Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Freelancer's Guide #11: Temping at Blue Sky, Bruno's Tips

For those of you who don't subscribe to the Animation Mentor newsletter, check out Nick Bruno's latest Tips and Tricks article. He pretty much covers the bases on conducting yourself professionally as a newbie animator. Most people really don't have big issues with these points, some do, and all of us need reminded of a few of them and can get better at them, myself included. Since Blue Sky is one of the rare places that young animators actually have a chance at getting hired onto a feature film and animating actual shots from the movie, these tips are very valuable to those who may be applying for a temp position there now or in the future. Many points surely apply to anywhere that you may work, but every one of them does apply to Blue Sky, and if you ever work there you will see how.

I temped on Horton, and am doing it again on Ice Age 3. So, from a temp's perspective, I have a couple bits of advice about temping at Blue Sky that I hope helps others. These are things that I constantly have to remind myself of too.

#1. Don't go into the job with the only goal being to land a full-time staff position. Think of yourself as a freelancer, and as this job as being the temporary position that it is, and you will stress much less over things such as "Is my work good enough to be full-time?" You'll stress enough as it is over whether or not your work is up to par, you don't need the added pressure of getting a full-time job on top of it. I can understand if you have a family and other responsibilities and need the salary + benefits to survive, but if you're young, single, and just starting out, then you've got plenty of other places to apply after the job is over! You can pick up and move just about anywhere! We are extremely lucky to be working at a time when animation is a hugely successful industry in many different formats. Don't worry, if your work is good enough to get into Blue Sky once, chances are you'll be able to get a job somewhere else. Also, it's a good way to get used to the fact that many jobs in our industry are temporary, and it won't be the last time you'll be on the job hunt again.

#2. Have confidence in your work!
It is very intimidating to join a team of extremely talented animators, and be asked to produce better animation than you ever have before, faster than you ever have before. Perhaps that's why a few young animators appear cocky, in order to hide their own fears of failure. We are all very self-critical of our own work, but be confident (not cocky) that you are up to the challenge, and capable of succeeding. The more challenging animation you successfully overcome, the easier it will be to have confidence that you will meet the next challenge, even if you have absolutely no idea how you are going to do it!

On a related note, have confidence in your work based on where you are in your learning process. When you work at a place like Blue Sky, not only can you feel like you aren't nearly as good as everyone around you, but sometimes you can feel like you're constantly being judged as to if you belong there. After all, you're an unproven, unknown element. No matter how good your demo reel is, it means nothing if your shots don't meet standards. All of this pressure to prove to yourself and others that you do belong there can really bog you down, especially if you are constantly comparing yourself to other people. Try to remind yourself of your own progress as an individual, how far *you* have come, how much *you* have learned. Improvement does get noticed by supervisors and co-workers, and quite possibly could give you a good reputation as hard worker who wants to learn, as opposed to a talented but stubborn young temp. This still may not land you the full-time job, or the "cool" shots, but at least you have the respect of the people you work with.

It is a tough line to walk between being confident in your work, yet open to criticism of not only your animation but your performance on the job. Of course by being cofident I don't mean to resist making changes to your shots. Just remember, your worth as an animator and as a person, is not dependant on what shots you get, how many "ooh's" and "aah's" you get at sweatbox, or how many times the director has patted you on the back for a job well done. Those times are awesome, and really put the energy back in you, but you have to also be able to get through the times when you're struggling with a shot, because no matter how good you are, it will happen.

I'm going to be honest and say that temping at Blue Sky has to be one of the most challenging ways to start your career in animation, but also a great opportunity for those who are lucky enough to get in. I am very glad that I got great experience at other great places before jumping into the deep end of feature films. I learned so many things about production from other jobs, working with a team, getting notes from directors and clients, and also learned that I enjoy those jobs just as much. Many students have the goal of working in features, a few get their wish granted right out of school, and never try a job in any other section of the industry, be it advertising, games, or preschool/kids television. While this may be fine for them, I feel that it can only help you to get different experiences at various places, to see what actually may make you the happiest, instead of what you think will make you the happiest. Not to mention that the more you learn the job of animation before you get to features, the better off you'll be at handling the new pressures. So if you, like me, don't get the "dream" feature job straight out of school, then cheer up, because you will quite possibly be much better prepared for it later on. Not that I don't still have a ton of things to learn about working in animation...but I can see now how I would never have survived if somehow I had landed a feature job out of school. I have great respect for those of my friends who jump right in, and not only succeed, but excel! You guys really are inspiring.