My typical day begins early when I get up and help the wife ready our twin boys for their daycare. After that I will work at my full-time day job where I attempt to provide funding for our animated series. After 7pm I play with the boys after dinner and get them to bed. I will next check-in on the progress of Max & Wrigley
™, often working on that until 1am.In my job I might work with the script writers, animation creative director, casting, or perhaps review models, environments, rigging, story boards and various phases of the production. I may talk with the director from time to time about dialogue or work with a licensing professional in charge of licensing all aspects of the show. Sometimes I work with attorneys. Every day is different.
I love learning and being in advertising; applying what I know as well as seeing how much work actually goes into film as well television. I also like having a great team that actually deserves most of the credit. Also, I am part of a dream of creating something that educates children and a business model where a portion of the proceeds from revenues of the series is donated to Western Michigan University. These proceeds are directed to be used for educational research to help with autism, special education, as well animals for the disabled.
What is challenging is that it takes a lot of money to create animation, especially when first starting. I feel like I work two jobs, as it is hard to get started on projects with no funding, and even finding funding is also a challenge where you may have to give up significant ownership of your project. I wish that I had the capital of Disney and Pixar. Sometimes the weekend work and long nights can be challenging due to time zone differences.
Figure out your animation niche
Determine what aspect of animation you are looking to pursue. Advertising/Commercials? Film? Gaming? Shorts? Television? That will be the first step.
Next? Network, network, network. I spend a career in networking alone. If it was not for those that I networked, I would not be in the position I am today. Join LinkedIn and connect with industry professionals. Also use your social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to research, see current animation projects, as well connect with industry and talent in the field.
I suggest interning, if possible. Try and find places where you can learn the business. Even if the position is not paid, you may be associated with a project that can give you the recognition to gain employment in the future and give an employer an opportunity to see your skills. I can tell you that I had several students from Living Arts College who have been interns and worked on various projects from music to animation. Saying their work was on a Grammy nomination ballot, won a “Telly Award”, or was associated with dream team voiceover cast members can really give them an opportunity over others. Who knows, you may even get hired full-time with the company where you intern.
Follow your dreams and passions
Follow your dreams and passions. I found those in this industry who produce exceptional work are doing it not because of money, but because they love and have a passion for it. I also find they are more dedicated to their work and take ownership. This industry is small, so always do your best work.
There are several avenues to pursue. The first is being a Graphic Designer. I highly recommend you take this first. Also, I would see about learning how to do illustrations for 2D drawings. The reason for this is to help with modeling concepts, storyboarding, and other design aspects in animation. Now the fun part of animation: Learning how to use industry tools like Maya and all aspects of animation. You can find schools that specialize in the training of all the above such as Living Arts College in Raleigh, North Carolina or Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. The professors teaching these courses have industry experience and can provide the latest in technology and guidance. People like me also go to these same folks for recommendations on students to be a part of projects, to intern, etc.
Depending on the type of animation, I also suggest interior design courses. A lot of animation utilizes environment rooms and different features. You may even pursue fashion and merchandising classes. Having worked in the furniture industry, one of the tricks I teach the team is to go online to furniture sites to see the latest colors and styles of furnishings.
I would also suggest taking staging and acting classes. Why you ask? Well, when you’re a character in an animation, you are animated in delivering lines and emotions. You would need to know what the proper way to deliver those lines might be. Moonlight Stage Company in Raleigh, North Carolina would be a great example for the type of classes you could pursue.
You may also want to learn about sound design and mixing. Again, some of the schools mentioned above can provide you guidance. Even visit a recording studio to see what will happen when you have to hire a voiceover talent. I can tell you we have recorded in home-based studios and in the top voiceover studio in Hollywood, California. Equipment is different, so you want to make sure you know or have a member on your team who is familiar with different kinds.
Film editing would also be a great class to take so you can prepare demo reels and other samples of your work that could land you the next big project.
Last, start by researching online. Learn the different aspects of animation. If you feel you have a passion, take the risk and pursue it. Join industry associations and read industry magazines. Prepare a resume and portfolio of work samples you have done, if possible. Pick up your phone and call folks. Don’t rely on email. A personal approach is more likely to get a response.
If you are doing this for your own project like me, start laying out concepts, writing scripts, and a treatment of ideas. You then can pitch these to investors or broadcast stations and have your ideas brought to reality.