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Working on some #educational #development work!

Working on some #educational #development work!

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Why You’re Out Of Work

This isn’t always the easiest subject to talk about for a plethora of reasons, one of those reasons is that cold hard facts are never easy to listen too.

You can chant along with all the Stephen Silvers about how amateurs are ruining your opportunity at employment or freelance work, or how businesses are always trying to take advantage of the artists and that the industry is just a mess, blah, blah, blah… It’s not a rally or a war cry… it’s blame shifting.  People don’t seem to understand that when you point the finger of blame to others, there are three more fingers pointing right back at you.  

The reality of it all is that the majority of artists and animators who are currently working in this industry should not be working at all..  

“It’s a small industry, but the people qualified for it is even smaller.”

There are a lot of bad habits that many artists have about them such as…

  • Doing the bare minimum.   You clock in at 9, you clock out at 5 and deadlines be damned!  You pull the same old tricks to get the job done, never look to improve and do just enough to get things through the door.  Those practices result in massive waves of revisions and if you’re the type of person who always tries to find the shortest cut, then you might end up passing that work on others to do it for you.  And then in that case, why were you ever hired at all?  In this industry, the day doesn’t start at 9 or end at 5.  The day starts when the contract is signed and the day is out when the contract is complete and the client is happy.  I repeat… and the client is HAPPY.  If that’s something that doesn’t sound appealing to you, then put away the pens and go find another profession.

  • Not being easy to work with.  Talking to you is a chore and it shouldn’t be.  Rather than keeping your client in the loop and checking in every now and then, you’re either at your desk aimlessly producing work that wasn’t  asked for, never bother to check your inbox for details pertaining to the work,  or you’re online trolling the very industry you “want” to so desperately be apart of…

  • Only looking out for themselves.  For a lot of people the mentality isn’t how they can be of service for their clients or making a really awesome concept for their audiences.  Somewhere along the way this inclination of self-entitlement and importance is birthed and rather than it being about doing the best work you can for your clients or audience, it becomes about how the client can bend to your will making life difficult for everyone or how the audience should adore you when you haven’t done anything of significance.  The idea of client relationship and customer service is almost non-existent.

  • Not adding value.  If you’re in a studio situation and you never contribute to the atmosphere or bring a positive attitude, then you’re subtracting from the experience of others and devaluing the concept of comradery in a highly collaborative environment.  Or maybe you’re just constantly late with deliverables.  Every time something like this happens, you’re costing not only yourself but your client money… and if you’re making them lose cash…

  • Not making anything useful.  You’re blogs and tweets and posts are all about you.  Self promoting is important, but simply posting your artwork online doesn’t really give anyone any idea about what it is you do or who you are.  There’s two reasons why people come to the web: To be educated and to be entertained.  If you’re not doing either or, then what exactly are you doing?

  • Taking more than giving.  It also comes down to the bottom-line.  A company or client hires you because they think you’re going to help them achieve their goals.  And what goal is that exactly?  Making money.  And if you’re just a money hole on a project, that’s just bad business.  Which means you’re bad for business.

Having habits like these is “self-sabotaging.”  Those habits are the real culprits for dismantling careers and industries across many fields of work.  Where is it all coming from?

It comes from a lot of industry “vets” who express their outrage or their bad experiences with the idea that this venting is what’s going to help make things better.  Yes, artists and animators do need to be aware of their rights, but they also need to be aware of their responsibilities too.  People either forgot what working is or just don’t know how.

Another self-sabotaging practice is the idea of going to conventions like CTN and San Diego Comic Con.  While it’s good to connect with other artists, it’s not other artists who are going to front you a check.  Artists and animators spend loads of money on booths and print materials to sell to other artists and hope that something of theirs is going to get picked up and turned into a multi-million TV show.  But what’s really happening is people are spending thousands of dollars to get the booth, admission ticket, travel, lodging and food, and shipping of supplies and maybe walking out with a couple hundred bucks or if you’re the lucky few, you break-even.  If you’re going with the intent on selling and making money, then direct sales with your audience or demographic is your best bet, but then you’ve got to push harder and get more attention than everyone else at artist alley.  You are competing not just with those folks at artist alley, you’re also competing with Marvel and DC as well.  You think Marvel and DC shut their operations after 5pm to catch up on their latest Netflix shows?

And if you are going to connect with people who are going to give you employment, then you should go to where the decision makers go.

That doesn’t always mean moving to NYC or LA either.  You want to stand out above the crowd, be hard to miss.  Even if your work is solid, you’ll just be another diamond in a sea of cubic zirconias.  Your competition isn’t just within those cities.  You also have Canada, Korea, India, China and Latin America and all their lucrative tax credits, too.  They’re either in your rearview mirror, or your in theirs.  

The next mistake artists and animators make is hosting their work on portfolio sites rather than their own.  You’re paying for hosting, to have a site designed, you’ve put in a lot of effort to the work you’ve created only to drive traffic away from your work?  That’s the equivalent to opening your own hardware store and then bringing your stock to Home Depot with the hopes that Home Depot will help market and promote you.

This isn’t a defensive position for businesses and their “evil” practices.  It’s an understanding that if you want to be in the entertainment business you have to remember that it is a BUSINESS.

Buying art books is nice, but you should also pick up books on selling, marketing, and business and psychology.  

Rather than complaining on Facebook or Cartoon Brew or Twitter about how you’re out of work or can’t find a job, try finding ways to create a brand for yourself.  Making something entertaining or useful.  Help other people and really think about how you can make the industry a better place.  Or instead of moving to the over-saturated and diluted markets of NYC or LA, bring an industry to your community and create opportunities for other people to succeed.

What you give is what you get.  You give nothing, you get nothing.

What You Need To Know About Being A Story Artist

I’ve been producing storyboards for television animation and commercials for over 8 years now.  I didn’t start as a story artist, rather, I started off as a clean-up assistant at a small agency in Boston and as the years progressed, I took the necessary steps to understand the process of each department along the way.

When I got my first directing gig, I wasn’t doing many boards at the studio I was working at.  There was a whole different department separate from production.  The production struggled, and I decided that I could better serve the studio by actually doing boards with the story team in order to get production back on track.  Because I had been in just about every department throughout my career, I provided the necessary elements that were missing from the boards which got the project where it needed to be.

Story artists are probably one of the most desirable positions in the industry.  Everyone wants to do storyboards but the reasoning behind the scene is less than admirable.  For many, it’s not about telling a good story or being responsible for the success or failure of a production, rather, the false presumption that the workload is easier and the pay more lucrative.

The reality is that a story artist isn’t just about scribbling out  small comic strips.  It’s much more than what the title implies and requires much more training and experience that what many seem to say.  It’s a career path that is misunderstood, overlooked and over worked and the competition fiercely cutthroat.  You’re either a solid and dependable story artist or you’re out of work; there are no in-betweens.

There are different types of storyboard artists:

  • Live Action - In most live action productions a story artist is usually called in to work on challenging setups and sequences that need a lot of planning prior to shooting.  

  • Commercial - These are more illustrative and are used more for pitching ideas than they are for actually telling a story.  The turnaround time is breakneck and you have to deliver when the agency says to deliver.  

  • Animation - Whether its 2D or 3D, the story artist has to be able to deliver reliable boards that serve a multitude of departments.

What you need to understand and have embedded into your bloodstream:

  • Rock solid drawing fundamentals

  • Ability to draw backgrounds

  • Understanding of timing

  • Knowing when to cut

  • Being able to draw quickly and efficiently

  • An excellent writer

  • An exceptional communicator

As far as tools go, it doesn’t matter.  There are still board artists working with paper and sharpies and other’s have gone completely digital.  However, these days a story artist isn’t just a story artist.  The modern story artist is also

  • Layout artist

  • Key Animator

  • Character and Prop Designer

  • Scene Planner

  • Assistant Director

  • Coordinator

  • Animatic / Editor

  • Assistant Producer

A story artist that is well versed in many different departments has a serious advantage over someone who’s only focused on sketching boards.

Animation is a very collaborative process, it’s important to understand the needs of each department in order to better assist them to get the production done on time and on budget.  It’s one of the reasons why breaking into that position from a cold start is hard to do.  Most directors and studios have people that have risen through the ranks, the ones who understand how the director and/or studio works, and can meet the need with efficiency and precision.  And that really boils down to dollars and cents; you, the story artist, are the first line of budgetary defense.

Your work has to be good enough for all departments to work right off what you deliver.  If you can do that, you save the production on time which saves on cost which makes them money and keeps you employed for a very long time.

Being a story artist is a position that lies somewhere between the line of director and art department, but it’s a position that’s all on its own and requires incredible problem solving skills, flexibility, attention to detail, speed, and solid drawing skills.  

If that’s something you want to do, you have to realize that you’re the make or break point.  All other departments of production rely on your abilities to not only tell a better story, but to be able to provide enough material to work directly from without slowing down the schedule.

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Knocking out storyboards for a client with SBPro!

Knocking out storyboards for a client with SBPro!

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Bria our intern working on some pre-production turnarounds.

Bria our intern working on some pre-production turnarounds.

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