Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jim Brown, Reader's Digest Style

Pardon the slight delay in getting these notes out to the rest of the world, but finals is as finals does, it seems.

For anyone not aware, we had the charming Jim Brown, animation supervisor at Tippett Studio, deliver our penultimate guest lecture this past Friday. He spoke to Tea Time not about how to do better in school, but about what happens after the commencements - How to get a job, and more importantly, how to keep it! Here are my paraphrased notes from the lecture.

"I want to be an artist, man. 
I don't want to be inside all the time!"

Getting a job:

1. Have a Good Reel

Obviously. We hear it all the time. We pay thousands of dollars to go through hell and back for four-five years in order to learn how to produce one. Everyone seems to have a different methodology for the ideal reel construction, but here are a few more general guidelines I think are always applicable. 

First of all -- show somebody!....Other than your mom, because she's going to love everything you do. (AHEM - SUBTLE TEA TIME PLUG - AHEM). Show anyone who will look at it, too, not just animators.  Give everyone 30 seconds -- even people you don't like could point out something that needs a fix. It's easy to get too close to your work.

On that note, if you have to explain it, it isn't working. Pretty self explanatory (ha-ha). If people are watching your work and asking question after question rather than [laughing, crying, yelling "THAT'S SO BAD ASS"], perhaps you should reconsider the piece.

Pack a few punches, as it were. Only put in your best work (duh), but within that realm of "best" there still tends to be a hierarchy. Put your #1 piece first - draw them in, make them watch the rest. Finish it off with your second best piece to end it on a good note. If you have a third best, put it second in your reel, and everything else between can be in whatever order you wish. Don't throw in filler to make things longer, it should still be your best work, but the most important thing is starting and ending on a bang.

2. Say "Yes" 

Don't turn down a job opportunity. While it may not be Brad Bird knocking at your door, every opportunity is a venue to learn and gain experience that will put you ahead in the end. 

"Never forget that there are people behind you who are working harder than you."

3. Be Prepared

When that opportunity arises, be ready for it! Study the companies you're applying for, make sure you know what you're talking about. Don't be that guy who asks "Who's Phil?" in an interview at Tippett.

4. Have a Good Attitude

Be excited! This doesn't mean you have to jump around and be loud and crazy and pumped up Richard Simmons style -- mellow's cool. Just make sure you always keep in mind the wonderful revelation of "I'm animating!" It's an amazing field to be in. Don't forget it. Additionally, no one likes to work with someone negative. Sell yourself, sell your work, just be someone other people would like to work with.

Keeping Your Job:

1. Know Your Basics

It sounds remedial, but know your principles. Know your vocabulary because companies generally don't have time to teach you. Learn your company's pipeline! Don't be a wrench thrown into the work. Make sure you can help the process run smoothly.

Be a good communicator. Talk. Ask for help if you need it. 

Break through your road blocks. Set your mental clock Kramer-style, take a walk then get back to work. Make sure you've got reference, everything has a basis in reality.

Take notes and don't get married to your work. Make sure you're heeding what's being said to you, be prepared to take a knife to your work to find a better solution. Additionally, when do you get notes -- Hit them, and hit them hard. It will seem like you're being sarcastic, but it's easier to tone it down than it is to punch it up through baby steps. 

Make sure you like your work! If you don't like what you're doing, no one will. Your work will bleed your own disinterest. It's like talking to plants! Be positive, keep a good attitude and be invested in what you're doing. Your work will be more successful if you're interested in it.

2. Keep the Fire

How do you stay inspired every day? For one thing, study a lot! Not just reference videos (but do study those) but books! Follow blogs. Never stop being a student. Find things that keep you excited and interested in your own work. 

People watch! Inspiration isn't just internet and books -- it's everywhere. Take time to get away from the computer and look around at actual life. Real behaviors.

3. Have Personal Work

Not just animation. Like I said before, keep learning. Learn another medium, find another outlet for your creativity. It's easy to get burnt out, so have another way to release.

3. Have Other Interests

This is probably my favorite thing Jim said. He put special emphasis on it, and I'd like to do the same. Animating is important if you want to animate (needless to say), and yes, it's competitive, but it's also important to get away from the screen. Make time for family, friends, people you care about. If you get out and experience life it will be an easier task to create the illusion of it. Plus, you'll be happy and that's what matters.

"It's a love and it's a passion, but it is a job. There is life outside of animation and it will make your work and your life far better."

-- Jim Brown

Jim also posted the outline to his talk on his blog.
Jim is also one of the amazing artists that take the time to look at your reel via Hans Brekke's Reel Feedback. It's an amazing service. Those of you who didn't manage to come with us out to Emeryville in March should definitely take the time to check it out.

See everyone on Friday!

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