In a typical animation career you wear many hats. You may have a specific expertise, but chances are that just as often, you’ll juggle many skills and titles from job to job. Animation artists find most of their work via word of mouth. No offense to agents, reps, and recruiters, but to succeed in finding work in the business of animation is to develop and maintain relationships. We are, as Barbra Streisand sang it, “people who need people.”
The Simple Truth:
The key to finding work in animation is to accept that this is a people-driven industry. People who know people who recommend people who hire people. Those who take a negative view of the importance of relationships to the job hunt boil it down to, “its all based on who you know”. This makes “who you know” sound like some random act of luck. In reality, you are responsible for “who you know”, for the relationships you create and sustain. Relationships require energy and effort.
The business of animation in North America is small enough that even within a few short years, you could know someone connected to every studio on the continent. We’re all six degrees from our animation Kevin Bacons. Simple enough, right? But these truths are not self-evident and if they are, we certainly don’t behave all the time as if we hold this to be true. This simple truth will show up over and over again in this book.
While there’s no guaranteed way to find work in the animation industry, there are a lot of things we can do to create the best possible odds for success. Happily, finding work in the animation industry is something that gets easier over time, as you expand your network of contacts and your reputation open doors for you.
Sustaining Relationships Can Lead To Work:
In the animation industry, sometimes, the most effective job-hunting happens in the most indirect way. Often, even when we make a good connection at a studio, the timing is not right for an immediate job. So, what can we do to “hang around” until something opens up without risking a restraining order? My favourite solution is to stay in touch with people via the occasional email.
Recently, I was in a producer’s office when he received n email from a mutual friend of ours. “I guess he’s out of work again,” said the producer. I asked how he knew that without reading the e-mail. The producer replied, “This guy only e-mails me when he needs work.”
People are not keeping in touch with their contacts enough while they are working. We need to nurture our contacts. Periodically send out updates to your contacts. Let them know where you’re working and why it’s a great experience. Either way, your contacts will be tickled that you thought of them. Over the years, I have received a few job offers as a result of mailing out some congratulatory message. While I wouldn’t say sending out email messages and updates should be anyone’s main focus for job-hunting, they are a part of what builds up a career over time.