There are many new ways to break into the animation and games industry.
While personal projects, conventions and gathering a fan base are, in my opinion, essential, we need to remember that artists still break in the old fashioned way.
…by responding to a “Help Wanted” ad.
Animation and games studios announce job openings all the time.
When I hear about a credible job announcement I pass it along to my art buddies who might be interested.
…and most of them lose the job before they even apply.
Not because they aren’t good enough…
…because they don’t respond fast enough.
For one simple tip that could completely change the way you apply for games and animation jobs (and a list of places to find them) read on…
The Mouse Watch Is Ticking:
I got my first in-house gig at Disney in March of 2007.
In 2008, I launched my podcast so I could share my experience with artists just like you.
By 2009, I knew enough about the animation industry to help my friends find work.
As soon as I started referring my friends for jobs in animation, I discovered an epidemic of artistic dilly-dallying that continues to drive me bonkers.
Here’s how things play out pretty much every time:
1.) I get an email about a current job opening (or internship).
Emails from the Disney HR department often include direct requests for referrals from current Disney employees.
Occasionally an art director or friend in development writes me personally and asks for a referral.
I also get personal emails from other friends in the industry, The Animation Guild and from strangers who found my website.
I’m also subscribed to all of the websites listed near the end of this post.
2.) I review my mental list of qualified friends who are currently looking for work.
I might think of a close friend, a student or even one of my subscribers with whom I’ve developed trust over time.
If I know that the artist does great work and is great to work with, they are a candidate for a personal referral.
3.) I tell the artist who is most likely to follow-through.
My friend thanks me for the heads-up and immediately goes radio-silent.
4.) A few days later, I’m wondering if she fell off the planet…
Two weeks later she writes me and ask for feedback on the new portfolio she has prepared.
Of course, by this point the position had been filled.
Must Go Faster:
I can count on one hand the number of times someone applied right after I told them about a job opening or internship.
I don’t get it.
We’re all aware of how insanely competitive this industry is.
Hundreds of qualified professionals and pre-professionals start lining up the very second a job is announced. Within a few hours that line wraps around the block, stretches across the city, extends all the way to the east coast and circles the the world several times!
…and all those artists are behind the ones who had the inside scoop and lined up before the job was even announced!
Two days is pushing it.
I’ll apologize in advance for yelling:
If you’re applying for a job in animation or games and you want your portfolio to actually be considered YOU MUST GO FASTER!
…not two weeks.
…not two days.
Yes. 24 hours.
Submit a relevant, competitive portfolio (and resume, etc.) within 24 hours of a job posting.
But how can anyone expect you to prepare a relevant, competitive portfolio within 24 hours?!
You have to be prepared before the job becomes available.
Once that job announcement goes out, it goes viral. There’s no time to finish three more paintings, draw a new storyboard, design a few more characters or lay on the couch and play Angry Birds.
Cat & Mouse:
Have you ever seen a cat stalking a mouse?
The cat is tense from head-to-toe, full of potential energy, ready to pounce at the first opportunity.
She never takes her eyes off of the mouse.
The cat doesn’t go off and start building a new mousetrap.
While you can’t stay a healthy human and live in that kind of tension 24/7, I’m sure you can see my point.
If you want to catch a mouse, you have to be ready to pounce at the first opportunity.
BEFORE Opportunity Knocks:
Visit the links to the games & animation job resources in the next section.
Sure, you’ll want to check out all of the current job openings for which you’re qualified to apply.
…but don’t go into panic mode, disappear and try to bust out a new portfolio in two weeks.
That’s what most of the other aspiring professionals are doing.
Do what nobody else is doing and look through the PAST job postings.
Studios are structured. Those same jobs will become available again in the future.
Use the guidelines in those past job posts to create a relevant portfolio for specific jobs at studios whose creative sensibilities match your own. …and be specific.
Most of your competition won’t even stand a chance.
…not because they aren’t good enough.
…because they don’t respond fast enough.
They’ll still be working on a new portfolio when the art directors are reviewing yours.
So hurry up!
Where To Find Games and Animation Jobs:
- Concept-Art-Jobs.com [ link ]
- The Creative Talent Network (CTN) [ link ]
- The CreativeHeads.net Newsletter [ link ]
IMPORTANT: Beware of mysterious “studios” that nobody’s ever heard of.
Some online job aggregators don’t verify the legitimacy of the companies represented on the site. …but all of the recommendations listed above are awesome.
Matt Scheuerman (who runs Concept-Art-Jobs.com) and Tina Price (President of CTN) are personal friends of mine. They carefully verify the jobs they announce. Although I don’t know the CreativeHeads team personally, I have been subscribed to their email announcements for years and I’ve never noticed anything shady.
- Pixar [ link ]
- Nickelodeon [ link ]
- Reel FX [ link ]
- Dreamworks [ link ]
- Disney [ link ]
- Cartoon Network [ link ]
- Telltale [ link ]
- Riot [ link ]
- Bethesda [ link ]
- Epic [ link ]
- Blizzard [ link ]
Of course there’s plenty more to learn about illustration and concept art portfolios, professionalism and breaking-in.
But right now, I just want to speak to the heart of the matter…
The portfolio you have right now is the portfolio you have right now.
What difference is two more weeks really going to make?
…besides putting you at the very end of that very long line?
When you’re trying to break in, you must remain just as proud of your work as you are critical of it.
Now is the time to be intensely critical of your own work.
…not right after you spot a job announcement.
When you send your portfolio away to the recruiters and art directors, rest easy and take pride in knowing that you did absolutely everything you could to prepare.
…and got your application in on time.
Improve Your Portfolio At The Oatley Academy
Concept Artist Jobs: How To Break In & Stay In
Is Your Concept Art Portfolio Versatile Or Just Confusing?
How To Get A Portfolio Critique From An Entertainment Industry Pro
Concept Art & Illustration Portfolio Pitfalls
Did you find this post helpful? Please let me know!
If you have any questions about animation jobs, post them in the comments below and I’ll respond all week long.