Top tips for newbies

You are thinking about a career in animation? Or tv or other media or design areas? I have been contacted by a number of students and recent graduates who have been seeking advice as to how get their foot in the door.  This little guide can be applied to most media careers as a rule of thumb, but I am still ultimately talking from a stopmotion animators experience. I have also asked my colleagues for their nuggets of advice. This is part one and part two focuses on advice for post university.

Hobby or career

Is this definitely a career and not just a passionate hobby? If you have not thought about this before, lets ask yourself a few questions.
Perhaps you would prefer it as a hobby? You are then free to create whatever you like; if you like making your own films, would you still enjoy working for someone else, creating their films for them? This is often done in a production line, with you being responsible for one tiny aspect of production repetatively.
Are you excited about the competitive nature of the industry? Are you excited about the life of a freelancer? Are you interested in moving about regularly to where the work is? (perhaps I will write a blog about this too!) If you are a family person, perhaps committed to someone who isn’t interested in the industry and you are ready to settle down now, then maybe this is not for you. Going to university, although not essential, is becoming more and more expensive, so it’s important at this stage to check this is definitely the correct path for you.
Picking a University
1 questions to ask

How do you know which is the best course for you?

Of course visit as many universities as you can, and ask questions about the course. How many students in each year? How much equipment/ editing suits are available? Sharing this with other courses? How vocational is the course? Does it include a work placement module? Remember a university is a business and their business is to get as many students as possible.

2 Location

Perhaps the best advice is to choose a university close to London or other cities that you are most likely to find companies that produce the animation or media you want to eventually work in. Here you are in a much better position to visit studios or to complete work experience.

Any person working in media would encourage a student to gain work experience, so if you are already living near some studios, that makes it extra easy at times when you are at your most skint, compared to if you choose to study in the middle of countryside or in the highlands of Scotland. Of course London for example, is more expensive for your living costs, compared to other cities, but I am sure that further down the line, you will struggle to afford accommodation for a work experience placement. Even if you think you wisely chose a university city with cheaper cost of living, it would be wiser to choose a city close to the employment you desire. Currently and understandably it is a popular choice for students to continue to live at home at study at the most local university, but do consider investing in your career by choosing the right city rather than the nearest.

3 vocational
What do I mean by vocational? A lot of courses are not as vocational as they should be, and help turn you into a filmmaker, but not someone who can easily slot into industry, so choose your course accordingly, perhaps some students are mislead about how much a course prepares you for industry. Research existing job vacancies whilst examining the courses available and compare to make sure your course will help you develop the required criteria.
I think the most ideal course would include some key principles of animation technique; motion, timing and demonstrating a sense of weight for characters and props.

Does it develop skills for you to be able to work directly with clients? Does it incorporate business sense? Job and opportunity seeking skills?  Find a course that prepares you with a module that covers applying for jobs and finding opportunities. Most people I have worked with agreed that their course did not prepare them enough for industry and that they learnt more in a weeks work experience than they did in a three year course. Don’t frett too much about picking the “wrong” university, once you get that first job, your degree will just be something only your parents seem interested in!


don’t miss part 2– where I give tips on university life!

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