at this stage. We look for creative ability and focus on the details that make their work stand out professionally across the board; We look to good communication skills, both verbally and in writing due to remote working conditions often; We look also to attitude and work ethic/style.
We need to be sure that they can operate like a trusted friend as much as a contractor or employee. This business and the stresses of the work can be so tough, there's no time for unnecessary formality that would translate into a person not being 100% committed to the success of the creative work we're infusing into the business world.
Jon Gallo, DraftFCB
Aside from the obvious prerequisite skill sets, one of the most important qualities we seek is a collaborative spirit. The creative process can greatly benefit from shared perspectives. Also, a curious nature leads to new learning which, in turn, can enlighten the team.
Darcy Vorhees, Flaming Medusa
Being pro-active is always good, and professional. Someone who wants to learn a variety of things and who doesn’t have their heart set on only producing one style of animation. Someone who can draw from life yet also be observant and flexible enough to duplicate other styles. Someone who knows color. The rest depends upon the type of position that is being filled, but these are the basics for any creative position.
Jeremy Gibb, Gibb Animation Studios
Quite simply, “Do you know good 3d from bad 3d”? As I too often find when looking over demo tapes that it is clear that this person will be a good prospect or not. Usually it takes less than a minute of viewing their portfolio. In addition to that, you must have good personality. No one wants to work along side you for 8-16 hours a day if you’re a negative person.
Mark Cappello, Invisible Entertainment
Talent and attitude. A portfolio can only demonstrate half of that equation, and portfolios can be deceiving. We like to hire people with experience because the network of artists in this region and in the country is quite strong in communicating a potential employee’s pros and cons.
When I hire people straight out of school I find they largely need to be retrained, not in terms of the technical skills but in terms of the practical applications of their craft and their attitude and understanding of the ‘actual’ industry. Most graduates have a very rose-colored view of the industry and they tend to become bitter quickly when they are faced with the sometimes seasonal nature, the job insecurity, and the pedestrian pay rates. It can be a shock to someone who spent a lot of money for training with instructors telling them they will make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Drawing talent - with flexibility of style and technique.
- Ability to work with and inspire co-workers.
- Technical skills and knowledge.
Stephen Fishman, Mac and Cheez
I like smart problem-solvers with good reels. A lot of people tend to fudge the degree of their involvement on a particular piece on their reel. I know that a lot of work these days represents the involvement of huge teams of specialists but I'm always more impressed when somebody has something that they've kind of done soup-to-nuts by themselves. If they can point to something sophisticated and classy that they've done themselves (even if its spec), then I prefer that over the splashy group efforts for larger brands. I'd be looking for a self-starter type who can handle many different tasks. Its good to balance the technical and artistic. Although, I'd kind of prefer somebody more technical than myself.
Joddy Eric, Madwerkz
The most vital skill we look for is the ability to work in a team-orientated environment. Working in the animation and visual effects industry often demands long hours and the ability to communicate and work well with others is key. Secondly, a strong understanding and appreciation of film history, camera framing, story telling disciplines, cinematic aspects of movement, action, comedy, body movement and staging.
Tawd B. Dorenfeld, Polymorph Productions
Patience, willingness to learn and share what you learn, and please check the egos at the door…you are not the Director on this so even if your ideas are way better than the Visionary in charge don't approach us with that attitude…make a suggestion and then drop it until someone asks you about it again. Other than that, talent goes a long way, but there are a lot of jobs that can be ‘taught’ in animation so when it is not about the creative in charge, I am just looking for good people.
Brad Graeber, Powerhouse Animation
At a service-based studio like ours, we look for drawing and animation skills above all else. We need folks with strong drawing fundamentals. At a service studio, you never know which project is going to come through next. It might be a piece in a Looney Tunes style, or it may be a commercial based on anime. If a portfolio looks like it is all drawn in the same “style” we probably won’t be able to use the person. Since no two projects are alike.
Rich Murray, RichToons
Obviously I look for someone who is creative and good at animation, (usually in Flash). But I also look for individuals who can think for themselves and make independent creative decisions. Once I give them my creative direction, I don't want to have to keep holding their hand through to the end. I like to trust that they will deliver great animations on time that are true to the project's vision.
Gary Gibich, RenderJump
We look for people skilled in the technical aspects of the computing world, and skilled in the programs we currently support, which are 3ds Max, Maya and Cinema 4D and plugins like Vray.
Terrence Walker, Art FX
The most important thing I look for is the artist's ability to draw different styles from what may be their own preference, and to be able to draw a character the same as another artist. Many artists get locked into their own way of drawing and become unable to do anything different. I recently had four interns who were all great at drawing their own thing, but when given the principal character from our animation project, only one could draw the character on model from multiple angles and in multiple poses. In the 3D world, I mostly seek very high-quality and high-detail 3D modellers.
Laurent Donnay, TouTenKartoon
We think of the company as a big family, so we like our crew to be involved, to care of the company as much as the company cares for them. We hire mostly young people just out of Animation School. Of course we select the best and guide them through professional training, to give them skills that school just can't teach.
For more pearls of wisdom from your Interview Series, click here.