How animation graduates find work in the animation industry? There is no simple answer to this question. Jobs in the entertainment industry have always been highly competitive, and the supply of trained graduates competing for the best entry-level positions has never been greater. Official jobs postings, word of mouth, rumours in the pub, personal contacts, even cold-calling - all of these can be effective ways to find work in the business. One method is to sign up with the jobs page at awn - The Animation World Network.
But does AWN actually work? I can personally testify that it does. Way back in 2003 I was working at DreamWorks in Los Angeles as a traditional 2D animator, facing a run-of-picture contract which was about to end and - much worse - a serious skills deficit.
At the time I knew almost nothing about CG animation, having only received a couple of weeks of training in Maya, and I desperately needed to make the jump to the new digital world. 2D animation was clearly in decline, out-competed by a string of computer-generated movies. I had to upgrade my skills, and fast.
I scanned the jobs pages at the AWN and saw that Blue Sky Studios in New York were hiring, looking for animators for their new feature film, Robots. I applied for the job, and rang up a bunch of my colleagues to see if anyone could help. Did anyone know the guys at Blue Sky, and if so could they recommend me for the job?
The animation industry is a small one, even though it is much, much larger than it used to be. Everyone knows everyone, or at least, it sometimes seems like they do. The industry is sufficiently small that it is still relatively easy to find someone who knows someone personally, and to find out what they think of them and their work. Personal relationships count, and recommendations count.
To find work, what you typically want are three things:
- Find a company that is hiring people with your skills.
- Make sure your demo reel is polished and well-presented
- Try to get a recommendation, if you can, from someone who knows someone on the inside, so they they can personally vouch for you.
Finding work in the industry is never easy, especially in the beginning. But the key thing is to apply. Even if you fail, you will learn how to present yourself better, polish your demo reel, and have a better chance next time around.
(Editor's Note: For more practical advice on freelance careers, check out this post on your first client project, read out our post on Portfolio Careers, and read this piece on Survival as a Freelancer. Learn the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to freelancers and taxes. For more on careers in general, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business.)