I honestly don't expect an answer, in fact I have yet to get one from anyone, but as an animation professional (board artist) I have been giving a lot of thought to board "tests" which are handed out regularly by places like Film Roman, Nick, Cartoon Network, etc.
It is my impression, after talking to a lot of people and also taking tests myself (and I'm not some burned out hack, I'm a pretty good board artist) that these tests are not "real." Meaning, they are busy work. They are passed out because of some union obligation to make it seem like the job positions are open to outside people and not already given to people who either work at the studio currently or are friends of the directors that are going to be pulled in.
Many of these tests take a week to do and can be as long as 40+ pages once completed. I have never gotten a job either by portfolio drop or by test. In 18 years! I started to talk to other artists about this last year and I have found the story to be the same. No one taking tests ever gets hired. One guy even told me he had been promised an in house promotion, and later saw that very job being advertised as available! In a panic, he demanded his director to explain why his job was being advertised as available for test takers to compete for. The director assured him it was only a formality, and that he did have the job.
I think I've gotten enough proof that test taking and portfolio drops are a waste of people's time, and I wish I could get a solid answer from people like you who are advertising these sort of things thru the TAG e-mails. This doesn't make you a "bad" person for doing it, I just want to know the truth. I think this is one of the best kept secrets in the business. Tests are merely busy work, legal obligations. I even contacted a recruiter at a major studio and asked them this same question. Of course, I was met with dead silence.
What is really going on here? It's not going to change anything on my end one way or another if I finally know the truth, because I've decided not to take tests anymore. Not only is it demeaning, but I also think it's worthless..I have no proof otherwise.
I'd love for you to shed some light on this subject but it's probably something you can't talk about for fear of breaking open a giant can of worms.
From a "no more tests" artist
Thanks for your note. Maybe you don't expect an answer, but I'll give you one anyway.Just so you know, there is NO "union requirement" for any studio to test applicants. It's the studio's idea, first and always.
Testing has been an issue for years. I've said the following to various studios:
"We understand that your company needs to make sure that the work in applicants' portfolios is their own, and so a short test -- of a few hours -- is appropriate to determine that the work the artist submits in the portfolio has actually been created by the artist.
"But a test that is days or a week long? That's too much."
We've gone around about this for freaking years. The push-back we get is constant. I once got into an argument with a management attorney over the length of their test. The attorney's reasoning: "Okay, so it's long ... but the person can do it in little bits and pieces! Over a couple of months if they want to! They don't have to do it all at once! We want to see how they handle a long scene!"
I've debated this until I'm mauve in the face. We have some language about it in the contract, p. 94:
"...the bargaining parties discussed the concern raised by ... Local 839 that ... tests administered by the Producers in making hiring, prmotion and or assignment decisions were excessive.
"The bargaining parties agreed that such evaluations should required only a reasonable amount of work to complet and should be rleated to the hiring, promotion and/or assignment decision. Evaluations which do not meet this crieteria should be discontinued or redesigned ..."
I know of a few cases where tests have led to jobs (King of the Hill, The Simpsons Movie), but I agree with you that often the tests lead to nothing. Many studios that test often end up hiring somebody from within. I've asked them: "Why do you bother?"
I know at least one board artist who flat-out refuses to take tests. He says: "Here's my portfolio, I have plenty of commercial work, so if you can't hire me on referrals and the portfolio, see ya bye."
TAG is always happy to take up this issue, always happy to file a grievance. We've filed no grievances about it because nobody wants to step forward as the "plaintiff" and be labeled a problem person. And the Animation Guild can't file a grievance if it doesn't have a grievant.
The simplest, most direct way for abusive testing to end is for artists to refuse to participate in it.