Finally I get around to more about employment in the industry. In Wednesday's discussion, Anon #7 said:
(T)he one skill that trumps everything is storyboarding. If you can storyboard you will almost always be able to find work.
When I first got a bird's eye view of tne 'toon industry a decade and a half ago, it became apparent that quality board artists were pretty continuously employed.
Good board artists shifted from studio to studio without big periods of unemployment. Good board artists shifted between television work, direct-to-video feature work, and theatrical feature work.
It's been true in the past that there's a kind of snobbery between theatrical features and television work, and story artists who've worked mainly in t.v. have complained to me about how hard it was to break into features, but guess what?
I've seen a lot of television board artists from the nineties and eighties who are now doing feature work. Transitions, difficult as they sometimes are, happen...
Moving on. Anonymous #2 said:
I'm telling you there aren't many jobs in LA... (T)hey're for every city BUT Los Angeles....
To reiterate, there's a fairly high level of employment in Los Angeles-Burbank-Glendale-Culver City (etc.). As anonymous #2 said, a chunk of it isn't union work, but it's still gainful employment. In addition to video games, there's studios like Blur, Mike Young Productions, Porchlight, Renegade, Rough Draft, and Rythm and Hues which aren't signed to a TAG agreement but do animation production (and why haven't they signed? Because -- to date -- their employees haven't willed it to be so.)
As I've said before: In 1960, almost 100% of American animation was done in New York and Southern California (and most of that in So. Cal.). But in 1960, that was 100% of a relatively small pie, since the one big employer then was Hanna-Barbera (turning out 1200 feet of t.v. entertainment per week), and Walt Disney Productions a distant second (doing 101 Dalmations). In '60, it would be generous and optimistic to say there were more than three thousand people working in the 'Toon biz.
Today, with far less than 100% of American animation being done in Southern California, total numbers are way higher. There's visual effects, broadcast graphics, vid games, television animation, and theatrical animation. In theatrical animation alone, there is DreamWorks, Disney, and Sony Pictures Animation producing features.
How many employed? Depends on how you count, and what you include. Me, I like to count jobs, and there are far more of those in 2007 than existed in 1960.
But what areas of work are "hot" now, compared to ten, twenty, or forty years back? Outside of story artists, the ground continually shifts. Thirteen years ago, the L.A. Times proclaimed that feature animators were the new movie stars, commanding big salaries, bidding wars, and high respect. But times change. Last week I spent forty-five minutes talking to a Cal Arts grad who's specializes in flash animation, and he couldn't be busier:
I'm talking to a producer about setting up a unit of flash animation in Hawaii, and there are lots of flash jobs here. The studio I'm leaving is sorry to see me go, but this is an opportunity and I'm taking it...
I've heard from other flash animators that they're busy with multiple assignments, so there are categories of work beside board artists who are busy, busy busy.
But let's put aside what category of employment is the most solid right now. Because the way anybody survives in this business, beyond all else, is:
1) Having a lot of skill sets in your quiver.
2) Being really good at each of them.
3) Having a network of co-workers who know what you can do and that you can be relied on to deliver it time and time again.
4) Being upbeat and pleasant in your work environment, even when you feel like throwing somebody -- probably your boss -- out a window.
5) Being cleared-eyed that the animation business, as a sub-set of the entertainment business, can be cruel and capricious and that nobody flies high forever. (Even Ward Kimball got laid off. Chances are you will too at some point or another.)
6) Being lucky. (And remembering Sam Snead's observation: "The harder I work, the luckier I get.")