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You made it, so now what?

Feb 26, 2013

in Industry

I had the idea for this post before all the craziness of the last few weeks, but it seemed to fit the subject of this post in an eerie way. I admit that my goal through my journey of studying animation, was alway to become a feature animator. I never thought of what would happen when I would get there. It was always the journey that was my addiction, it was the thing that kept me awake hours every night and was my driving force for many years – the need to be better, the need to be recognised, and, land a feature animator job.

Sooooooo, now what? You landed the job of your dreams and now you need to actually work. Studio life was not at all what I was expecting or was “promised”. While going through school you would meet professionals who tell you stories and you would see all those “staged” making-of on your favorite animated films, oh, lets not forget the stories in the few books of the time like The Illusion of Life.

I admit that my first feature job was a rude awaking into the world of feature animation production. I always thought it would be more of a we grow as artists environment and less I’m going to step over your body to get what I need. I am happy to say that the latter hasn’t been my experience at every studio, and that there are studios that fit a little better my idea of what feature animation was. All that aside, I found the challenge of being at the studio much greater than getting there.

It’s hard for me to look back at my own work from seven years ago, before I got to DreamWorks, and how odd it is to think that at the time I felt good about the work I was doing. It took me a long time to really change my perspective on animation and my workflow, not to mention the less creative side of what we do. We are in a sense commercial artists. We try to bring someone else’s vision to life on a limited time and sometimes limited resources, but the struggle of just doing the work on one hand and the constant need to improve and learn are always there staring you in the face.

Over my career up to now I have found a number of efficient and productive workflows that help me produce quality work on schedule. The main problem is that if you don’t push yourself to learn, change and adapt with new workflows, – those that would teach you something new (not only about the craft of animation, but you as an animator) – then you become stagnant and start treading water as an animator, which is a sure way to get left behind in this industry.

What’s more, is that the industry (well, at least the feature animation) has gone through a huge change in the last 6 years, and I think it can be felt in the studios themselves. The overall execution skill level of CG animators has jumped to an insane level over the last few years, and a lot of people find themselves racing trying to keep up. Others, who are new to the industry, instead of starting them out slowly, well, they might get tossed into the deep end to see if they sink or swim (this relates to my earlier post on Making It).

So you made it to your dream job
as an animator at a feature studio,
how do you survive?

For me, it came down to one simple thing, yes, I wanted to work at a feature studio – but it was always the need to be a good animator that drove me. The need to keep pushing and honing my craft until… well, until, I guess, it never ends… It’s the eternal journey of any artist. You keep pushing and evolving and it becomes your addiction. The thing that helps you get past all the petty childish stuff you run into at any studio or the pitfall of any production. It’s the only thing you can control, which is what many of us learned over the last few weeks.

Studio execs will do whatever they need and we are, at the end of the day, just artists that are there to make the studio’s movies, however, – the craft is ours! It is the thing that inspired us as kids to fall in love with the idea of bringing life to drawings or CG puppets. It’s that feeling you get when you watch the movie that started it all for you and takes you back to that first emotional reaction, or the feeling you get from seeing a great animated feature that isn’t there to sell you toys or set up a number of sequels. I admit, it doesn’t happen often, but when it does – it brings it all back to that first day that I knew I wanted to be an animator.

I hope your journey to your goal is easier than mine, and that, like me, you can find the joy in the small things, and remember we do this for us.

Remember, we do this for us! Not because of glory or fandome but because you wanted to bring life to something and share it with the world! Tweet it

Larry V Feb 27, 2013 at 10:09 am

Great article Tal. Great reminder to work on the thing(s) you have control over and not to lose sight why one got in to this field, or wants to get in, in the first place. Thanks.

Mudasir Feb 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

Yup, addiction, dreams, goals, etc are things that makes them work. However when it comes to me, those things fall flat.

Rocky Feb 27, 2013 at 10:33 am

Great post! It’s certainly something every animator needs to keep in mind.

José Carlos Poeiras Feb 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

It’s like a Pandora’s box, each time I take a step in the animation stairway to heaven, it adds another floor with a hundred steps more… it never ends.
It becomes a commitment, an addiction!!!

I love to addicted!!!
Congrats on your blog.

Jasmine Rossetto Feb 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm

I want to say, I love coming reading your blog, not just because it’s a great resource, but it’s great to look at. It just looks cool. It’s very true what you say because when you’re working for someone else it becomes a ‘job’, but its still so much cooler then going to some other jobs… like being a receptionist… that’s gotten really old.

Animation Addict Feb 28, 2013 at 11:56 am

Thanks for the kind words on the site!

Tabia Lees Mar 1, 2013 at 12:07 am

A fantastic article! Thanks for your insight! I agree with you, the urge to animate should drive itself with the endless fascination and possibilities 🙂

Matt Roe Mar 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

when I animate a character and research reference, animation almost becomes a science to me. We research how things move and then try to add extra character to create personalities. As well as the creative side I also find animation a series of problem solving. Do you also find this?

ps. I always find myself coming back to your website for inspiration and Im sure its appreciated by many! 🙂

justin Mar 8, 2013 at 12:11 am

awesome post man !! thanks so much for sharing…

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