Thursday, April 26, 2012

Success as an Animator

From Animation Mentors Tips and Tricks comes some very insightful words from former Pixar animator and Co-Founder of Animation Mentor, Bobby Beck.  He gives six short but powerful lessons on what it takes to succeed as an animator. 

Only recently have I felt like I am succeeding, for the past four years I have done freelance animation off and on working on some cool projects for Discovery Health, Nasa, and PBS Kids Hooper Interstitials.  These were all fantastic I felt like I was finally going in a positive direction, but with freelance your project only lasts for a short while and before you know it you are looking for work again.  If you can't find work in your chosen field then that means you have to go elsewhere until you can.  My resume might look ridiculous if I put the none animation type jobs on there; 2 months at Dominos Pizza as a driver, 3 months at Petco, another 3 months at Staples, a month and a half at some art supplies store, 3 months canvassing people around every Whole Foods and Trader Joes in LA County(sorry for being that guy but thanks for the donations).  Each gig lasted only 2 or 3 months because I would be doing freelance in-between.  The pattern went; start a job, get a freelance gig, quit said job, end contract on freelance, try to find more freelance and if that didn't work start a new job doing something to pay the bills.  I always put energy into whatever job I was doing I but never lost sight of why I went to school and what my dreams were.  I guess I can't say I never lost sight because there were times when I thought it would be great to take a soul sucking yet financially successful job and try to live a comfortable life.
 I felt better when I landed a yearlong contract position with Firaxis Games.  This was my first time working on video games and was a dream because i used to be the kid sitting around playing games going, "Man, it would be so freakin cool to help make games for a living."  And it was and is way freakin cool.  This was still a contract position and I knew in one year I would be out on my butt again looking for more work and by now the cycle was getting really old.  I also had a new born girl grace our lives with her presence and the idea of going back and working for $9.00 an hour was/is terrifying.
She wants a pony
Also, when freelancing typically your most recent work is your best, BUT, it is agonizingly normal for you to have to wait 3 months or up to a year or more to be legally able to show anyone, including possible employers your latest work.  I would have a 3 month gig working 10 or more hours a day the whole time and when my contract was over I now have to look for work again.  Well job hunting while doing a project that demands that much of your time and energy is tough to say the least, but you also don't have any new work you can show throughout that time, so you are now relying on old work that got you the first job to hopefully get you a new one.  Anyone that has ever looked for a job also knows how long the process can take. 

Knowing this, I did what I could while working for a year at Firaxis to try and be as impressive as I could at my job while developing new, personal animations I could show to potential employers when the time came to start looking for another job.  I was also determined to not wait until my contract was over to start the job hunt.

As it turns out it did pay off and I am now hanging up my freelance shoes and beginning a new part of my career as a Full Time Animator at Bethesda Games Studios. This feels like success to me and the two biggest reasons why I was able to get here, #2. Be Thirsty and #4 Never Give Up.    I owe much of that to my wife who was there to push and inspire me when I felt uninspired and lazy.  Wherever you get that drive, whether it's internal or external, hang on to it and keep pushing until you are were you want to be.          

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