Many aspiring animators have found me online or have been sent my way by someone who knows me in hopes to offer some guidance for breaking into the animation industry. This includes snagging an internship. Recently, a student who was in this very position was sent my way by a professor of hers, who I’ve worked with here at Disney. The student sent me her portfolio, cover letter and resume, and asked for any help at all. (I love people like this because their ambition and openness will take them far!) Anyway, here are a few pointers I typically like to give for cover letters, as they are often over looked, or not considered at all:
The first thing is, make sure to do your research. Don’t start out this very important letter with something like “dear recruiter”. That’s not his/her name. Find out who the recruiter is, and address the letter properly. This will get you much further in your pursuit and put you ahead of other people who didn’t care to take the time for something so simple, but very powerful. Think about it: if you had to choose a few people to hire for your business out of HUNDREDS of applications, which ones seem to show that they have attention for detail and motivation to go the extra step or two?
Secondly, do your research and find out what the internship is all about. For example, a union studio internship is much different than a non-union studio internship. Interning at Titmouse will be a much different experience than interning at Nickelodeon. Do you know anything about either internship? Have you looked them up online, or asked past interns about their experience? Don’t applying for something that doesn’t exist — meaning if the internship you’re applying for is for production positions ONLY, do not apply asking for an artistic position! Your application may end up in the trash faster than it took you to write your cover letter. (**Side note: this is an excellent way of being transparent in your laziness. It will be painfully obvious you wrote one letter for multiple studios and just changed the studio name on each letter.)
Next, a good way to start usually is with something kind of personal and surprising. Maybe talk about why the internship is so important to you. Maybe talk about what it could do for you in your life. For example, maybe talk about how it’s important to you as a single mom to show your daughter how important it is to go after your dream no matter the circumstances. (The only thing there is to be careful not to word it in a way that feels like you’re shooting a guilt trip.) Here’s another completely different example of a cover letter I helped someone write, who did get her internship! Try to see how’s she’s making good points and making it personal:
“My name is Courtney M_____ and I am very interested in your internship program. The entertainment industry has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid, and I am actively looking to become more involved. Though I’m mostly prominent in performing, casting has become a huge interest of mine. I find it fascinating the way a casting director has the ability to put the right group of people together to create the right dynamic for a show, and I find this is especially true in the world of animation.”
My last suggestion is to add a little nugget or two to your letter so it feels more specific to the studio in which you are applying. You want to make them feel like you want that internship more than anything. Don’t simply just say that though. No one likes insincerity, and people can smell it a mile away. The way to do it, rather, is to make your letter feel like you’re writing it to your specific studio, rather than feeling like the word “Dreamworks” could be taken out and substituted with any other studio name. Maybe it’s not a huge deal, but when recruiters look through hundreds of applications, they’d rather choose you, who Disney (or whatever studio), specifically means something rather than being “just another internship”.
Hope this helps!
Disney Storyboard Artist
Creator/Host of The Animation Network podcast
The goal of The Animation Network podcast is to excite and inspire people interested in animation, answer burning questions specifically about TV animation, and share a colorful spectrum of experiences that lead industry pros to where they are today!