Break Into The Animation Industry: Strategies for Kickstarting Your Career | Lucas Ridley | Skillshare

Break Into The Animation Industry: Strategies for Kickstarting Your Career

Lucas Ridley, Instructor and Animator

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26 Lessons (6h 33m)
    • 1. Course Preview

      1:28
    • 2. Welcome

      4:34
    • 3. The Big Picture

      5:59
    • 4. Job Positions

      17:40
    • 5. Stef Interview

      29:32
    • 6. What To Learn

      3:25
    • 7. Learning Your Craft

      7:35
    • 8. Rana Interview

      67:22
    • 9. School Options

      6:45
    • 10. Becoming Your Best

      5:09
    • 11. My Story

      24:59
    • 12. Permission To Fail

      5:35
    • 13. Shawn Kelly Interview

      22:49
    • 14. Frustration Is Natural

      4:05
    • 15. Demo Reels Part 1

      6:25
    • 16. Demo Reels Part 2

      13:23
    • 17. Jason Interview

      19:18
    • 18. State Of The Industry

      10:33
    • 19. Lindsay Interview

      23:01
    • 20. Networking

      8:34
    • 21. Allan McKay Interview

      55:50
    • 22. Job Interviews

      7:57
    • 23. Contracts And Negotiations

      8:45
    • 24. Ryan Summers Interview

      19:00
    • 25. Pay

      8:14
    • 26. The Future

      4:36

About This Class

Welcome to this course!

Learn how you can break into this competitive and rewarding industry.

I give you insights I've gained from working as a professional animator for 10 years on major movies like Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One, Transformers: The Last Knight, and games like The Last of Us Part 2.

Ten years ago I knew nothing about animation and after studying for 1 year I landed my first staff job working at an Academy Award-winning studio and then on to blockbuster movies.

I will uncover the unspoken lessons I learned through real-world experience so you can have an advantage I never did when I started out. The industry has only gotten more competitive with greater access to training online and software so it helps to have every advantage and that's why I created this course.

This course is not an animation tutorial. It's career-focused strategies I learned by breaking into the industry myself. Most of this is not taught in school or textbooks. We will also hear from 7 other industry pros about their diverse experiences and backgrounds. I will speak openly and honestly so you can save time and energy by learning concepts I figured out the hard way.

There are several assignments throughout the course as well to help guide your learning and I've provided a downloadable pdf that has key takeaways from lessons as well as some supplementary material like the actual emails I sent to get my first job.

By the end of the course, you will have a roadmap and understanding about what it takes to get into the animation industry.

Transcripts

1. Course Preview: Welcome to this course. Break into the animation industry strategies for kick-starting your career. My name is Lucas Ridley, and I will be your instructor. I've been working in animation for about 10 years on big movies like Avengers: Infinity War, Ready Player One, and Transformers. I also have experience in commercials and games, and directing my own freelance short films for companies like Lego, so I know what it's like to work in the industry, I know what it's like to want to break into it, and I know how to do it. I want to share the real-world experiences, things you won't learn in a classroom, or at film school, that I didn't learn, that I wish I'd known before I started to give me a kickstart into my career. This course includes 25 lessons, seven of which are interviews with industry professionals of varying backgrounds. This course is intended for beginners who don't know where to start when they think about working in the animation industry. This isn't an animation tutorial, it's mainly focused on career, kickstarting concepts like negotiations, interviews, pay, how to learn, where to learn, how best to learn, and those are the things we're going to focus on to kickstart your career. I also have a few assignments along the way to help guide you along this path. Thanks for joining me, and I'll look forward to seeing you in class. 2. Welcome: Hi. Welcome to this course. If you're watching this, then you're likely in one of two categories. The first category is you're young, you've lived your whole life as a student and now you must shift your mindset into becoming a professional on top of transitioning to lifetime learning. You may have thought once you're done with school, that will be the end of your studying. Well, if you want to be done with studying, then this is not in the field for you. You probably grew up watching animation and some for another and TV, games or films, and want to try to make things that you love to see. It isn't incredibly rewarding experience to work in industry, but I will also not sugarcoat aspects of it to help give a dose of reality to the prospect of joining the industry and what the path forward might look like to join it. I didn't start on my path until I was 26 years old, so you have plenty of time to figure out if this is something you want to pursue long-term. I hope this course helps to show you how. Now, the other category is you've passed your school years maybe like I was or even later in life wanting to switch careers, you'll have to shift gears and really manage time well to focus energy on this pursuit, you probably become comfortable in your current situation, which will make it hard to get back into being a novice again. It's going to take sacrificing other aspects of your life on a consistent basis to get where you want to be, you'll most likely have to juggle multiple responsibilities, a younger person might not have yet a touch on some of this in my how to launch your creative period class, but it comes down to how bad you want it. Because it's totally possible and I know it is because I did it and I know other people have done it. I had one supervisor that used to be a psychologist and then became an animator. I was working at a university full time and studying for a master's part-time in environmental science when I decided to switch careers and I'd never animated anything before. So no matter which category you're in, there's only one thing that stands between you and your goal of breaking into the animation industry, and that's time. But that time has to be used correctly, you first need to know where to add your sites if you plan to hit a target. So let's first discuss what you're getting yourself into in the next few lessons to see if it's something you really want to continue to pursue and where you might want to focus within an industry. It's easy to make the decision, I want to get into animation. But that decision takes one second to make, and to actualize it, it could take years. So you must be prepared for that journey within that one second decision and every second along the way after making it. Don't get deceived by the comfort and ease of effort it takes to say, I'm going to do this, put your folks in energy into action, or those words and promises will mean nothing. But before you begin, the best preparation you can do is to callous your mind to the fact it is going to take time and patience above everything else. So in this course, we will start with a broad concepts first to give you a general understanding of what I mean when I say animation industry, and as the course progresses, these first broad concepts will get further explained and narrowed down, so you have a good understanding of what it takes to break into the animation industry. Finally, I'd like to discuss why think I'm qualified to teach this topic and also speak. I've been animating for almost 10 years now, but it was difficult for me to break into the industry as it almost always is for any beginner. I know what it's like to not have any experience and pursue this dream. When I was first starting studying animation, I was 26 years old and switching careers. I studied animation full-time for only one year, and then after a lot of struggle, I landed my first contract job, and soon after that I was hired as a staff position at an academy award winning studio, mumbond studios, that actually beat Pixar for best animated short film. Since those early beginnings, I've been hired and many other studios that have gone through the hiring process and hired my own team several times when I'm freelancing directing. In this course, I will share my knowledge and experience that doesn't fit into a traditional animation course. This isn't a tutorial about animating, but it's about pulling the curtain back on the mystery of the industry so you can know what it's like to get into this as a career. I'll be honest from the good stuff to the bad, and you'll learn from my mistakes and successes. There will be some assignments throughout the course, so please take those seriously if for no other reason to show yourself you're devoting time and energy to the commitment you're making. I've also been lucky to convince a few colleagues to share their experiences as well. So you'll be learning not just for my experience but for my friends and colleagues of varying backgrounds. In the next lesson, let's take a big picture view of industry and what you're getting yourself into. Thanks for watching, I'll see you in the next lesson. 3. The Big Picture: What are you getting yourself into, Is a topic I want to cover because a lot of times people just starting out, don't know what they don't know. It makes it harder for them because they don't even know what questions to ask to uncover these unknowns. For example, I'll have a student reach out and say, "I really want to work in video games? Can you help me?". That is such a broad and focus question, I don't even really know how to respond. What it tells me, is this person doesn't know what they don't know yet. As a teacher, it's my responsibility to shed some light on areas of the industry and what it takes to get there, so the question and goal can become more focused, so that as a student, you have a clear action to take and those unknowns become known. Animation is a broad category and industry. There is many different branches of it and departments within those branches. You may already know exactly what you want to do, but I want to start with the basics so that everyone can come up to a baseline of knowledge together, so we can get more detailed later on in the course, and everyone can follow along. I like to think of the animation industry in several branches. The first, is feature film animation. This is a very specific phrase, feature film animation. That means any fully animated film, think Pixel or DreamWorks animation films, which brings me to another point. You need to start to familiarize yourself with different studios and what they create, so you know where you want to work. Fun fact time. For example, did you know what studio made the top grossing animated film Franchise, and what that franchise is? It's not Toy Story, with Pixel or Disney, it's a studio called Illumination, and the franchise is Despicable Me. That studio is in France, so if you're interested in working there, you need to know this information. Now you know, you need to brush up on your conversational French. Knowing more about the studio and their work is vital to being able to talk intelligently about the industry, especially during interviews. To work in feature animation, you need to be able to work in a variety of styles and it's usually very stylized. Watch Cloudy with a Chance Meatballs and then watch Tangled. They're both animated features with very different styles, but both are fairly stylized, meaning not photo real. The second category, is visual effects animation. This differs from and gets confused with feature film animation because they are both in movies, but visual effects would be like comparing an Avengers movie with a movie like Frozen. Avengers is a visual effects animation and Frozen is an animated feature. A visual effects film, is dependent on live action plates, which that might also be a new phrase for people and that just means something that was filmed with a camera in the real world. Visual effects takes those plates or video and adds animated characters and enhanced environments on top of or replacing them altogether. A person wanting to work in visual effects animation, will have a very different skill set than someone who wants to work in feature film animation. To work in visual effects animation, you need to show you understand real-world physics. Visual effects characters by their very nature, are set in live action plates, that implies it needs to match the same physics of what was actually shot with the camera, that will be composited into, that animation composited into. So, one exception to this is on superhero movies where characters display physics that are superhuman, like lifting a heavy object easily. It can be a delicate balance between matching real-world physics and superhuman powers. But what should be obvious is unless you're animating something like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a visual effects movie is definitely not similar to animated features that can have very stylized motion and visual effects has very photo real. The third category is TV animation. This occurs at smaller studios and can be their visual effects or fully animated, but once studio typically does not do both. Imagine the two previous categories, but for TV. The difference here, is the budgets are much smaller in TV, except for shows like Game of Thrones, but those are usually done at feature film level studios anyways. There's A much quicker turnaround in TV, meaning the schedules are very short. To work in TV, you need to be able to work fast and be okay with never being able to polish anything, because there won't be any time for it. TV animation is typically where a lot of new artists start out, because the pay will typically match the experience level of a new person since the TV budgets are much lower. This could be a great area to get your foot in the door. I know many people who started out in TV and worked their way into feature films or games or whatever else they wanted to do, and some stay in TV. The next category is game animation. These studios can vary in size from hundreds of employees like Blizzard, Insomniac, Riot Games and Naughty Dog, to the very small indie game developers with just a few employees as free platforms like Unity, and a real provide a free game engine for development. This can also include mobile game companies and I even have a friend who creates animation for casino machines. There's a lot of overlap between this category and the previous three, depending on where you work. The budgets vary in size and the styles of animation, but like any other category, you need to know what the specifics are for the studio you're interested in. For example, I'm working on The Last of Us Part 2, which would be closer to a visual effects studio since it's trying to be photo realistic, which it seems like the majority of games are rooted in real-world mechanics as opposed to working on something more stylized like Mario. But that's also an option. The next category, is motion graphics animation. This kind of work usually finds itself in commercials and is distinct from the other forms of animation because there's typically no character animation, but it's abstract shapes, text designs and products animated. In feature film, you might also see this kind of work and then like a heads up display like Ironman's helmet, but typically this work is done for advertisements. Now that we've covered which industries there are, let's continue to discuss the big picture concepts in the next video, by learning about the different positions available in the industry. Thanks for watching. 4. Job Positions: Now we understand the different kinds of categories in the industry, and most people watching this probably want to become an animator, since they assume the animation is mostly filled with animators, since they share the same name, but the majority of positions in the industry are not animators. Let's discuss all the different kinds of options there are, as you walk through a typical pipeline and what that might look like at a studio. As a footnote, this will focus mostly on 3D, since there are very few 2D and stop motion studios in the world, but they will all have similar categories of positions. First, we have producers, directors, and creative directors. These positions aren't typically up for grabs for someone who's totally new to the industry. It takes years of experience to be candidates for these positions. However, associate producers do typically come from less experienced backgrounds, but are not considered as part of the artist's team. They help coordinate who is doing what and organizing meetings and basically keeping everything on schedule and moving. They typically have no technical experience, but they do know enough to know who should be doing what and artist will work closely with them, especially when deadlines are approaching. They'll take notes in meetings and usually email them out and to the team to help make sure everyone is on the same page. I even had one producer who knew the project so well and then my animation supervisor could ask them and describe a shot to them, and this associate producer could tell them the shot code number. He could say like, there's a guy in the shot and the associate producer would say, that's a JBC 0,1,2,3 or something. Then you have other studios like Naughty Dog who has no producers, and these responsibilities are on the individual artists themselves. There's one other non-artists position that can go by the title runner, who one of my interviewees staff, used to get her foot in the door. It's more of an office support position, making sure the coffee machines are working and other tasks like that, but she used that lower level position to get a foot in the door and become a CG supervisor within just a few years. We've covered the studio management positions. Now, let's walk through the pipeline. I will discuss the general category of role, but know that it can get much more granular and job titles you find online, maybe much more specific than what they're looking for. For example, an environment artist means someone who can model environments or a creature animator means someone who specializes in photo-realistic motion of non-human characters. For each one of these roles, there are many subcategories that would take too long to cover, but are fairly self-explanatory by their title. First, in the pipeline, everything that gets initiated usually originates from an agency, a client, or the directors, but then that first gets realized in a visual way by concept, character, and storyboard artists. These roles go to people who are incredibly talented at painting and drawing. If you enjoy design and drawing, then this is where you want to focus. They're responsible for helping the directors with their initial vision of the project by creating color keys, storyboards, concept art, and character designs. The software used here is much less important, but photoshop will be the most common. Next we have modelers. They take these designs and create characters in environments. It takes a very skilled modeler to translate two-dimensional drawings into 3D. Like all of these roles, it is an iterative process. That means there are many revisions and a lot of this modeling work is even done in tandem with rigging in animation. You'll want to learn Maya and ZBrush. Those are two of the currently most common tools for modelers. You can also learn Houdini for procedural modeling. Third, we have texture and shading artists. They take these models and apply texture and shaders to the gray version of these models. Sometimes this may also be the modeler, especially at smaller studios. The most common applications to learn for this are ZBrush, Mari, Substance, and Photoshop. Next we have riggers. They are some of the most technical artists at a studio. They're responsible for getting the characters, bones, and controls that the animators use. If you'd like to problem-solve and enjoy the possibility of scripting and Python or PyMOL, then you should consider this role. You'll typically be Maya as the program of choice, since the rigger will also need to work on the software the animators are using, which in my experience, at the ten different studios I've worked at, have all used Maya for animation. Next, we have character artists or character effects artists. These are the people who are responsible for cloth, hair and fur of characters. This is also a technical role and typically uses a combination of Maya, Houdini, ZBrush and marvelous designer. Next we have previz artists. They're somewhat generalists and they're able to do a little bit of everything to help translate the storyboards into 3D for the first time, for the editor cut into a rough cut called an anatomical previsualization. This can be fairly polished, but is usually pretty rough animation wise, because the main goal is to just get the sense of the overall timing so they can start to understand how long each shots needs to be and what's in the shot for animation. Sometimes this happens right after concepts and storyboards are created, so they can work before and also in tandem with the other departments I've mentioned so far. Then we have layout artists. They take the previz and the main assets, mostly just the environments and get them loaded up in the software, creates scene files for the animators, and they're also can be responsible for the camera animation. They also need to be a bit of a generalist to solve a lot of different problems and communicate them well to the other departments. Then animators take these layouts and bring in the rigged characters and based up the previz animatic or storyboards, animators create a performance. This could mean anything that moves so not just characters, but propes and vehicles, even sometimes things that might seem simulated end up being hand animated. The previous two roles of previz and layout, may also be the responsibility of the animator at a smaller studio, who typically don't have large enough staff to have separate departments. As I mentioned, there can be many subcategories of this role, and here are just a few to give you an example. You could have character animator, creature animator, game-play animator, cinematic animator, motion capture animator, facial animator, technical animator. The list goes on, but Maya is the software used most major studios for this. Next we have effects animators or FX TD'S, and TD'S is short for technical directors. They're not really directors of sort, that's just a title that goes along with the technical role. They create all the elements of the earth, so any water, fire, smoke destruction, explosions, and simulation go through this department. This is also a very technical role to be able to accurately recreate natural elements in a believable way. The software of choice currently for this role is usually Houdini, but some studios don't care what you use as long as it looks good. Next, lighters take all these elements and light them typically based off of earlier concept artwork or what's known as color keys, the third department has created. Similar to an animator having storyboards to work off, lighters use this artwork as the road map to know how to light the scene well. Any software will allow you to light, but the most common industry standard currently in use, is Katana. I think Clarisse is also an option, but to get hired as a lighter, you can use anything and that you really just want to see the nice images you create. Next we have compositing artists, which will take the lighters renders and recompile them with other elements like the effects work or any special environment or character aspects that need special attention, and it can be easily created through textures or lighting. At smaller studios, lighteres may also be the compositers. This can be a very big department since they are who marries the CG renders with live action plates and visual effects movies. One entry level job that you want to know about in this department is called a roto artist. They will go frame by frame to mask out live action plate elements for the other compositers to use. For example, if there's elements of people on set that we're not against blue screen or green screen or there are CG characters moving behind real people, those real elements film need to be separated out to be composited, those CG elements back in. Almost all compositors start out in this department, but very few usually stay there for very long because they want to go higher in the department. The software of choice for this department is almost exclusively nuke by the foundry. There are also very technical roles like the pipeline TD'S. Again, short for technical director, who make the workflow file streamlined, who aren't really considered in our department, but there's that general IT support. In addition, most studios have an in-house editor and sound people but it's usually one of the smaller teams at a studio since it doesn't require that many people for commercials or games and because in major films the sound is not typically done by the animation studio anyways. For game companies, there's other specialized roles you won't find anywhere else in the industry, like game designers and programmers who actually take all the department's work above that we've talked about and put it together to work in a game engine. They can be responsible for level design as well, which would be like the layout department for feature films. Next we have motion graphics artist and motion designers. They are usually employed at commercial studios and it's really common to use a variety of software in that discipline. One favorite tends to be Cinema 4D. If you're interested in this field make sure to watch my interview with Ryan Summers later on in this course, where we discuss this field in more detail. An emerging area of opportunity is also a Big Tech companies that need animations for the User experience or UX. Google, Facebook, Snapchat, etc all have in-house Animators that work on content for devices and apps. It's better to have motion designing experience but there can also be opportunities for Character Animators for AR or Augmented reality, experiences with apps like Snapchat, who I've talked with about a role like that before. I've even talked with Disney Imagineers about a job that would include animating robots at their parks. Even in an area like robotics can come into play. But it is currently a very small niche area right now. There are many more roles at studios and each studio can have their own language to describe the same role. It depends on the size of the studio, how many of these departments there are, and how many people may wear multiple hats because the team is much smaller. As an animator, I've done almost everything I've described because I started work at a smaller studios in addition to my own freelance work. I also just want to mention, while I call this the animation industry course, there are many other roles that could be the right fit for you, especially besides becoming an animator. As you can see from all these roles I've mentioned, there's a lot of options. When I started out, I thought I was going to be a compositor until I took an animation class and changed my mind and I decided to go in that direction instead. You want to expose yourself too and learn as much as possible when you're starting out so you can get an idea of what all the options are available to you before you start to head in one direction. Because once you start down a path, you want to make sure you'll be happy spending most of your life working in that endeavor. It is possible to switch departments after you've started but it's not super common as most people tend to begin to specialize, the more they work in the industry. They don't want to take a step back and pay to work at a lower level in another department and start all over again but it is still an option. I also want to mention, I get a lot of messages from people who've not begun to study animation or have just started and they say something like, "I want to be an animator and a modeler." To be honest, that just doesn't really exist to get hired as both. There are modeling jobs and there are animator jobs but there aren't both. Those two disciplines are entirely different. Typically when a studio posts a job, they want people who are really good at what they do and it's hard to compete, let's say as an animator, if you're also modeling, and trying to compete against other animators who only spend their time animating. With that being said, there are positions that are called generalist roles at studios. They're usually listed as 3D Generalists on job postings. That title and role is meant to be a jack of all trades position. That'll cover anything that falls through the cracks at a studio or where they need extra help in certain departments. Typically doing previous or modeling, and texturing only of non-hero background elements, things like that. When I say non-hero that means, not the hero of the movie, it'll be like the little hammer in the background sitting on the table or something. When you're starting out it is really a good idea to know a little bit of everything since it's most likely that your first job is going to be at a smaller studio and you may have to pitch in doing a variety of tasks. But as you gain experience, you'll be most marketable if you begin to specialize and focus on a single department and eventually specialty within that department. There is also the strategy to intentionally omit certain skills you have if it's not what you want to be doing. Many times at smaller studios you could get roped into doing, let's say camera match move work if you know how and they need extra help there. But what you are hired to do is something totally different and you could be missing out on the work you actually want to do and you can start to get stuck in this other role. There's a flip side to having a lot of skills because you may be asked to do work you'd rather not do, but that kind of problem will come later if you spend time expanding your skills. Maybe for personal projects, just make sure you're conveying and pursuing the work you want to do it your job or potential jobs and focus that on your resume and reals so you get hired to do the work you want to do. The last thing I will leave you with is the assignment, to go on creativeheads.net, LinkedIn, or a specific company's website careers page, and find job postings to start to familiarize yourself with the kinds of titles and experience that those jobs require. In the course's materials, I've included a list of companies and links to their websites for convenience that you can use for this assignment. For this assignment, find at least three different companies that are hiring a role you're interested in. All the departments I listed in this video also have a hierarchy within them. Typically it'll start the supervisor at the top and then lead then senior, then mid, and finally junior at the bottom. When you're starting out, you're going to want to find those junior level positions or positions that do not have any designation before the title. For example, you won't want to waste your time applying to be a Senior Animator If you're brand new. But if you see animator listed by itself or Junior Animator, then you should look and see if you'll be a good fit or at least look at that and know what to work towards based on what the job posting is seeking in a candidate. This is an important assignment because this is what you will actually have to be doing on a regular basis to get hired throughout your career. You should get used to this kind of activity. The rest of the course, I will mainly be focusing on my experience in the history as an animator. But to give you a variety of experience, I've reached out to some close friends for interviews with different backgrounds and experience than my own, to give you an even more advice in some casual and candid interviews. In the next lesson, I want to share with you an interview with Steph who has a really interesting story about how she got her start in the industry. We talk about a lot of other things. But I think a strategy many people don't consider pursuing is one that she did. But it helped her get her foot in the door, which is really all it matters and what this course is about. Now she's working on avatar SQL at Ueda in New Zealand. It was tough to get our schedules to match with the time change. I'm in LA. I hope you enjoy our chat. After the end of the interview, I will summarize the key takeaways and then we'll jump back into the course work after this interview. Thanks for watching, and I will see you in the interview and I hope you work on those assignments. Then let's follow up again and I'll see you in the next lesson after the interview. Thanks for watching. Bye. 5. Stef Interview: [MUSIC] I wanted to welcome Stef Pocklington to this interview real quick and give a little bit of background on her experience. We went to film school together and since then she's gone on to work at a ton of the big studios and worked on some major movies. There is a massive long list, including X-Men, Cinderella, Fantastic Four, Monster Calls, Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them, Transformers, The Last Night, Star Wars Rogue One, Jurassic World 2, Hotel Transylvania 3, and currently I think working on some Avatars and some other fun stuff in New Zealand. Thanks for joining me for this little interview. Thank you for having me. I wanted to start by asking, I mentioned we went to school together. How did you land your first job? I graduated out of [inaudible] film school about seven years ago. I applied to probably 20 different places within Vancouver and a little bit in the States. I didn't hear back from any of them.[LAUGHTER] It was about a period of two months of still trying to network, going to events, animation meet ups or visual effects meet ups. I was trying to be a modeler essentially. Most of my applications were modeling centric, but also I had experience with my demo reel with texturing and environments and stuff like that. I was broadening my applications in that way. Then I had a friend who I went to school with. His name is Oldo. I don't know if you remember him but he was a modeler as well. Yeah. He got a job at MPC. Probably a month before I started applying everywhere. I saw him, I ran into him at a networking event and I was playing around, like I don't really haven't had much luck and he's well. I think MPC is hiring but probably for a runner position and I guess for those of you who don't know what a runner position is, it's more like you go and help the studio out with facilities related. At the time this is what the job description was. Yeah. Facility's related jobs. You get coffee, you stock. Inventory of pens and papers and clear the dishes and deliver mail essentially but it's for MPC so was like, of course I want to be one of these big studios it would be great. I said, yeah, that's awesome. I'll apply. He put my name in to help me out. Then I heard from them in like two weeks and then I got an interview and they're like, "You also have a little bit of experience, well, this is your demo reel from being a student like I see that you're interested in film in terms of like the artist position" And I was like yeah and they were like, okay, let's see, how it goes, come on in. You seem cool. Let's have some fun. Because I guess you never know if somebody's crazy or not. [LAUGHTER]. I think honestly, within three weeks they had a lot of stuff going on on Man of Steel, that was the project that was going on at the time and they said, "Hey, do you want to try doing very small props like in your spare time? As soon as you're done, your running position." I'd come in there at seven AM and stock all the fridges and stuff and then I'd end my day at about four and then at four, I'd have some really awesome modelers show me like, hey, you can do this and this, and this is our pipeline. I remember this guy named Chin. He helped me out so much. He was super patient with me. There was another guy, I met Hahn who really helped me out. He's at ILAM now helping to run the asset department or the modeling department. Moladen, there's so many people that really helped me out. They were so nice and very helpful and informative and they were insanely patient with me. I would say they helped me out at past four until I probably I would stay there until 10:00 PM and trying to do all these little tasks that they were just saying, I'll try it out and see how it goes. I had two jobs and I would do that for eight months of that. [LAUGHTER] [inaudible] Doing a lot of stuff and I guess I got eventually in better and better that they said, "Can you dress this note, can you do this?" and then they realized that in order for me to dress the notes that I couldn't be doing my running job at the same time. They transitioned me into that department after eight months of doing the work. [inaudible] That sounds awesome. It sounds like the main points like you are open to adjacent opportunities and you had the help of people there [OVERLAPPING] You went to school for modeling. I guess the [inaudible] How much would you say that you've either learned on the job or done like more continuing education after the fact because I feel like a lot of people think they go to school and that's all the learning they need to do. Oh No. [LAUGHTER] Yeah. Of course it gives you the base, learning the basics and the terminology and also getting to know how much work goes into one tiny little thing. I think that was also getting into the mindset of it and being really vigorous about learning everything about the particular thing you're interested in and googling things or asking your neighbor for help if you're really stuck or problem-solving skills stuff like that is really great to get into that mindset. I think it's cool but I'd say probably 10% of what I learned in school is what I apply now in modeling. All the stuff. I've been in industry for maybe seven years now. Of course it's all of that but I still think that 90% of what I learned was on the job through other people and my own research and being like always learning and always having a passion to learn no matter what because this industry, even if you've learned the stuff in school and let's say it is everything that you need to know. The industry evolves so fast and the software changes all the time. There's always new things getting tested out. There's always new ways to do the same thing. You have to get into the mode of learning constantly. [inaudible] [OVERLAPPING]. Yeah, that's awesome because the other thing I notice about your resume is, like you said, you started with modeling, but you've done so much. What would you attribute that ability to? What I'm saying is environment TD technical animation artist. Even modeling previs. Now that you're doing texturing your CG supervisor on point. You've done everything. What would you attribute your ability to adapt and move into different roles? I think part of it was a little bit by accident. I have a passion to learn everything because I don't think that any learning is bad. I think there's always something that you can gain from any experience, whether it's bad or good and also, for example, this modeling department, when I joined, I had probably a few weeks of having first joined it after that eight months of the two jobs and then I remember the head of the company coming down and having a meeting with us and saying, "Hey guys, modeling is going away. " Because Bangalore is essentially growing and so our jobs were being shifted over into another country and that happens all the time all over the world. There's something to be said for being prepared for that. Everyone was looking for jobs elsewhere. I was such a junior that I was like, I don't know what I'm going to do because I have so little experience. I've literally a few weeks of experience, so we'll see. Then there was this really awesome guy. His name is Adam and he was in the environments department and we were talking and he was like, "I think there's some help needed for environment modeling." For projections and stuff like that. He said maybe you can help with that. It was just like chitchat within the office and that's how I learned about that opportunity and then they were so nice and awesome enough to have me in there and they helped me learn a few things. Then that's how I learned about environment eating. Then they also threw me in and they somehow they had faith with me and that and then I learned on the spot and also those people around me helping me out a lot, so much knowledge getting thrown around. If you're willing to learn and be pleasant to work with. I think people are happy to help. Sometimes if it's easy enough and if you're not taking away from their day in the workflow as well. Through that, I learned, "There's this to learn and there's this to learn." and like there's so many aspects of a visual effects that I was so interested in. Oh, Tekken. How did I get into that? I don't even remember. They needed help. That was the biggest one of the surprises, I was like, how did Laura even know that? That's awesome. Oh, I love creatures. I think at school I was talking about it and some people are like, "Oh, we also need help in that." I think the environment modeling work was running out. They were like, "Oh, you can come join us for a little bit." That was probably one of the funnest times I've ever had in visual effects in some ways, because I was learning so much, it was so technical. That was really challenging. But I was able to get so much, and the guys I was sitting beside were so helpful and fun. Wade Wilson is one of them, Claudio Gonzalez, Jason McKemie, all those dudes, great guys. They were so helpful and so smart, oh my God, I can't even. I think when you're having fun, you really learn a lot more to any of this passion that comes inside of you, and you just want to stay longer and learn more and do. Of course, for like cool movie, sometimes just that helps. I think just learning, and other people seeing their passion, and then I guess in the broader sense like the CG sup thing, because I'd done so many different departments within the same company, learning the company pipeline, I think there was a suggestion that maybe I could try it because essentially the CG sup should know different aspects of the pipeline. They thought that I might be helpful in that regard. I didn't really go for it, it was like an accident. It sounds like some of it's not planned, you can only do as much as you can have control over. I know you're a very sociable person and easy to get along with. Everything you're saying, it's interesting hear you mentioned all these other people and how much credit you give them as well. Sounds like that's a big component too, because I feel in our industry, it's easy to just sit at your computer and have blinders on and just do your work. But it sounds like a part of your success is being very personable with your coworkers. I'll never forget these people. They took the time out of their day to help me, they didn't have to. Nobody learns things in a vacuum. All of this knowledge, and even if your list reading a tutorial on the pipeline, somebody had to do that, somebody had to do all this research. All this technology comes from somewhere, and these are people making it, taking the time to nerd out and figure it out and hunker down, and I think there's a lot to be said about that. You have to remember where you came from in a sense. Yeah, so in your experience, because obviously, you have a lot of success, where have you seen people make mistakes that maybe haven't progressed as much as you have? Or in some way, what do you think people should try to avoid, to even know to look out for? There's obviously different ways to go about a career in visual effects. My path is one way. Some people are very happy to be the best map painter of all time. That's awesome. Or some people want to go into concept art, which is more like client-side maybe, and that's a different route. Or maybe some people are more into the supervising thing and that's their goal. There's all kinds of different ways. I don't think any, it's hard to say mistake, because sometimes mistake can mean also a good thing in different ways, but I guess something that maybe I think can be funny to watch is that some people who are new or juniors, in a sense they expect to get all the great stuff right away. They were disappointed when they realize how long it actually takes to gain the trust of people around them, to get those assignments, or to get better, or just realize how much they need to train their eye in what looks good and what's faster, and actually delivering your product to the other departments. How you can make your scene or whatever you're delivering easier for the next department, because you don't want to bog anyone down, delivering things on time. All these little things that you need to take care of as an artists, I think, they just take sometimes years to master it. There's a lot of people who just start and they're like, "Oh, I want to get this and that." Then it's like, "No, I'm sorry, but we have to make sure that if we're going to give you that we can trust you with all these little." It does take time and a bit of time to gain trust. It sounds like patience and having maybe the wrong expectations just starting out, because- Yeah. One phrase I heard that I was frustrated with at first, "You're not production ready." I was like, "What's that mean?" But then I was on a production where I had people who weren't production ready, and I was, "Oh, that is a real thing." Yeah. It sounds like that too. When people aren't very organized or they don't know other people are depending on you in a certain way. It's not just watching a tutorial online, and then again, that's all you need to know. Yeah, I'm not saying I'm the best at everything, I'm quite a generalist. I'm mediocre at lots of things. But everyone starts somewhere and I was super shit at so many things when I first started. It just takes time. I'm still super shit at a lot of things too, and I'm always learning from this. Absolutely. I guess in that vein, is there an underrated skill that you see people don't maximize their time on? I think maybe I'm coming from my own bias experience. I wish I'd spent more time learning Python, for example, and coding. Always very useful at creating tools and stuff. I think that ups your value tremendously and helps you help other people more. Just you know what's going on under the hood of all of the software. There's different software languages you can learn, but Python is the one that I run into the most. I guess you're [inaudible] but visual effects, I guess, there's all these software that mostly used Python, I think. Yeah, even in our department, the guys who I've noticed who've used Python the best, their their job security is much higher than someone who doesn't know that. Yeah, that's the thing. Yeah. Yeah, and I guess in my experience too with, like I mentioned, different departments, and they're running out of work, and like, "Oh, I switched into another department, and another department." I guess it's just this industry is so volatile, you got to be prepared just in case your work goes to being. Yeah. You never know. Yeah, it can happen. We just see that all the time with tax incentives. Yeah. What would be the rundown? I feel like you have to sell people on what would be your favorite thing about working in the industry? Because so many people want to do and it's pretty obvious, it's a fun thing to do. But what would be your most favorite aspect? What makes you want to keep doing it? Then what's the flip side? What's the thing that you wish could get better or wasn't part of it? I think the more years that I do this, the more I'm enjoying working with other people and developing stuff, I think. It becomes less and less about the sharp work, like just glued to the screen thing, and more about collaborating and being like, "Oh, here's this one problem, let's talk to these other departments of how we can solve this one problem." Then seeing the results of that and seeing other people be really excited like, "Oh, I made this tool. " Or like if you made that or I made that tool and be like, "Oh, this is actually starting to work, finally. " Because it's a very artists and also technology worker thing to dig away something for weeks, and it doesn't work, and then finally, you got it and you're like, "Yes!" I think that's pretty rewarding. Then you see the result on the screen. You can actually show your friends and your family, they may not understand the technical part of that situation I described, but at least you can show them, "Oh, look, I did this thing and it took so long, but now I can actually show you." Then you have a story to go with it too. I think also, if I get lucky enough to work on a movie that has a really awesome story, that always is super rewarding for me, and that happens to merge with the style that I like, creepy monsters. I love that. If I get lucky with that, then I'm super happy. Do you have a favorite show you've worked on? A Monster Calls, for sure. Oh cool. That has been on my list to watch, just haven't watched that. I need to do it. Oh yeah, but it's really sad, so make sure you're either alone or just be prepared. It's really sad. Emotionally prepared? All right. Good. Thanks for the heads-up. Yeah, it's pretty heavy but it's beautiful. It's very cool. It's based on a book, and the book has all these illustrations that won these awards. We tried to make the style a little bit like the book, but it's also linked through CG. There's all these beautiful sequences by other companies too. It's really cool, and the story's cool. What would be an aspect? I know work life balance is always difficult or what some aspect of industry just kind of real talk for people who don't know what to expect and what are some challenges or difficult things about the industry. I think from personal experience has been interesting. I mentioned a monster calls being my favorite movie, but also something that happened during the movie is this movie is ironically, it's about this kid who his mom is actually passing away of cancer and how he deals with that. This monster appears to teaching lessons and stuff like that, and as that was going on my actual mom got really sick and she almost passed away. I had to get on a plane and it was in Montreal at the time and I had to go to Toronto, and I was really concerned and it kind of made me really take a step back and I will see you sleeping at the time. All my hours it was really spent at the office. I remember walking through after I got that phone call that she was sick and seeing everyone like glue to their computers and really this is really surreal. All these will have such a passionate, it's amazing, and then they're also probably away from their families, and their friends, and all these other things about the world that are so amazing. You get really stuck in this bubble. I think like passions great, but also it keeps you from getting proper perspective, too. You might make poor decisions if you don't have good perspective in some ways. It's all quiet. Basically what happened is that I ended up leaving my CDC job, went back home, spent time with her and took some time off and then was okay. I'll go back as an artist and try to get the work life balance thing back, and then if I feel I'm ready or maybe I want to try it again and we'll go back to a supervising position if I'm lucky enough to do that again. I've done that for the last few years, and I find that it was a good decision. I do feel I think that I did burn myself out a little bit. If I was to recommend anything to anybody, just like kind of do intervals of see if you can at least do integrals of lots of overtime, and then take a month off or a few weeks to get your perspective back and don't be crazy and do a traveling thing where you're in a new place every day, like you really need to just stop and get some relaxation. It's very important because you need a vacation from your vacation sometimes if you don't. But even outside of that it's really hard. There are a lot of sacrifices I think that go with this job. Hours are very unpredictable. Finding for example a partner or friends who understand that is quite difficult. There are challenges, but sometimes you can make it work or you could find a company that actually doesn't do all that much like they had very strict policies on that and it does quite hard to find. The other alternative is, some people they just kind of they do a movie, and then they take like a month or two off. Closure and moms to him better. That's definitely. My mom just had cancer and she's good now, but I had cancer a few years ago side no. Definitely brings it home. What's the most important thing? When you're in the industry, it's and you're trying to succeed and you're focused. It's hard. Yes, definitely hard thing as our previous Shayna. It's such a balance that we always talk about it. Everyone's always talking about it. I think just the main theme is getting more control over your hours. If you can work later during the week, but then have your weekends off, I think that's a nice alternative for some people, a nice compromise. Have you found yourself having to be, I mean it sounds like the decision because you would work so hard to be a CG supervisor or like to be, through circumstance and your hard work to be in that position. I'm sure that was not the easiest decision to just then step away from. No, it was probably one of the hardest decisions I ever made and I still think about it. But if things are meant to be to link it, maybe I'll go back. If you still do the job, if you so make sure you're not bringing your bridges, and you're a good person, and you're like pleasant to work with and stuff, and then you might be able to go return to that position eventually if you still have a passion for it too, and like you and your knowledge is still relevant, of course, only good. You can always try it again, I think in some ways. Well, I would work on a show that your CGC being FM. I don't know if you name the innovation help when you're, when you go back to that. We're being bought for like 30 minutes. I want to be sensitive your time and wrap up. Just had one more question. That's cool or I don't know if you have cool. For as far as the interview process, I feel like there's a lot of mystery surrounding it and people get caught off guard. Sometimes if they're new to that process. Is there anything that you noticed? Because I know you've recently, in the last, maybe second half of your career so far, gone to a few new places. Is there anything about that process that you've learned or what, you know given advice on? I think demo reels are very important. So makes sure everything in your demo reel is actually yours. I think that it can happen where you're sharing, I suppose as for students as well. Sometimes in the industry, you can share shots with artists and your demo reel might get confusing because you don't know who's done what. It's very important to outline exactly what you've done. Even if all your own work, it's still like some people just want to know and breakdowns are important, for example, that actually helps with that to being okay, this is how I did this and that. Did you that in your real or do you see that the description of the video or I do. I did both, actually. In the video, I'll have like a little snippet at the bottom saying, this is what's been done and the movie. Then I have a document that goes with the single, this shot. This is exactly what I did in it's actually like a little tiny paragraph and there's like little picture of the shot. They were my goals and it's like shot one shot too. It's annoying, but it's really helpful and I've had a lot of people say, thank you so much for that because that's incredibly helpful and makes it so much easier. I think it does all in, it's all in writing so they don't have to call you back and say, did you do this one thing, they can just see it and it's simple. I think that's really worth doing. Just be yourself. Yeah, awesome. Thanks for taking the time step. Thank you so much. This is really cool. I appreciate it. Yeah, hopefully one of these days we get to work on the same show together at some point and let me fun. Well, yeah, that's a small industry and for sure enjoy your time in New Zealand and I look forward to seeing you again and talking to you. Yeah. You too have a great time. Awesome. Thanks a lot. Bye. Great. In the last interview, Stef was willing to take a job at a studio just to get her foot in the door and within a few years she moved up from getting coffee for people to being a supervisor. Then people get to lesser focused on working somewhere like Pixar. They ignore all the other opportunities available to them. Maybe they think it's beneath them, but look where again people coffee got Stef. Now she's a New Zealand working on the new Avatar movies. As someone just starting out, you really need to broaden your horizons to find opportunities wherever you can. Don't be dismissive of smaller studios and smaller roles just because you have big goals. Reaching a goal can take many paths and it's rarely, if ever, a straight line, find as many paths as you can and apply to all of them. Sometimes people want to see where one path will take and they will waste months waiting to hear back before trying and other one. You must pursue as many opportunities as you can and even simultaneously to give yourself the best chance of getting a bite and your first job. She also talked a lot about the people that helped her. She was willing to receive help and is a very nice person, which you can tell from the interview, which makes it easier for people to want to help if you're easy to get along with and take direction when you're asking for help. Notice she also had just graduated from a one-year full-time program with a modeling real and she's still needed lots of help to get working in a real production. This is a great example of always having new things to learn, to stay sharp and be valuable to a studio. Next, she mentioned the department she finally got hired on the modeling department, it actually moved to Bangalore. So she had to adapt quickly to a new department to keep her job there. This can be quite common, especially in for junior level work. So the quicker you can make yourself valuable to a studio in your first job, the better your job security you will have, and that means constantly learning. Next we talked about people who are ecstatic to get their first job in the industry. Then they quickly get bummed out when they realize they are not going to be getting the best shots or assignments because you still have to build trust after you get hired to show you're capable of doing high-level work on a deadline and you're very communicative and easy to work with. Next, she talked about managing your time and overtime, and doing that well, so you're not burning yourself out, especially if there's other life circumstances like a sickness in your family and just being able to keep the big picture in mind about what's important in life. Last, she had a great tip to clarify, what work is yours on a demo reel. So there's no confusion. What aspect that you did. Especially because many people can work on one shot and it can be hard to tell who did what. You want to make that clear when you're applying for jobs and showing people your real. Next, let's jump back into the course and discuss what are the things you need to learn as you begin your journey. Thanks for watching. 6. What To Learn: Now that you have a good understanding of the different branches of the animation industry and the roles within them, let's discuss what you need to learn, the obstacles that you'll face, the options available to learning what you need to learn, and how to overcome those to give yourself the best chance of landing a job in the industry. We've already covered in the previous lesson, the softwares that each of these roles typically use. I won't go over each one of those again for that. But let's start this lesson by saying, learning software and learning your craft as an artist are two separate endeavors, but they can be done at the same time. But do not confuse learning Maya with learning how to animate. It's the idea of learning principles really well versus learning what button to press. Those aren't the same skills, but you'll need both of them to work in the industry. You could learn a software inside and out, but if you don't at least equally focus on your craft of your art, then knowing the software is pointless. One good example, that's a cliche question to ask someone is what software they use to make something, as if the software itself is responsible and not the artist. If you take a great photo, what camera did you use? What matters most is the person using the tools. Casey Neistat is a famous YouTuber. He edits his videos with iMovie, a pre-installed editing software for Macs. This is a basic as you can get of an editing program, yet his videos have over two billion views. Just because I know how to use a hammer doesn't mean I know how to build a house that rivals Frank Gehry architecture. These examples, I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The artist is what's behind all this. The softwares I mentioned in the previous video are important only because most studios do not want to spend the time training juniors in a new software they don't know. They want to be able to hire someone and put them to work the very first day. Some studios will have built-in training for you when you are hired for the first few days or a week, but that's not typically to learn new software, that's to learn their pipeline. While knowing the software by itself isn't useful, it is still a vital part of getting hired. The reality is, especially for animators, Maya is the software of choice. It's not a perfect software by any means, but currently that's what is used at most major studios. Many of you are probably familiar with Blender as an alternative because it's free and recently there's been some amazing improvements to it. The first feature film using it came out on Netflix called Next Gen. But I was listening to a rigor from that film discuss working on it and he regularly referenced how his knowledge of Maya helped him fill in the gaps of tools that existed in Blender. It's a really popular software for those working at smaller studios and on personal projects. But the reality is you only have a finite amount of time to learn software, and your best bet right now is to learn Maya. Afterward, it will be easier to transition to other softwares if you want to, like learning one of the Romans languages, makes the others easier to learn, learning French and the Spanish. The reality is that these major studios have invested millions of dollars creating pipelines and tools that use Maya and they're not going to switch over to another software anytime soon. Every job I've been hired for over the past 10 years in many studios have all used Maya. Now we know that there's a distinction between learning a software and learning your craft. The next lesson, let's continue to discuss how best to educate yourself and focus more on the craft. Thanks for watching. 7. Learning Your Craft: Learning your craft. In this lesson, let's discuss what it takes to learn the craft you've chosen. We've covered that while software knowledge is essential, it will be useless without understanding your craft. Animation in particular is a great example because there are basic principles of animation that apply to every animation medium, whether it's hand-drawn, stop motion or 3D. An animation principle like squash and stretch applies to all three of those disciplines of animation and you don't need to know any of the software to understand it or apply to animation. You can simply draw it in a flip book, or you can take that animation and recreated in 3D if you want. But the success of that animation principle being displayed will not hinge on your software knowledge. It will depend on how well you know your craft. Softwares will come and go, but the principles will always be around so do not neglect learning their fundamentals in your training or your animation and art will suffer. After learning the principles of your craft, which you can do through self guided reading, online courses, or school, which we'll discuss further in the next lesson. But during and after completing school, you should continue to learn and for animation, a great resource is your own life and your ability to actively observe. I say active because when you're observing, you also need to be analyzing. Why does this thing look or move the way it does, and why do I find that interesting or not? You need to build a visual library from your life to help inform artistic decisions and flex your observation muscle regularly so that you'll be able to use it when evaluating your own work. There's a great book called Peak: Secrets From The New Science of Expertise. It says, the main purpose of deliberate practice is to develop effective mental representations that in turn play key role in deliberate practice. The key change that occurs in our adaptable brains in response to deliberate practice is the development of better mental representations, which in turn, open up new possibilities for improved performance. What this is saying is that deliberate practice is knowing first what and how to practice, which we've covered will be the principals of your artwork like overlap ease in and ease out, squash and stretch. By practicing these, you'll create many mental representations which refer back to your observation ability in creating a visual library. As you observe life, analyze motion piece by piece, you will build mental representations that for animation include timing, spacing, and how things should move in general. But it takes a lot of practice and time. How does the balance of a baby walking for the first time and an old person with a cane work, where's their center of gravity? How are their timing's different? How does someone mad or sad reacts? What makes that interesting to watch? There are famous studies that found most communication is nonverbal so it's essential to study those subtleties when we're trying to recreate moments filled with emotion using a computer, a mouse, and just our ideas. This leads me to the number one skill you must cultivate for your craft and that is the power of observation. You must become great at observing in combination with evaluating. Observation with evaluation is one form of deliberate practice that will lead to your development. Many times I'll watch YouTube video or a few seconds of a movie over and over. I can remember watching movie with a friend and a character was angry. After the scene was over, I commented on how to half lead blink, the actor did was impressive to convey their anger. My friend, liked the scene too but had no idea what I was talking about because they haven't spent years observing and evaluating as the deliberate practice looking for these subtle clues and cues. When we're watching this, we rewound the scene and watched for just two frames, the quickest and smallest half-lit blink and my friend saw it. There are so many examples of this that as you begin this deliberate practice will help make your work come alive in ways that many people won't be able to articulate or see like my friend, why it feels right, but there will be able to sense it. Let me emphasize that learning animation principles by name can be a quick lesson. But developing your muscles of observation and evaluation will take years and goes back to what I said in one of the first lessons that this all takes time and patience, you don't have to master these things to get a job. But there will be an ongoing process that will help. I know because I feel like I still have a long way to go, but that's also what keeps me interested in this craft. There's always something to improve and stay sharp about. I've had the good fortune that over the past ten years I spent almost every day of my life evaluating motion frame by frame so I can identify why I something and store that in my mental representations and if something I make doesn't look right, I can dig into the library and uncover what I'm doing wrong as well. Let me share one small project from my film school days. I had never hand sculpted anything before in my life. But with some patience and really observing and evaluating a lot of photographic reference, I was able to make this sculpture. It's not perfect, but it does go to show how far developing power of observation can get you, even when applied to a totally new endeavor, something I'd never done before. Your assignment from this lesson is to watch at least one of your favorite scenes from a movie or even YouTube clips and go frame by frame to analyze what is unique about it. Why do you like it? Really quickly, I wanted to give you some tips about how to frame by frame through things on Vimeo and YouTube. Here on YouTube I have a video loaded. It's loaded up a little bit. Let's just go back here and I'll pause it and then if I hit these two buttons on the keyboard, I can frame forward and back. Looks like I'm having to hit it twice here, but you get the idea. Basically, you can frame by frame on YouTube if you use these two buttons, you can also change the speed settings here and playback speed. That can be very useful as well. On Vimeo, if you find a video there, the trick here is holding down Shift and the arrow buttons and then you can go frame by frame. There's also a Chrome extension if you use Chrome as your browser window called speed and repeat something like that. I have a link to it in the course materials. You can download that Vimeo extension for Chrome and what it gives you is these two buttons right here and you can repeat. You can also change the playback rate. If I click that, I get a little option. I can say like 0.1 and it will play back the video very slowly. Then of course on your PlayStation or however else you view things. Each one of those have their own ways to go frame by frame. Some of them don't have as many options. But so what I recommend is try to find those clips on YouTube or Vimeo. But those are the ones that give you the most control that I'm aware of. I think on the PlayStation there are ways to do it and on the Xbox probably with the controllers, but don't have access to those right now. But you get the idea, frame by frame some stuff. Do this assignment. Let's jump back to the video. In the next lesson, I will talk with [inaudible] and introduce that interview that you won't want to miss because we dig into what it's like working in the industry and his origins in India. After that interview, I will discuss some of the options for where you can get started in your education. Thanks for watching. 8. Rana Interview: Yeah. If you could just start by telling me how you're broken in the industry and where you began with your education. Yeah, I mean, like way back in the 90s, I think I've watched a mortal combat. One of my friends said the older all the VFX and the CGI that was in that movie was done in 3D Studio Max. If I had had a version of max that one of my friends gave me was, I think back then it was done by kinetics. It was version two or something like that. I started messing a lot. This was when it's like 20 years ago. Okay. I was 13 or something. Nice. Yeah I just messed around with it and didn't really know anything about animation at that point. I mean, I was creating deports and destroying them using whatever stuff that I could figure it out. I think it was like in 2001 or two that I saw this tutorial on Cinema 4D online and I downloaded it. Again, not a legal version. Yeah. Because yeah, I didn't really I didn't know better back then. I started messing around with it and I started picking up tutorials and things like that. It was at the same line when my folks decided that I should get into engineering because that's what most people do back home. Yeah. There's not really a lot of other options. While I was doing mechanical engineering with the intention of getting into industrial design and things like that, I kept doing stuff by myself mostly at home and I taught myself quite a bit. By the time I was actually. At that time in the back of your mind did you think even though you're studying Mechanical Engineering, did you think I'm just going to keep doing this as a hobby or like what? I'm just going to do mechanical engineering to make my parents happy, then I'm going to go away and do animation or? Yeah, I mean, I didn't have any idea that I would be getting into animation at that point. The whole idea of teaching myself whole this was so that I could design cars and things like that because I was always a big motor haven even when I was young. I taught that if I wanted to go to Germany and design cars and things like that, and this would be the lesson to learn. That worked with your engineering. Like you are going to do engineering. Okay. That's what I hope for but then as I went through engineering, I got more and more disillusion with it because I realized that it was going completely the other way and most of the people that were graduating were ending up doing tech key jobs in companies doing like data input and things like that. Okay. Was because the competition was so high with engineering? No, it's just because there is no scope for industrial design at home and back then there was nothing for animation either. They were still really new industry. Did you grew up in Bangalore? Yeah, I did. Yeah. Yeah. I spent most of my life there. Then what happened? Yeah, I finished engineering and I hated it. While I was in engineering, I had even done another animation course that's called SAE. They taught me how to use 3D Studio Max and I made this animation and YouTube was pretty new back then. Was 2006 I think and I put it up on YouTube and it ended up getting like a whole bunch of views, like 45,000 or something back then. Like the first or second year of YouTube, which was big for me. Yeah, it's huge. Yeah, I told my folks like, look, this is what I'm good at. I would like to pursue this. I did some research on where I could do more studies about these things. I found out about Vancouver film school. and it was super expensive. Way back in 2008. It was like 50,000 bucks. Yeah. I think I was there in like 2010 I was about the same, Yeah. For foreigners it's more expensive. It's more expensive than for the locals. Yeah. I mean, my folks fortunately had enough resources to sent me there. Yeah. Cool. Once I went in, it was amazing. Like everything changed. I started picking things up really quickly and I was doing pretty well in class and things like that. I think the thing about VFX is though, what I've noticed about most of the film schools and animation courses they're more interested in they only like can use to market to new students. Right. They don't really teach you about the industry and things like that. They are more like 'Oh yeah, you can do animation and modeling and this and that.' What do you feel like they didn't prepare you for as anything specific or your now walking hard? They didn't really prepare for anything. They just said, 'look, I'm going to teach you how to do really shitty animation and really shitty modeling and we try to make this demo real which is just a big mash of everything.' Yeah. Not really focusing on anything and you at the end of it, your priorities are in all the wrong place. Like you are trying to build websites with your name on them and printing out demo real close on your DVD. Yeah. Yeah. It's not being super hyper focused on what the actual processes like. Mostly like VFX companies, they're usually looking for people that are good at one thing. But I think most of these animation courses and things like that, they kind of try to get you to do everything yourself. Yeah. You end up not really focusing on any one thing. There was guy in our class who said, 'Look, I don't really care about lighting and modeling and things like that. I'm just going to use the downloaded rigs and just do a whole bunch of animation myself.' Yeah. Everyone was like, 'man, you are really is going to suck' and things like that. Yeah. I mean, his animation wasn't graded either but he ended up getting a job, shout outs for that. Yeah. That's a good point because I got to remember that aspect of VFX and just school in general where they're running a business, so they are trying to look out for themselves too. I think they've also changed their model where they are getting you into your like specialized track a lot sooner, if I remember. Yeah. Yes. I mean, I hope so because that thing that they had back then was dodgy at best. Yeah. When you started that program, did you know what track you wanted to be on or did it help to like learn a little bit of everything first or I mean, you'd already learned a lot before you went. I mean, when I joined VFX, everyone was like, oh yeah, you need to get into Pixar. Right. Everyone wants to get an Pixar. Right. I just wanted to pause the interview very quickly to give a little more context to this obsession that we're referring to, that everyone wants to work at Pixar or even like everyone wants to work at Disney or something like that. There are many opportunities in this industry and I highly encourage you not to get too focused on any one studio and avoid other opportunities that may be available to you, especially as a beginner, you need to be open to all opportunities on the table and most of those do not include working at Pixar. I think it's a great goal to have, and I encourage you to have that goal. But the reality is there is only a little over 100 animators at Pixar and they rarely hire outside people. When they do, it's someone who's worked at a studio for many years and they've proved themselves somewhere else. Recently the hired a friend of mine who actually was the lead and he was a good animator and he did good on Spider-Man, so they hired him. But the new people that Pixar hires are out of their internship program. That is a very small group of people that's, we're talking like five people. I've spoken with one of the higher up Pixar animators and they're not pressured to hire people. It's Pixar. They're not in a rush to hire anyone. They only take the best people and oftentimes, that is not a beginner. Even if you were to get hired at Pixar as a beginner, you are most likely going to be delegated to what's called the fixed department. They take other animator shots and they polish them. You're actually not left with a demo reel at the end of that because they're not your shots. You're cleaning up other people shots and you're maybe doing crowdwork in the background that no one's going to see. Or you could go and go to a smaller studio where you'd have a bigger impact and do bigger work quicker and have a better reel to show forward for a greater investment in your future as far as how you've proven yourself. I just want to caution you to this obsession that a lot of people have and I know because I had it as a student and that's all I wanted to do was go work at Pixar. But realistically, that is like winning the lottery or a gold medal at the Olympics is maybe a better example. Just be open to other opportunities and don't get too obsessed with any ones studio, whether it's Pixar or Disney or whatever it is. The industry is very big, there's many opportunities and stay open to all of them. Let's get back to the interview. Thanks. I guess I was focusing on animation at that point but my demo reel had a whole bunch of stuff inside it. It had effect and I built these models and I put in like sub surface scattering on the skin and things like that which wasn't really needed and it's do really realistic windows and I got the rights for Hungry Like a wolf from Duran Duran. Oh my gosh. Yeah. Sure. Yeah, Yeah. Oh my gosh. I got the rights for that, and I was so stroke. Yeah. Well, how did they give that to you? Because I would imagine it would be crazy expensive where you're just like I'm a student its not for commercial purposes. No it was free. Basically what happened was, I saw this old Emory from VFX, which was on the YouTube website. It's called Guernica or something. It's like one of the paintings of Picasso that basically becomes alive animation that walks through other famous paintings. That's cool. Yeah, it was pretty cool, and they use this song from Duran Duran called The Chauffeur. I like that band. It's like how did this guy get the rights for that? Yeah. I checked the ending credits and I was like, man, he's actually got the rights for this music. I looked it up online and I found the email address of the licensing manager for Duran Duran, that was Melissa or something like that. I just emailed her. That's crazy. I mean, that shows how persistent you are. You went out of your way to like, I've really got like little stuff like that most students aren't going to do or go to that link to try to figure out how can I do the best, it's cool. Right. Because one of the main reasons was that my demo reel had a wolf in it, just like this big werewolf thing, and it ends on a funny note. So I wanted to have that song at the end. I emailed her and she was like, yeah, sure you can use it. I said if I send you a release form or something will you sign it? She's was just like yeah, send it, and I sent it, she signed it. That's so cool. That's it. I just said yeah, I'm a student can I use it? And she gave me the rights to use it. Then when I went and told her that the head of VFX at that point that I've got the rights to use this song for my demo reel and she was like really. No way. Did they say that? Yeah. She's like, can you forward me the e-mail? I'm like, look, this is what happened. They just need a release form to the emailed. That's so cool. She was like yeah, fine then. If you've got the permission then go ahead and use it. So you went through VFX and then you have your reel that has this amazing music on it? Yeah, but the real itself. Yeah, the reel itself. What would you do differently when you are in school now, you'd just get more specialized and hyper-focused on? Honestly, at that point, we were, I think the last six months of VFX. You know about the [inaudible] when, do they still have that? Yeah. I think, cause they moved locations, but I think they still have it. Yeah. It's like for the final six months when you're doing a final project, there's this big black room where everyone's always in front of their computers all night, all day. Yeah. We spend most of the time there. I don't really know. I was doing so many things at once that I wasn't really focused on any one thing, and my animation at the end, once I had all the assets and everything ready, which took about half the time, I was just trying to get shots done so I can finish it off. Yeah. Trying to put in two minutes of animation into six months, grid all the building of the assets, lighting. It's it's rush and also you need to get it done before mixing the sound and everything. Right. Yeah. For someone's that there would be in the same shoes, would you tell them to specialize in? Yes, I would suggest specializing in one thing. A lot of people seem to think that animation is like the easiest and glamorous way to enter the industry. Because you get to see everything right in front of, it's on the big screen. Right? People don't really say, yeah, I'm going to watch this movie. People don't really say, oh yeah, the lighting of that movie was really good. Right. Right. They just say the animation was great that's it. Right. It's obviously right up the front when it comes to drawing people into VFX. Yeah. So yeah, I wanted to be an animator at that point. I chose animation as my field of study for the last six months. But as I kept going through it, I realized that my animation isn't as good as some of the other guys in my class. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't at the level that it could have been if I had focus solely on automation as my field of study. I had really nice lighting, decent mortals, everything was a little bit above average but nothing special, if you know what I mean. Yeah. Yeah, once I graduated. The thing is the year I went to VFX, they didn't have the system where international students get a work permit in Canada for the year that you graduate. Yeah. So they didn't tell me that when I joined. Once I finished, I had to go back to India. Okay. Before I just spend like 50 grand, which is a huge amount for Indians. Yeah. I had no job. I had just demo reel and I was like, what the hell am I doing? I was in a pretty bad state at that point. I was messed up. Had you been applying to places? I had applied to so many places and most of them wouldn't even respond. Yeah. If they did, they would just say, look we can't hire you because we can't do the visa and things like that. The small companies that did respond, they can't wait six months for somebody to get a visa. Yeah. Obviously ILM is not going to look at a student demo reel and we're like, yeah, we can hire you, unless it's something crazy. Your right. So yeah. I used to wake up at 03:00 a.m, and email people and email companies and send messages to random people on LinkedIn, which is really like, now I know what it's like, but I can understand the desperation that some people have. But it's not a good way to do things. Yeah. It can annoy. Do you care to hold the mic up a little bit? I'm sorry. No, it's okay. So. I graduated in 2009 and then I did pretty much nothing except sit at home and work on my own animation for a couple of months. Then again because I didn't know any better, I told my folks this thing called Animation Mentor and I should probably do that. Even more money and they agreed. Did you do the full program? Yeah, I did. In the beginning I was really into that stuff and within three months of joining Animation Mentor and I got an offer at MPC in Bangalore. At that point they had just set up. They just opened, it was pretty new and I had a friend and he was doing roto prep. He said you want do roto? I don't even know what that is. It's like you have to draw lines around people and I'm like, no not really, I'm doing this animation course and I would like to do something that stays with animation. I was like maybe if they open up another department. I stuck with Animation Mentor and my animation did get a lot better. I did do some test shots at home just for training and I put those on my day module. Then a few months later there was another opening at MPC for roto animation, which is like match mission, like soft body. Actually for people that don't know about it, you're actually moving a generic rigor around to match the motion of what's filmed of an actual person to match their motion. That was close to what you are doing with animation. Yeah. That what I hoped it would be. It's closer than roto. Yeah that's definitely closer then roto because at least you're using animated rigs and things like that. It's not really creative because you just matching a life plate at the back, but you still need to apply some fundamentals of animation. Especially if they're doing things like effects and things like that. You can have jittery animation and things like that. I would think too just to be a quicker at it, you would know there's feel, move and key-frame. Exactly, right and then you can add your in-betweens and things like that and it makes things much easier. Also when you have a rig and roto animation, you can't really make it do things that are humanly impossible because the two people on screen are obviously humans. Sometimes you'll see when people do roto animation and they have no background in animation, you'll see that bodies are when you look at a silhouette, it looks fine, but when you put it into [inaudible] and a 3D scene, you see that it's all messed up. As soon as you turn to a different camera, that wasn't what was shot. It looks really bad. Especially in Zee space usually I see that. Yeah, exactly. There was an opening for that and then at the same time, there was also an opening in Technicolor for animation. Technicolor had a separate department in India, so I did tests for MPC, which was a Roto animation tests using, I think X-Men or something and a test for Technicolor all on the same day. Wow. That's crazy, you've been working super hard and then on the same day you get two tests. You guessed right. Once I did those tests, another friend of mine called me and they said DreamWorks in Bangalore is also looking for animators. Do you want to do a test for them? I'm like, I just spoke with MPC and Technicolor and MPC actually called me back before Technicolor did. They were really happy with my test and the Sup at that point, she was pretty impressed with my work and she said we really would like you to join and things like that. Awesome. I was happy and about a week after I accepted the job at MPC, I got a call from Technicolor and they said, look, do you want to join here as a Junior Animator? I'm like I've already accepted a roto animation job at MPC. Yeah. The guy was like, do you know what animation that is? I was like, yeah, I know it's roto animation but I didn't really like the way he said it. He was condescending. I think that was the best decision that I made in my life because everything that I heard about Technicolor after that was just really bad. That was like a red flag that he was condescending. Yeah. I heard so many horror stories about people from Technicolor, people leaving, people getting fired, left and right. In the beginning MPC, there was obviously a little bit of a learning curve when I started doing roto animation there, but I picked it up pretty quickly and I guess maybe having decent communication skills and things like that, they made me a lead pretty quickly. When you say, that was something that helped you having communication skills, is that something that you saw most people lacked and what what exactly about that? I feel like there are a lot of people in India that are really good at their work, but they may have not grown up speaking English as much as some others did. It depends on where you're from. I lived in Bangalore where all my schooling, everything was in English. There's a large English speaking community, but people from other cities, it depends again, on your background, how you were raised. It's not like a bad thing or anything like that, but it definitely does. As if it has an opportunity to work much. Make a difference when you're applying outside being fairly westernized also helps or having exposure to pop culture, things like that. What about that exactly because you know, material prior that you're working on better or you know how to relate? That again because I remember you would even have groups within the company. You would have people that always speak Hindi among each other. You would have people that always speak Tamil among each other. You would have another group that always speaks in English. India is quite diverse. That happens and that actually gets broken down even in companies. Broken down in companies is that you have whole departments that speak a certain language? You have like cliques. Just like socially. I remember there was this girl in my company and she was telling me that she had a whole bunch of anomie and action figures and stuff like that. She had a Batman doll on her desk and there was a guy sitting next to her and he's like, who's that? Oh my gosh. She's like, that's Batman. He's like, oh, she's like you don't know Batman is? He's like, no, I don't know what that is. Oh, wow. She was like do you know what movie you're working on? He's like Man of Steel. She is like do you know Superman? He's like, I know him because of this movie but I never knew who he was before that. Yeah. She was pretty surprised that how could you be in VFX working on a superior movie and not know any of these people? She asked him easily again, I mostly worked on like regional language movies before and I just applied for the job because there was an opening for a match pool and I got in and he's hasn't really watched English movies in his life and things like that. There was definitely that divide and you also see it when you have to argue for salaries and increments if you want to fight for elite position and things like that. In general, the better English you can speak the better you can move ahead further. It sounds like not just speaking English, but like having an understanding of Western culture in general. Definitely, yeah. The more exposure you have to the West because at the end of it, you're working for companies that are from the West. You need to have some level of, or at least show interest in learning these things. When I actually interviewed with Deneg, I think they are in Mumbai and I don't know if this is how MPC and you think a lot of studios in India are setup where like I was interviewing for a position to come in and help teach the animation department. What you do at MPC when you were starting, was there Americans or Canadians or Western native English speakers, who are your supervisor or? At that point we were the only ones. The supervisor we had for Match Move he was actually Indian but he had been to the Academy of Art. He had studied there in San Francisco and he had worked in [inaudible] and AST studios on the matrix before they got shut down and then he had changed a bunch of studios and he was in London MPC before they decided to set up again in Bangalore. What's his name? Jigesh. He's the head of VFX in Deneck right now. Okay, cool. When he was at MPC London, they basically offered him a role of go to India and help set up shop in Bangalore and MPC. He was one of the people that was key in doing that. Again, the people who are in charge, even though they were Indians, they were the ones who had more exposure to everything, because it just makes it so much easier to just set things up and to communicate between back and forth. I'm glad you're mentioning that because it's probably something I take for granted, having grown up in the United States and native English, I don't even speak another language, I can't even imagine how hard it is to try to be so good at another language that, if you can differentiate yourself in a job, that's pretty good. It definitely does play a big role in especially the way you speak, the way you carry yourself. It does make a difference, how you impress people around you and things like that. Yes, so how long were you at MPC for and were you still applying for other jobs? I wasn't applying. As soon as I finished a year at MPC, I was basically doing just photo animation, which was useless for putting on a demo reel. Were you still working on your demo reel on the side? No. So that's what happened once I joined MPC, my animation mentor started to decrease. I wasn't bad or anything, it just took second state. Yeah, you are getting paid for something so you're going to do more than. You don't stop doing stuff by myself. I was basically just to enroll to animation and about a year in, they got some people from London to help us improve and go to the next level. This guy called Julian who was at that point he was around randomly [inaudible] and I think he's a CG at MPC. So he came down the Bangalore and he taught us some tips and tricks and everything and at that point there was 20 of us in Bangalore in my troop and about the same size in Vancouver, in London. Once he came in we started improving in things like that, the team started getting bigger and they said, we're closing down to London and Vancouver departments. So that was a little bit dicey for us because we could see that people outside were really upset, especially in London and Vancouver, they almost became like they were hostile towards us, but we were just trying to do our job right? When they're hostile, where you interacting with them because you're probably dealing with the work they're doing or getting a marker. We're doing work stuff and they are the ones approving it because at that point the final approval was to loud atmosphere. Okay. So we can see that they weren't happy with most of the stuff going to India and there's also a level of guilt that comes with it because nobody wants a job at someone else's expense. Yeah. But you're not in control of that as an individual? No, you're not in control of that but the fact is that MPC were hiring people for 300 bucks a month for our junior positions. Yeah. That's bad by any standard even for 40 minutes it's really bad like in Bangalore, getting that much would mean that you probably have to share a room with three other people or live with your folks or something like that. So there's no way that you can build a family or something like that with that kind of income. This is something because living in California have the luxury of currencies is pretty good and all that kind of stuff. You know they have to pay you. The currencies definitely does make a mistake, obviously $1,000 in India can buy a lot more than $1,000 in the US but even by those standards, 300 bucks a month is nothing and I've seen people getting less than that for Indian positions and things like that. People getting increments of a $ a month for a year. There's no labor laws there that they can set minimum wage. No, there's no such thing. They'll pay you whatever you agree to. Did you have to fight for that when you took that job because you're like, hey, I got to technicolor, I got dream works asking for tests? did you use that to help? No, I had no leverage. I accepted whatever I got because I had no leverage and 300 bucks was more than what they were paying the other juniors. I actually got more because of my VFS background. The others were getting paid like 280 or 270 bucks or something a month. What's on your mind? What's the path when you take that job, you're thinking, okay. Like do you see it? So yeah, the main reason I accepted it because I thought that once I get a year of work experience at least let me get my foot in the door, because sitting at home is nothing. It's not going to get you anywhere. So I accepted the job because I hoped that within a year of working at MPC, I might have opportunities to move out either within the company or I could just tell people that hey, I have been at MPC and hire me, and things like that, but I joined and then about a year after that I started applying out and it wasn't really nothing much was happening because again Frodo animation isn't really as skill as people are going to jump over the fence to hire you. It seems to something that you caps out like where do you go from there kind of thing. I can do a monkey animation within like a month. It seems for your position though somebody in your position and there's that. It sounds like there's probably those who are in bigger departments. Would you still recommend the same path because I know now you're not doing it but you started doing it, would you recommend people just get in front of the door with something like that? The thing is I had to do a few things to get out of this position. One of them was, I got [inaudible] about 4 years as a Frodo animator, three years as a Frodo animation leader, I basically decided that I had enough. So I said, you know what, I want to leave MPC films and get into the commercial department as a mass move artist. So they're like, "Yeah, but you want to leave films, you know this and that." I had a friend called James, he's from London and he was sent to India to handle the compositing department at MPC commercials. we used to hang out quite a bit. We used to ride motorcycles and stuff like that and he said, I can get you in the MPC commercials as a mass move artist. I know in California there's more money in commercials usually is that part of the concerns? The difference in money was negligible. Commercials were getting paid less than people in film. Okay, so it is the opposite here. California, usually a bit more commercial, it's funny. Right, and I was also four years in so my salary had gone up a little bit, not much but I was getting paid about a 1000 bucks a month by that point which is still not much. But three times as, yeah. Right. So they said you can switch from fancy commercials, this was after about a year of, just plugging these guys every day and being really good friends with the sup and the head of department and like knowing everyone in the management and with all that, it took me about a year to switch from fancy commercial. After that, they basically closed that out and they said they haven't been allowing anyone else to do this because a lot of people wanted to do that at that point. So I took a step down, I basically went from being a leader animator to a senior mass mover artist. But I was okay with that I don't really care. After about 6 months in commercials they made me a lead again because I was pretty decent at doing stuff there. Because they made me a leader I started a applying out again. I heard that there was this opening at Rising Sun Pictures in Australia and they were looking for people in mass move and one of my friends said, Luke, "I know a guy there, he used to work with me and he is a supervisor there right now." So I'm like, "yeah, please get me in touch with them" and things like that. So there was a guy who was a sup and RSP who was previously indeed I can hear he had worked at India a long time ago, but I started emailing him and chatting with him and I spoke with him for about 6 months. Finally they had an interview with me and that interview was like an hour long. It was, I would say probably 5 percent of it was technical and the rest of it was just trying to find out the kind of person that I was. Oh interesting. Just talking to me and seeing if I would be a good fit in that company. Yeah. So that was that. I had that interview and they were like, it seems that things are going well and he said it "Okay [inaudible] do you have a blacker number in mind for how much you want to get paid and stuff like that? So I gave a really low salary because honestly I had no idea. Nothing for about two months, no news, no emails, nothing like that. I sent them a lot of emails in that time and I got a call back all of a sudden. They're like,"Hey, are you okay with another interview right now?" I was asleep at that point. I was like "Okay, sure." He just called me up and he had a chat with me for about 20 minutes. It wasn't even an interview. He just wanted to talk. Yeah. He's head of HR. Okay. I spoke with him for about 20 minutes and I was half asleep but after that, I got the offer from Rising Sun within a week, I think. How did the work permit work with that? Did you need a work permit? Yeah. The Australian government needed to sponsor a visa for me, and I also had to do an English test. It's called the IELTS, I think anyone who's applying out should already know about that. Okay. If you need to get a job in Australia, you need to do an English test unless you come from a country that has English as its official language. Okay. You could be from Germany or France or anywhere, you still have to do the test. Okay. I had decent scores in that. I wasn't worried about that, so they gave me a job offer. I left in November, 2015 and I went to Australia. Again, I took another step down because I basically went from a lead matchmover to just an artist again. Yeah. I was like, " Yeah, that's fine. I don't really care about that." When I joined RSP, I had applied to Atomic Fiction when I was at NBC and they hadn't even responded because I was in India. When I went to RSP, I applied to Atomic Fiction again, being in Australia and just showing my location as Australia. Right. They offered me a lead position within a week. Oh my gosh. Yeah. I was like, "I guess" [inaudible]. A lead matchmover? Yeah, a lead matchmover. I applied just as a matchmover. Sorry. Yeah. I wanted to ask you about the mentality of having been a lead and it sounds like you were a supervisor at the commercial or do you move up [inaudible] No, I was a lead. I never worked above that. Okay. So whenever I become a lead, I always take a step back to move ahead. Yeah. I feel like it's worked out so far. Yeah, that's what I was going to ask, is I feel like most people aren't willing to do that. Did you see people who were offered jobs like you were and they didn't take it because they weren't the lead and then how did that turn out for them? They're still stuck where they are, I guess. Yeah. Two steps forward, one step back. If it works, it works. You need to take a few risks if you want to move head. Right. I've been a lead in three different companies and if I have to give that up to move ahead at some point, then I'll do it. I don't really care what this enables or things like that. Yeah. I said, "Yeah, I'll take that job." There was a problem with my visa when I applied for Quebec for some reason. It took me about 10 months to get my work permit. Atomic Fiction? For Canada. Yeah. By the time I left RSP, it was February, 2017. It took me about 10 months to get my visa, work permit, everything sorted out. Were you at Rising Sun that whole time? Did they know that you had applied for it? Yeah. The moment that I got the offer at [inaudible] I just told them everything. That I don't want to keep any secrets from you guys. This is my situation. They just kept renewing my contract because they were happy with my work and I got along well with everyone. Didn't have any issues and such. Yeah, so at this point, is your goal a location, like geographically you want to live in a certain place or do you want to be in a certain [inaudible] you now what I mean. Yeah. At this point, I don't even know what my goal is anymore. It sounds like it's always changing too, so you just have to be adaptable to what's offered and the opportunities are. I did the same thing in Atomic as well. Yeah. I stepped down from lead position to get into layout. Let me tell you, I opened some of your shots from Marrow and I always appreciated just on that production. It's such a mess. Yeah. We had never talked. That production was a mess, but it was just the volume of work was so much into [inaudible] like on everything. I don't know how you getting all this done. I don't know. It was just a blur at one point. The same thing happened, once I did finally move to Atomic and I had done a little bit of layout at RSP, and I really enjoyed it. Having some creative control on the shots. Right. Instead of just tracking live [inaudible] I did previous for Thor That was at RSP? Yeah, it's for the Valkyrie sequence with the slow-motion horses and everything. Cool. Any students listening, you went wrote motion, which is animation matching a live plate. Then you did matchmove, which is more camera environment matching. Is that how you would describe it? Yeah. Matchmove is just tracking live plates. Yeah. Previous is using our assets to build a rough layout of the shot, maybe even before it's even filmed. Yeah. Because that's what we did for Thor. We did previews before they actually shot the live plates and they used our previous as a guideline. That's awesome.You're getting closer to the actual finished [inaudible]. Right. It's like you're animating, previous is like animating a little bit, and you have a lot of more creatively. That was more appealing to you and layouts kind of inevitable. That's why I got into VFX. I always like making movies and things like that. Yeah. That's what all of us we want to do. Stuff that we could actually see. Yeah. As an artist, you would like to have something that you can show people and be like, "This is what I've done." I appreciate every single department in VFX role, the match move. The fact is that when you show a layman, like look, "I've done camera tracking for this shot." They don't know what that means. I recreated the 3D camera and they're like, "So did you animate that cat?" No, I did not animate him, I just moved him." Yes, I did." All right. I was just lying. I just animated the whole thing. When I moved to Atomic, they made me a matchmove lead. I wasn't really happy doing matchmove again after getting a taste of layout and I told them, "Look, this is something that I would like to do at some point." They didn't have a layout department at that point. The matchmove first we're doing any thing, basically so they said, "Okay, we're getting this new project called Welcome to Marwen." Yeah, I remember that. I can remember saying I don't understand how we don't have an entire department? Exactly.In the beginning for the first month, I was the only person in the layout department at Atomic. For the first month there was no one for me to complain to or if they needed anything done, I have to do each and everything. I had nobody to help me out. I said, "Look, this is too much for me, I can't handle this anymore. I need some help." At that point they got flow and they hired two other people. That was a big help because they were really good and they helped me quite a bit. I stepped down from being lead again and just said, "Let me be a layout artist." Was that transition like you wanted to get closer to the work again and just do more of it? Yeah, to be honest. I just wanted to get away from tracking points in 3D and it was something that I feel. I like doing layout. I like doing any kind of camera stuff or even env and setting up environments and things like that. Yeah How do you see things? You' re in Montreal now, Atomic is now method, and there's other studios looking to open in Montreal. Do you see Montreal as a good place to be right now? I think a lot of work is going to move to Montreal, I don't know if people are happy with that or not. 9. School Options: Educating yourself. There are more options than ever for gaining an education that will set you up for a job in the industry, and we will go over some of those here. I created a small document in the project files that have links and short summaries with tuition's amounts for some of the most popular options. To make your research into what's right for you a little easier. First, let me say this. No one cares where you go to school. All they care about is the work you can create. Honestly, most people never even look at where you went to school and many people considering where to go really focused on certifications or diplomas. It's something that is fairly useless. Please pick the right style of education for your personal situation and do not choose based on what you want your resume to say because no one will hire you based on your resume. It will be all about your demo reel, which we'll get to later. But you must educate yourself in some way. Let's discuss the options available. The first consideration for most people as cost. Let's start with the most expensive option, and that will be a traditional four-year college degree. The pros will be that this is the most comprehensive education you can get. Many people who do not take a four-year degree lack a lot of art fundamental training that may prevent opportunities in the future once you're in the industry. Some internships are only available to someone in a four-year program. In some countries, visas may favor or require a college degree for a work permit. You are able to network the most in this situation since you can cross paths with the most people, since this is the longest education experience. But the cons for this could also be the amount of time it takes to complete for myself how switching careers and already had a four-year college degree, even though it was not an animation. I did not want to take another four years of my life to make a career switch. I wanted a job as quick as possible, so I went with a one-year program. We'll discuss that next. The other con is the expense that this option is usually tens of thousands of $ more than the next most expensive option, which for the expected salary in this industry will make it very difficult to pay off the student debt from these schools. Next step is non college schools. These are like vocational schools meant to get you a job. They are typically one-year programs, but are not online and have actual buildings so you can attend school full-time in person. Very few of these offer options for part-time study though. It's still a financial commitment to not be able to work during this year and pay for school. However, they are typically 75 percent cheaper than a four-year college degree. The pros of these programs are getting very focused training, which can also be a con. Your training abroad experience from a four-year degree for focused one and this one year that might miss out on some broader art fundamentals in favor for training, you to get a specific job. It's, it's cheaper than four-year schools and you get to work sooner if you do well, you still get to network and person and create friendships with people who will also be an industry. The final major option will be to attend an online school. There are many to choose from that have a variety of options. The most have some element of pre-recorded lecture and instructor feedback. Over a period of eight to 12 weeks per term or so. You can stitch your own terms together to form a program of your own. All of these can be taken part time so you can continue to work. But it could be a struggle to work and study, especially if you also have family obligations. This option is more flexible in terms of creating a program for yourself, but can also be easy way to lose your way and motivation since there are a lot of short-term commitments strung together. Then life can get in a way when it's part-time and it can be difficult. This is by far the cheapest option though available. You can get access to most instructors that have a real-world experience where some schools may have instructors at a college that haven't worked in the industry for over a decade or more and might be out of touch with current practices. It will be more difficult to network online with online schools and with fellow classmates. You'll have to go out of your way to make these connections with people virtually. They might have a more naturally and person at another school. Lastly, it is possible to educate yourself through short tutorials and your own experimentation. But that can be a very limiting and painful experience. I personally cannot think of anyone I know of that did not receive some formalized training at one point or another. Also keep in mind that this industry requires a lifetime of learning. You'll want to keep an open mind about continuing your education. As soon as I graduated from my one-year program, I enrolled for one term at an online school recently and took another class just to stay sharp and challenge myself. When you get into the industry, you'll find you may be doing things around your craft like meetings and are iterating on one very small thing for months and you might start to lose all the skills you want to keep sharp. Training will always need to be a vital part of your career even if it is self-directed. I'll actually had one supervisor that was so bad. We wouldn't have hired him to be a junior based on the shots he'd worked on after he was hired as a supervisor, he let his skills get to [inaudible] while supervising and could no longer animate and with much quality, and he was eventually fired from that supervisor position for that reason and others. Don't let that happen to you. You always have to stay sharp and educating yourself and being humble that it takes constant attention is vital to success long-term. If you decide to go self-directed way and not attend any of these options, just know that it is incredibly rare for someone to stick with it and get a job this way because the biggest beer they will face is professional critique. Critique is the most valuable component of an education. You can understand what you're doing wrong. Without it, you will waste a lot of time and become frustrated and not knowing why your work is not improving. Animation mentor runs a monthly contests called the 11 second club. Anyone can enter and the reward is winning. The road for winning is a critique. That's how valuable it is that you can win a contest and have the privilege of being told what you did wrong, or also what you can improve. Please take a look at the project file, it's a text document that includes links and is divided into these categories I discussed. You can further research the specifics of each school and find one that's right for you. Next, let's discuss what it takes to be a successful student and put yourself in the best position to get hired when you graduate or finish your preliminary training. Thanks for watching. 10. Becoming Your Best: Becoming your best. So far we've covered what you need to learn, barriers to learning, where and how you can learn. Let's dig a little deeper to make your education journey as successful as possible. The number 1 tip I can give you that I believe has been a huge contributor to my success is when I was in school, I did every assignment twice. It sounds simple but it's incredibly effective. Remember, when you're starting out, as we discussed, you're learning two things at once. You're learning the software and you're learning the craft. Typically, my first attempt at an assignment was slow and frustrating because I was still learning the software so I had very little ability to work on my craft. The first attempt was never very great, but I tried to work quickly through it so I could understand what the most difficult aspects of that assignment were and mostly what not to do and where I need to focus my time on my second attempt now that I have a better grasp of the software after the first attempt. The second attempt, I would start from scratch again, and I was able to focus more on the craft and work more quickly because I already knew the tools from my first attempt and what went wrong and what went right. The second attempt was always better than the first. This technique has also taught me how to work quickly as I was doing twice as much work as my classmates in the same amount of time. It also taught me not to be too precious with my work that I can fail quickly and correct my mistakes just as quick, and it got me conditioned to starting over. Our industry is an iterative process, and many times you may have to start over so you might as well get used to it early in your training and your career. The opposite of this strategy would be incredibly careful and methodical and do something only once and try to make it just perfect. Research has shown that this is a terrible way to go about learning and producing your best work. For you to become proficient at your craft, you must get through loads of subpar work, and the quicker and with the higher volume you can get through that phase, the faster you will learn and begin creating decent and maybe great work. Trying to be perfect from your first day is a huge waste of your time. Let me share with you an excerpt from the book called Art and Fear that demonstrates this idea. It starts, "The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple. On the final day of class, he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group. 50 pound of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot, albeit a perfect one to get an A. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged. The works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work and learning from their mistakes, the quality group had set theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay." That story clearly demonstrates this idea to do more work quicker to improve. My mentor in school told me, the person animating the most, will be the best animator. So I set out to animate as much as possible to the point my classmates would joke that I have little minions doing my work for me at home as I was getting so much more done than them. The secret was simply just sitting down and doing the work, and doing the work is all about constantly making decisions. I have experienced competing in hang gliding at a national level. I've flown for over six hours and over 100 miles to heights of over 13,000 feet. That sport is all about decision-making and has helped my animation. In hang gliding, you must make a decision every few seconds if you're going to stay in the air. We have no motors. So we're searching for thermals and clues to those thermals. It's an invisible dance with the air to stay flying for extended periods of time. It can also be a safety issue. If you do not want to land on trees or power lines, you must make the best decisions possible and quickly to stay in the air. Take this same idea into your work. Do not deliberate too long in any decision. That is where most people get to be too slow. They're afraid to fail, so they take way too long to make a decision and then actually do the work based on that decision. Should I move the foot over here or over there? Oh, I don't know. I'll try this other thing and then I'll try that. Just do it and move on. If it's a mistake, then fix it, but don't pontificate about every option available to you. You must make a decision so you can keep your work flying just like my hang glider. Let's take a quick break from the course, and I'll tell you about my initial journey into the industry and how I got my foot in the door. Then we will pick up this topic again about how to be your best with another important concept and skill you should consider. Thanks for watching. 11. My Story: In this video, I just want to talk candidly about my experience and how I got my foot in the door in the industry. I had no previous experience in animating. I had taught myself Photoshop and After Effects and Premiere, this is around 2006 or '07 and I had won some YouTube video contest. Back in the day, YouTube used to have video contests. Brands like I1 from Excedrin and Lipton Ice Tea, and Hewlett-Packard, they would pay YouTube to host contests for them, because, believe it or not, a video back then, as ironic to say now on a video I'm doing online, but video online used to be a rare thing so these big companies wouldn't have that capability on their own sites so they would pay YouTube to host these contests for them. I ended up winning. I think in one year, I won $60,000. At the time, I was working at a university. It was my first job. I was making maps and I was making I think $26,000 a year. So it was more than twice what I was making in my actual job that I went to school for. If I stayed in it I would have been earning more later, but the first year out of school and I'm already earning twice as much just by doing these actual, it was hang gliding videos. That was my niche and how I was able to compete with people all over the world in these contests, was because I was filming a subject that was pretty unique. Wing shooting wasn't around back then and so hang gliding, and it still is to me a pretty interesting subject. I was able to win some YouTube contests. Then I quickly over the course of the year, went broke. That's because I went freelance and I could not get enough work and the work I was getting I was pricing myself too low. That was a really good education on freelancing and the difficulties of that, and how to price my work, because if you're pricing your work so low, to get the work so you can underbid everyone, but it's not sustainable, then you're just driving yourself out of a job. There's no reason to take work that you're not getting paid for in a sustainable way, otherwise you're just working yourself out of a job and hurting the industry and others as well by bidding so low that it doesn't make any sense for you, and you'll eventually be broke anyway. You might as well bid at a reasonable price because otherwise it's pointless, because you're not going to be making work or paying bills anyways. I went broke after that year. I had to move in with my mom. That was also not great. I'm 26 at the time or so, and it was a pretty dismal time. I wasn't proud of that, that I had some success then made mistakes and then moved in with my mom, which is just the cliché, not a great thing to do, but it's sometimes necessary financially just to get yourself back on your feet. In that time, I was lucky and very fortunate I had an inheritance that came through from a family friend, who didn't have any children, and I got an inheritance of about $25,000. I had been eyeing Vancouver Film School for a while and that tuition by itself was around $50,000 for people who aren't Canadian. I had no money, but I had this $25,000 that I was going to be getting. The main thing, and when you're thinking about going to a school like Vancouver Film School or some other year for your program, is the cost of living. In Vancouver, it's not a cheap town. I was able to find a place that was I think it was $800 a month and it was a converted garage, and eventually the roof caved in and there was mold, and it was terrible by the end of that year as well. But I wasn't spending a ton of time in there because I was at school so much. I was just going there to sleep so I just found the cheapest place, but over the course of the year, your expenses are going to be about $25,000. So luckily with that inheritance, I had my expenses covered, but I still had to pay $50,000 in tuition. I did that on credit cards, which I don't necessarily recommend. It's a very risky move because the interest rates on credit cards are incredibly high and they can be 13-20 percent even. But I knew that this was the choice I was making. I'm going to take this risk and take on a bunch of debt at a very high interest rate, and I'm just going to work my butt off early in my career as soon as I graduate to be able to pay off this debt as soon as possible. All my money is going to go to pay off that debt so I can get rid of that interest payment, because it was so high, that over time would be another thousands and thousands of dollars. I went through school. I've talked a little bit about the success that I had there and why I think I was successful. I did all my assignments twice, I was working more hours than most people. If I had to do it differently, I would have taken better care of my body physically. My wrists started hurting, I have back problems now and I can talk a little bit more about that later, but that's one big thing that might be missed in some of your formal training here, is physically taking care of yourself because if you're hurt, then it doesn't matter how good you are because you can't work. Just even now at work, someone has taken weeks off of work because their wrists are in bad shape. Just really quickly, the one exercise that helped me was doing extension and flexion, I guess, I forget which one is which, but have your fingers out and bring your hands back as much as possible, rotate your wrists up, and then rotate them down with a fist closed. That strengthens and flexes everything in your forearm and your wrists. Anyway, that's how I got over it, but you need to start doing this stuff preemptively as you're training because you're about to put in a ton of hours sitting and hopefully standing. This is a standing desk, I can go up or down. But at most of the places you work, you'll have to have a doctor's note to have a standing desk. Anyway, back to school. How I got my first job was, the way Vancouver Film School works is the first six months you're learning everything and in the last six months you're working on a short film. I don't think necessarily that's maybe the best way to go about it because all that really matters is you're real. We're focused on making a short film and no one cares about a short film getting hired. They care about you're real and what you can show, body mechanics and all these things, I'll go over in another lesson. Anyway, six months into that program, I was listening to an NPR radio program and had heard about these guys who were filmmakers, but they were also trying to build this modular tractor thing for rebuilding a town basically. This is this topic view of saving the world. If something happened, they wanted one machine that could deal with crops and agriculture and then also building. So they were working on this crazy concept of this one tractor modular equipment. They have this environmental element to them, but they are also filmmakers. My degree in college was in forestry, so it piqued my interest. I researched them and found their e-mail addresses on their website, then I e-mailed them. I'm only six months into school, I don't have anything to show them, but I want to share these e=mails with you. This is, the language I used, what I said, and why I said it. If you go in the project files, you can find that e-mail in that sequence there. I e-mailed them six months into my school and all I said was basically, hey, I listened to this, I think that's great. Siggraph at the time, which is the biggest computer conference that has geared more towards entertainment in the last decade or so, what happened to be in Vancouver where I was, I thought maybe they would be there. I was interested in meeting them and I never heard back. Six months later, I followed up because I was graduating and I had a resume and a real now, I actually went in for the pitch there, I said super-simple, "Hey, looking for work as a 3D animator here's my stuff." I'd never heard from them and it's been six months, so I didn't expect anything. Then another month later, they actually got back in touch with me. I always forget to turn of the screensaver on this thing. There was a position that we are going to have eventually and eventually I got that position. The moral of that story is for me I found someone who I could connect with on a level other than just animating. You'll see in their response, they mentioned how they liked my extra curricular activities because I referenced my forestry degree and I referenced my short film was going to be in the forest. We had a very similar mindset towards the environment and incorporating film making. Culturally and in theory we were on the same page. I used that to my advantage to try to connect with them. Let's just imagine a big company, it gets 100 emails a day with people who are interested in getting work. You have to find in the shortest time possible with not many words because they're probably not going to read it if it's too long and they might not read it at all. But how can I connect with them and their work on a level that maybe no one else can from my personal experience. That's why it's important to have a life outside of this work so that it can inform and help you connect with others in the industry. You'll see in those emails how that went down but the subtle theory behind this is the first email, I didn't ask them for anything. I didn't ask them for a job. All I was saying was I liked their work, I like what they're doing, and I'd love to meet you guys sometime. That's it. I wasn't asking them for anything. That's one big mistake a lot of people make is they just go right in for the "Hey, can you give me a job? Hey, help me and I want a job," and it's like, well, first off, a lot of people can't get you jobs. You have to be able to do the work. You'll never get hired even if your best friend or your father works at the studio, well, maybe if he's the CEO or something, but, say your best friend works at a studio, they can't get you a job. That's not how this works. You still have to be able to prove you can do the work. You could have the best recommendation, but if you can't do the work, it doesn't matter. Back to the email. I didn't ask them for anything in the first email and they had never responded, and it's been six months so I think this is a cold lead anyways, meaning it's dead in the water so I might as well just go in for the ask for the job because they haven't responded anyway. That's why I just went ahead and asked on the second email because it's been so long and I hadn't heard anything that I didn't think it could hurt. That actually ended up working but it was patience. I wasn't getting frustrated with the process. I wasn't getting mad at them. Hey, you have a responded. Why aren't you? You don't care about a lot. There's emails like this that I get that people are just very angry in general. You just want to be as nice because that's reflecting who you're going to be if you get hired. You want to portray that in your emails as well. Very easy going, very nice, and not badgering someone. I didn't email them that first email and then email them the next day, "Hey didn't hear from you," or the next week, "Hey I didn't hear from you." I waited six months before I emailed them again. People appreciate that that you're consistent and you persevere, but you're not badgering them. I think that helped as well to grease the wheels to get them to be interested in my email and my work. Onto that job, I did not get paid much for that job and I knew that going into it. But I took that job because of what the job was and the job was, I was going to be animating basically an entire two-minute little short film for their company. It was basically just going to be me and some people they found on Craigslist, aka people with no experience or not great at work because you're not going to find great artists on Craigslist. I can tell you that much. That's not where people are hanging out. I knew it was going to be doing a lot of the work but the main reason why I took this job was because the CG supervisor of another studio was interested in Psyop was going to be there as well. I knew I would get a lot of face time with this person. Psyop is a studio I'd applied to many times and I'd never heard anything. In my mind, I thought, okay, I will take this job because I'm almost broke at this time I was living in Vancouver and it was a weird time of the year when I graduated around Christmas, not a ton of people are hiring at Christmas. I was having these bills due and I had to find work quickly. I had to take the work because it was only thing available to me and I was on the verge of being homeless like literally that place; the roof was caving in where I was staying and had to go sleep on the couch at a friend's house and storing stuff in my car. My car got broken into at one point. It was really brutal and I was broke. Not only broke, I was in $50,000 worth of debt and had no way of paying it. I had to take this job even though it didn't pay very well but I took it again because this CG supervisor, I knew I was going to get a ton of face time with him and if I could just get in front of him and show him how hard I work because some of that is hard to relay on a real. If you have a real, you could have worked on that real for 10 years and you're a really slow at working. But no one will know that all they see is that real. Some people especially with someone with no experience, are hesitant to hire them because they don't really know that you can work in a production, that you're production ready and I'll talk about that maybe a little more later. But so I knew if I could get in front of this guy, get face time, I can prove to him and he would have no other reason but to try to get me on at Psyop. Psyop is a commercial company. They do amazing work; they've done Super Bowl commercials for Coca-Cola. It's a massive studio and they do massive work. It was in LA and I wanted to get back to the United States and make money in American $ which was a higher currency at the time. I took that job, I was making very little money, but I worked my butt off. I worked super hard and I think it was working 80 hour weeks. This could have been like illegal labor law situation because they weren't paying the overtime which they probably should have been but it was stuff like that where I didn't care. I wanted to do the best job I could. I'd already signed up for the money. The money is the money. But now, what's left is what I do from this point forward. There were nights I slept in that place because there was so much to do and they were way understaffed. You'll never have one person animating entire two minutes of an hour. I would never accept that job. Especially for that much money. Who is terrible. Here's a picture, I was living in a friend's closet. So little money that I was getting paid. I couldn't even afford rent, and this was in San Francisco. I luckily had a friend. He actually had a studio apartment. So studio apartment had two closets and one was like as gear room. He's big rock climber. I had to lay down diagonally just so I could lay flat on the floor and that closet. It was right next to the front door of their apartments. I was working so late and leaving so early to get on the train because it was a commute that I would hardly ever see them anyways, but I had to lay down diagonally just to be able to sleep. Then my dog slept and one of the corners where my feet are, my head was in. It was just my mentality. This is like I will do whatever it takes to get this ball rolling. Also, because I have no other choice at this. I have a ton of debt and I am going to use my ability to work harder and do things that no one else will do, like sleeping on the floor in a closet. To my advantage, you have to use whatever you have to your advantage, be humble and just work as hard as possible to, in this situation, I was trying to prove myself so I could get the next job, because I knew this contract was going to end as soon as I finish animating that two minutes. That's going to be ended at job and I'm going to be back in the same situation because it's not like I was saving a ton of money to be able to bridge that gap for the next job. So I need to get the next job as soon as I could, and it actually worked out perfectly. It's having these very deliberate decisions and strategies going in that will pay off, and this paid off for me. The CGU supervisor saw how hard I worked. I didn't even have to ask him. I didn't even have to pitch that I wanted to work at Psi up when this was done because he was going to go back to Psi up. This was like his vacation and was doing these guys a favor really. I didn't even have to pitch the idea. We were eating one dinner one night at the little place, little studio, if you could call it that. He brought up the subject. He was like, what are you doing next? I said I'm looking for everything. I'm up for anything and he's like, have you applied to Psi up? I was laughing like many times and I've never heard from them. He said, "I'll just call so-and-so and I'll just tell them to send you an email or give me a call and get you on board." At the time I thought he was blowing smoke, but I think he was being honest. At the time he said, "You work faster than anyone I've ever worked with". He opened this Psi up studio in LA and he's been working for more than a couple of decades or maybe 20 years in the industry. So I definitely took that to heart. Sorry, the phone freaked out there for a second. I've got an amber alert on my phone. But so the idea is I set up this situation where, I could prove myself to this person and the rest took care of itself. He pitched the idea that I worked for Psi up afterward and that they needed people that worked as quickly as I did. Again, going back to the doing two assignments in school, really paid off because I was used to working that fast. I was having to work twice as fast as everyone else to do assignments twice in the same amount of time. That helps conditioned me. I just used to working that faster. I didn't know any other way to work because that's what I did every week in school. In commercials and really in most work environments, they value speed. The quality, you can slow down and maybe get some quality. But really when there's deadlines and stuff has to get done, so they really value speed. I think that's what's not emphasized enough. That was in my school and most schools is how quickly you need to work. That was my advantage there. He noticed I got the job at Psi up and ended up working there. Then they offered me a staff position, and the next job though, at this it's so weird how this stuff happens. Months and months of applying, nothing happens. Then the same week, I was offered a staff position at that Psi up. I was offered a staff position at another studio, and I had found this other studio called Moon Bought Studios, they no longer really exist. But at the time they had just won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, they'd beat up Pixar even. That caught my attention and I tried to figure out who are these people that were in Louisiana. This is another thing going back to like knowing your industry. I was paying attention. You have to be paying attention and look for opportunities everywhere. The first job was because I was listening to NPR and I heard this random story about people who combined my interests of the environment and film making. Then that led to my second one because I knew I could get in front of this supervisor and then I was watching the Oscars and that led to my next job. So you always have to be keeping an eye out and being watchful and be paying attention to your industry, what's happening, who's doing what? So that you can look for opportunities, because what happened with the Oscar studio is they had finished that project, had gone through all these film festivals, but there was no new work coming in. They had banked all their ideas of making that studios successful on winning an Oscar. The time between a finished that project and the time they won the Oscar was like months and months and there's no work. Everyone who worked on that project left to go keep working. By the time they won an Oscar that they had like an empty studio and they had to hire all new people. This was an Oscar winning studio. So you never know, what opportunities some people might see that me like, they won an Oscar. There's no way I could work there when in reality, they were desperate for people because of that situation that I described. Anyway, that's part of my story. I'll end it there because I've rumbled on long enough, but I think the key takeaways just emphasize everything else that I'm teaching and why I'm telling you what I'm telling you because I've seen it work for myself and because it's helped me. Hopefully it'll help you, and thanks for watching, and let's get back to the course in the next lesson. Thanks for watching. Bye. 12. Permission To Fail: Permission to fail. Give yourself permission to fail. During the initial learning phase. Do not try to prove yourself to anyone. When you're not trying to prove yourself, you'll be less defensive when receiving feedback. Which will increase your ability to learn when you're open, not insecure, and can hear the improvements you need to make from critiques which will usually come from your instructor. Why failing and receiving feedback about it can be difficult Is because there's uncertainty in yourself on whether or not you will get in a good place with your work or not. But what's ironic is you'll get there quicker if you don't focus on proving yourself. But are more open to focusing on development, not justifying or being defensive about your work while you're learning. Here's the kicker, you are always learning. So to a degree, this mindset will always be helpful, especially as you get your first job. I want to spend a moment and touch on a few topics that are a little more advanced. But something to keep in mind as you near the end of your initial training period, that's not just about getting your first job, but what it will be like at your first job. That's the idea of the evolution of the animation student. The sooner you can evolve, the quicker you'll succeed and break into the industry and do well in it. When you take a course, you get a bit of hand-holding from an instructor who is hopefully nice and polite, gives feedback almost as suggestions and he's very gentle with you. This sets an expectation that's what working in a studio will be like, because that's all you know. Your first job will most likely be a wake-up call to what production is really like. That's why I'm speaking to this issue of misplaced expectations that your first job will be just like school. Your supervisor will be just like an instructor figure to you and give you feedback just like when you were in school. They most certainly will not. The dynamic between teachers-students at a school is not really the same as employer-employee. Your boss might be short and to the point of almost being rude compared to the instructor you had at school. They might contradict themselves and leave you to figure it out, or you might not receive any direction at all and are expected to work it out for yourself, until they decide they like it. So the sooner you can shift your mindset from a student-instructor relationship into a professional and production ready mindset, the quicker you'll succeed at getting your first job and doing well at it. I never believed production ready was a legitimate concern until I saw it first hand with people who were not production ready. I worked as a lead at a studio that hired some junior animators at their first job. When I gave them instruction on what tasks to do and how to do them or gave them notes, I constantly had to repeat myself. I would tell them to do something they would understand and say they do it, nod their head and go off. But then they wouldn't proceed not to do the thing that I asked them to do and they would follow me to either explain it again or fix it myself. One rule of thumb is if you're on their side is never try and ask the same questions twice. Always have a notebook and pen near you to take notes on exactly what you're being told by a leader supervisor. Shawn Kelly has a great example in the next interview about this. At your first job, you must be ready to pay attention and be professional. It's no longer a classroom and you're expected to perform, not when you feel like it, but when you're asked and expected to by your employer and the leadership that's in place like a supervisor or lead. As your expectation gets destroyed, that your employer will be just like an instructor, you may react by being too defensive when given notes and receiving feedback. Also feel the need to complain a lot because things aren't perfect, like rigs aren't finished or assets aren't done that you need and you have to do something you weren't expecting to or fix a redo issues that were unforeseen or that were were not even if you're making. Production ready means you're solution oriented, no back talk or defensiveness, be a team player. Once you do this enough, you might start to get so fed up with things you may have initially been complaining about. That you'll start to fix them yourself without anyone asking you to or you might be like some people and just want to do the bare minimum. You'll never really progress higher in your career from your first few jobs. If you're the type of person who wants to show up and have everything handed to you ready to go without any struggle, you will never step up to this challenge and reach a higher level in your career. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to do the work others don't see it needs to be done or doesn't want to do. At the job I mentioned when I was a lead, I was given that role after I was hired just as a normal animator. Because I took the initiative over two weekends to fix problems no one else was recognizing yet that would have killed production if they were not fixed. I explained the issues to my producer and that I could come in over these couple of weekends to get approval to do that. I could fix them by taking that initiative and ownership of the problems that weren't even of my own making. There were some other animators that had made mistakes and I was fixing their mistakes. So the producer promoted me to lead on a project by taking this initiative. These kinds of examples and concepts are a little higher level than just getting your first job and more what to do once you're in it. So in the next lesson, let's take a step back and discuss another concept to help frame your experience, learning and developing as an artist so you can stay motivated through frustration. But before we jump into that, let's take another quick interview break with Shawn Kelly, lead animator at ILM, co-founder of Animation Mentor, and luckily a friend of mine. Thanks for watching. 13. Shawn Kelly Interview: I'm excited to share with you a conversation with Shawn Kelly. He's been at Industrial Light and Magic for over 22 years, and he was my mentor when I worked there, and an all-around, nice guy. Honestly, he's one of the biggest figures in the industry to me, because he's also the co-founder of one of the first and largest online animation schools Animation Mentor. We cover a variety of topics in this conversation that really take advantage of Shawn's experience in the industry, as a professional animator and as an animation instructor. I hope you enjoy our conversation. So thanks. This is Shawn Kelly. He is a co-founder of Animation Mentor, and a elite animator at Industrial and Magic, and thanks for joining me and talking about how to break into the animation industry. Yeah. Thanks, Rodney. So it's the big overarching question, is kind of a big question, but what would be for someone who's thinking about breaking into the industry, maybe they have a different job, a paid job, and they're trying to figure out how to break in, like from an education standpoint, I know animation mentor would be a really good option. From the mentality and time management, is that the best way to jump into figuring it out? Well, I think that there's a lot of paths to becoming an animator. Some people have taught themselves, which I do think is possible. I think it's thing, it takes a lot longer to get there. Not having somebody to give you constructive feedback, and to really walk you through, not just what the principles of animation are but how they all interrelate and connect to each other, and affect each other, and are affected by each other. So finding some program where you have a teacher or a mentor, that could be a traditional brick and mortar school, it could be animation mentor, or an online course. Yeah. I do think that it's always going to be a big question of, how do I break into the industry? Which is a little bit, in a way it's a little bit different from how do I learn animation. You know what I mean? There's different paths to learning animation maybe, but the way you break into the industry is by learning animation, and by that a strong demo reel. Really, that's what it is really going to boil down to. People will say that networking helps and it's who you know, and I don't want to totally discount that because who you know, and making connections and networking at someplace like CTN, or Lightbox, or wherever, those opportunities do connect you with people who might help you get an interview. But I don't believe, especially at any size-able studio, that those connections get you a job. You know? I can, if I like your animation and I think that you're a good person that I would love to work with, I could recommend maybe we interview you but I can't just say; hey, I love, we're hiring this person. Do you know what I mean? Also that I would never want to stake my whole reputation at the studio on whether or not somebody could do the work unless I knew for sure they can do the work. So even if I think you're the greatest person in the world, it's going to come down to whether or not your demo reel is strong enough or shows enough potential, that we think you can do the type of work that we're doing. Yeah, I see that a lot with students who think, I need to go the certain school or get a certificate. I'd like to show that I did a course or something and it's that I echo what you saying, the demo reel, at the end of the day you got to show you can do the work. Yeah. When we sit down to look at reels, we'll get cover letter, resume, all that kind of stuff, and I like to read the cover letters. I want to see what you get a little hint of a personality there and see what people are onto. But typically what I would prefer, what I would do is I would look at the cover letter and then I watch the demo reel. If I love the reel, then I'll look at the resume, and see where did they work, where did they go to school, did they go to school, have they worked somewhere? Those questions are secondary, to whether or not the demo reel was awesome. Did the body mechanics look believable? Was the animation entertaining and powerful, or emotive, or fun, or whatever they're going for? That stuff is so much more important than whether or not they have a degree from somewhere, or attended any particular course. Now I do know that having a degree can help if you are trying to get a work visa. If you're trying to work in the US from outside the US, that's when having a degree can make a difference. But other than that I've never heard education discussed in any way that it's like, a degree is necessary or something. Most of the people I work with don't have a degree, I don't think, in the animation,. Yeah. The only times seen that helpful is someone having computer science degree, and that lends them until the question of; oh, you can write tools or do. They even have adjacent skills, but yes. Totally, that could open up other doors for sure. What do you see as the most common mistake people make on their demo reels? It's a good question. Well, let's see.. So many One is repeating shots, show the same shot twice in a row, don't do that. One is long periods of black between shots, don't do that. One is a long title card with your name that goes for like 20 seconds, don't do that. All of those types of problems or errors are things to avoid in the service of keeping us away from fast forwarding or skipping ahead. I used to always, especially back in the day when we were reviewing real-time VCRs with a remote on DVD. I always used to tell people that a demo reel reviewers remote control has the fast forward button, but no rewind button. So if somebody's taking forever, they'll fast-forward to get to the next thing, but if their next thing when they stop it's halfway through your big shot. They've got a 100 demo reels to look at. They're not going to rewind to back it up to the beginning and find where that shot started. A lot of them won't anyway. So those things, design your demo reel in a way that you keep people away from fast-forward, in general. Whether or not it's good, or whatever. That's one thing. Animation wise, a mistake can be sending a reel that is not ideal or appropriate for the role that you're applying for. Sometimes I'll see an animation reel that has a lot of modeling on it, or lighting tests, and stuff like that, and that tends to not usually go over great. If you're applying for a modeling position, they don't want to see the character running around. They want to see your model, your sculpture. They want to see it in spline, and with texture. They just want to see turntables of your models. If you're applying for animation, we want to see it brought to life, moving. That's what you're going to do and that's what we want. Yeah. Lighting is not as important, like rendering isn't that? Like zero important, I think. We just want to see you brought that character to life. So if it's lit nicely, that's bad. I don't mean it like that. But sometimes we'll see a real that feels like it's applying for four different jobs, and even if you are really good at modeling, or lighting, or something, I think it's better to come off like pretend all you do 24/7, is thinking about animations, and if you're just do animation reel and this is all I focus on. I feel like that often makes a bigger impact on an animation demo reel review crowd, than look I know a bunch of things. So that's one. Another thing are just trying to get shots on your reel that show a variety of skills, is a good idea, and there's nothing wrong with a shot, this is on somebody nowhere else. There's nothing wrong with a shot of two characters sitting at a diner having a conversation. I love seeing those, that's great. But a lot of them or else have four of those, and aren't telling me that much about you as an animator. Beyond, it is showing us your timing and acting skills, and a little tiny bit of body mechanics maybe it's like picking up a drink and putting it back down. But I want to see if you could make that character stand up, and carry the plates to the sink, or whatever. That is much more difficult in a certain way. Well, I don't want to say it's more difficult, acting is also super difficult, but I guess I want to know if you can do both, and a lot of demos are just people sitting and talking. I can't pull the trigger on hiring somebody or making the recommendation to hire somebody, if I don't know if they can make that character get up and walk around. So if you're thinking about your next shot for your demo reel, I always like to tell people, and I tried to think of something that shows your full skill-set. If you want to do in acting test that's great, but have them doing something while they're acting. Whether it be walking on the beach having a conversation, picking up a shell and check them out, or whatever. Just get out and move around. That's what I think people are hungry to see. I don't know if it's so much a mistake, as much as it is just where people are at in their demo reel evolution, but a lot of reels are also only one style, or only one type of innovation. Like photo reel versus cartoony. Exactly, and the majority of animation jobs out there, are not cartoony. The majority of them are, if you take into account are there couple of places, are there video game places, are there visual effects places, a lot in a animation, and even a lot of feature work. A lot of that is a little bit stylized, but not wildly stylized. Animation students tend to work in a more wildly stylized way, so a lot of their animation on the reels is more stylized than most of the jobs maybe you are looking for, and that's not necessarily bad. That's fine actually, but a lot of studios will feel a lot more comfortable giving you a chance at hiring you, if you also show some diversity of style, and just even have one or two more realistic shots on there, or get some animals and creatures. That stuff on a demo, it all takes it to this whole other level, again opening up more doors. I think we lost you for a second. Oh. Are you there? Yeah. Maybe. Yeah. That's been bugging out a little bit. All right. Sorry. I think, no it's fine. I think it's just the Internet, it's bugging out every once in a while, but the last thing I heard was, oh is it? Yeah, and somebody just texted me that it's hailing. But yeah, the last thing we had is just having a range of styles, like to your earlier point of not just having that one diner shot over and over. Same thing in styles it sounds like. Yeah, exactly. The same thing in style. As soon as you can, getting some diversity of style on your demo reel is a good idea. As soon as you can get something on there that isn't just a biped, an animal or a creature or somebody like that. So many jobs out there are looking for that kind of work and it's very hard right now to find reels with strong creature work, for example, whether it's stylized or not. Yeah. I know you got to run so this will be the last question. I'm curious about once someone does get a job or their first gig, what do you think is important soft skills to learn? Say they have the animation jobs, what's it like for people to be production ready and get prepared to actually work in a studio environment? Bring a notebook to use. That's something. I brought notebooks. You did. You were very good at always having a notebook which is good. But yeah, there's waiters at restaurants that they'll take the whole order from you, and you're like, "Are you really remembering all of this?" Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don't. I've worked with animators who never want to bring a notebook and always don't do one of the things, so that's one thing. I would say try to be as organized as you can with the animation notes that you get, but also with the time that you have during the day. Time management is an art just like animation. Learning how to manage your time and trying to stay disciplined about how you're spending that time I think is a good idea. That can be small things like some tips that I got when I started at ILM were the 15 minute rule. Like if you run into a problem, spend 15 minutes trying to figure it out and then say, "Okay, I need help. I don't know how to do this. I can't make this work. Does anybody know how to fix this?" If you're at a studio situation, probably somebody can help you. If you're at home then maybe call a friend or talk to your buddies or whatever. It's a little harder if you're a home, but once you're in a studio, which is the question, I would say the 15 minute rule is good. Another one is not to render after every little fix you do, so maybe you get 10 notes on your shot, I would say do all 10 and then play blast it and then see, well, these three didn't quite work. That'll save you time versus doing one play blast it, noodle it, play blast it, noodle it, play blast it because maybe that one didn't need to be noodled so much once you did all the others. It's better to do all of it, play blast all of it, and then see where you're at. Little things like that can help you with time management. I would say, make sure that you learn the hierarchy of the studio that you've just got hired at. Like who is in charge of who? Who should you be listening to? That can get a little tricky. They maybe have a leading animator and maybe you also have a sequence supervisor and maybe you also have an animation supervisor, and then there's the director of the movie. That's like a definite order of who has the most say. But it can get a little confusing if the lead says one thing and the Sup. says another thing, what should you do? Who's in charge? Probably should do what the Sup. says, but you should probably also tell the lead so that he knows what's going on. Those kinds of things I think, figuring out the politics of that is a good idea. As soon as you can, I'd find someone at that studio you just started at that you can show your work to that isn't your lead. It is just where you can bounce ideas off of and it could just be the random stranger that you've been sat next to, and they don't even have to be an animator. You can just say, "Hey, do you want to take a look at this and tell me if it makes sense. Do understand what's going on?" Because a lot of times that can help you fix some bigger issues before you show it to your lead which can be nice. But generally, at a good studio the lead is there to help you and not to judge you and that kind of stuff. That's awesome. This has been super great. There's a lot to unpack here. There's a lot of dense information that I really appreciate you sharing with your experience. Yeah. Totally. I'll do one more. Okay. I like the hat. Thanks. I actually have the Ready Player One stuff on too. Nice. Awesome. It's totally coincidental. It just happens to be. I think that the last question would be around interviews. What should people expect to discuss in interviews and be prepared for that process? That's a great question. Generally, I like to tell people to prepare but not over prepare. You don't want to sound super rehearsed or anything. It is good to think about what your answers might be to more standard questions. But more importantly, I think it's nice to come with some questions. I think that you've seen more professional if you have questions about the studio also and a lot of our interviews will end with like, do you have any questions for us? If they do, I honestly feel like it seems more professional than if they don't. It's probably going to have questions about, well, they could be like, could you tell me what a typical workday might be like for an animator? What do you guys do? Or it could be anything like what kind of tools do you use? Do you guys do motion capture? So anyway, coming with some questions is a good idea. I think being eager to help in any way you can, I think is good. If that's how you legitimately sincerely feel, you should communicate that. If that's not how you feel, don't communicate that because I don't want you to trick us. Yeah. I don't know. I feel like just kind of being yourself and when we're interviewing somebody, we already like your work. You don't need to worry about impressing with your talents or anything. That's why you're in the interview, you already impressed everybody. I think at that point, it's just trying to figure out like maybe we only have two openings and there's four people that we all thought would be great, and then it's trying to figure out who might be the best fit for the team or the style of work we're doing or sometime they can focus on the attitude, like who has the attitude that is going to mesh the best here. I really think, just be yourself. Know that we've all been there. We all know that it's scary. I was terrified. It was totally terrifying. I think there were 11 people in there. Oh, wow. Yeah. I was beyond intimidated. I remember the first question I got and it freaked me out. I didn't have any answer for this at all. Was, I sat down there with all these people. I met all these people and then they said, "Well, let's take a look at your demo reel, and then they played my reel which I was scared and embarrassed because it was a student reel with supervisors and stuff. Then the first question was, so what would you do differently about your demo reel if you could do all these shots again?" I was not at all ready for that because in my mind I was like. That was a great question. Because I finally got it good enough to present somewhere. I think I just like said yes to them, I could have made this have a nicer arc and I wish that that one was a little heavier. I think that worked but I remember I wasn't at all ready for that. That's a great question. Yeah. Thanks so much for your time. Wait. I want to tell you one more mistake on demo reels. For sure. Yeah. You don't know who your audience is and I'm very against censoring art. But if you're making a demo reel for the purpose of getting a job, I think it's important to keep in mind that you don't know who's going to review that reel. You don't know what background it is. Because I have heard of two different situations where demo reels were thrown in the garbage because they were offensive to the reviewer. In one case was formerly a pastor. You just don't know who you're making these shots for and I've seen stuff on demo reels that are pretty borderline misogynistic, racist, ultra violent. The type of work we do sometimes does get ultra violent, but if it's something that you're choosing to do personally at your house in your basement and it's this super violent thing with Nazis and the face is exploding at the screen. It does make us think like, is that what I want to sit next to for the next six months. It's concerning. So anyway. That's the only thing you get to show about who you are, your personality. You might second guess those. The demo is the centerpiece of what you're showing to represent yourself. Exactly, just be aware. I think that the main broad note is just be aware that you're creating that demo reel to get a job, and you don't know who is going to be looking at it in judging it. I would be really aware of making fun of any religion or using a lot of swearing or having a sexist joke or something. Do what you want, it's your art, but there are consequences. If you are trying to work for someone else, that's a good point. There are so many times when I get questions from students and I'm like, that's a good question. I never even thought people would think to do that. It's good to hear. I haven't reviewed as many demo reel as you have so it's interesting to hear that side of it. I appreciate it. Yeah. Totally. Cool man. Thanks so much for having me and best of luck with it, you're doing some cool stuff. I appreciate it. I can't wait to see what you guys are working on and everything's coming out soon and good luck with finishing everything up, and we'll stay in touch and I'll talk to you soon. All right man, take care. Thanks. Bye. Bye. 14. Frustration Is Natural: Frustration is natural. In this lesson, I wanted to discuss an important graph of basically everyone's development as an artist. This graph is attributed to painter Marc Delissio but can be applied to any art like animation. The first line we'll focus on is our observation ability that I've already talked about is incredibly important and as we learn and spend time observing and evaluating as a deliberate practice, it will improve and plateau several times over our career. This ability will typically precede your technical ability, meaning what you can actually make. Think about why that is. You must first be able to observe and visualize something to be able to create it. Naturally, observation will precede improvements and technical ability. What this will lead to is periods of frustration. Because when your ability to observe outpaces your technical ability, you'll be able to tell that your work is not where you want it to be, but you won't yet be able to improve your work. You can identify problems, but you can't solve them yourself until your technical ability catches up with your observation ability. You go through this again and again. Your perception of your own ability plays a part as well. When there are times that your observation and technical ability match, you may think you're better than you are, which can lead to that plateau. When you're frustrated, you will probably think you're not as good as you actually are. It's only natural to feel frustrated. But remind yourself, you're only frustrated because you've actually improved your ability to observe. That's a good thing and now it just takes time and patience and some deliberate practice to get your technical ability to match. Recognized frustration is a natural part of the process and even a good thing because it indicates you've improved your ability to observe. If you continue to practice your technical ability, it'll soon match the quality you expect to see in your work as you observe. One other layer of frustration I see my students portray is typically of the technical kind. Like they're enrolled in one of my classes and something isn't working for them in the software as they follow along with the course. It's really common for me to get these kinds of messages that are like, I did everything exactly as you did and this doesn't work. They're mad, frustrated and indirectly taking it out on me in a passive aggressive way by conveying, they can't be doing anything wrong because they're following along with a lesson. So the insinuation is, there must be something wrong with my lesson and instruction, or the software. In their frustration, nine times out of 10, the issue they're complaining about is of their own making and they actually are 100 percent at fault. But they've closed their mind off to that possibility as demonstrated in the kind of language they use to describe the issue in a defensive manner like, there's no way they could have done anything wrong. This is a huge red flag to me as an instructor and as someone who works in the industry, as the exact type of person I do not want to work with. Do not cultivate this mindset even when you're frustrated and angry, because if that's how you approach your work at your first job, then no one will want to work with you. It's natural to be frustrated, but don't signal your insecurity by being defensive when a problem arises, that it couldn't possibly be your own fault. This indicates to me this student or employee will never take the initiative to really diagnose problems and be really thorough with troubleshooting when problems arise, they need their handheld and will take up much more attention and time than someone who is more self-motivated, open-minded, and solution-oriented. In the next lesson, I go over some practical exercises that are typical defined on a junior animators real. Thanks for watching. 15. Demo Reels Part 1: Demo reels. Let's discuss demo reels. First, let's talk about what is typical to find on a junior animators demo reel and some considerations around creating one, since it is the number one thing employers will consider when deciding to offer you a job or not. It's not your resume or where you went to school. Your chance of getting hired is almost entirely dictated by the quality of work on your reel. That in an interview, are the two main components of getting hired, and we'll discuss the interview process later. If you have no experience as an animator and you're applying to an appropriate level job like a junior position, then whoever is doing the hiring and watching your reel, is not going to expect to see amazing renders and high level work just yet, unless you're just a total superstar. You must nail down the fundamentals in a demo reel. Those exercises that are most typical to demonstrate your skills with the fundamentals are, a walk cycle of a bipedal and or quadrupedal or some other creature. A stylized or character specific walk cycle, like the baby verse old person with a cane example I gave earlier a run cycle, jumping over an obstacle, lifting a heavy object, throwing or catching an object, and pantomime acting. Pantomime means without sound. To demonstrate you can create appealing animation without relying on talking or faces of a character. Research Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin's silent movies for inspiration on how entertaining non-speaking acting can be. Like I said earlier, most communication is nonverbal. You should be able to demonstrate a thinking character or creature without sound. Some hiring personnel will watch a reel with the sound turned off anyways, so all your animation should speak for itself without the use of sound. Many new students want to jump right in into animating dialogue shots for their reel, because they see that as the most meaty and hero shots and movies they watch. But they typically haven't mastered fundamentals yet and so they're speaking acting shots really suffer from not focusing on the fundamentals first. The fundamentals I'm referring to are the principles of animation, like I've mentioned before, like squash and stretch. They are 12 in total as outlined in the illusion of life book. These were developed in the early days at Disney. So some are specific to drawing, and these are by far not the only 12 things to consider or learn about animation. The main area to focus on is making sure the weight and timing of your animation seems believable. Even if you're doing more stylized cartoony animation. Make it work for the physics of that world too. Many new animators lack weight in their animation and everything feels like it's a little bit underwater and weightless and floaty. Since newer animators might get distracted by how setting a few key frames will create motion in the software. But to be good, it takes controlling a rig for every frame to make sure it does what you want it to do. The computer will not animate for you. It will help, but you must be in control of your animation at all times and make sure it's doing exactly what you want on every frame. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to make a keyframe on every frame or what's called animating on ones. But just make sure what's happening between key frames is what you want and not just what the computer is giving you. Some jobs will ask for a short description with your reel and it's a good idea to put it in the description as well for wherever you post your reel to YouTube or Vimeo down in the description. As a student, it won't be as important since, but you'll still want to do it. But it's most important once you start working in the industry to be clear about what you did in a shot because so many people end up working on a single shot. It can be hard to know who did what. That's why you might see that asked or requested for a short description with your reel, because that becomes more difficult as you start to work on movies and, and commercials. I gave you a list of what's typical to see in a junior demo reel. They're basically showing you understand by mechanics with maybe one pantomime shot to show you can make acting decisions. If you're more advanced and possibly an acting shot with dialogue. But this should only come after you've mastered body mechanics and the exercises like the ones I've mentioned. Okay, so here's an assignment for this lesson. Turn on a movie you wished you could have worked on and then fast forward to the credits. If it's a visual effects movie, then all the digital artists will be listed after the live action credits. If it's a fully animated film, you'll see the animators in there. You want to find someone's name under a role you want to have, like animator, then search for their name online and find their work and see if you can find the earliest demo reel. Usually it will be on Vimeo and study what they included. Reverse engineer, what people who are working on the movies you want to work on did to get to where they are now. But do not focus on their newer demo reels. You're just starting out, so you should try and find their work when they were also starting out. Do that until you have at least three of these early demo reels and study them as examples of what someone who became successful has done. I'll end this lesson by saving some time in case you want to see my first demo reel right out of school and I'll show you that. In the next lesson, let's continue to discuss demo reels. Thanks for watching. She got me this. Okay. Because I would always leave my cereal boxes open and the cereal will get stale. So one day I came home and she had this waiting for me. Keeps my cereal fresh and now I have the freshest cereal. 16. Demo Reels Part 2: Demo reels part 2. The way to make your reel standout beyond showing you understand the principles is by showing you can make interesting choices. Interesting choices will make your reel stand out from the pack. What I mean by choices is do not just use the first idea that comes to your mind when animating. Sometimes it might be the best, but usually it's not. In the previous lesson, I gave a list of ideas for a junior demo reel. What was the first thing you thought of when I said those exercises? May have been the most vanilla version of that idea, like literally just someone walking as normal as possible for the walk cycle. An interesting decision for that walk would include adding character to a walk cycle. Maybe a pirate with a wooden leg or someone in a really good mood or really sad mood, you're reel will only be your best work, not everything you've ever done. We want to first try a very basic example of the exercise to figure out how to do it, and if your demo reel, try and make a more interesting decision like I've discussed. Imagine a professional soccer player. All we typically see of them are their highlight reels and when they're at their best, scoring goals or saving goals. A highlight reel doesn't include all the practices and exercises they did that led up to a game winning goal. You should approach your animation in a similar way. Animate for the sake of learning, not just to make something for your demo reel. Once you can master basic exercise, then try and take an interesting decision or angle on that exercise and make it for your reel. This goes back to the idea of doing exercise twice, you'll hopefully be doing anyways. First try and do the most basic approach, so you can learn the baseline ideas about an action. Only after you've gotten comfortable with that, where you want to try and add those interesting choices in for a demo reel specific work that will hopefully separate yours from the pack. You should also get used to doing work. No one will ever see anyways, like when you're learning the fundamentals because that actually happens all the time in production. Let me give you a quick side story. I animated on Suicide Squad at Sony, and that movie went through a lot of edits, and even did re-shoots late into production. That changed a lot of the story. But we had been animating shots throughout this tumultuous period of re-edits and re-shoots, and it was very common to spend weeks on shots only to have them cut from the film. Not because they animation wasn't any good, it was because they were making edit or story changes and decided to cut out entire sections of the film or change a character from a speaking role to not speaking. So I worked on that film for seven months, animating all kinds of shots, some incredibly MIDI, and others not. All the best shots I worked on never made it into the film. After those seven months, I only had a three-second shot to show for all that hard work. Here it is. So you must become fairly zen about this industry and your work because you can spend months of difficult work taking notes, doing many iterations on a shot, back-and-forth, polishing it to be the best thing you've ever made, only to have it cut from the film and never be able to show anyone. It sucks. But that's also what you're being paid to do. You're helping someone else realized that their vision. So you have to put your own frustrations to the side to be the best employee you can be so you can stay hired. This will be an area that will sneak up on you in the early part of your career because we are asked to really invest ourselves into the work to make it good. So when it gets cut, it can hurt. The quicker you can cultivate this idea on putting your best work forward and not become attached to it, that'll really help you. Let me give you an example from another culture. Tibetan monks, they create intricate Mandela's out of sand for various reasons, events, and celebrations. They painstakingly will drop sand grain after grain to build an amazing image, it takes many hours of work and they wear masks so their own breath doesn't disturb the delicate sand grains there laying down. After all this difficult work, the sand is swept up and carried off. Their work gone and usually contained or put back into the earth and a ceremony of some kind. But they invested hours and hours of hard labor on something that was always meant to be in permanent. That's how we must approach our work so we can keep the right perspective on the small part we play in a larger team and project and appreciate the practice and work it takes to make something worthy and putting on your demo reel. Don't think your time is going to waste. If you're doing exercises, you are not ultimately going to be putting on your reel, because those exercises will help your demo reel by making you a better artist and improve the work you will include on your real. I spent one year of full-time studying animation. In the last six months of my program, I only took two days off. I work seven days a week, usually 12-18 hour days for six months. After all that hard work, I had a short film and a real I was happy with when I graduated. But my mentor told me that I better have new work on that reel in three months. He was right. What he meant is you constantly have to be updating your real and improving yourself. Even after I put all that hard work in school, I could not just relax and stop and hope that reel got me work. I continued to work on shots after I graduated from school and actually won the 11 second club twice with those shots I did in my spare time. As soon as you get comfortable, you're doing it wrong. You must stay sharp and update your reel if you want to be successful. By the very nature of you just starting out on your journey into the industry, that would mean you don't have a ton of work to show yet, but over time, you will have more and more work to show and we'll want to start to make a real for each studio you apply for that is specific to the kind of work that studio does and is known for. I've got another story for you. I took a class recently from a veteran Pixar animator, and I wanted to get his feedback on my real, which I'm very proud of since there's big blockbuster movies on. But they're all visual effects films, not fully animated like Pixar movies. I knew that would be a possible issue with him since he from Pixar. But I thought a movie is a movie and it shows I can work at a high level. I showed him that reel and he told me to delete all of my film work off of the reel. I was surprised. I spent ten years working professionally on some major films with big studios like ILM that I was proud of and he wants me to just delete all of that work. Here were his reasons and they are specific the Pixar. He said another animation studio might tell you something different and they will, and he's right. But this goes to show how specific you must be when you get far enough along in creating a body of work when you tailor a reel for specific studio. He wanted me to delete all of my visual effects film work, but keep all my personal animated shots I did in my spare time that was more in line with a fully animated film like Pixar makes. Each studio and even each supervisor will have their own opinions of what they want to see, so you must know who you are applying to, to be able to make something they will be able to easily imagine putting you to work on. So research those studios. That's the point. You want to make this the easiest decision for them to make. When they're reviewing hundreds of reals, you don't want to create any friction in their mind on whether or not you can do the exact kind of work they would be assigning you if you were to get hired. Creating a demo reel is not a one-time thing. It's a process of development over time. But now we've covered the first steps in creating one and the exercises to consider including and what's important to focus on. Let's knock out a few more issues. Do not use loud or obnoxious music. As I said, some people will have the sound turned off by default, so they aren't subjected to everyone's personal taste in music for hours on end when they're reviewing reels. So keep it simple when it comes to music or something that's easy on the ears. Your demo reel should not be longer than one minute when you're starting out. I know people who've gotten hired off of only one shot. It's all about the quality of your work. That will take time and quantity to make something of quality like I've already discussed. But what you ultimately share on your reel must be only your best work. Do not put everything you've ever made on your demo reel. You'll be judged not on the best shot on your reel, but on your worst shot. So make sure they're all good and do not include them if they're not. I also want to touch on the desire of many students to want to create a short film of a minute or more. Some programs will do a collaborative group projects. Others, like the school I attended, I created a short film on my own. I wish someone had told me to focus more on the animation exercises in class and less on making a short film. You're trying to get hired as an animator or an artist in some department, not a director of a short film. The short animation exercises that I've described are enough time to show the kind of person you are and the decisions you make. So focus as much as you can on animation and less on trying to prove yourself as a director. That's not the position you're trying to get hired for at a studio when you're starting out, you're trying to get work on a team of animators, or modelers, or something else. Also do not worry too much about the lighting and rendering. It can definitely be a nice touch, but the bulk of your time should be spent on the animation. A simple play blast out of Maya is sufficient if the animation is good. For this lesson's assignment, I want to leave you with some inspiration and with a practice of idea making. So take one of the examples I gave in the previous lesson of a walk cycle, run cycle, throwing, catching, lifting, or some similar basic action, and I want you to come up with three ideas from one of these actions. The three ideas need to include an interesting decision, meaning, make specific choices about everything. Is this person wearing hat? Is it a windy day? Is it night or day? Do they have shoes or sandals on? Does any of that effect the action you're performing? How did they feel right now? Did they just get really great news or really bad news? Are the energetic or they're tired? The more specific you get, the more interesting your shot will be. Write down three different takes on one exercise, then film yourself acting it out. I know this can be hard when you first start out, but filling references a vital part of animation and you need to get used to it. For this exercise, you don't have to actually use the reference, but just go through the practice of idea making and getting yourself in front of the camera performing so you can feel what the action feels like and inhabit for reference when you're working, if you decide to use it for animation. Now the inspiration part. Go on YouTube and look up Kevin Parry. Parry with an a. He is a really talented stop-motion animator who makes great YouTube videos. He has a series about various ways of doing the same thing, like 100 ways to walk. That'll give you a lot of great ideas. But finally, I will leave you with a character study from a Disney animation tests from the movie Big Hero 6. In this test, these talented animators took a simple exercise of sitting down and made it specific to each character of that film. Notice that the specific and interesting choices they made, and imagine watching this with only the silhouette of these characters visible and that you'd probably still be able to tell which character is which, even if you could only see their silhouette because they infuse so much character into their animation. Let's take a quick break from the course lessons for another interview with Jason Lee, who I will introduce in the next video. Thanks for watching. 17. Jason Interview: In this interview, I speak with Jason Lei, who just landed his first job in the animation industry at Naughty Dog, and is one of my co-workers. I wanted to speak with him because he recently switched careers, from working at Microsoft as a software engineer. He has very recent experience and knowledge of what it takes to get your foot in the door in the animation industry and switch careers. Before we take a listen to Jason, let's take a look at the real that got him hired. Jason, thanks for joining me. Thank you for having me. You have been in your first animation industry job for how long now? Probably six months, roughly. Can you walk me through the process of, what job did you have before this? How did you get your first animation job? Well, prior to this animation job, I switched careers entirely. Prior this I had a software engineering background and I worked as a software engineer. You went to school. I went to school for computer engineering and I had a job coming out of college for computer engineering. I worked there for, maybe four to five years. In the software engineering job? At a programming job for four or five years. Do you have an American passport or? I do not. I'm not an American citizen, but I had to get sponsorship for my first job, employer sponsorship, to be able to stay in the States. You've got educated in the State. I did. That was a little easier transitioning, getting educations, that is sponsorship. I guess there's ways to extend your student visa, or for internships to work in the states and stuff. Also after graduating, you should be able to apply for, I guess Work Permit for up to a year. Don't quote me on any of this because it's been a long time. People can Google that. Please do. Sounds like there's a buffer zone. When you graduate you have a buffer zone [inaudible] There is. But I guess how it worked for me was after graduating, I already had secured a job and so they were able to line up the work employment, and all that figured out for me. Then after working for roughly four to five years, I was able to get my green card. I was legally able to work in the states after that, without a specific sponsor from an employee. You worked a software engineering job for four years. Same place? Same place. What was that transition, how soon into those four years did you to decide you wanted to switch careers and how do you go back to [inaudible]? Maybe it was like three years in. For me, personally, I'd never been super passionate about software engineering and programming. The whole time that I was going to school and also even the first job. I was glad to be employed and be able to stay in the States and all that. But like in terms of passion or, if I really felt like this is what I wanted to do, I always knew in the back of my mind, it really wasn't what I wanted. There just reached the point, a couple years into my job, I was looking for different hobbies or different outlets, creative outlets. I stumbled upon 3-D animation and that's where it started, a couple of years in. I started taking classes online and just slowly building that muscle. But when you start taking classes, was it still like a hobby or were you like, I'm switching careers? Were you like, let me see. It definitely started off as just, let me just dabble in this, because I'd always been interested in the animation and I've always loved animation growing up. When I was thinking about what to do, or what hobby you to pick up, 3-D animation felt like a good fit for me because it felt like there's some technical aspects that maybe my background would be helpful, or I would be able to apply my technical background too, but also have that creative, artistic side that I yearned for a little bit. It started off as a hobby, but as I was taking classes, I was just getting really into it. I fell in love with animation pretty much immediately. I just kept wanting to do it. Then I think maybe a year into those classes, I just decided. I felt I was at a point where I should probably try to do this full time, and so I quit my job and tried to focus on. Try to do it full-time meaning be a student of animation? Or try to get a job. You're trying to get a job. I reached the point, in my previous job, where there was just a good place for me to walk away or. We had wrapped up a project and there's like some downtime. I just felt, "Oh, if there's any time for me to try this, it'd be now." I think that was like a year into the classes. Then I left, and I decided to keeping classes and at the time. That's when I started really considering, starting to apply for animation jobs. Trying to break into that industry. After quitting my job it still took me another year. You're still taking classes I was just trying to do my own thing or work on my real, take classes. I guess you'd saved up some savings? Definitely, did. I was in a lucky enough position to be able to take that choice in it. I know a lot of you can't just take like a full year off. I was actually going through my taxes last night and I found that the year I decided to quit my job, and go study. I think I earned $800 for the whole year. I think the year before that it was like two grand because there was, anyway, but then it jumped up to a livable wage. Like the next year, short term cost. You're doing it for a year and then about a year into that, you're like, I'm going to be serious, and it took another year. Roughly, I'd say. Again, it's a little bit hazy I guess. I'd say roughly. Would you do anything different now? I don't know. It's hard to say. I guess. Would you have quit your job sooner or? I don't know, because I think working at any place really gives you skills that are transferable anywhere. I don't regret working where I did. I met some great people, and I gained a lot of experience. Maybe it wasn't necessarily the experience I wanted specifically, but now, I don't know if I would have quit earlier. It's just hard. Maybe I would've worked harder. I don't know. [inaudible]. Maybe I don't know. I think in that year that I had quit my job, there were times it was hard to stay motivated, when you're not getting the responses that you're getting. I think certain things just take time. There's no rushing for certain things. Things to click and you have to do. I think it's not easy to switch careers. Especially for animation, it's just the craft that takes time, and I still, a really super bad. That's your job. That's okay. Things just take time I think. Do you think your software engineering background is helpful now?. Definitely. That's the one thing I think for me that I had an advantage, for this specific job. It made me stand out from other candidates. Also the technical skills do help. They always come in handy for, either you are working on tools or whatever. It's common. I've used them quite a bit. I lost my train of thought. But I definitely stood out, when they're hiring for this position at this place. Correct me if am wrong, you've been at your current job for six months and you got, I don't know if you'd call promotion, you've got a new title within six months. Has been partly because of your software engineering background? I would say a lot to do with that. Is that a good thing or bad thing because it seems like you got away from software engineering and now you're [inaudible] Just when I thought I got away. It's not a bad thing for sure. I'm super lucky to have landed the position that I'm in now. The skills that I have in engineering have been really helpful. It's a balance, I think. At this place, For me it's like my day-to-day could vary very much between purely artistic stuff, maybe in Maya, and actual technical work then the tools or whatnot. I think for me, when I quit my first job, I had this really stubborn idea, "Oh, I'm not going to want to program for the rest of my life ever again." For example, I knew in Maya there is scripting that you could do, but I was very stubborn about, I don't want to learn any of this. But undeniably it's helped me a lot because I was able to pick up those skills. I think the challenge of being able to do both is very interesting to me. There was different challenges, and so this position, I think has been a good fit for my background. I'm happy with where it landed. But again, the day-to-day can vary a lot, so it's hard to say. What was the process? I guess, cultural wise and having soft skills. Were those different from your software engineering job to this job? Through the interview process, was it less formal? Was is it like expectations were different? I guess. Yeah, I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know. I never thought about that. I think it helps, I guess, in my old job, just knowing how to work on big teams, I think. We're a pretty big team here at our current place and that's always helped, but yeah, I don't know. I don't know if there's so much of a culture shock for me because I think it's all different. You're just still working with people and I guess just understanding. Yeah, I don't know. Yeah, I understand how that feels. Yeah. I think it's always just being able to approach, working with someone differently because everyone should have their own view of how they approach a problem or what not. I think yeah, I don't know. I haven't seen much difference, I guess, in my previous experiences. What advice would you give people who are thinking about switching careers and maybe are thinking about midway through degrees switching or finishing a degree like software engineering or some engineering and then getting into artistic stuff more would they benefit from? There is lots of tackle the same time like doubling up and trying to take classes like you did on top to software engineering. I guess obvious. I don't know. I think certain things just take time. I think that's what for me to realize was. Everyone's situation is different, so it's hard for general advice but in my experience, the engineering background has been really helpful for me. But it really depends on what you want to do because you allude it to, my job is not surely animation as I originally intended. [inaudible] any animation jobs purely. Yeah. That's true. On our minds now. I don't have the skills you do that's all I would say. I could see you where you have the unfair advantage on a lot of people who come from just animation background and then it seems to me there's a lack of technical. Yeah. But that seem- People are of the formal background education. That's my observation as well. I guess it's a bit rare for someone with formal engineering background and it definitely helps. If you're midway through engineering background, I would reevaluate whether or not. It would be worth finishing, in my opinion. But again, everyone's situation is different. But yeah, I think your observation is right in that it's coming super useful and there is a general need for it. There's always a need, I think, for technical work to help with tools and pipeline, that type of stuff. I've only been on this job for like six months, let's say, but as we transition to when the project ends, I guess those skills become more relevant right now that we have time to work on the pipeline even more. I've noticed that with another friend who's an animator and knows Python and when it's slow and they're letting contract, the animators go like hey, let me improve this tool. We come around people who don't have those skills go now. Yeah. I guess it's an unfortunate. But it's just seems to be like a reality of maybe how the industry has worked. Again, I'm super new business industry as a whole and I'm still learning my ropes but I'm not telling, if you're an animator out there but you should learn to code or whatever. Yeah, I think the point is, but I don't have that background and we're working in a similar situation. Like you could come from different backgrounds. I think yours is interesting because like I said, it's unique. Maybe there's more opportunity for people with that background [inaudible] taking advantage of it. But what do you think so now you've got your first job? You've been here for six months. What things do you see that you want to learn or improve on that you didn't know before? You're actually in other things, short-term or long-term, even a couple of years down the line. How do you see things? I guess at this current job, we work with motion capture a lot and that was something that was new for me, even as this because all the courses I took for all key frame animation. I believe you are doing a course on motion and animation. No one really teaches that and it's that's what I've done 90 percent of the time last couple of years. We were never taught that in school. I think, yeah. I guess all my instructors were, when I was doing online courses, they would always say, all you have the key frame knowledge scales that you'll transfer. That is true, but there's also specific things I think for motion capture that would be useful there. Maybe have a course on. But that's one thing I think because the job is motion capture, key frame is something I have to keep up with on my own time and also just, how do I say, I guess like from the beginning I always felt like my artistic was bad, so need to catching up. I still feel that all the time. It's true. I think that's something I don't want to lose sight of. Yes, the technical skills are nice to have but the art skills are also very important. That's something I struggle with trying to keep practicing as much as I can. I'm bringing up questions. Is there anything else you'd want to say? Yeah, I'm not sure. You've got me. You caught me off guard. [inaudible] Is really aware. Are you on Instagram or Twitter or anything? Nope, on social media. I guess I don't know You just the man of mystery. I guess I have a Vimeo page maybe, but you can see how bad my stuff is. Would you care about share a link to your. Yeah, sure. If anyone wants to reach out they have to reach out to me too. Yeah. I don't know. Just plug your own stuff. Thanks for your advice. That's all right. I appreciate it. Let's go get lunch now. 18. State Of The Industry: The state of the industry. I want to spend a minute to discuss the current state of the industry, and some aspects of it that you might not be familiar with. It's a big topic, but I'll try and keep it brief, so you can have some context of what it's like. Currently, each branch of the animation industry has its own considerations. For example, movies have tax incentives in place, that motivates studios to move cities or even countries. Whereas game companies, they don't typically have that incentive and are often the sole profiteer from their work, or at least partners in it. Visual effects movies, those studios you'll see at the end of a credit sequence, at the end of a movie, are known as vendors, and pretty much every visual effect studio is a vendor. They're simply hired to do the work and they do not see any profit for movie sales, like a game company would see from game sales. So that affects the health in nature of each category of the animation industry. It's so uncommon for game companies to give bonuses if the game sales well. Bonuses like that do not really exist at a visual effect studio, for example. So there are some key differences here. Currently, Montreal in Canada has the best tax incentives for film studios, so there's a big push to get studios started there. Previously, Vancouver was the best place for tax incentives, and it has led to massive growth in the industry there. It's difficult and expensive for studios to re-establish in these new locations, each time a new tax incentive pops up. There can be opportunity in a situation like this, where people who are new to the industry and willing to move where other people do not want to. For example, imagine a well-established studio like in Vancouver, has employees with families that are not that easy to move around, so that could be a competitive advantage for someone who is willing to move. However, these tax incentives can also cannibalize the industry in some ways as studios continued to chase them. The Louisiana recently, ended their state tax incentive, and all the work moved to a neighboring state in Georgia. Just recently, a studio I was working for was bought by another studio, because they wanted to have a presence in Montreal so they can take advantage of those tax incentives. Those incentives, means they can be more competitive when they're bidding to get work. There's also new places opening up all over the world. I've interviewed for jobs in London, in Edinburgh, in Mumbai, in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, to just to name a few. All of these things continue to change and evolve, so you just want to monitor the state of the industry by following publications like: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Cartoon Brew, individual artists and journalists on Twitter, as well as studio accounts. Many of which also have a dedicated studio jobs or recruiting account on social media, that's separate from their other accounts. Use everything to your advantage to stay informed about what is happening. Because you might find an opportunity to use that knowledge to your advantage. I'm currently living in California, and its high cost of living here, makes this one of the most expensive places for people to get work done. Yet it's also where a lot of talent is, so there's a struggle in places like LA and San Francisco, where companies are trying to move work to less expensive parts of the world, so they can be more competitive on bidding projects, but the talent may not be there and isn't willing to move there. In the games world, we have companies like Blizzard who post record profits, but then still have layoffs that fired 800 people. Or places like Telltale Games that closed up shop. Research the history of Rhythm and Hues, for example, they famously, won an Oscar for best visual effects for Life of Pi. At the same time, they were filing for bankruptcy. Or studios like Digital Domain who tried to open a studio in Florida and had many artists move there only to kill the project and close the studio and leave people stuck in Florida trying to regroup from getting the rug pulled out from under them. Speaking of Digital Domain, there was also an illegal effort to get students to pay the studio, to be able to work on the movies the studio was already getting paid to work on. They were not paying their students staff, they were making the students pay them to be able to work. So that didn't work out for them. There was also a really big wage fixing scheme uncovered between major studios like Disney and Pixar, where they promised each other to keep wages low and not poaching each other's employees from one another. That was eventually found to be illegal, and they had to pay massive fines for this illegal and unethical activity against their own employees. Meanwhile, some studios will try to create a toxic culture that you're all family, to pressure you into work longer hours, but then fire you as soon as they get over budget and can't afford you. I know of one specific instance, not through any malice, but it was a smaller studio that fired people over a weekend. They were actually getting married, and many other studio employees were at this wedding and also got the notice they were being fired. So please approach this career at a professional and friendly manner, but never expected a studio to become your family. At the end of the day, it's a business and they must make business decisions. My favorite mentor, gave me some advice when I was starting out, that it's tough to hear at first, but very practical and helpful. What he told me was that studios are going to use me, so I must use them. It sounds like a very negative and pessimistic view, but when I'm saying they're using you, I don't necessarily mean in an exploitative way. That's just the facts. They use you to get work done. It's not good or bad. It's just how businesses are set up to get work done. The employees, they use you. I just don't want you to get into this industry with rose colored glasses, and then get blind-sided by lay off at a place that told you you were family. Always be nice to everyone around you. I'm not saying be cutthroat and mean-spirited. That will get you nowhere and no one will want to work with you if you are. What I'm saying is just the reality of being an employee at a company. You're hired to do a job, and that's it. If the project ends or they run out of money, then you probably won't be an employee for much longer. Despite how much they'd like to think of you as family, they still have to make business decisions. I've made amazing friendships with people who also have to make these tough decisions I'm talking about at the top of the studios. I respect the position they're in and I act accordingly in the position I'm in as an employee, and keep my expectations in line with what I know can happen in a business. Back to to the studio using you, and you using the studio. It's a mutually beneficial relationship that you must make sure it continues to be so for yourself. When you're starting out, the main things you're looking for is experience. Begin to build a network and build a good reputation for yourself. Once you use a studio to get experience, make sure you're continuing to pursue what you want out of your career goals because you know the studio you're working for will continue to do what is right for them as well. I've left the studio before because it was no longer a place of growth for me. I had gotten as much as I could out of that experience and they weren't properly valuing my contributions. I'll get a little personal here and I'll share that. I wanted a raise. Over six months, I kept a record of my own performance because it wasn't clear to me if I'd be getting a performance review. So I wanted to make sure I hadn't accurate record of what I accomplish so I can rely on this later when I ask for a raise. My performance was a list of examples where I worked twice as fast as people more senior than myself, who I'm sure we're also getting paid more than me. So I was very polite in my request and demonstrated the value I've provided in an accurate way, and asked if there was anything inaccurate in what I described, I'm happy to be corrected on this. But this is what I've done for my perspective, and why I'm asking for a raise. They did not refute that I was performing well and everything I said was accurate and I was working twice as fast as everyone, but they just did not give me a raise. That's when I started to look for my next job, and I eventually left that studio. What I later learned was, they were in the middle of talks to get bought by another company, and I imagine they wanted to keep their expenses low to show they were more profitable and attractive to get bought. Giving out raises at this period would have messed up their profitability, right as they were trying to get bought. You never know what cards are in play, but you have to always do what's right for you. But that includes not burning bridges. When I had another job and I was going to leave, I made sure to give them as much time as they needed to find a replacement. I was also assured that if I ever wanted to return, they would have a seat for me. Although, it might be in Montreal, for industry wide reasons I've already discussed. Your priorities may be different than mine in the sense that I've always wanted to work at as many places as possible to get a broad experience and knowledge. But there are some people who want to find something that's stable, so they can more easily support a family and would forfeit pushing for a raise to stay in a position longer and not rock the boat. I totally get that stuff. Just make sure you're continuing to align with your personal goals. Make friends along the way and do what's right for you. To look back on how I started this lesson, that means having awareness of what is happening around you and in the industry. Like taking classes like this one. But also despite the difficulties of the industry between companies colluding for wage fixing, tax incentives, moving companies around, Oscar winning companies filing for bankruptcy and layoffs at even the most profitable companies, the industry isn't as bleak as it may seem. There's only more demand today for this work than yesterday, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. There will always be a need for this work to get done and someone has to do it, so it might as well be you. You just have to be good enough. It is an incredibly competitive industry, especially with more and more training becoming available. But if you work hard and smart, then you can work in this industry. So your assignment for this lesson is to get on social media and follow three studios you want to work at, to find at least one independent news source that's not a studio, like: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, or Cartoon Brew, and follow them as well. Go back through some of their old post to get familiar with the history of what they share on the current state of the industry from their perspectives. Let's take another interview break to speak with a friend of mine who decided to leave the industry. I want to speak with her to give you an encompassing look of what it's like in the industry, and that includes leaving it as well. In the next lesson after the interview, I will touch on networking and then let's get into more information about interviews and pay. Thanks for watching. 19. Lindsay Interview: I wanted to introduce this interview because it's a little different than all the others. Lindsay and I went to school together, but after a few years in the industry, she decided to leave it. I wanted to talk with her to show all sides of the industry, including the side where people decide it's not for them anymore. Lindsay is incredibly talented, after a few difficult years, she prioritized her family, and teaching over sticking in the industry. Unfortunately, the very end of our conversation got cutoff as we were wrapping up but I hope you'll enjoy this conversation about a different side of the industry that doesn't get much attention. Personally, I know many people who are still in the industry, but want to leave it as well. It can be a very demanding schedule, and because most jobs are project-based, it can sometimes be difficult to string work together in a sustainable long-term way. But anyway, let's hear from Lindsay in this interview. Thanks for watching. Lindsay, thanks for joining with me in this little short interview chat. Just for the students watching. You and I went to school together, and we both went our separate ways into the industry. I wanted to have this conversation with you just because you've taken a different path after school, and wanted to give students who are thinking about going to school, think about switching careers, and just coming to see the big picture for someone who made a different decision after going to school. Can you explain your path getting into the industry, and then your eventual decision to go in a different direction? Yeah, I studied computer science when I was getting my bachelor's degree, and it was my goal in college, to go into the film industry to [inaudible] in the film industry. Then shortly after I got my bachelor's degree, I went to school, BFS, and decided that I liked animation but I are really learned I like programming. So I switched a little bit my direction, and decided to go that route. When I graduated from the BFS studies, I got a job in San Francisco. Awesome studio called Center Biter, that produces movie. That never panned out as things tend to happen in the industry. The studio shut down, and all that. Were they owned by Disney? Is that right? They were funded by Disney. Funded by Disney. Okay. So Disney was funding, I hopped on the movie like a year into production, and I worked there for six months, but the thing is I wasn't animating. So I was like my curse, because I have this programming degree I was widely sought after in the industry, and most industries now. So anywhere I went, they'd be like, "We have enough animators but we'd love for you to program for us." So it really ended up me doing that, which I was fine with at the studio. That was so awesome, but when I follow other studios after, I was like, it's fun of an experience for me. So in the studio as you follow it up with after you mean like they wanted to keep you in that Computer Science role? Yeah, animation is really fun for me, and it's a good time, but there are animators, and they're all over the place. There are least animators who have this other skill set that I had. So I would go into these interviews, and there would always be some tech guy there "Wait, you know about programs? How about this things? We have this job opening over here, and it pays way more, and so you might as well take it." So most of the time I did this at San Francisco, for the sake if it pays more, you can actually eat. I finally got sick of them. I was like look, I really like to animate, and try it, and even see if they like it. So I took an internship, I just erased programming off my resume, and sent my resume into Leica. They were doing some internship in Portland, and got hired there for this two month internship. Unfortunately for me, over the course of about two months, I did some programming things because it made my life easier, and people found out my secret, and then I got hired to do programming for a year. It seems like a Catch-22 because for you to become a better animator, now you're stuck. Your whole day is spent not animating. So it just can't keep you further, and further away from. Yeah, I liked animating professionally. Some people call that internship professional game but. Yeah. I don't know. It was just a lot. Anyway, so that's why I ended up in the film industry. That was the last studio that I was at before I decided to bounce from the industry a little bit. Was that the commercial side of Leica? Because I know they split around that time. Yeah, Leica House. This was a good story because this is what happens as you know, and maybe your students will someday know. When you're working in a studio, and it's about to close, and everyone's about to get fired. What happens is they call you into this giant meeting. It's just all of a sudden. We're having a meeting in 10 minutes. All staff. That never happens. I learned that in my first two studios, and then when I was at Leica House, which was a commercial visual that has been around forever. It was Wilmington studio, they did California ray then. It's 30 years in the making, and hey did this all staff meeting. I was like, "Oh, God, not I again, there's firing everyone?" Everyone in the studio is like, "No, not here, that's definitely not what's happening?" So we go to this giant room, and the head hunter is like, "By the way, we are closing down the studio, so you're all fired." It's a good point. I forgot that part of your story that happened, and then were you still looking for another opportunity [inaudible] computer science stuff, or was it like a firm like, "I'm done," or was it just like, "let me see where this goes?" Yeah, I never really had firm feelings ever about my career. So I was interviewing at a couple of places that I had already started. [inaudible] and a couple of other studios. I wasn't feeling it at that point. I would go into the interviews because I got to eat, so, I need a job. I remember the [inaudible] it was for our tech position, but it was a 12 panel interview. 12 dudes, wave after wave. Just like four dudes, three dudes, two dudes, four dudes. I get to the last one, and am like, "Where are the ladies? Why are we being interviewed by 12 dudes?" Did you just ask them that? Yeah, I was like, "Where are they?" "Well, there was supposed to be one here, but she called in today." I'm like, "You have one lady on your entire tech team. This is really embarrassing for you." You might have judged a book there actually. I know, right? It's just like this feeling I am just like not into it anymore. When you're in an interview and you're not into it, the interviewer can also tell. Totally. Yeah. Since then looking back, would you have done anything different? One of other the guys I've interviewed, he came from Microsoft and the same things is happening to him a little bit, but he's trying to use it to his advantage. It seems like depending on where you're at and the needs of the studio at the time, It could be a good thing to have that. But if that's for sure not what you want to do, then it can just make that experience that you have maybe not as ideal and you're like, "Why am I doing this maybe?" I'm a firm believer in like if you have a chance to educate yourself in any field you should take it. If you're going to study Computer Science then do it. If that's something you can learn, it's a really useful skill no matter where you go. It got my foot in the door out a ton of cool places and even though maybe I didn't get to do exactly what I wanted to do, I started to doubling in and I was working at a mobile gaming studio in San Francisco for a while and I was working as a tech artist, but I still got to do all the animation for all the concepts. Anytime that we would want a pitch a game concept they knew it was just rudimentary key pose style game animation. I had to do all that and that was really fun for me. I still got to do this thing that I liked doing and it was a place for me to get gigs at all because I had this little skill. Sounding like it was detrimental to me and I think that if I really passionately believed that I wanted to be an animator, I would've done it. But instead I would be animating and be like, "I'm kind of bored so I'm going to double this programming thing for a second and then that would be more useful to the studio." Yeah. Go ahead. I just think that if you feel passionate about something, then you're going to do that. I just didn't feel passionately that much about animation or programming so I just went back and forth between the two. Well, it looks like in a short amount of time, you had a fairly unique experience. I'd kind of like jumped ship right before that's happened. But you experienced that twice almost in a row, it sounds like we're places we're not [inaudible]. That just be tough to bounce back from in general for anyone and you are just starting out. So I'm sure that didn't help. I think it was. What was keeping you motivated? The experience. Full story. I met cool people and so it was fine and privileged enough that I have a safety net of family and friends. If I lose a job, it's not like the most stressful thing in the world or it wasn't then when I was unmarried and didn't have kids but now it'll be super stressful and all that, I had a network that I could fall back on. That meant more of a learning experience for me. I think it was and would be much harder for people who just don't have a support to fall back on stuff like that. For students who may not be familiar with what you were saying, Computer Science, how would you describe that? What made you attractive as a candidate for jobs? Was it because you knew Python or something specific or what does that mean when we say Computer Science to that Industry? The film industry Computer Science is mostly used in pipeline work, which means you're writing the code that gets the pictures from one place to another place in the studio. So I specifically became somewhat of an expert in land dailies software. The director and everyone gathered to watch dailies just like all the work that's been done in the last 24 hours. [inaudible] I gestured too wildly. You're so expressive. What was I saying, I was asked to gather 24 hours, whatever. So I worked on this software that helped us to watch dailies. The director might be like, "Hey, I would like this software to be able to hop between different shots more easily". So then I'll go back to my desk and make a button so that any one could run dailies and it was easier for them. That's what I mean. When I went to mobile gaming studio, it was different, I worked in a different language and did different things and that was mostly automation, just watching artists and like, "The artists are doing this one task over and over again. I'm going to write a code that does that task for them so they can just say hit go and then they can work on other things." That was the stuff I did. One language, Python is the most common right now, but you can learn any language and it's changing. Learn the basics. What was the last thing? Khan Academy is a good resource for that. I really did- Khan Academy, true. What advice would you give people who are starting out and or like yourself pre the VFS days, do you think of going to VFS, what would have advised yourself? I wouldn't take that year back for anything, It was super fun. Oh, yes, for sure. Let's say someone else who's super young or something but just doesn't have any experience yet. Like things to look out for? Yes I've talked to many kids about this. Sorry, I'm a high school teacher now. I talk to my kids about this stuff all the time because there is tons of interests from my students about just getting into film in general, in all aspects of that industry. It's like a huge thing right now. What subjects are you teaching in high school? I teach Computer Science and remedial geometry. I tell my kids, "You don't have to go to school". A lot of these kids can't afford college, and there were like two of us at VFS who could afford it- From America. That's insanity. The school was super expensive and I found that in the industry nobody gave a crap where I went to school and nobody cared. They just looked at my work and they said," I like your work or I don't like your work". We have the resources now. Computers are so cheap and moving into the homes. Everyone has one. You can do animation on your phone now, you have the resources available to you to not have to spend all that amount of money and just have a body of work that you're going to show people. Like I said, I wouldn't give up that year. It was a lot of fun for me. If you have the opportunity to go to college and have a lot of fun, go to college and have a lot of fun because you can't get that chance again. But you don't need to. I mean, if you can't afford it it's not the end of the world and you can continue to supplement that. You can start now like my high school kids are 16 and 17, and they already have animations that they've done. It looks great and just get feedback from other people, hunt out people in the industry who might be willing to give the feedback and go out and out if you want. I get the same. I don't know if it has to do with how we're educating people and giving feedback. Because I'll get the same thing from students who want a certificate and it doesn't matter. I can't say that enough. I'm not prompting you to say this. Almost everyone I've interviewed has said the same thing. I don't know how many people have to say this and how many times it has to be told for people to be like, "that doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where you go to school, it doesn't matter if you had a certificate. All that matters is the work you make." Yeah. I appreciate you reiterating that. Just like a college or blast culture that we live in but I think that's changing a lot though. Our summer students that you teach, are interested because of the experience they know you had or independently they're asking you? I don't think anyone knows what my experiences are. I'm just that teacher at the front of the room. I'm not at the front in the room anymore I work on a different model, but until I've sat down and had a conversation with a co-worker one later on they have no idea who I am. Some of them don't even know I'm their teacher. Well it's like. Well is this a virtual thing? There's Gilmore, I'm like, what's up. Are you teaching remotely? I work at a charter school that does backwards classroom style so that kids only come in once a week just to get one-on-one help from me, but all my lessons are online. Oh, interesting, cool. Yeah, I'm totally a loop in that side of things. That's sounds interesting. Yeah, it's fine. It's my last year though but [inaudible]. You're not going to teach after this year or? No. No What's the plan? It's our baby a little while. Oh, yeah, nice. Yeah. I mean, do you think you would be able to be in animation industry and have a family? Zero percent, and yes, of course. I mean there are people in the animation industry who have families. Actually the reason I left the animation, I finally decided I'll get this over and done. I was 25 or whatever when I graduated from the VFS and started this career. I wanted to have a career, but I also wanted to have a family. After a few years of working 12 hour a day, seven days a week, trying to get your foot in the door and that I may impress the right people or whatever. Working over time without overtime pay and all that stuff that you have to do, and you're on the ground to the bottom of the [inaudible] and you want to work your way out. That's just not something I could do, and also have a family. I can here starting out and your family is 10 years down the road, and you have time to get through that beginning part and establish yourself in the industry. Then once you're ready to start your family, you already have your career in place then that's totally doable. But for me it was just like such a battle to get my foot in the door and keep it there with studio time and anything else. I didn't feel like I would have time for a family. I didn't even feel I have time to see the family I currently have. Couldn't go home and see them. There's just no time, and so when I was getting married. How long has it been? How old am I? Thirty two, four years ago. I was talking to my then fiance' about we can't make a family and my husband was also a programmer in the film industry. We can't make a family and both be working these psycho hours like one of us, and it's going to be me because I have a smaller earning potential, different interview if you want to talk about that wage gap. That's true. It's a harsh truth. Your husband I'm remembering he who works on the RV player side? He did. Yeah. I know. He doesn't anymore. That's how we met and that was the daily software that I was working on. We just decided one of us needs to have more time if we're going to make a baby and so that's me. But I love teaching. These awesome years of teaching, I've never been happier and it's such a fulfilling career for me. I wouldn't be leaving for anything except that little baby who I would give my the seconds of my day too. Awesome. Speaking of which I don't want to keep you for too much longer because I know you've got bedtime stuff to deal with. Anything else you feel like would be helpful to share for emerging animation students? Anything you tell your students as well? Yeah, besides like don't freak out too much about the degree, just know what you're getting into. Animation is awesome and it's super fun but it's a very stereotypical art career. Like you are going to be the serving artists stroke for a little while while you're getting your feet wet. It's going to hurt in the beginning and you're going to struggle. But once you can get past that point, then you know you're golden. You can do some awesome, crazy creative things and have a good time. I think somebody at the VFS once said some woman who was giving a speech there, "If you know, you know that it's a project-based industry and you're going to have these months where you're not working because you're between products, then just be prepared for that and you can do cool stuff." You have this built-in travel time that the rest of America doesn't really get cause you only get 10 days off in a year. As an animator you can pick and choose, "I want to take a few months off right now. " That's a thing I can do because I'm between projects and that's a cool thing that you can take advantage of. Don't get discouraged. 20. Networking: Networking. The best place to network when you're starting out is at school. Since those people will soon go into the industry as well, and you want to have as much reach as possible to provide yourself with future opportunities. Above all else, be genuine. Networking can sound like a bunch of people on suits, having fancy cocktails after work and making bad jokes about the stock market. But the reality is networking just means making friends and connecting with people in a shared interest. It can be difficult for some people who are introverted to go out of their way to speak with someone. But one thing I always rely on, isn't so much trying to think of something to say, it's about what questions to ask. Always show interest in the other person. A great book that references these concepts is one of the all-time best-selling books, "How to Win Friends and Influence People." It sounds like a super corny Book by its title, but it has great wisdom that will help you connect with other people. If you're not attending a school, another way to connect is on social media and at conferences. Social media is easy and not expensive, but attending a conference can cost several $100 just for a ticket. But if it lends you a job, expands your network, or strengthens existing connections with people, it can be very much worth money. LinkedIn is a great option to follow recruiters work of companies to be aware of job openings they post about. So you can keep track of what's happening on your timeline in LinkedIn. But it can be difficult to make connections on there with people you've never met, but you can always choose the follow option as well. I will get invitations all the time from people who I've never met and do not send me any message. This may change, but in its current state on LinkedIn, you can not send a personalized message if you try and connect with someone through the LinkedIn app on your phone, unless you pay for the premium membership. But if you use the web version of LinkedIn and asked to connect with someone, it gives you a pops up a little Window and it gives you the option usually to also send a message, and the button says something like "Add note." I think if they're close enough to your existing network. Use that message to acknowledge you've never met and you'd like to connect on there. Something that's simple will go a long way and a CO strangers clicking the Connect Button with no point of reference. If you really want to do a step above the rest, then research this person, find work of theirs you like and compliment them on it. Like conferences, use waiting in lines to get into the sessions to strike up a conversation with the people around you. Where do you work or go to school? What's been your most favorite part of the conference? Get people talking about themselves and find common interests you can bond over. At a recent conference, I introduced myself to a Disney animator who I follow on Twitter. I said, "Hi, we've never met, but I'm one of your followers on Twitter and I'm really interested to see the personal short film you've been working on. How's that going?" In a short sentence, I was able to quickly establish who I am, how I know him and ask him about something he's working on the show. I'm familiar with his work and I'm interested in him. We exchange the short conversation, that I was able to quickly go from being a total stranger to at least having spoken to him once. The next time I see him, I can reference that meeting or even reach out on Twitter and say, "Hey, nice meeting you," to help solidify that meeting and as mine, because I'm sure he met a lot of other people too. The most successful networking I've done has come from simply being interested in someone and asking them questions, laughing about the same things, or even trying to provide value to them. My recent interactions with Alan McVeigh are great example. He's a veteran of the industry, but I've never met him even though we have worked at a lot of the same studios, but never at the same time, so we've never cross paths. I wanted to connect with him because we're doing similar things in the online education space. So I signed up for his newsletters to keep up to date with what he's doing, and I eventually found an opportunity to offer my help. He was going to be creating some visual effects training, and they offered to animate a character for it. Even though I was going to work for free just to help them out, I still had to send many follow-up e-mails to to keep in contact with him because of his busy schedule. I didn't want my offer to get lost in the noise of all the emails he receives, and I wanted him to know I was serious about my offer to help. Over several months we finally worked together and I helped him on a course he made. We still have never met in person, but have gotten to know each other through e-mails, and I'd like to say I can call him a friend. That's just one example of how I found someone, I wanted to get to know and I did it. I tried to find a way I could be helpful to them. The harsh reality in networking, is that no one can get you a job. You'll always get yourself every job you are offered. Networking is just about building relationships for their own sake, and it hopes you might be helpful to one another at some point, it could be a mutual thing. If you have the best networking skills, but your demo reel as terrible, then it doesn't matter who you know at what studio or how many times you get recommended, you won't get hired if you can't do the work. So networking alone will never be a way to get a job by itself, but it can be a way to have someone want to share your work with the decision-makers if it's good enough, and that can get you a job. Once you get into the industry, you're goal is to be as nice as possible and build a reputation as someone that's easy and fun to work with. For me, I've always tried to be a team player because I've been in leadership positions before, where a project is made more difficult if everyone is only looking out for themselves. This can mean people trying to get the best shots on a project or complaining when they get work, they don't want to do. One project, I had a really nice supervisor who would always apologize that the work I was being given wasn't the most exciting, and my attitude is that, look, it needs to get done and someone has to do it, so I'm happy to contribute and do this. Some people might ask, "Yeah, it's not really my favorite thing to do, can we pass this along to someone else or is there another shot I could work on?" That makes the supervisor's job more difficult when assigning tasks, and it indirectly questions their judgment. Like they don't know who they should be assigning work to. In a demo reel as the most important thing to getting hired, some people are willing to get a little confrontational or even go behind people's backs to try and get the best shots for themselves. Do not do that. Your, reputation will not be great and your network of people who want to work with you, we'll get very small. I elicit a supervisor from this story as a reference to a job, and I got hired for that job. I think it's important because I was easy to work with and I was a team player because I know that's what I appreciated in animators when I'm leading a project. I want to be the same when I'm an animator on a team from my supervisor. The assignment for this lesson will be to open the project files and read an email exchange I had with someone who's a junior in college, whose name I changed to Sally, so you can read how you should not go about trying to network in my opinion. I receive e-mails sometimes from people like this, wanting to get into the animation or film related industry and that student wanted to get into music. I have a friend who works in the music industry. But anyway, at the end of our e-mail exchange, I give her my honest feedback, because I saw it as a teaching moment, but I never heard back from her after that e-mail. So I can only assume she possibly took offense to my suggestions on how to improve instead of being open and appreciative to feed back, like I have discussed earlier. When you read this exchange, notice how much he talks about herself and what she needs, and at the end, I let you in on the opportunity she missed out on and now she could have handled that e-mail exchange differently. Please read that for this assignment. Now, let's take another interview break to hear from Alan McVeigh, who I referenced in this lesson, see the joys of helping someone, is they're willing to help you out as well. Alan is no different, and I was able to ask a favor of him to do this interview. Alan has a really nice story about how he got into the Animation Industry, and he has a great perspective having supervised a lot of projects, hired a lot of people, and his specialty is affects work. Let's hear what he has to say in the next video and then get back to another lesson Afterwards. Thanks for watching. 21. Allan McKay Interview: I'd like to quickly introduce Allan McKay for this interview. Like I mentioned. My hopefully decent networking skills I think paid off here because he was a complete stranger to me and now I would consider him a friend, I think, and we continue to e-mail back and forth to this day. Hopefully you've watched the lesson before this one and heard that story. But Allan's an incredibly talented artist and he has also been supervising a lot in the last few years. He's hired a ton of people. He's looked at tons of demo reels. We talk about a lot fundamentals as well as high level concepts but you can also find his web address for his training that mainly focuses on effects work, which means dust particles, fire, smoke, destruction, all that stuff in the course materials he's listed in one of the many options for your online education training. We'll take a look at some of his demo reel shots. They're from a few years ago because someone like him in this position. He's been working for 20 years. Once you get to this point, it's sometimes difficult to update your demo reel. Because you're already getting a ton of work anyways, because you've established yourself so well that at this high level, 20 years in, you might not need to be updating your demo reel every year like someone who's starting out needs to update their demo reel every few months to keep work going. Anyway, these demo reels shots are from a few years ago, but then we'll jump right into the interview. Thanks for watching. Thanks Allan for joining me. Hi everyone, this is Allan McKay. He has been in the industry longer than I can remember and I have been following him for quite some time. He has a pretty interesting story, how he got in which I will talk about. But he's worked on, probably if you've watched TV or movies for the last 20 some odd years, you've seen something he's worked on and he also teaches as well. Currently, I think it's allanmckay.com is where people would find your work, is that the easiest? Definitely a good starting point, yeah, for sure. The first question is, correct me if I'm wrong, but you didn't end up going college, you went straight from high school into the industry. Yeah, I pretty quit high school when I was 13. It's funny, but it's just proof that you don't need to go to school. Interestingly, I ended up teaching at university when I was 17. There's a thing called RPL, Recognition of Prior Learning, having been in the industry for five years at that point, I was able to use that to then teach at a bachelor level. That's pretty amazing. I decided to go straight for it. If you know what you want, then I think there's a reason to go to school, but if it is to do what we do, a piece of paper is not going to get you the job, it's going to be proof that you can do the work. Yeah, have you met anyone who's had a similar background? Seems such a unique thing for that young of an age to be so focused and going after what you want. Yeah. I think I definitely take the cake of quitting school the youngest. I haven't really been able to. I never really suggested it. I still was a fairly social person so I still be showing up off the school saying, "Where are we going to party?" It's definitely been one of those things that doing that too early you can stump your learning a little bit, but in other ways it can be really beneficial. I think for me, the way that I relate back to it is that I grew up in a small town in Australia. I've talked a little bit about this, but I just remember, my grandma pointing out high school dropouts and, "Oh, that person's a loser. He dropped out of high school." I think when he finally did registered with me that I'm not going back to school, that then mentally put me in the category of I'm a high school dropout, so that made me think more determined like, "Okay, I've got to take responsibility." I think that helped. But again, I think that even if you don't have the full path of where you want to be, having some direction is better than none. For me, I went to work in video games all the time, it meant that even if it was programming or doing 2D odd, it was at least some direction which was heading me towards that. I think just having something like that and saying, "Well, this is your only option. Go all in." It's the direction I at least had to take. Yeah. You jumped in the deep end and cut all ropes, I guess, wherever that metaphor is, with ships and going to war and [inaudible] [inaudible] That's awesome. I think even in the States, I don't even think we can do that. I think you have to go to school until you're 16 or something but [inaudible] I guess it was actually the first job I did in the States. My boss was like, "That shouldn't be legal, " and I think it was. No one ever came knocking on my door. I don't want to encourage anyone, "See there's a loophole," nobody's paying attention. Yeah. I think it's an amazing story that says you don't need a certificate from some program or something. If you can show you can do the work, you can get hired and do the work. With now your teaching, how do you see most people who are entering the industries? Are they going through traditional methods like when you hire someone, do you even look at their resume or when you're teaching someone and you follow their story, are they getting hired based on their reel as well? Right. The one thing I always communicate is, the one thing more powerful than a reel is networking. I think that a lot of people put in that category of networking is a bunch of people in suits sipping cocktails and saying, "What do you do for a living?" Network means this morning, it's 6:30 in the morning and I'm texting a buddy of mine, saying, "Wake up. What are you up to today?" Just catching up. That's networking in a way. I found out he's got promoted to a supervisor on one of the other sups down another studio. It's good to be tapped into what's going on. Just in general, I think that networking is everything especially early on. I refer to it as the barrel of monkeys. But when one student, let's say, gets hired from a school or wherever, guarantee their friends are going to end up going into, because they're going to say, "Oh, my buddy is really good at this." Usually you end up bringing your friends with you. That's how it works too. It doesn't mean that you need to network with high profile people. It can be that your friend that you shoot with can be someone that ends up getting a job and that leads to you getting a job when they need someone. In general, I think that that's the most critical thing, but definitely I think that your reel is everything because especially these days, you hear a lot of nightmare stories about the industry which mostly as of, I think 2012, early 2013, there was a little bit of disruption in LA, but in general, we are in such a lucrative industry. But because of that, I feel a lot of people go in thinking that there is not going to be much work out there. The whole thing is that with your reel, your reel is going to be the thing that's going to get you the work. Because maybe things are a little bit tighter these days than they used to be. It definitely means that it isn't like 20 years ago where we hire someone and we train them up and do all that. Now it's going to be you're expected to know the stuff. You're expected to have been resourceful enough to either learn on your own, go to a school or what I think is the future is online training just because you're learning just-in-time on just in case. I tried to look at a few 3D colleges at one point, before there were 3D colleges and, maybe I got a 3D section of a multimedia course they will teach you how to make a clown face out of a sphere and a [inaudible] In general, you're going to learn so much stuff that isn't relevant to you. But instead you can go online and you can say, "I want to know this, this and this," It's like the matrix. It takes a little bit longer, but you'll know Kung fu. The last thing I'll say about that though, just looking back to what you were saying is that, in general it's going to be your reel because they want you to show that you can do the work. They want the confidence to hire the right person. It's a lot more expensive, to fire someone than it is to hire people. In general, it's just a painful process getting the wrong person in. I always say that people want proof that they can, sit you in a chair tomorrow and you can just start doing work. For a lot of people, their work isn't quite there and that becomes the problem. If you're looking at someone's reel and you reach for the resume, I feel most of the time that they've done something wrong. You could be looking at someone's reel and it's production work. One bit of student work, so they kept around because their mom liked it or they felt they'd put someone's blood, sweat and tears into it. That one thing is what makes them go. Are you a student? What experience do you have? Otherwise, like the resumes, they are more to fill in the gaps and tell the story after. But if you're looking at someone's resume during watching their reel then you're trying to make sense like what's up with this real, if that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense and I think people being precious about their work and not knowing what to cut, and the reel is probably the big thing too like you said, they get so invested in it and then they keep it there, then they confuse the other good work with not-so-good work and then someone was trying to make sense of why would they keep something bad when everything else is good. Less is more always. The one thing I'll add to that is I feel like most people are just not aware how brutal the hiring process is. I've sat in meetings where I've had people I want to hire and then the other supervisors are like, he was at the top of my list as well, except like his contact information, he did a 3D like titles instead of just arrow black and white font in premier Control T. Because of that, he's like to me, this represents the level of quality that he's willing to do without a supervisor there maybe at a really good supervisor on all his jobs. But the thing is that person went from the top of the list to the bottom just because of that one thing and for me, I realized like there are some people who are very cut through like it takes one shot that isn't great and they're out the window. I think the best way to look at that is your real is communicating, the bare minimum that you're going to let slip. Otherwise, if there's crappy stuff on you're real, that's telling me that when it's down to the wire, and we need to deliver and this is your moment to shine, you're willing to let some part of work be like, that'll do. At least to me, that's how it made sense of it all and realize that is the best way to look at this is like, what are you willing to let slip by? I'll hire someone with two shots and their real as if they're good, opposed to someone who's got three shots in one is so poor. That's super interesting to hear you say because I've had something similar had a Pixar guy look at one of my reels and because I've worked on avengers and ready player one and I've got these shots and I'm proud of, but he was like cut all of that, I don't want to see any of that. I think it's specific to Pixar because they are alike all about feature animation performance stuff. To your point of just being super specific of what you have on there and even in my mind, I've been working for nine,ten years and I think this is going to show in production ready and all this stuff. It's like if you're going for a specific studio, you really got to know what they're looking for as well to keep it specific. It's something that you said that I'm totally blanking on that I was going to follow up with, sorry, it's early in the morning to. [inaudible] It's early in the morning. I've got to say listen versus go. Well, how do you feel about that? It's almost like it's a bait so you have like your skills and then it's like your judgment. You can be super talented, but if your decision-making and judgment on how to use that aren't lining up and you're choosing things. I think whenever I've seen someone's work, it's like oh they are good but they're making poor decision you can tell they're talented, but there is a little disconnect there. I think that comes to play more and the real I think is what I was going follow up with. Just because you're like, you're good, but you don't know how to choose your own shots. It's just like there's sometimes a disconnect to the networking thing, I was just e-mailing a friend this morning, there's a tone of talented animators, but I just don't know them and trust is a big thing when I have this freelance work where there's a super tight turnaround you'd a minute worth of animation in one week. I can't take a risk on some of them I don't know and trust and it's even though I've worked in nine or ten years, it's like I have two or three people that I trust it's crazy. Actually one second, I just realized the mono weak Wi-Fi. I'm going to try and switch, which Bia you're absolutely right. It's hard when you're trying to recommend people because I used to be very naive about that and I'd have people I've known for ten years but I didn't really heard them complain about their employer. My employer fired me because they're biased about whatever they hate Swedish people, whatever the excuses. It's just funny because it's I think early in my career, I always listen to their version of everything and I wouldn't ever think of it subjectively, there's been more than two times have actually gotten someone a really high position, like temporarily managing one of the top ten biggest studios in the world, one of their offices at one point and there has been a few of these where it isn't until high in hand-sight and I'm like, wait a minute all these excuses they're making now they are making them at this studio as well. Then I start asking around, this person was the problem all time that's its made me a lot more careful about who I recommend, who I don't or nicely being able to work it where I worked with this person not putting too much more because at the end of the day it is your reputation too. You want to have as a game people, at the same time, most really good people are going to be busy working all the time. It's very high for people who are available. Networking has always just that though. I think the more careful that you're going to find people who their job essentially is a power connector. That whether or not that's an they choose, that's going to have nationally who they are. It means that you can be chatting away with a friend over lunch and they're you should just be this person, oh you should be that person and they just naturally know everyone stay in contact with everyone. The more you find those people, the more it is just a worth its weight in gold, because I'm terrible, that's you I get in design and drop off the radar for a while but knowing the right people, that could be all you need is to say, hey, here are your top three animators and they say this person, this person, this person and say great, who's available and then go from there I guess. Yeah. When you're teaching or when you're reviewing reels and stuff, what do you see are the biggest mistakes and what's preventing them from getting to the next level outside. We've talked a little bit about real stuff, is there any soft skill stuff? Yeah. I'll say that for me, I feel 90 percent of the reason people aren't where they want to be is all soft skill. It's more to do with career and more mental blocks, things like that. That's always been my biggest gripe. For me, I can never wanted to talk about career stuff. I love going and blowing stuff up and saying, Hey, here's a, go to Seeger off to a mosque, Lawson and I believe something up. For me though, I look back at the success I've had in my career and it's been the hustle going, freelancing, busting your OS, looking for the next job while you're still in the same job, you know, putting in the time and effort where you should and most people don't do that and it's always going to baffle me when, use an example as mentioned before, I can be freelancing on a gig, I'm about to finish. Say the person next to me, "What are you doing next?" It's like, well, I guess after this I'll start cutting in your reel and looking for work and it's like, why are you doing this whole time? Every lunch break, every breakfasts, every beer I'm having after work, that's me. Yeah. Finding out every job going on every single studio around me knows when I finish, I can keep my finger to the Paulson modest making sure that I'm jumping from next thing to the next thing, in other words I'm being a manager as well as an artist. I think that there's so much there that peoples neglect they are to focused on no one is going to learn the new ZBrush features. I use that metaphor a lot, but it's just my way of saying yeah, people get so focused on, I'll let my skill speak for themselves and it's just frustrating because I was just in Paris last week and I was talking with some guys. I'm saying, what's the biggest thing holding you back? I think most people don't even really listen to themselves or think about it. There is going to feel it and they just repel away from it. So one of the guys was well, I think I'm just afraid of rejection and it's stopping me from applying for work. I was just going to say look, if you think of the worst case not, what is that going to look like? The absolute worst and saying I could die. In reality, most of this is irrational fear. When you start thinking logically it's well, maybe they'd laugh at my work, but I'm not in the room. Who cares and that's not even going to happen. What's the best-case scenario? This could be that this job leads to the next job that changes your whole life and you always look back at that one gig and you never know, and in all cases, you actually doing it, pulling the trigger and doing it. I think that for most of us, if you were then to weigh up the positive versus negative, there's no way that the negative is going to be anywhere nearly as detrimental as always impactful as the positive, so do I want to give up the life-changing experience that could be the catalyst that starts my entire career that I look back at every success I had because I finally sending that reel or do I want to sit around and be afraid of whatever and just saying that there's one guy the next day, he was chatting with the CEO of Axis animation news. He sending his reel a bunch of places, you got feedback already. It helped that he was at an advanced age at job fairs everywhere. They like he'd gone from being petrified to, oh shit, like this. Now I look at it doesn't make any sense. You got to be able to win it. It's going to news reels and getting feedback, he is being told what to cut out of is reel. Some people are giving him positive feedback and others are cut your next reel and lets talk so Yeah. It was just that one little tweak. It could be everything, I know I'm chatting a lot, but the other thing. That's good. I'll be giving you the animation a bit. Yeah. The other thing about that is that yeah, obviously I review a lot of effects reels. I mean, when on productions, it's a whole other thing. But with the courses I teach, there primarily affects in lighting in comp. So with those specifically, it's more for me. I feel like the biggest thing is neglected, are waiting and timing, which is the same thing of animation or anything else really in. That's the thing, I always say to people, it's easy to make stuff look cool because this day and age is not that difficult to do, but to get something to actually have that timing of having an impact, having it full correctly, having enough feel slow motion or field manager because it's too fast. All of these things that are just critical, otherwise people are just going to pick upon your work like that's the stuff that I'll pick on more than anything. I'm just people will hear me say it a 1,000 times like makes this more exposed, make the gravity heavier, do this. But that's the stuff that most people are thinking about their attributes in trying to make cool stuff or over-complicated because it's cool to brag about your 1,000 nodes and for me, I look around for a second there's been jobs I've supervised where someone is taking forever to showing me stuff and it's getting more and more complicated because they keep telling me how it's going to look really cool on the end. I just want to see the previous. I don't care if it looks crap. If it gets to a point where it takes three days to turn something around and it's floaty and it doesn't look right, then we're screwed. So. Yep. For me, I keep going back to the basics of previous year animation, like previous your effects, don't try make these little complicated, do a napkin sketch to show how big explosion is before you go spend three days on it. Because the director might say, make it smaller, make it bigger, and then you'll go back and undo everything you've done. Yeah, I feel like that's one thing that's maybe lost in some education is the time aspect, how quick sometimes you have to be and communicative with assignments, you're just like go off to this thing and then come back. All right, it's done here it is. But yeah, in production, there's a iterations along the way. It's not like you just go off in your little corner and make the entire thing and then come back and show everyone. Yeah, I've got to be. I think maybe for new students, that's second new process that they're not familiar with. Yeah that's so good How proactive they have to be. My wife is a designer and sometime I walk in a room, she's like, "You can't look." I've actually had oddest of supervised which you'll like that, which was just hilarious to experience because it's not done yet. It's the whole point, is not going to be done. All right. But that's is it a lot of artists are very, I get it but you're there are afraid to show the stuff, but you got to understand that for it to go the direction that we want. You're not psychic. I might have client notes, so whatever I got to look at your stuff and say, oh wait, there is a client node is not going this direction or whatever. But if you don't show me anything, then is this prolonging like the amount of work that you might have to undo. Just riffing off this idea, once people do have their first job or second or third, but they're starting out. What do you think it takes to excel? Is this communication back to the soft skill stuff? Or is it being able to keep up with the tools and the proprietary stuff at the studio? Or charting a course at a studio and trying to take over or not takeover, but find opportunity to do something that might not be in your job description kind of a thing. I think that having goals is always critical because again, it's so easy to get a job and then five years goes by and you're like, [inaudible]. I never know, I'm Australian. But I do think that, that's one thing that time slips by. You're like, "Wow, where did the time go, " and it's because you never were measuring your success, like three is going to be this. It doesn't mean that you need to be that goal stricken. But again, having any direction is better than none because at least if you have that direction, it's like, I don't want to lose what we're talking about but I want to segue for a second. You got your RAS, which is reticular activating system. So that's part of your brain which filters the majority things out. That's why a lot of us might experience this thing where we're thinking about buying a Tesla. Then now that we decided we're going to buy a Tesla, we start seeing Tesla commercials everywhere. You're at a party, it's loud and you can still hear someone talk about a Tesla couple of feet away from you because now that's something that you're filtering and it's the same way that when it rains it pours. When you decide I want to do animation, suddenly you start meeting people everywhere who were animators or have a friend who are animators. It's because now you're communicating this to other people. Also, you're triggering that word, like when you hear something similar, you start asking questions which leads to that. It's, more about like when you know what you want, you start to filter out a lot of the other crap and start paying attention to the things that are important. I think that that's important too. It was just having a goal, you start to realize, if I want to be lead or whatever, you start, suddenly having lunch with the guy who's the lead because you're curious how you got there. But there was one last point I wanted to make about that which is that the biggest problem most people make in their careers, especially soft positions, is they don't ever go to their boss or their manager or the supervisor and say, "What can I do to make me more impactful in the team?" Let's say if you were to say to your manager, the head of the department, "I'd like to be a lead within the next year. I know it's a pretty extreme goal to have, but what would be the steps I would need to actually do that?" Because they're just going to say, "Well, you're going to stop screwing around with Facebook. It would be good if you showed up more". One thing that none of the other, let's say animators have, is that they don't really understand scripting. So that would be so cool was, one of their animators was able to learn a bit more about building, was in order rigor or any scripting tools, getting more expressions. Whoever it might be that might make them stand out to all the others. The more you start asking, what else would you want me to learn? Just keep saying and what else. Then what? The more that they just tell you everything, you're literally being given. I'll stay away from the cheat codes analogy or say, you're getting a recipe of like everything you got to do. Rather than guessing, "Oh, I should go and learn this new Vi Technology. You've known they're not doing Vi there. I should go learn this". If you just go on and say, "I love it here, I want to get more invested in the company. What are the things I could learn that would make me more beneficial to the team?" By just saying that alone, they're going to give you a list of well, "Here are all the things that would be great. " They'll make you irreplaceable. On top of that, what are the things that I could be doing better? Most people are afraid to hear that stuff. But, this is the observations of your manager. If they say less Facebook or come in earlier, stick around a little bit later to show you're part of the team, whatever. Those are the things if you do, they're going to notice it. Bit by bit, all of these things is going to help. The best part is you can then say, well, "If I were to work on doing all these things three months from today, can we set up a performance review and to see how I'm doing?" Nobody's ever going to say no to that. Because again, even if you're renegotiating money which you can do while you're going through all this. No one's ever going to say, "Please don't improve yourself, please don't make you a big asset to me." In general, that's the stuff that nobody does. Anytime I've ever had that kind of growth or realization, the amount of attention people notice, beginning my career, I stopped getting in trouble. If I said, something is going to take a certain amount of time, people wouldn't question it, they'd say, "Okay, no problem." I started getting pulled into meetings that have nothing to do with just because suddenly now people feel like you're part of the team opposed to the resistance that they have to hurdle. I think it's just the simple tactic of all, but most of us don't want to do because, we don't want to get that feedback about where we're screwing up, which is not the case at all, but it's how we take it. Because like most people aren't doing it. You feel like maybe you're stepping out of line a little bit or something. Because most people aren't doing it. That doesn't necessarily mean it's the wrong thing to do. That might mean it's the right thing to do. I lost the Mark Twain quote. On your cell phone the side of the majority. Yeah. Totally. To loop back to the earlier comment to I think like it's important simultaneously to still be looking for other work. Especially in this industry, you never know when they lose a job or something doesn't pan out. You always have to be on your toes about the next thing while you're still trying to develop in that studio. Because I've seen that. Just even the other week, I think it was a passport issue, but the guy had started. He was there at 9.00 AM and he was gone at 10:00 AM. They told him to leave immediately. Like he had some passport issue. Anyway, I'm sure he just thought like, "Oh, I got it made, I just started a new job." He was only there for one week and then he's gone like, "Oh man, that sucks." Anyway, you never know, who's going to be on your toes, but that's all great stuff. I think that waiting and timing thing is super interesting as an animator. Obviously, that's important to us. I haven't heard that as much from an affects stamp point. Would you say that's usually a scale issue? They don't have the scale right? I don't want to get the weeds too much but just for my own personal. I'll link to this because I think it's important. Because it applies to everything. I think the biggest problem that we all have, is that we go through a tutorial and we follow the steps. This is why I've, especially with effects have stopped really focusing on like settings, I'll really beat that into people, "Stop looking at the settings. Pay attention to what I'm doing and why." Because otherwise you're going to go to a studio and you're like, "Well I'll input in these settings and it'll work with this job," but it's like, "No, it doesn't work like that." The biggest problem and this applies to everything, I believe where there's animation modeling or anything, is that most of us are not actually looking at our work subjectively, we are just going through the motions because it's cool, it's fun. We're not thinking about, what would my supervisor want? Or is this really enough, let me look at reference. I think for a lot of us we're focused on trying to get the effect right or whatever. That's why I feel like I see a lot of effects rails that you've got an explosion on black. For me, I want to see the finished shot because it's easy to go and do that stuff. But it's actually take it through to completion is a whole other thing. With waiting and in timing and everything else, it's more about like, "Okay. Cool, you can make a flatty explosion." But how do you make it look real? If I were to say it like that doesn't feel menacing or threatening enough. It feels very fluffy and cute, what are you going do to fix that? Are you going to really ramp things up? So you skip a few beats and you get that? Are going to do a second explosion? So go bang-bang. The more you think as an animator or as you would onset, the more that you're going to stop choreographing your things in that way. You've got animation and you go to effects, but effects is still following the same things that animation does. If you're doing a big tornado, you still need to think of it as a character. Which is not the same world, but it is something where you need to think of it as this thing is a threatening force. It's destroying everything, it's the primary thing. If it's on-screen and I'm looking at a tree next to it, either composition's wrong or I'm doing something wrong here. All of these things play into it. No matter what area you're in, you're going to be borrowing some of that mindset from everything. Whether it's lighting, animation, effects, texturing, whatever. I think it's important to understand them all but also just to realize at the end of the day we're making a movie or cinematic piece. We still need to treat whatever we're doing just because it's one department doesn't mean that at the end of the day, it's still the same performance on-screen. Yeah, I think it's easy to get in and even with character animation, you get lulled into like, "Oh, the RIG can only do this. This is how it looks in 3D" you forget, this is the camera and it's going to be a 2D shape on camera. Make that look good. Forget the joint is in the right place or something. Make it work. Yeah, break that lock. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Is there anything else that you'd like to talk about or like that I didn't ask? Going back to what you're saying about Pixel or like, how do you feel about customizing your work specifically for a certain studio? Yeah, I do anything I applied for. I have a brand new real with their name as the Vimeo password, like the name of the studio. I want to feel like I'm doing this just for them so they feel special. It's a crowds animation thing. I need to show where I did crowds. If it's a creature, I need to show creature. I think for beginning students, it's hard because they just don't have that much work to cut different rails. But for myself now. They're not super long. If I'm having to really subdivide things down. But they're not big rails, which to your point earlier isn't really anything a concern to begin with. I'm off all that and I think it worked out okay. I think it's a really good point. Because first of all, it's showing that you're actually putting in the effort. Because again, like there are people out like I started recently doing like email tear downs. Where I get so many terrible emails from people that I've been [inaudible] with like 30 other companies on the same email applying for jobs. I had you say that somewhere, and I was just like, 'oh my god, what do these people think?',. That's not the first time. I bet it happened a bunch of times. But there's just been so many terrible ones that I've kept these for years. Because I'm like one day, I'm going to show these to somebody. Because it's just amazing. Even recently, I had someone try and ask me to start a GoFundMe page for them so they could buy a better computer. That was yesterday. That's not related, but it's just again. I just get a whole spectrum of that phrase. But I do think that just in general, like people need to show that they're willing to put in effort and most people aren't. That is actually a good thing because most people don't realize like all they got to do is put in a little bit of effort, such as writing a cover letter or customize their real specifically. It's like your resume. Why are you putting down that you are to subway? Back in the day that's cool but it isn't relevant to what you're doing. I get laughed out the first time I spoke with the I was ever going to go to ILM. They laugh to me. This is the longest resume we have seen. Because my resume is 14 pages. I need [inaudible] and he had a resume because my work visa. So it needs to be very thorough for the government. That's the resume I sent. All right. I think they said it was anybody else. We wouldn't even consider that something as well because I never really thought about until just now, a resume, people could look at that as your out of tune with reality. If you're sending a Bible to someone else,. It's well, clearly are encyclopedia like clearly, you're not being thoughtful of that time. Traditionally, a good film resume when you get into the areas, it's going to be just a waste of stuff. Your IMDB these days is like your new resume. All right From there, people can ask more questions and you can dive more into it. With that even if you're a student, like if you know where you want to work, look at the work that they do, and go make two or three shots that are just Star Wars or whatever it might be. At least that weights laser focus to them and you're right that way. If you're doing gory horror stuff and you're sending the Pixel. Then people's heads being decapitated then maligned. But if you're doing Q&C stuff, then it will. What do you think about that? Because I've heard mixed thoughts. There's a lot of people doing these fan animations that like Spider man right now. Some of them look really good. But I've heard, I can't place where and who said this. But that they typically don't like to see things trained almost copy what they did. It definitely never wrote a mate, like take the film and then just copy exactly. Don't ever do that. But what I'm referring to is like people do like fan animations and like taking Spider-Man and doing their own thing. I've heard mixed things like, it's good to be super focused if that's what you want to work on. But then I've heard people be like, we know what our man looks like and we spend years perfecting this from the film. So when you have a one-to-one example, they're going to be more critical of it. If they're hiring you for the job, if they're hiring you animate spotted man, I would hope that it would be a good contact proof of concept.[OVERLAPPING] Yeah. I've never really looked back. He was saying it and maybe it is one of those things like when I'm hiring my friends back in the day and taking their word for it. Maybe it's time to look back and be like, oh wait, you're saying that in. You're working on some boutique, small studio, and you're animating exactly. Who knows, but that could be the case for setup for me too. Like I said, I've heard it too, but I personally, I don't see why not like you. It's like you're auditioning. You've gone above and beyond to make sure that you fit the pot. If I'm going to go work. I don't know, let's say Naughty Dog and I'm looking at the stuff that you guys do, then, maybe if I do stuff that contributes to that world, it's like, wow your shoe. I remember hearing stories back in the day. Well, a good one is Pixar animated. You do the alien song accomplishment for getting his name. Yeah. Disturbing us because he's Buddy amount of had him on the podcast. Anyway, he created the alien song Back in the day, which was 1999. It was pretty iconic piece. Then he went to Pixar Ed Cat mull actually reached out to him. I'm trying to remember his name, but I remember hearing stories of people in CG talk back in the early [inaudible] where [inaudible]. Then literally hours later, you've got a job at wizard. Just in general for me if I'm looking for someone who, I need to blow up some buildings and someone sends me a rail with buildings being blown up. That to me says, well, you can blow up buildings. You're ready. I'll say one last thing. I think some people put things on a pedestal and think that they're much more critical than this. But there was like one, [inaudible] lead on a movie once. This is honest too. Was like pulling teeth to get her to actually sit down and do the work. I remember asking the supervisor on one point just more in conversation casually about a bit like, how does she get the job here? I'm just curious like what stood out. It wasn't that she wasn't talented, it was just she always seemed that personal drama and if it didn't work, and actually his response was she had dust on a rail and we need a dust because we had trains over derailing and blowing up and that to me in a way I look at Atom Mike. You need dusts in. There's dust in a relay is proof, but you can do it like it doesn't mean that you're going to be doing complicated shots, but hey, there's proof concepts. So again, sometimes it's as simple as that. That all it takes is, you animated attract in as attractor and iMovie. So congratulations, you got the job. All right. Do you have time for one more question? Yeah Okay. I'm curios about your thoughts about the state of the industry and looking forward in the next five or ten years. There's the tax incentives and people are trying to go to Montreal, There knowing wherever and now there's a Cloud services. I had a friend just show me a Theora I think is what it's called the foundries using and you can bulk machines with licenses and basically in your browser work in New York. I don't know, just like this data, things like where do you see things go on in the next ten years? [ OVERLAPPING ] AI is going to replace this. I think that like I hinted at it before, I think in 2012-2013, that was a bit of disruption. 22. Job Interviews: [MUSIC] Interviews, so we've covered basically every step of the process leading up to interviews. You've got an educated you understand what and how to learn, and use that to create a demo reel that stands, out and you've been applying to jobs. The next step of the process to getting a job after all that is an interview. If you make it to this stage, then you have made a very shortlist of candidates, and they like your work. An interview's main goal is to make sure you're easy to talk with and have a good personality, and you are not a total crazy person. Literally, that's what a recruiter from Pixar told me when I was in school. They want to make sure you're not crazy. Interviews can be over the phone, Skype, or in person. So be prepared for all of them, and make sure you're in places with a good signal, and they're quiet. Typically, what will happen is someone in recruiting reaches out via e-mail to set up an interview. At this stage, there's usually no discussion about pay yet. That will come later when they actually, if they do want to offer you a position. So don't jump the gun too early here, and start asking about pay because that'll be a red flag for them that you're more concerned about money, than seeing if you're a good fit for each other. So the HR person or recruiter who sets up the interview is usually not the person who will actually conduct the interview. You'll be speaking with someone higher up in your department like a lead or supervisor, depending on their schedules. Always make sure you're prepared for an interview by really researching the company, and ready to be familiar with their work in case they reference it. Something that could happen is they say "This project that you're going to get hired for or could get hired for is like this other one we did. What do you think about that one?" If you don't know the studio and their work very well enough, you'll be caught off guard and not be able to speak with any details about what they're saying. So one of the best preparations you can make for interviews is having questions to ask. Typically, the interview starts off with the interviewer asking the questions. So give them the opportunity first to control the conversation. But afterward, they'll open it up and see if you have any questions for them. It can be an awkward moment if you say "no, I don't have any questions." It almost feels like you don't care enough to come up with some. So make sure to do that beforehand, and if you're listening attentively during the interview, you might think of some on the spot as well. Also, have a notebook handy so you can write down the names and positions of everyone on the call because sometimes it can be several people interviewing you at once and one after the other, and it can be hard to keep track of who was who, especially on the phone and you can't see who is speaking. You also might want to write down dates, or things that else they might be talking about, so have a notebook handy. When an interview starts, they usually take the lead and launch into a description about the position that you're being interviewed for, and give an overview of the culture at the studio, and what a typical day is like. Be prepared to answer questions at the beginning, and just act natural but with some enthusiasm. Employers want people who are excited to work with them. So if you act too casual, how about your interests? Then they may take that as you are not very interested, and they'll pick someone else who appears to be more interested, but don't be overbearing or annoying with that kind of energy. It's kind of a Goldilocks situation. You need to be in the right spot. So I want to do a little exercise with you while this lesson is playing. Grab your phone or something to record yourself, and let's do a practice run. I want you to answer these questions I'm about to give you on the spot, and then re-watch or listen to yourself answer these. Pause this lesson and get ready. This exercise might seem silly, but it's better to mess up now than on an actual call, and since it's your first time watching this lesson, you'll actually get a taste of what it's like to answer these questions on the spot, and not be unprepared for them. So you'll have to make up someone answers since this is just a practice. But after each question, feel free to pause the lesson so you can have time to answer and restart when you're ready for the next question. So here we go with some typical questions you might get in an interview. Thanks for joining us on this call today. Can you tell me how you found out about this position? That's great, I see here that you don't have any experience yet. Can you tell me why you want to work in animation? Cool. So since you haven't worked in the industry yet, can you tell me a time in another job where you solved a difficult problem? Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss or superior about something and how you handled that? Is it easy for you to hear about things that you can improve and take feedback? Great, thanks. So do you have any questions for us? How did that go? It might have felt a little weird trying to answer those, but it will help you get more comfortable speaking about yourself, and to strangers if you practice a little bit. One tendency of people have is when they're nervous, is to ramble a little bit. So just make sure you're being concise with your answers, and don't ramble on too much about things unrelated to the question. Find good places to end your comments and responses. Some questions I like to ask and get clarification when I'm being interviewed, are typically about the project and what exactly I'll be doing, knowing they might not be able to tell me much since most projects have to be kept secret. I like to get an idea of how big the team is, how many people they plan to hire, and what the schedule would look like. Do they anticipate much overtime work? Sometimes I'll ask them what they like about working there. If they haven't already told me. Always be humble in your answers and questions. They are also on the lookout to see if you have a huge ego during an interview. So don't over promise about your skills, and always focus on not what you can get out of a job, but what you can contribute to their team. Towards the end of the interview, I like to also get clarification on what the next steps will be, when they're looking to hire for this position, and when should I expect to hear from someone? Can I send a follow up email to the recruiter to check in if I don't hear back? Thank them for their time and afterward, send them an email thanking them as well. Unfortunately, you may never hear from them again. That can be frustrating, but also a reason why you should continue to apply to places, even though you are interviewing already for another job. You never know what can happen, and if you're taking multiple interviews, the worst that can happen is you get multiple offers, and have to decline one or more than one of them. So do not stop applying to other places after you get an interview. You must constantly be on the hunt for the next gig. In the next lesson, I will discuss what to expect with an offer, and what a typical job offer looks like. Lastly, I want to mention something unique to the gaming branch of the animation industry, and that's animation tests. For whatever reason, they're really common requests to see. They want to see what you can animate, especially in a specific amount of time. I've never had any other job ask for an animation test, other than game companies. So be prepared to spend time on that if they request it and you're applying to game companies. It's typical to get asked to do some kind of an attack or run cycle, something specific to games, and sometimes even using their own character rigs, to see if you can animate to the style of their game. So in the next lesson, let's take a look at contracts and negotiating them. Thanks for watching. 23. Contracts And Negotiations: Contracts and Negotiations. Now that we've covered interviews, I wanted mention what you can expect when it comes to getting an actual offer for a job or contract. If the interview went well and they want to hire you, you will most likely get a follow-up email from the recruiter or HR person who you've been in contact with and now the negotiation begins. Ideally, they would just send you an offer with a salary amount and you could negotiate from there but that's never happened for me. The recruiters job is to get you as cheap as possible, they want to save the company money. What they'll ask is what your salary expectation is or what you were paid in your previous position. In California where I am, it's actually illegal to ask about past salary amounts so they'll usually ask it in a way that they'll ask for your expectations for a salary. There's several ways to handle this and it depends on what your goals are. If it's your first job and you just want to get your foot in the door, you might be eager to just say the lowest number you can think of so that you can secure the job offer. The problem with that is, if you stay at that company for a long time, that will cost you thousands of dollars and it will be tougher to work your way up to a decent level of pay through raises once you've established what your baseline is for a salary when you entered that studio. If it's a short contract and you just want to get the experience, then you can leave that company and negotiate more on the next job. The number they're asking for may also vary depending on what branch of the industry you're in. But almost everyone is a contract hire, but it's normal to get clarity on if they're asking for an annual salary, a day rate or an hourly rate if you're unsure. If it's a day rate confirm what the length of the day is they work. Contract hire means that most of the industry works on a project basis so they only want to hire you for the amount of time they need you for a project. This is a double-edged sword because it can be good that you're more free to move around and take longer vacations if you plan your finances accordingly, but it can also feel unstable as you bounce from contract to contract and always looking for the next one, even after you secure one. Very few staff positions are offered to candidates, especially if it's your first job. Industrial Light Magic for example, hasn't offered a staff position to someone they've never worked with before in over 15 years. Their staff hires are rare and only come from people they've worked with for several years as contract hires. Even if a company would like to hire you as a staff, they'll most likely start you out on a three month contract to see if you're a good fit before extending your contract or offer a staff position. When I've been offered a staff position at a studio, I was a contract hire and they actually wanted to lower my pay for the staff position because they said the cost of the stability of being a staff of employee would be the difference there and that was the reason they would lower my pay. I didn't take it. Depending on where you work, staff might not mean much. Anyways, it's only they asked me to take several months unpaid vacation even though I was staff, instead I just left and found work elsewhere. Friends who stayed there have been asked to take as much as six months of unpaid vacation as a staff person. I think it's mainly a tactic so that it's tougher for you to renegotiate if you never actually leave. Most big pay bombs come after you leave the company. It's much harder to get raises within a studio you're at for a long time so there can be advantages to bouncing around from a pay negotiation standpoint as well. As we can see, being staffed doesn't actually guarantee you consistent work. It might be a way for them to keep you for less money. These are all the things you must consider for your own personal and financial situation. Each studio will have their own quirks and tactics in regards to contracts and hiring. I try my best to avoid being the first one to give out a number in negotiations. I'll say something to the effect of, I'm most interested in opportunity to work at this company so I'm open to hearing what you have to offer for this position. Or you can do your own research. Look at that company on Glassdoor.com to see if any employees have reported salaries for you to base your answer of off. Maybe something like, based on my research, I'm seeing a salary range between 35,000 and 50,000 for this role, is that accurate? Try and ask them questions to get more information from them. But if you're just starting out, you might not have much room to negotiate since there could be other candidates willing to take less or not be as difficult in negotiations. Only recently after ten years have I become more picky with my salary expectations. It's up to the individual person. However, a little effort can go along way. Usually if you try one or two back and forth with the recruiter negotiating, they're not just going to pass you up so it might be worth trying, once or twice in an e-mail response. If you keep hounding them, they might decide you're not worth the effort, especially for these lower level position, entry level positions. One example I can give you though, is just from doing a little negotiating. I was able to make $20,000 more a year than a classmate of mine when we worked with the same studio and have the same amount of experience. He was not happy to learn that. Some studios actively discourage employees from sharing their salary information, saying things like, it's bad for the team or some other excuse. I personally think it's important to know where you stand and make sure you're being valued properly. As someone with no experience, don't expect to start out with much high pay and much negotiating power. Your biggest uphill battle will be your lack of experience and they'll use that against you in negotiations to justify trying to pay you a lower salary on whatever scale you find. If you are just starting out then you should really be focused on the opportunity and less on the money anyways and as you progress in your career you can be more picky about the salary you'll accept and offers later on down the road. I also want to briefly explain the whole system that's common at commercial studios in LA and New York, and other places that have commercial companies like Chicago. In commercials that can be difficult to staff on short notice when they're not certain whether they've been awarded the project or not and it's a quick turnaround usually. They've established a whole system where they will ask you for a hold or more specifically, they might ask you for a first hold for a certain amount of time. It could be only a day, a week, or a few months. Many times when I worked at a commercial studio, people would come into work only for a single day because that's all they were needed for. First hold means that they're requesting that they have first dibs on your time, for that period they're requesting and anyone else who asked to hold your time then would get a second hold. A first hold means you must ask them to release you if you want to take another job and they haven't decided whether they need you or not to book you. They will have 24 hours to respond to book you or not. Booking means you definitely have the job but a hold is really just a gentleman's agreement that they're interested in you for a potential project and need to make sure they have their staff in place if the project moves forward. For second holds, you don't have to ask them anything, if you want to take another job, for example, even if it's a third or fourth hold, which is rare to have that many holds at once, but it could happen in theory and you just need to let them know like, "Hey, I took my first hold." The tactic I realized was best to use in these situations is to never give anyone your first hold. I can give you a second hold for that time, That is what I would usually say, that way you are free to make whatever choice you want and don't have to ask their permission first if it was a first hold. The idea is to always keep your first hold for yourself so you can make all the decisions. It can seem complicated at first, but it's an informal system that has been set up in place in this branch of the animation industry to help schedule people for projects that are untyped turnarounds. Lastly, always clarify any benefits associated with your contract. That means did you get health insurance? Is there a retirement plan? Are there any paid vacation days and how do sick days work. If it's a game company, you might ask if you're eligible for any bonuses as well. Those are usually reserved for staff positions, but always make sure you understand all the expectations of you and what you're getting in return before you accept an offer so you'll be happy about your situation when you start work. Let's take a quick break for another interview with Ryan Summers, who is a creative director and animator in a commercial branch of the industry. Thanks for watching. 24. Ryan Summers Interview: This is Ryan Summers. He's a Creative Director at Digital Kitchen and also teaches at School of Motion. Thanks for joining me. I just had a few questions for you about motion design and motion graphic animation. Awesome. Cool. Fire away. What makes motion graphics reel stand out when you are looking to hire? That's a great question, especially I've been over the last year, talking to people to try to help them review their reels and kind of level them up. I'd say the biggest thing for me that I end up seeing, I probably saw 100 demo reels last year, of just people trying to improve. There's a big difference between a show reel and a demo reel for me as somebody who's hiring on the motion graphic side. I see a lot of people because motion graphic is such a wide field, and you get asked to do so many things. I see people who have a collection of their previous year's work, rather than an example of what they want to be hired for tomorrow or what they think I can hire them for. I see a lot of reels that have a little bit of everything, but nothing that tells me what they want to do or what they think that they're excellent at. A lot of times for me, somebody who's very focused or someone if they are generalists, they're only showing their best work. What happens a lot of times is I'll see something that has some great title animation. It looks like something that could be a shot from a title sequence for a film or a TV show, and then three shots later, I'll see something that the type is just wrong, the kerning's off, the choice of font doesn't fit for the tone of the show. Then the thing that's strange is you'd think your best work would raise all boats in the tide of your demo reel. But what ends up happening is it's the opposite. Your weakest piece kind of weakens the rest of your great shots because at a meeting it makes somebody who's about to hire you, say like, ''That's awesome. But wait a second. Why are there two ones that are lesser? Did that person really do all the work on that shot or did they just do a part of it?'' Rather than creating a lean In moment where someone leans in and watching demos like, ''Oh. What is this? I need to hire this person,'' it makes you lean back and cross your arms and think like, ''Wait a second. What is this person actually capable of? So for me, focus, transparency, brevity, somebody who has passion that you can tell from their work that they love what they do, which sounds kind of elusive, but you can really tell when someone's reel just sings, it's amazing. Yeah. Awesome. That's great to know. I think that that distinction is really important. What do you think when someone is hired, what's the key to their success within a studio and getting their first job? Let me take a step back and say it like, what would be your advice on getting their foot in the door beyond the demo reel? I say this all the time. I tell people, whether it's on Twitter or when I meet up with people or take phone calls, networking. I think in all different senses of the word, summon the kind of more, a lot of us to kind of think it's kind of gross a little shady or have a hard time approaching it. But networking in the general sense of calling up the studio is reaching out to the hiring manager's, the EPs, the Heads of production. Sometimes even like the creative directors that you love and just introducing yourself and making yourself available. Letting people know that you're on the scene, you're in the location or you have an availability. But then I think the really, really important one, the one that I think I've gotten most of my jobs on, it's still networking, but I think it's more like friend-making versus networking. If there's any kind of word that makes sense for that if there's a better one, I'd love to know it. But reaching out to people that whose work you love without the intent of asking for a job, but just to make yourself available like, ''Man, I saw this. I'd love to know what inspired you? '' Or ''I've never seen a frame that looks like this.'' "Is there someone that you've been riffing on that you've been developing in your own head?" Then just making yourself useful, creating value. That's one of those cheesy words, but there is a truth to it. Like when I have someone who hits me up on Slack three or four times and like, ''I saw this. Have you ever seen this book?'' Or ''I think you might have liked this artist. I hear he was inspired by the photographer.'' There's no end on the conversation like, ''and by the way, you can hire me.'' Those things are amazing because it feels like just people who love art or people who love animation sharing information with each other. Eventually, that turns into something where the person or the people that you're trying to become friends with, they become patrons almost. They become your biggest fans. When I'm in the office and I know I need something, I go to those people. Even if I don't know if that person's ready for that position, or ready for that job, I want those people to level up. I want to help them. I won't be able to give them that soft spot. So I guess it's from the top down, and from the bottom up networking. Cool. I know it's 10:15 now. Do you need to run? No, no. We're good till 10:30. Okay, cool. I was also wondering I guess the next stage of the process. We've got the demo reel, we've been networking. We got our foot in the door, maybe we're hired on our first job. What do you see for new hires, the common mistakes they make or the people who really excel, what's the difference between those types of people and what they do? You'd think it would be that they're awesome Photoshop or they're great at animation or they understand all the tools. For me, every place I've ever been and something I struggled at when I first went to Imaginary Forces and then learned it by watching a couple other people. It's honesty, transparency, curiosity, and willing to understand when you need to show off your ego and when you need to be humble. It's this seesaw. There's moments when in a room with a creative director, two senior artists, and a producer after a client has a phone call, that you probably should sit back and listen and take notes. There's other moments when you're on the floor and people are throwing out ideas, and everyone's stumped that you need to not be insecure and you need to say your idea. But knowing where and when, I've seen a lot of people gravitate exactly opposite. They don't contribute when they should, but they're more than willing to tell their opinions when they're on the phone with a client that's not their station, I guess is the best way to say it. That's a really difficult thing to learn if no one pulls you to the side or if you if there. [OVERLAPPING] Yeah. I don't think schools teach it, but I think it is. For as expensive as modern art schools are, it's kind of amazing that office skills, the soft skills of learning how to network and be friends and then business acumen isn't really taught alongside key-framing and tweening and modeling. It's an interesting transition between a relationship of like a student-teacher to employer and employee. Yeah. I find those students, they don't know that employee-employer relationship yet, and so they try to take that student-teacher mentality into it. It's like, ''Oh, no. This isn't school.'' I think in motion design, I've worked on animation studios, I've worked in visual effects shops, and I've worked in a lot of motion design shops. It's so ridiculously informal in motion design. The work is so wide-reaching and anything from your life could come into play in motion design. If you happen to be a good photographer, you might be at a shop where all of a sudden, there's a photo-based animation that somebody's like, "Hey, I saw your Instagram. I checked your Flickr account. Do you want to come and be the lead photographer? Everything is kind of wild west all the time just because the nature of the work. So a new student coming in, seeing all this, there's music blaring and everybody goes out to lunch, everybody has their own connections, it can be intimidating, but also you'd be like, "Oh, I guess I should just be relaxed and chill too.'' But it takes time to work into that. It's a really difficult thing going into a shop as a new employee. To that point, and why I'm really curious to talk to you is, I've never even been hired as emotion designer and motion graphics artist, even though I've done, kind of like what you're saying, I've worn a lot of hats like doing my own freelance stuff, but in that role, because it sounds like you've done both sides of maybe some character animation titles, all that, kind of everything. What would you say is the difference in the skills they need to have and what differentiates a motion graphics or a motion designer versus a character animator as far as- Character animation is really interesting because there is such a pipeline, whether it's a pipeline to get your character to animate and head it off to the next phase, or the pipeline for just story development and where you fit within it. There's a level of ownership you have that maybe in the big picture you don't, but in the very micro, you do as an animator. In motion design, I feel like the level of ownership in most places, even the highest places, it's kind of up to you. You can't say, ''I do this one thing. I do it very, very well. I get paid a good day rate, but don't ask me to do the thing before or the thing after.'' Right. I find that the people who are the most successful to be honest and honestly the people who stay in the industry the longest and move their way up the ladder, are the people who are just, I think I said it earlier, who are really curious about how does a job command? What does a client need? As much as they are, ''I need to figure out what the new style is,'' or ''I need to use rubber hose or do I need to use limber?'' They're just as curious about their tools as they are the client, as they are the job, and the other people that work with them. That's not to say you can't be a specialist in motion design. But I feel like I see a lot of specialists, especially in visual effects, they're like, ''I do this thing. Don't ask me to do anything else.'' Animation, I have really good friends that work at Disney, and I have friends who work at a lot of video game companies. It seems like there's variety. I know some guys at Disney that are the action guys. If you need to do a car chase scene, they're the guys who are going to get that no matter what, because they love it, they're great at it, they're fast. Then there's other people who are like sometimes performance, sometimes group shots, sometimes solo shots. They're a little all over the place. But I think in motion design, you've got to know everything. Right. It goes back to your earlier comment about the show reel versus cutting together something to show exactly what you want to do or what you're really good at, versus like, ''Here's everything I've ever done.'' Sorry. I've been up for a Creative Director role but it was at a smaller place and I was hesitant to go down that path. What's the role of the Creative Director for someone who's not familiar and why have you chosen that path because it sounds like you've done everything, and you probably had a lot of options. What does it mean to be a Creative Director? I think Creative Director is a very weird position. I love talking about it because I think everyone coming out of art schools and design schools, they think they really want that position but unfortunately, I think gets really similar to people who become animation leads at large studios, because they think, "I am going to control it now." I always had to be a slave to my supervisor, or my supervisor, an animator's supervisor, and then the director, and the story, and then the studio. People think when they become that supervisor or a creative director, that they are not the boss or they have that ultimate control. It's my vision. There's this weird idea [inaudible] just in the creative industries that very rarely does that ever happen. Even when you're David Fincher, even when you're a feature film director, that control still doesn't exist. They still fight for it. I mean, you're literally wearing George Lucas's hat right now if he had to leave all of Hollywood to go, and then I do think that that level of control actually contorted his whole enjoyment with film making. So there's a very big example of be very careful what you wish for and really indicate yourself to it. So I guess I had two questions, creative directing, and motion graphics is really becoming the advocate for the client more so than anyone else. You split your brain between what you want the project to be and what the client needs the project to be, and hopefully, there's harmony between them, the best creative directors find a way to balance their career interests or their artistic interests over years with a client's needs. It's a lot of phone calls, it's a lot of sitting down with Excel spreadsheets and with producers who never understand not just the needs of the project, but the needs of the artists working on it. I think it's a big balancing act. It's like being on a high wire while trying to spin other people's plates that are also on the high wire. You very rarely worry about the couple of plates that you think are the most important or self actually really want them to be. It's exciting because you do get to start from the beginning and see something to the end, which is really rare. Like an animation one of my best friends just animated on record rough too and I think he had three very difficult shots over the course of the year plus a bunch of other stuff. I think he had less than 45 seconds of actual animation over an entire year. No matter how great those individual shots are and they're spread out over an entire film, they're never chunked all in one place. You don't really feel like you've made a large effect on something that you've worked your whole life to. There's something very strange in the motion design industry, I think it extends to animation that you spent almost your entire career trying to get really good at your craft. If you're good at it, and you communicate well and you know how to work well with other people, you almost immediately get to the point where you'd have to drop almost all of those skills and all that time you spent learning your craft to, I wouldn't even call it elevate, I think that's a big misnomer, but to make this lateral move into a world you've never been trained for. Very few of us know how to run Gantt Charts or spreadsheets, or calendars, or be a therapist. It's a whole other set of skills. Right. This is a more of a tangent from people who are just starting out. This is more like later on maybe in their career, but while we're on this topic, I've always thought about those roles and speaking of like misnomers because I was like a lead on a project, and I feel like it gives this perverse hierarchy thing that shouldn't be there and thought the term facilitator would be a better, what do you think about the term facilitator? Because I feel that's all I was doing is there's people and I'm trying to organize them in a way to get them to do. We all have the same goal, but I'm now like, have a big time and I'm in front or something, you know what I mean? Lead. Some of these terms are, I don't know. There's not a easy one for any of them. I don't disagree with that. I think it's a great description of what the majority of the work is that you do as a creative director. I just don't think any creative director will ever accept that as a title. You create a glowing reward in your head of one day I'll be a creative director and I can't see many artists being like one day I'll be the lead facilitator. [inaudible]. It's not a sexy word or title. I've been very fortunate to work with a couple of my heroes as directors. I think that one of the best descriptions I was ever given as a director was, [inaudible] editorial told me that he has 1,000 decisions to make and 995 of them need to be no. Only five of them need to be, yes. But he has to pick every day the five right out of the 1000 no's. [inaudible] essentially a minefield and there's five right steps. Five correct steps. Every day he has to wake up knowing that he's going to step on a lot of mines. A lot of them are probably time-sensitive and you don't have a ton of time to consider everything. Yeah, and you can't really see how each one is going to effect the next day set of decisions. You need to really rely on the rest of the people around you. So it's a difficult job. It's not necessarily super creatively rewarding all the time, but when it does work, it's amazing. To switch gears, what would you say for people who have limited time and they're at the stage in their discovery that they have the questions like, what software do I use? To that regard, why do you think Cinema 4D is more the go to for motion graphics and is that what you would recommend for motion designers to learn as opposed to Maya or Houdini or [inaudible]? Yeah, for now, yeah. I used to be a 3D Studio Max artists when I was in school, and then I went out as a character animator out of school, learned soft emerge which turned into XXI, went back to Max for game design. When I made the move to LA, I had Cinema 4D just on my hard drive from a long time ago. Started playing around with it and I was amazed by the time I got to magnetic forces and I saw a couple of people working with it. It is probably the best program for people to. It feels like a 3D sketchbook. You can play very easily, you can experiment very easily. It's not the easiest to push very hard on. It's very easy to get someone in and that's why you see the thought leaders in our industry that lots of people following them, but then there's not a lot of next steps for training to get much deeper, whereas in Maya, the funnel is very small, and then there's a lot of places to go when you want to get specialized, to get those very tight specific skill sets. But yeah, I think it's easy to educate yourself. There's tons of places to learn. It's very easy to get your head around it. There's so many things that it does quickly and easily that I think it's very inviting. It's very easy place. It also has a great connection After Effects. So I think there's this great lineage of people who learn print design and make their stuff animate, they went Photoshop to After Effects because that was simple. Three, four, five years of doing After Effects all sound like I got to make 3D type. Cinema blew up in a scene where it was very easy to go to there. Now the funnel's got much larger and I think it's easy to dive in. I mean, for me, I always tell people if you want to get the motion design, software is going to be software. It'll change, some stuff would be the same. But if you really want the advantage over everyone else, excuse me, learn design fundamentals, be great at color, be great at type. Have a camera with you all the time so you'd understand layout. You can constantly be playing around with building your taste in your eye for composition and layout and color. The rest of the stuff will come. The rest of stuff you can specialize, you can train. But the thing that I see that limits people, and this is a conversation to have daily is those design skills, composition skills, taste level, is what limits people in their careers. It's something that's very difficult to accept. If you've had a good career for four or five years, and you're like, ''I can't make the next step up.'' It's not hard to train yourself, but it's really difficult to admit to yourself like, ''I'm not the artist I thought I was. I'm a great technician who has an interest in art. I do need to stop.'' It's like you're going backwards, but you need to supplement your knowledge with that. That makes a lot of sense. They have enough experience where they think, ''I can get by, but why am I getting gated here?'' It's those things that are agnostic to softwares, it's the principles that live outside of whatever the software, I really like that point that you're making. I think [inaudible]. That's great. Good. Because I have to let you go. I have a meeting at 12.30. So it was great talking to you, man. Let me know if there's anything else, if there's follow-up question or if you ever want to talk some more. That'll be awesome. Yeah, for sure. It's great time. Again, thanks so much for taking this much time and we'll talk soon, hopefully. Cool. Take care. Thanks. Bye. 25. Pay: PAY; This is a topic that everyone is interested in because it's important. But please do not get into this industry and expect to get filthy rich. There are many other ways to make money if that's your primary focus. I put this lesson towards the end of the course for a reason because as someone starting out this topic should not be at the top of your concerns. I've already mentioned glassdoor.com as a resource to research salaries from specific companies, from actual employees. That is a good place to start. It'll give you ranges for reported roles from employees of those companies. Allan McKay has also put together a website for the visual effects industry called vfxrates.com, where you can enter your experience level and department and see how much you can expect to make. There's also a website called loveforgames.com. That has salary information for the games industry. I'll also list a link in the course materials to an animators union wage minimums and reports. That's specific to where the union is active, most notably at Nickelodeon for TV animation in Burbank, California. But I'll give you an idea of what's typical. Pay really depends on many factors, like your experience level, ability to negotiate, the studio, and their location. The pay range for those reasons can be incredibly broad, starting at around $35,000 a year and going upwards of $150,000 a year and even more if you're in the top 1 percent of a studio, like a studio head or supervisor. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I can tell you what I found so far. Commercial studios have the highest pay. Big film studios you might expect to be the best paid, actually aren't, so don't discount working in a branch of animation like commercials because it can be a better financially for some people. There are some major studios that use their name and the desire of most artists to work there as a way to pay their employees less. Almost as if it's a priviledge just to work there on their projects, so they won't pay you as much. I can remember passing a Taco Bell on my way to work one morning early in my career and seeing a one of dad on the sign out front, searching for a manager of the restaurant. It paid $60,000, which is the middle of the road in the range I gave you and I chuckled to myself as I drove past. Again, if money is all you're concerned about, there's many more examples of places you can make more money and easier money. Also consider the location and cost of living. In general, this industry is located all over the world, but typically it's in the most expensive cities in the world, like Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver, and London, just to name a few. If you're moving from another city that's cheaper to live, just be aware of the higher cost of living when you accept a job offer in a bigger city, or be prepared to commute from a longer distance where the rent might be cheaper and lower. There's a two-bedroom apartment actually downstairs that rents for $4,000 a month it's not common for people to have their roommates in these situations, to be able to afford rent or just don't live six blocks from the beach like I do and rent further away, that's cheaper or even better. Like my first job, I had a friend who let me sleep on the floor of their closet for three months, rent free. One reason I avoid working in Canada right now is the exchange rate is pretty terrible, and that's something else you need to consider if you're looking at moving countries. As a mid-level animator in Los Angeles, I can make what leads or supervisors make in Vancouver or London. On more than one occasion, I've been offered positions for almost half of what I currently make from studios in the UK. I found the highest wages to be an either Los Angeles or New York, and in commercials. However, if you get overtime pay at a film or game company, it can easily rival commercial wages. Overtime pays required by the law in the United States, but I know in London there is no overtime pay, for example. But if you're in the United States and your project does a lot of overtime, you can see your salary increased quite rapidly. It's not uncommon to make an extra entire week's pay in a month, if you're doing more overtime. This extra pay can help go towards bridging the gap when your contract is up and you haven't found another one yet. I've been lucky in my career to not have very long gaps between contracts because I'm constantly looking for work even when I have a job, because I know my contract will eventually end and I need to be ready for the next one. Overtime pay means anything over eight hours and you receive one and a half times your hourly wage until the 12th hour, and if you work past 12 hours in one day, then you start to make twice your wage. That's why you must always check and be clear with your production through your supervisors or producers to get approval for working overtime. Typically, they'll be very clear what they want you to do and never work overtime without being asked, because it can cost the production a lot of money that they may not have budgeted for, so always be clear with that, with your higher ups. When I left school, my mentor told us if we were able to make a $1000 per week, that we'd be doing pretty good and I think that's about accurate still, for someone starting out. That would mean a day rate of $200 or $25 per hour for an eight hour day. In my first job, I was able to work at a day rate of $250 per day, so I felt pretty good with that. A few years later, after leaving that studio and getting more experience elsewhere, I was able to return to that same studio and double my original rate to $500 a day. However, at that studio, it was expected you work a 10 hour day and they provided no benefits like health insurance. But it goes to show what's possible to be able to double your rate after a few years, and that was only because I had already demonstrated my value to them and that I can basically work twice as fast as the average animator. I might even still be saving them money despite them paying me more and not having to hire another animator potentially. I know people who make more than this rate as well, but wanted to give you an idea of what's out there. By contrast, like I mentioned, if I took a job in Vancouver, for the same pay I get right now, I would actually be taking a 25 percent pay cut because of the exchange rate is so much worse. When I graduated, I had $50,000 in credit card debt, from paying for film school. But because I was financially responsible and worked extra hard, I was able to pay that off in a few years, so it is possible to live comfortably on the salaries in this industry unless you're starting in a country like India. As my interview with Reina discussed and how he was able to work his way into a better situation and higher pay. I was lucky to be an American and be able to work here since it has the highest wages, but I have friends all over the world who also do quite well and manage to raise families too. I would suggest to immediately pay down any debt you have and once that's done, start working on saving six months worth of living expenses in an emergency fund in case you have a long period between contracts. I could do an entire course on finances and I may one day, but there's plenty of information online now to manage your money well and the basics are, do not spend more than you earn. We're nearing the end of the course. I've taken you through broad categories of industry through how to get educated and best learn your craft, and the specific exercises needed to demonstrate your skills in a demo reel and all the way through the hiring process. 80 percent of this information in this course I never learned in school and comes from real-world experience. I hope this has given you an advantage that I wish I had before I started on my career path, it would have saved me a lot of anxiety around the uncertainty about things I didn't know about, and maybe even save me thousands of dollars if I interviewed and negotiate better from the beginning. I hope you have enjoyed this course and please enroll my other ones as well to learn more skills to advance your career. In the next and final lesson, I give a few thoughts about the future of the industry. Thanks for watching. 26. The Future: The future. There are many new exciting technologies emerging today, like real-time rendering, virtual reality, and machine learning to name a few. Many people are worried that jobs will be lost when technology arises like this, but I'm not one of them. Many behind the scenes video shows actors in fancy suits that signal the rise of this new technology to people, not an industry. Well, as someone who's worked on films like these, I can tell you nine times out of 10, those suits aren't fancy tech. They're meant for artists like me to hand animate frame by frame and match a 3D character rig to the actor's fancy suit. There's no special tech related to those suits. It's someone like me sitting behind a computer and visually matching frame by frame. I do believe that machine learning will emerge as a helpful technology, but will not entirely eliminate jobs like mine. Take motion capture for example. Those suits actually are associated with fancy technology where the actors motions are recorded in 3D and used in animation. But it still takes a skilled animator to clean up and fix those performances, where usually their feet are crashing through the floor, their hands aren't touching what they're supposed to be or there's entire performance changes requested by the director, they don't have the time or money to re-shoot on a motion capture stage. It's up to animators to hand key those sequences. Then you also have like, how would you motion capture an octopus? That's not going to happen, you have to have the animators. Andy Serkis, a famous mocap actor and just general actor, has infamously taken all the credit for his performances in movies like Planet of the Apes or Lord of the Rings, because even he isn't aware of all the work animators still have to do to fix an actor's motion capture performance or he refuses to acknowledge the team effort it takes. I believe the same will be true when it comes to machine learning. There will always be a place for people in creative roles if for no other reason to quality check any work that is being automated through machine learning or otherwise. There is a risk that work that's easier to automate will reduce the workforce, especially in entry level positions like roto artists, for example. I actually have a friend who has developed a machine learning software that can key out green screens much faster and just as good as a human working in Nuke. I see positions like roto artists as being potentially threatened by technology like that. But on the whole, I think there will always be room for people in this industry and anyone's fears about that can be attributed to not having actual experience doing the work themselves and really understanding how much hands-on work has to be done by real people, even if it's through using computers. I think the same fear arose when 3D animation first started. It did make 2D animation less popular to the point that even Disney laid off and closed down their entire 2D animation department and no longer makes those kinds of movies. But when that happened, there was a huge opportunity for people willing to adapt to the new 3D animation. I think that story will continue to play out as technology evolves and as we see games and narrative films begin to merge more and more with these new technologies. I read the book, "Ready Player One" when it first came out and coincidentally, I happened to also be working on a virtual reality project at the time, which really emphasized the future is already here. I was at work looking through a headset to check my animation work and reading about a world where this is normal to everyone in that book. I also eventually had the good luck to work on that movie as well and I think as the technology of the hardware advances maybe through companies like Magic Leap, and the price continues to drop for that technology, that will see VR become more and more adopted in everyone's homes, which means that could even increase the demand for workers in this industry because we'll need to provide content for that new hardware. I hope you've enjoyed listening to and watching this course. I've really enjoyed creating it and sharing my experience with you. Working in this industry can be difficult at times, but it's also incredibly rewarding to contribute to popular culture in a small way. That as a kid, I was always in awe of superheroes, cartoons and video games and now being able to participate in creating it for the next generation, is incredibly fulfilling. I wish you all the best in your journey into the industry and I hope we get the chance to meet and work together. Thanks for watching, keep creating.