I’ll be crewing up soon for Cosmo and Monster Animation has put out the call for animators. A few would-be applicants have been in touch on email or through twitter to ask for advice, for any tips on what I might be looking for or what we might need for the project. So I thought I might offer a few general tips that spring to mind. These all assume you can animate (Tip 0: Learn to animate) and so are tips based on what I would look for in an applicant, but they’re also just for people who want to work on the type of projects I work on or with the type of people I work with. I imagine most will work for any studio and even well beyond animation. So here we go…
TIP 1: Be the person who gets in touch to find out what people are actually looking for.
Those who got in contact with me already have a head start. Because, firstly, I let them know what might help (not easy admittedly on Twitter at 140 characters) and, secondly, now I know their names and I’ll recognise them when I get to see their work. I have already filed those names in folders labelled ‘keen’ and ‘has initiative’. These are good folders to be in.
TIP 2 : Know the project.
Know what it is you’re applying for. The truth is, many of us aren’t really looking for animators, as in people who just take scenes, look at the storyboards and make them move. We’re looking to build a creative team. Someone who really contributes to the project. That requires knowing the intended end result.
TIP 3 : Be professional.
Getting into the ‘stating the obvious’ territory now, right? Sure, but I know from having made it through animation college myself that the working world is a whole different place and there is some adjustment that takes place. Get past that adjustment faster and you will do better. Be courteous, on time, do things when you say you’ll do them even for something as basic as sending an email. Proof read those mails too. Why does it matter? It’s all an indicator of where your internal quality control is set.
Oh and if you’re wondering if I take people straight out of college – yes, I do. I try not to fuel that ‘you need experience to get experience’ paradox, and I’ve had some fantastic people straight from college in the past.
TIP 4: Don’t be too professional.
We’re not in one those CV/Resume grilling-interview kind of businesses. At least, I’m not. I make cartoons. They’re fun. A big part of fitting into a creative team is personality. If your guard is up and you’re so well-rehearsed with speeches about making your deadlines and what made you want to be an animator (to save lives!), it makes it harder for me to know what you’re really like. By the way, this is why industry events and nights out are fantastic. You get in front of people and they’ll quickly see you who you are. That counts for a lot. So, if you’re in Ireland, get to those Pegbar events – they’re really good.
TIP 5: Show what you can do.
Make it easy for people to see what you’re good at. Make everything accessible – online at one click. Try to keep a showreel short, so we’ll make it to the end. Bear in mind the needs of the project. If we’re looking for Flash animators, we want to see some Flash animation. But also try to mix things up a little. Keep it varied because you just never know what might interest someone. If someone tells you a showreel or portfolio needs lots of a particular something, what they mean is they want to see lots of that particular something. You can’t be sure everyone wants to see the same thing. Variety is good.
Tip for students – the quicker you replace that student work the better. Even with really talented hard-working people, the nature of college seems to create a similarity in projects that can wear people down when they’ve just watched twenty showreels. Whether paid professional work or personal projects, aim to replace that student work quickly.
TIP 6: Enjoy it.
Animation is fun. We make cool stuff. You’re not in it for the money (there are far easier ways to make money), not in it for the glory (few animators become celebs, right?). You’re likely doing it because you love to animate. Or you love to tell stories. Or love playing with fun characters. Or love the idea of giving something really good to children. Don’t lose that. Sure, there are difficulties and every studio has its quirks, not everywhere suits everyone but don’t let that drag you down. We’re going to make children smile. We’re going to touch their lives in a positive way, especially making a show like Cosmo. This is important. A big responsibility, sure. But a great one and one that should be fun, exciting and full of creativity for all of us.
So enjoy it.
Without getting into the technicalities of the actual animation process (and there are lots – if anyone ever wants my personal tips on those, see Tip 1), these are the six tips I would give to anyone wanting to work with me on any projects and I’m sure they apply to many, if not most, other places too. To you Irish animators, you’re in a great place right now with an insane amount of work going on. This is fantastic and it means you can pay special attention to finding the right project or studio, rather than just accepting what’s available.
As for me, I’m excited about taking on some new crew members for Cosmo and I wish you all well, no matter where you’re working or where you’re applying for work.