The animation industry is booming worldwide, but this doesn't mean that it isn't still hugely competitive. As head of animation at Escape Studios (opens in new tab), I often get asked the same questions: 'What does it take to break into the industry, and what skills are needed for junior animators who want to land their first job?'
Your first task as an animator is to create an excellent demo reel. Your showreel is a display of talent; it is how we all get hired. You should feature only your best work in your demo reel, and you should edit your reel to suit the company you're sending it to. It's no use sending a creature reel to Pixar, or a character reel to Framestore. You must thoroughly research the work the company has done and match its house style with your own work that demonstrates mastery of similar techniques.
Industry experience is also important. Work as a runner if that is what it takes. Sign up for classes where you can get feedback on your work to help your development. Show your reel to professional animators whose work you admire and make adjustments based on their notes. By the time you get to the interview, the studio has seen your reel and they liked your work. Now they want to know how well you'll fit in with the team. Showing maturity, both in your work and how you work with others, is essential.
It's important to get your foot in the door so it's OK to start off as a runner or a studio assistant. Once you're in, you will get to meet the right people. Now you can forge relationships and get relevant feedback on your work. You should always be working on developing your own skills, learning new software, creating short films and working on your animation in your spare time.
Finally, understand the importance of networking in our industry. Many jobs go by word of mouth. Attend animation events and meet the studio recruiters first hand and ask them what they look for in new talent.
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