How to land your dream job in animation

Aim high and the 3D industry is your oyster – as long as you go about it in the right way.

escape from planet earth

Rainmaker Entertainment's first animated theatrical release, Escape From Planet Earth

When thinking about your next career move, do you tend to steer away from the 'glamour jobs'? After all, the jobs that involve working on the biggest blockbusters will attract so much competition there's little point in applying, right? It's a fair assumption to make – but it's utterly wrong, argue our experts.

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Take the forthcoming Star Wars sequels – possibly the most glamorous job in VFX right now. ILM has recently set up a London studio to complement those in San Francisco, Vancouver and Singapore, partly to work on Episode 7 and further Star Wars movies to come. And they're keen to encourage UK artists to apply…

Seeking artists

"Yes, we absolutely are hiring," confirms John Knoll, ILM's chief creative officer. "Actually, we have open positions in all our studios around the world." And John says there's no need for a secret handshake. "Just go to the website and head to the jobs tab; you can search and see where the openings are."

Nor is ILM only looking for decades of experience. "Obviously, very experienced artists are highly sought-after," Knoll says. "But I think there's a lot to be gained by having artists who are young and enthusiastic, and who come at this right out of college with a lot of energy and a real willingness to learn."

That even one of the world's biggest VFX companies is keen to hire is a sign of the rapidly growing opportunities within the industry. But how can you maximise your chances of landing 
that dream job?

Check your attitude

kick some astroids

Rainmaker Entertainent is currently in production with Blackade Netertainment and Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) on the CG animated feature Ratchet & Clank

For those early in their career, Tara Kemes, vice president of culture and talent at Rainmaker Entertainment, offers this advice.

"Your enthusiasm makes a big impact – fresh out of college, attitude is pretty much the most important thing. Also, don't apply to all the open positions: we want to know you know where your skills lie. Also, persevere. If you don't land the first job you go for, don't let that discourage you. Dream jobs are something to work towards."

But what if you're already at your dream company but chasing that precious promotion? "Speak up!" Tara urges. "Share your ambitions and goals. Maintain perspective and keep a great attitude. Remember – this is animation! Few people end up here by accident. It's a privilege."

Find a mentor

Tara also suggests you seek out a mentor, but be smart about whom you approach: "Identifying someone who grew their own career through mentorship is a good tactic."

In general, networking is key. "Make connections," she urges. "You may meet someone now who, if you've made a positive impression, will remember you down the road and think, 'Hey! I want to hire that artist we met a few months ago at the career fair. We didn't have a suitable opportunity then, but they'd be great for this job now.'"

dream job

There is a lot to be gained by having artists who come right out of school with a lot of energy and a real willingness to learn

It helps if you're prepared to move, as well: both to new studios and new countries if necessary. Steven Elford, studio CG supervisor for Rainmaker, has done just that, relocating from England to Vancouver. "Every time you start a new job in a new studio you are faced with new challenges," he says.

"You have to get used to the culture of the studio, the workflow and pipeline and the tools. This can be quite daunting but time always goes fast, and before you know it it'll all be second nature.

"Find out how long the studio feels it should take you to learn the tools and integrate," he advises. "They'll have had many people go through the process and will give you some idea of what you should aim for. And if you have any other concerns then talk to the people at the studio: they're there to help you succeed, after all."

Next page: Industry pros offer some insider tips on how to land that dream animation job...