I have recently had a nice email exhange with a student who’s facing graduation from an animation/art school. Naturally the young fellow is looking out at the world and wondering where he fits in relative to his dreams and his current abilities. So he asked me
How long did it take you to land into the feature film business after schooling and where did you find yourself directly after college?
After I replied to him it struck me that his question is not unique. I’ve answered it many times in different ways. So it must be something on the minds of many students about to embark upon the big wide world of reality. So I figured I’d take my reply and turn it into a post here. Here’s my response…
Well, I never had any schooling in animation. No official schooling anyhow. Just learned it the hard way. I only have 1 semester of college to my name and that was 18 years ago. Heh. It’s not like I was some talented golden child my first day in animating. My early stuff sucked so bad you could actually feel the pull from the monitor like a giant vaccuum. From the time I decided that character animation would be my thing until my first feature film job offer was about 4 or 5 years (I say ‘offer’ because I turned it down for another opportunity that was not in feature film, but just as much fun). And those were 4 or 5 years of hammering hard on getting better- I was very focused. I didn’t do a lot of tinkering around. Any spare moment I had was spent animating something. The standards back then weren’t as high as they are now, either. My reel that got me my first film offer back then most likely wouldn’t get me much of an offer today. At least I don’t think it would. I haven’t seen it in a while. Heh. In the meantime I worked many different jobs in the CG field, mainly as a generalist for many years. It’s not a bad thing. Paid the bills, helped me grow as an animator, gave me motivation to keep pushing through, broadened my understanding of the entire pipeline, etc. There’s no crime in the slower road to success. Not many of us can be Cameron Miyasaki and land the Pixar gig right out of school. (and his road wasn’t as easy as some would think). The rest of us mere mortals need to work out way up through the minor leagues first. And there are far worse ways to make a living. So don’t lose heart. Just keep working, keep learning, keep growing, keep pushing to be better and know more. Natural, latent talent is an overrated myth. The consistent effort of hard work yields results. I’m living proof of that if anybody is.