How to stay hired!

September 26, 2016 animation jobs


We have all chosen animation as a career because we love it! Once we’re hired, most of us are naturally eager to start animating the most heroic, physical, or emotional shot we can get assigned so we can wear them like a badge on our demo reel.

However, it’s not up to us but our leads or supervisors to assign shots and, for good reason, these demo reel-worthy shots usually go to more senior animators. So if you’re recently hired to a job you are probably not assigned the most meaty shots.

Recently, I was in my first lead position at a commercial studio and realized how nice it is when everyone is project focused and not demo reel focused. The old adage here is “There’s no ‘i’ in team.” When we were in school, we usually worked alone and the goal was creating the best demo reel to be hired. But, when we are hired for a job our mentality must shift from demo reels to completing the project as a team.

On an animation team, especially at commercial studios with tight turnarounds, your mentality should be “what can I do to help get this project across the finish line.” You should put aside your aspirations of getting ‘the best shot’ of the project and imagine if you were leading the project, what kind of attitude would you want your team of animators to have? Would you want them positioning themselves to always get the best shot? Or would you want someone who’s going to take whatever is thrown at them with a smile on their face and get the job done?

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Your love of animation needs to broaden in these cases, not dwindle or narrow, when you don’t get the best shots. You’re contributing to a greater whole with many moving pieces that all have to get done. Animating background characters or making a library of cycles for a crowd may not be the most glamourous animation you envisioned yourself doing when you were a student, but once you’re an employee, and if you want to continue to be hired, you need to develop a project-focused attitude and not ‘can I put this on my demo reel’ only attitude.

This also means you’ll probably have to continue to animate at night to get your demo reel-worthy shots if you want to move onto another studio, but if you’ve been project focused and not demo reel focused then most likely the studio you’re at will want to keep you for the next project as well.

Your demo reel can only say so much about you as an animator, so once you have the job take the opportunity to show you’re easy to work with and a team player if you want to keep getting hired. Your resume will also speak volumes if it shows a studio wants to keep you around, it means you’re doing something right.

Hi, I’m Lucas Ridley! I’ve been working in animation for 5 years and look forward to learning more each year. As I learn I want to share it and help others. These thoughts are my own and don’t reflect any of my employers. If you want to check out a Maya-specific animation resource, I made a free eBook on some tips I discovered when I was animating my 1st place 11 Second Club entry, you can download the ebook here and take a look at my demo reel here. Happy animating!

my demo reel:


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3 Responses to “How to stay hired!”

  1. Cipriano Armenteros 5:06 amOctober 4, 2016

    Jesus Christ man, pull your head out of your butt.

    There is no such thing as demo reel worthy shots.

    Any well animated shot is worth a demo reel. It doesn’t have to be big, fancy or full of effects to be worthy.

    The are no small shots, just mediocre animators.

    On the note about “if you employer keeps you around, you must be doing something right”. You are way too off.

    I am not talking about the twisted politics that lead a person be around for way too long, and become a supervisor just because they are being sucked up by the corporate ladder.

    If you complete work for 10 top movies in 10 years, you’ll be worth more than being a lame ass with a title who only worked in one show for 5 years. Just get with the times.

    If you are a supervisor, start nurturing those below you to do better than you and let them grow, instead of perpetuing the take one for the team slaughter mentallity.

    You are certainly not prepared to carry with the consequences of managing people.

    What are you going to tell them when they don’t find work because you told them to be a team player and go with the flow?

    You are so full of yourself that you forgot that those below you could be your bosses one day.

  2. VinnyLT 5:33 pmOctober 13, 2016

    Good article Lucas! Taking shots big or small and reaching director approval is something any Animator should strive for. Demo Reel shot or not. Getting it done to spec and how the director in vision ed it is what I always try to accomplish to the fullest.

  3. John Durbin 3:51 amOctober 14, 2016

    In my last 6 years at Moonbot, I’ve experienced quite a variety of small teams making lots of commercial, and internal content, on tight deadlines while trying to keep the quality high.
    I’ve gone from the guy who’s the most green, to supervisor.
    It’s been a real treat to experience all that, and all the people that have come and gone.
    I cant speak for other big studios, but I agree that when the team is focused on the projects and how they can make any of their contributions the best they can be, moral stays high, and projects look good and feel fun.

    People in charge of assigning shots do hold a lot of responsibility.
    It can be difficult to do, and it should be done thoughtfully.
    I usually ask animators which shots they are liking, try to get a feel for stuff, and assign things in the most efficient way possible.
    I give people shots their good at, a few that challenge them, and divide up the leftovers as fair as possible based on budgeted time really.
    Funny thing is how each project and each shot does not always play out as expected.
    For example, many times animators choose shots they are excited about, then struggle with it.
    Those same animators will take other shots and bring an unexpected magic to it that no one saw coming.

    Doing commercial client work can get confusing at times.
    There are moments where project after project, it’s just hard to feel satisfaction with your animations compared to all this cool stuff you see coming out.
    I’ve pre judged a projects negatively just because it’s “another commercial.”
    However some of the best work I’ve done, and most fun I’ve had on a team has been on commercials.
    Usually projects that started out kind of lack luster, but once the animators got a hold of it, they really brought something to it.
    Not all projects can be passion projects that’s for sure. Sometimes you just gotta plow through it with your bag a tricks and call it a day.
    It’s times like these, that I either take a break and relax about it, or get busy on a project in my spare time.
    However, these things also inspire me to make each shot I take on, something that gives it value in someway. Maybe it’s just gonna be a bouncing ball, well it better be the best one I have done thus far, and maybe I can use the opportunity to teach myself the importance of the basics, or speed techniques, or practice nice smears.

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