Animation Graduate Advice, Pt1.1 – Learn What You Want To Do

The other day, a guy got in contact on LinkedIn. He had just graduated from the same animation course that I did 12 years before and simply asked for advice about getting into the industry.

A lot has changed since I graduated – most significantly the course had changed from teaching 3D animation to 2D animation – and that’s a world I know less about. Nevertheless, it got me thinking about what advice I would have liked to receive when I graduated all those years ago, and more specifically, what advice I could give that was non-medium specific.

I had a think about it and came up with a simple, almost obvious, almost idiotic answer. 

Learn. 

There is still so much to learn, even after three years of Uni. Heck! An animator is gonna spend the rest of their life learning – learning software from online resources, learning techniques from mentors, learning how to humble yourself when that director makes a decision you disagree with – it’s all learning. But at this moment, speaking to recent graduates who are trying to get their foot through the door and break into the industry, there are a couple of key things I think should be learned.

Learn what you want to do

It might seem strange – graduates just want to get a job and get money, and that’s fine – but learning what sort of stuff you want to do at an early stage will really help steer your career. This particular lesson might take years of job-hopping from studio to studio, but I think it is important for an animator to recognise what they actually want to do, then aim for it.

Is there a show or game you have always wanted to work on? Is there a specific animation style that you love, or industry you want to work for? Do you want to work in the TV industry or work in games or motion graphics? Do you love character performance or is there a thrill or effects like water or explosions, or do you want to do something a little more contemporary?

Figure out what style of animation you want to produce, what audience you want to animate for, and seek out the studios that do that work.

Ask yourself, what about this studio’s work draws you to them? Is it something about how they use line, colour, motion or camera angles? What techniques do they use? Analyse their work, frame by frame if you need to, see if there is something specific about their animation that makes it a specific style of that studio. Is the animation language realistic or stylised, soft or snappy? What software does the studio use? I can tell you now that it will be easier to get a job if you already know the software!

But all of this starts from a place of recognising what you want to do and finding studios who do it. Analyse their work, start experimenting and get excited!

  • Caveat: This is not to say you should idolise studios, merely give yourself something to aim for. It is easy to become so focused on one studio that any rejection (and there will be rejections) can be very painful. Alternatively, you may find yourself working for very little, just to get the experience. If this is what you want, then go with confidence, but remember, this isn’t sustainable a way of working. By all means, get excited about work, but please keep your emotions in check and don’t get lost down that rabbit hole.
  • Side Note: It might be worth mentioning that you may have to relocate to get a job you want. This can be more difficult for some than others, especially if you have a good community around you where you currently live. For others, it might be the most natural thing in the world. Either way, I feel I must state that relocation is a very real thing in this industry. 

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