Advice for Finding a Job in CG
Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on August 16, 2009
Thousands of students packed into the meeting room to listen to a panel discussion on “Getting a Job in CG” for film, television and/or videogames. The panel included job recruiters, producers and visual effects artists from ILM and LucasArts, Digital Domain, Sony Imageworks, Double Negative, Moving Picture Company and Microsoft Game Studios. The veteran panel laid out some sound advice for the wide-eyed crowd. Here is their advice:
– Internships, internships, internships. Filmmaking is a collaborative endeavor and applicants need to understand what this really means in practice. Internships also show you are committed to a particular craft.
– Cut your reel. Ken Murayama of Sony Imageworks explained the 15-second rule. “A recruiter or visual effects supervisor is going to decide within 15 seconds of viewing your reel whether an applicant is suitable for the job. So put your best stuff right up front and make it short. No one has time to watch the director’s cut of all the work you’ve ever done.”
– Don’t be a reel generalist, be specific. If you have multiple skills, have separate reels for each. If you can model, composite and rig, create three separate reels that best show off each skill and relate to the type of job openings. “Your specialty will get you in the door, your versatility will keep you employed,” says Murayama.
– Know the company. Research the company before applying to a job. Tailor your application and reel to that company and the job position available.
– Career Service. Your school should be able provide a contact list of graduates working in the industry. Contact them for advice. It could lead to a job.
– Network Online. Usergroups and social media sites are a fantastic resource that allow for interact with artists working at virtually all the main companies.
– Get Online. Get Seen. Of course having a website showcasing your work is a must, but also post it on other websites devoted to filmmaking, animation and VFX. The recruiters and VFX artists on the panel say they comb many sites on a regular basis looking for talent. Remember, there are a lot of people whose jobs it is to find talent. Make it easy for them to find you.
One of the most interesting points made by all the panelists was rather surprising, at least judging from the reaction from the crowd of students. In a nutshell: forget the fantasy. Companies do not want to see what crazy concepts you can come up with. They want to something real.
“Do things that are recognizable, that are grounded in the real world,” says Rob Clarke of LucasArts. “We would rather see a human walking than a dragon flapping its wings. In film or games we create things that reflect the real world. So make things that demonstrate that you have an understanding of the real world.”
Murayama adds, “An animation reel should be like an actor’s reel. You want to see emotion of the characters — characters that have weight and behave naturally in space.”
The good news is that all of the companies represented on the panel are, or will soon be, hiring, which comes to the last point. Animation and VFX companies staff up and down based on the work. So don’t get discouraged, and be persistent (of course without becoming a nuisance).