Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Joys of Testing

Here's a missive regarding the issue of lengthy tests for board artists applying for jobs:

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.

Thanks.

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.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence. I was looking over my board test before taking a look at this blog. The test I have now is for a Starz Media/Film Roman show. It's only one page of script and the test turned out to be 9 board pages (27 panels). Some of you may know what I'm talking about. It took two days, so it wasn't lengthy at all. I would never wait months and do a test in bits in pieces. What's the point? By then the job is long gone.

While most get hired from friends and connections, to say "nobody gets hired from tests" is silly. Family Guy has hired many people from tests. Their supervisors seem to have a "We don't care about your resume." attitude and will hire anyone who does a great board test for them. The only tests I haven't taken are ones that are too much work, or ones that look like the show is beyond terrible. I wanted to take an animation test a few months ago for a show, but they had basically no instructions on how to do it and the artwork was just sad to look at (think 12 Oz. Mouse). I gave the test back without doing it. A week later the job showed up again on AWN.

So the moral is make a lot of friends in the biz. They'll get you the most jobs. I wouldn't rule tests out though.

Anonymous said...

In response to the above post, i'd like to add that the Fox animation test is no walk in the park.

"Family Guy" and "American Dad" are not boarded like other shows. I suspect it is because they don't trust their overseas studios, but board artists are required to do all of the layout as well. So the test is storyboarding and layout. Its a script two pages long and when I completed it, it came out to 22 pages of boards. I wasn't happy about how much work it was - and thats a gargantuan understatement.

Almost every hiring process here in Los Angeles is flawed to the point of idiocy. My favorite is when studios get confused (yes, confused) that ther is a large portion of work in my portfolio that is my own and not from a studio i worked at.

I remember in NYC directors would look at portfolios and frown when it was filled with studio work. Often they would grill the applicant with
"Do you have any work that YOU did."

Because by and large work from studios is either clean up of someone else's roughs, or someone else's clean ups, and 99.9% of the time its been directed by someone else! Yet, that doesn't stop ads from Warner Bros. to state that they "require" all portfolios to only contain studio work.
How idiotic is that?

Studio work is the worst measure of an artists capabilities. Studios are teams and everyone's hands are on the work. If an artist doesn't have some work of their own in their portfolio, then its a good bet that they don't have much of a work ethic... and those are the people the dunces in human resources look for.

Anonymous said...

This is Anon1.

I know about Fox TV Animation's processes. I took an American Dad! test in 06. Since they don't have a character layout team, the board artists have to separate everything. It's very tedious, but I think that's why they have such high hiring standards. All the artists on that show are really, really good. Most of them are from Futurama. No shock since Ron Hughart is the supervising director.

For my reels and portfolios I only include work that I had a very heavy hand in. Be it my own project or studio work. I think there's a bit more honesty in doing that, since people could also load their portfolios/reels with work that has passed through several hands. My storyboard portfolio is mostly work where I designed characters and props and backgrounds in addition to drawing the boards. I'm not surprised that the two cities are on opposite ends like that. NYC seems to be more of a large art collective, while LA is a full blown industry that likes studio credentials.

The Warner Bros. requirements annoy me. For one, they didn't give me back my portfolio. Jerks. But the real reason, they require studio work or experience in a particular field of animation like action/adventure. Then I look at some of their storyboards and they're not that impressive. I was told once at a convention by a (former) storyboard artist at WBA that "The nice thing about boards is they don't have to be good." And my thought was "Huuuuh?" I'm not saying their boards need to look tight and perfectly detailed like a MacFarlane show, but they should at least be well constructed with good acting and staging and character perspective. Ben Jones' blog has some great storyboards from Teen Titans. http://hamfist.blogspot.com/2006/02/in-search-of-gag.html

There's not much going on at WBA now. They used to have several DC shows and original comedies. Now it's a few DTVs and one season of one show.

Anonymous said...

The best is when these studios put out DIFFERENT tests at the same time to a group of artists.

And then USE them in production, while no paying or hiring any of the artists.

Yes this has happened. More often than people know.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Does DIC still even exist?

Anonymous said...

I've actually gotten most of my really good storyboarding jobs, from doing good tests.I did, however have friends that worked at the various spots, and they gave me tips at the thumbnail stage ;rules of the show, staging style suggestions and etc.

Anonymous said...

ROFLMAO...you have friends working that helped you with the tests and you think you were hired because of your tests.

Sorry, guy, but you were hired because you had really good friends at the studios.

The truth is if they ask you to take a test it's because they're 75% sure you can't do the work and very few people change that opinion.

Anonymous said...

I've also gotten jobs from storyboard tests. Sometimes I had a pal on the crew, sometimes I got in cold. A good friend on the show is not enough. The test has got to be good.
And now I look at tests all the time. We look for the best ones. If the artist has a friend on the crew that can vouch for him, and he has a good test, that only helps.

robiscus said...

Regardless, I think the best advice is NOT taking tests. Your time will be better spent otherwise. To add to the sentiments in the original post, I have worked in the industry for 10+ years and I've never been hired from a test... and I did a fair share of them.

Don't do them, because someone who knows someone on the crew will get the job over you. Lets be HONEST here. Every hiring in Los Angeles is based on a connection of some sort, not hours of pro bono work blindly submitted.

Anonymous said...

The only time tests make any sense (and that's rarely) is if you're applying for an action/adventure show and you only have samples for cartoony shows or vice versa.
But the test is usually only given out of courtesy and very rarely expected to bear fruit.
The reason why some shows hire from tests all the time, like Family Guy, is usually because those in charge don't know how to look at a portfolio and know very little about storyboarding.

My experinece has been that the test taker doesn't give a real effort for an unpaid test and the test giver has to try to judge whether the test has any relevance. It would be nice if the Union could mandate payment for tests that way the tests would have some actual value. That might also stop studios from handing out gratuitously unnecessary tests as well.

Anonymous said...

I've been on both ends of this... I've had to take tests and I've been the director who hands them out and reviews them.

For myself, I'm not particularly fond of making people take tests. Maybe I'm just some kind of genius visionary, but I can look at someone's portfolio samples and previous work and have a pretty solid idea whether or not they can storyboard.

Having said that, I've given jobs to people before without testing them and then been faced with the awful truth that they suck or they suck at the style of the show I'm doing.

But I can also say that I have DEFINITELY hired people that I had never previously worked with based solely on the merits of a strong test.

I can also say with a fair degree of certainty that I've gotten hired once or twice based on a test.

As for the 'friendship factor' I'd be willing to bet that everyone commenting thus far is guilty of either hiring or helping someone get hired based purely on their association with them. If it's a toss up between hiring a total stranger or the guy across the hall who's show is ending, you're probably gonna go with the guy across the hall.
But, then again, maybe if the stranger turns in such an amazing powerhouse of a test you'll go with them? Doubtful, but I'm sure it happens.

At the end of the day, however, the entire industry is suck a massive clusterfucking mess that while I understand everyone's frustrations with testing, it really represents the least of our worries. I'd be thrilled if I knew that by handing in my test that the people reviewing it even knew what a storyboard IS.

A test is an audition... do we all wish we were big enough stars to skip them? Of course.

workedbothsides said...

What the producer-director guy above said. Auditions /tests are one of the best ways to level the playing field for talent. And one should never refuse an audition in entertainment, ESPECIALLY if you think everyone should already know your work. That's the moment your ego has blinded you to thinking you no longer have anything new to learn.

And in case you are tired of always re-proving yourself, try going through the gauntlet of five or six, even ten interviews, to land a professional position in other fields.

Everyone auditions. (Except A-list actors, of course. But that's a whole other flame war.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but the "audition" analogy doesn't really hold a lot of water here. Audition's take 5 minutes to do(maybe an hour's time with waiting and traffic).
Tests can be a week of work... FOR FREE!

Craigslist is full of ads with people asking artists to work for free for them with the promise of a permanent position if their project takes off. As ludicrous as those ads may be, your time as an artist would be better spent on them than tests. At the very least, if the project you work gains a future for itself, you would reap big dividends as the guy who invested in it.

Or you can do 20 or 30 pages of storyboards for a studio for free with a 1 in 200 chance of getting a job - and when you get it: you're at the bottom of the totem pole in a studio that doesn't have the brains to judge a portfolio.

A test is work for free. More than that, its a hiring tool that studios have exploited by needlessly putting out as a formality, or grossly over asking effort from artists. It isn't an 'audition' or an 'interview' because there is zero guarantee that anyone will ever even look at your work. In an interview you have a chance to make an impression. Tests will most likely sit in a pile. Its a lost cause.

If a studio can't judge your work from your portfolio, then they aren't going to be able to judge your test. The job will go to someone else who has a connection there.

Nick Duenez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Artful Dodger said...

I agree that the "audition" analogy holds no water in this case. In my opinion your portfolio IS your audition. Unfortunately the person that should be viewing your portfolio, ie;"The Art Director, The Producer, The Creator" as a genuine audition would be staged, sometimes never sees it.

Instead your relegated to a leaving your portfolio in a stack that will never get viewed, or with a receptionist or P.A. who promises to get your book to the right people.

After 28 years in the business, you would hope that this annoying "testing" process would get drastically streamlined, but unfortunately it has not. If testing is to be requested, not required, then the test should not take more than 2 days to complete, period. That goes for all of the disciplines.

Anonymous said...

H.R. departments should be removed from the empowered hiring loop. Period. The moment they were placed as an impediment in the process, the whole industry began its slippery slope decline.

Steve Hulett said...

The best is when these studios put out DIFFERENT tests at the same time to a group of artists.

And then USE them in production, while no paying or hiring any of the artists.


If true, this is wrong on a whole host of levels.

There's of course the "contract violation" level, but then there is also the "shredding of Federal and state labor laws/minimum wage laws" level.

workedbothsides said...

Some of the tests mentioned above sound unreasonable. But having a board artist test for layout sounds more like a problem with the production rather than the interview. Primetime animated fare loves to exploit that 2-for-1 scenario, but that argument should be brought up with FOX, and the WGA, since their people are the ones that have benefited most directly from this, and handsomely. The test requirements simply reflect that reality, so I would start by challenging that wrist-grinding bullshit.

If you are already an experienced professional with connections in the business, you already have a leg up on new talent and personal references always speak loudly, but that goes for any field. But for entertainment, tests and auditions are a good tool for those who do not have a leg up. I, for one, never want to see the day when open auditions are no longer practiced.

Now, if you do find that you need or want to go on a cold interview, you can bring to it any number of attitudes you chose to, including some of the negative feelings about tests above. But practically speaking, if the goal is to find the best candidate that will complement the team, I would argue that any tool that might help getting to know the candidate more fully is better for both parties involved. Some folks don’t interview well, some portfolio’s don’t represent the person well. Again, the tests described above sound unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

One of the things that really bothers me is that after putting in the effort to do a test for someone (sometimes taking as long as a week, as someone said), you oftentimes you will get absolutely no response. Nothing. I realize that when submitting a portfolio you are not entitled to a direct response, but requiring a test is quite a different animal. Asking the studio administering the test for the courtesy of acknowledgment and an answer after all that work is not too much.

Anonymous said...

why would they call you?

Los Angeles is a city of people speaking out of both sides of their mouth. no one - and i mean no one - in this town wants to give someone the answer no. especially not to their face. its because they are afraid that later down the road that very person might hold it against them when they are in a position of power. so they would rather not say anything and leave you hanging in the lurch. your posrtfolio or test sitting in a pile.

only in LA are blind drop offs of portfolios the absolute standard. anywhere else(or any other field) you walk in and meet the director or the HR person for them to go thru your portfolio in front of you and actually meet you. if they didn't like what they saw they tell you. its called professional courtesy.

studios here will tell you that they don't have the time to do that, but they do. they just don't have the guts to do it. which is sad because it would benefit everyone who is in animation in this town, the studios, the artists, the community, the business.

Anonymous said...

Tests are, for the most part, pure crap.

An experienced director/producer should be able to figure out how to look at a portfolio, read a resume, and pick up a phone to check out the reputation of an artist applying for a position on their show.

Really, is that so hard?

Anonymous said...

(I'm the producer-director who posted earlier)

No, it's not hard - but I've been bitten in the ass by that before. Someone's portfolio looks great, they seem eager and able in person so I hire them... then I come to find out they can't adapt to the style of the show or they just outright suck.

This has happened many times, and it winds up slowing the production down by weeks and costing loads of money to fix and it makes ME look bad to the folks who sign my checks.

So, as I said, I don't LIKE handing out tests, but I would rather test someone and be sure I know what I'm getting into than just hire someone based on a decent portfolio and 'good vibes' only to lose my job because of someone who can't do the job.

Anonymous said...

To the producer-director:
"MANY times?" I seriously doubt that. Did you ever actually lose a job for hiring the wrong artist? And what are the odds that a talented artist with a great portfolio and a deep resume "just outright sucks?" I guess they managed to fool all of their previous employers until their mediocrity was finally exposed by you, the great animation genius. Sounds like a bit of guilt-ridden self justification. You were an arrogant imperious asshole who killed someone off you had committed to support for fear of possibly displeasing your boss and now you're rationalizing your insecure narcissistic and destructive behavior.

The germ of truth in your defensive self righteous tirade is the part about adapting to the "style of the show." That finally reveals the true reason for all of this rampant "testing."

What the "testing" actually is, is a cheap easy way to train artists to work on a show at their own expense. Every show has it's own design and story telling style. It would take any artist a certain amount of time to completely learn and adapt. By testing everyone, the cheap companies don't have to pay anyone a salary for learning the style of the show. They do it at home for free. How convenient! Then they pick the artists who look the most like they can jump right into the production pipeline.

The reason they get away with it is they don't pay anything for it, as someone mentioned in a previous comment. If a company likes your work and wants to give you a test, there should be some kind of "quid pro quo," either money, or a cancellation of the probation period on hiring.

Anonymous said...

What strikes me as odd is I've heard complaints from several directors and artists who say that there are too many storyboard artists working in LA that are just mediocre or complacent, and don't really put the extra effort into it.

However, as far as I can tell they keep hiring these people back to work. Most of them have a nice resume and a good record of making deadlines. As long as you've got that, the studios are willing to put up with your average ability. It's a safe hire.

workedbothsides said...

>>Sounds like a bit of guilt-ridden self justification. You were an arrogant imperious asshole who killed someone off you had committed to support for fear of possibly displeasing your boss and now you're rationalizing your insecure narcissistic and destructive behavior.

I imagine you carry this attitude with you on job interviews?

>>They do it at home for free. How convenient! Then they pick the artists who look the most like they can jump right into the production pipeline.

This statement carries that nice touch of paranoia that works so well in team environments. You should be given three or four tests for this self-absorbed bs. Good luck getting work with the karma you're carrying around.

Anonymous said...

Wow, peace and love blazing forth in the happy animation family.

A somewhat simple solution to this would be that if a test is absolutely necessary to determine whether an artist is capable of the style of the show, the test should be designed to take a MAXIMUM of four hours. Tops.

Why the need for these lengthy tests? If someone is or is not capable, it should be immediately apparent within a few panels. That, plus their portfolio, should be all that is required to adequately judge. Any more than that is total overkill.

Anonymous said...

I'm the one "workedbothsides" was reacting to. You lecture me on attitude and karma? You call me "paranoid" as if the exploitive abusive hiring practices that are now common in our industry exist only in my imagination? No. it's called experience, and judging by all the other comments, I am far from alone.

I was addressing a corporate pit bull, a walking ego who gets off on telling hard working professionals they "suck," a soulless monster who pats himself on the back for destroying some poor slob who is only trying to support his family or save his house, all in the name of preserving the artistic integrity of some asinine TV show or saving some multi-billion dollar global corporate entity a few bucks. Don't worry about me, a nice steady paycheck always puts a broad peaceful smile on my face. By the way, when was the last time anybody actually had a live interview for a storyboard position?

Anonymous said...

Wow... you REALLY need therapy. Your ability to perceive reality has clearly eroded into some bizarre netherworld of goblins and monsters. Seriously. Put yourself in a doctor's care. Today.

workedbothsides said...

Okay, I'm not sure what is going on in all areas of animation, but again, it sounds like some people are handing out unreasonable tests. That doesn't sound fair. As for not giving live interviews, I'm not sure what studio would opt for that policy at all, and for what reason. I, as a candidate, would be highly suspect of any job offered to me without them at least - ahem, here goes - MEETING ME!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the condescension, anonymous, as well as your good advice and concern for my mental health, but all of the "monsters" I know are human. Happily, they are few and far between. What I had a hard time swallowing was someone lucky enough to be in a supervisory position not only defending the testing process, but eliciting our sympathy for having to "deal with" under-qualified artists. On a union blog, that's just plain bad manners.

The real "monster," just as in the economy as a whole, is corporate greed. They get tax breaks for sending jobs overseas and are constantly looking for ways to squeeze schedules and micro-manage expenses, regardless of their profit margin. They have long ago shipped anything resembling an entry-level position out of the country. That's the real reason for the "mediocre" story board artists; story board has become an entry-level position. In the past, that would have been absurd. CG companies also don't want to "waste" money investing in training. That's the real reason so many CG artists are being hired from overseas- plug 'n play! Testing is just another way to cut costs. Learn the show at your own expense and maybe we'll hire you. The longer and more challenging the test is the more prepared the artist will be to "Hit the ground running," as the vilest human monster I ever met said to me recently. (There are a few people who know who I am,now).

The only fair procedure would be for studios to look at your portfolio and resume first, then pay or compensate you in some way if they feel they still need to see a test.

Anonymous said...

-all in the name of preserving the artistic integrity of some asinine TV show-

Why are you pursuing entertainment positions? I feel bad for the team that hires you.

Anonymous said...

[i](I'm the producer-director who posted earlier)

No, it's not hard - but I've been bitten in the ass by that before. Someone's portfolio looks great, they seem eager and able in person so I hire them... then I come to find out they can't adapt to the style of the show or they just outright suck.[/i]

Did you read their resume? CALL THEIR FORMER EMPLOYERS?

I mean really, that seems to be the missing link here, and the funny thing is, when someone recommends a friend, they know that their own reputation is on the line if that friend "sucks" or is flakey schedule-wise, etc.

You'd think that a producer and/or supervising director would have the capability to call former employers on someone's resume to find out if that someone did OK, sucked, or was the most fabulous thing since pre-punched animation paper. It at least gives the producer/supervising director a clue-by-four of the potential employee.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't say storyboard artist is an entry level position. A lot of places like to see a resume full of studio credentials when hiring their board artists. I have seen entry level artists in storyboard revisions, but that is a position I think is good for entry level board artists. It allows them to adapt to the style of the show without worrying about other obstacles like staging, continuity, and character perspective. And if they do good revisions, they could possibly move up to storyboards. Maybe even higher.

Steve Hulett said...

If someone is or is not capable, it should be immediately apparent within a few panels. That, plus their portfolio, should be all that is required to adequately judge. Any more than that is total overkill.


For the record, this is pretty much what I've been arguing for ... oh ... eight or ten years.

Studios cling to long tests, I think, because staff producers and directors like them.

a real director said...

"Studios cling to long tests, I think, because staff producers and directors like them."

Not those with experience. My rule of thumb is that a test is virtually usless since it's unpaid for and the tester will not give it his all. More importantly if the person has the time to take a long test you probably don't want to hire him/her anyway. No one else does.

If you hire someone you're unsure about then put them on a tryout and if it doesn't work eat it and fix it yourself - you're the GD director! Then don't give him anymore work. If you can't fix it yourself or you somehow keep managing to hire unqualified people then maybe you're the one who should be repleaced.

Anonymous said...

With all that's been said so far. We know that the test thing not going to drop off the edge of the industry world. Therefore, I want to bring up the general question of do ability and thus fairness. Where's the real support material to do the test properly in the first place. If you're an experience visual storyteller, you know there's things you must have to accomplish you storytelling. And if you're new to the style and approach of a show, where's material to help you understand.
Like, a number of the brethren out there, I am sitting here with the
King of the Hill test for what's actually not the show, one's testing for. Which's a whole other matter, since there's a pilot of Goode Family, let's save that for another time. Well, like other board tests, where's the storyboard sample. I can't remember the
last time I received a board sample
for a test. Why don't they include construction sheets on drawing the characters. They exist, there's tons of them, phone book size model packs, once you end up on the show. Granted wouldn't a few of them help. Like a few headshots and some expressions, poses. But, more important as every visual storyteller knows. No scene works in a vacuum. Where's
this scene in relationship to rest the story? They know how the scene fits or why won't they tell us, what's the big secret here? Will we be graded as mindreaders as well?
My biggest concern, just getting into character. It's very different
watching the exploits of Hank Hill and the gang vs. playing Hank Hill.
And make no mistake, that's what one trying to get on-board to do. Coming from a different cultural
experience, I would like the show
creator's thoughts on the matter. Does it hurt to draft a paragraph on the characters, who's skins you must get into? But, that's not there either. So, can the game be, they expect follow-up on your part
to dig out these answers. Doesn't sound like, " hit the ground philosophy " to me.
So, I say let's look at the evidence. And thus what conclusions
do we draw. And how can the studio s and the creative managers justify the statement of fairness. And I can say from personal experience. They don't like it when you can point out there's a mistake in the test itself, let alone vagueness. The storyboard tests have their own unique issues. Since they're stuck with these things, how do you make them honest?

Anonymous said...

"this is pretty much what I've been arguing for ... oh ... eight or ten years."

Try twenty years ago, when Jim Brooks paraded an army of sit-com writers into the promised land of animation and showered them with WGA residuals and a line of Emmy's from here to eternity.

Admittedly, Klasky-Csupo was a pretty heinous place as far a labor is concerned, but the WGA coming into the fold was a setback for artists having influence over their careers in television animation.

Why is it that 99.999% of the time these kinds of complaints come from prime time animated shows covered by the WGA, who has had such success working in animation that they felt that ALL of animation needed to benefit from their scribes? And judging from the number of artists who seem to be looking for work, why is it a surprise that these ‘animation’ production houses have taken advantage of the writer work stoppage to re-tool departments and reinforce their policies? The Animation Writers Caucus clearly states the divisions in the pipeline - writers, actors, THEN animators, in that order. And all separate, but supposedly created equal. Not likely, and not by a long shot. That is exactly the atmosphere that breeds these thirty page tests. It’s you, the artist, who pays the bills for this pipeline.

As an artist in this town, you cannot sit back and expect to simply remain a pit-stop for production that speeds its way overseas and back. That freeway was long ago cemented in by H&B, and judging from the state of the global economy, it is only going to get worse. Working for more artist-friendly productions is your best insurance against falling victim to this continuous riptide of primetime animation production. And to know the masses have to suffer from yet ANOTHER one of the Simpson's rip-offs?

Anonymous said...

The conclusion I have drawn from this long list of comments, and from every other thread of comments dealing with TV storyboarding is that...

...wait for it...


...wait for it...


...it SUCKS to work in TV animation!!!

So don't!

Thank god I work in features. Seriously. I don't say that as some sort of elitism, just a general observation that feature environments seem to be far more pleasant and less stressful than TV.

It's just my observation that those working in TV are incredibly bitter, and deservedly so! The conditions they describe do indeed sound horrendous, and would sap the soul out of anybody within a short amount of time.

How could anyone preserve a sense of pride or fun about their work, if they're constantly batting up against these issues, working on shows that are designed to look like utter garbage, for TV producers that just don't care about quality, with schedules that force you to work unpaid overtime, searching for new work every nine months or less, having to do 40-hour unpaid tests to re-prove yourselves, all for shows that are ultimately animated overseas and look terrible?

I ask this in all seriousness, because this is all the impression I get from all these endless threads--
why would ANYONE desire to work in TV animation? Someone please explain, or correct me if I'm somehow way offbase.

Anonymous said...

Answer: EMPLOYMENT!....Duh!

Anonymous said...

Answer: EMPLOYMENT!....Duh!

Really? That's it? Then...
I repeat--glad I work in features!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a'newbie'....don't worry, you'll get your chance to be bitter too...

Anonymous said...

Holy CA-RAP!!!

Yeah, there's soooooo much feature work going on now, that all the tv animation artists will be hired on with open arms and no tests RIGHT NOW!

I'm busting a gut from laughing so hard at the naivete...

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned the audition analogy. There is a certain point where if the actor is called back for multiple auditions, that they get paid for their time. Tests are fine, if there is even a small point of compensation.

It only seems fair. After all, if they like you enough from your portfolio to take the test, they should put their money where their mouth is. Call it some kind of test wage. (but the tests cannot be something that shows up in a production) after all, Someone is giving their time to take the test. And time, as the saying goes, is money.

Anonymous said...

It's been over a month, but I wanted to revisit this topic to say that Wes loved my storyboard test for Goode Family. Hopefully it goes somewhere. I'll take this time to address the above post...

Like, a number of the brethren out there, I am sitting here with the King of the Hill test for what's actually not the show, one's testing for. Which's a whole other matter, since there's a pilot of Goode Family, let's save that for another time. Well, like other board tests, where's the storyboard sample. I can't remember the
last time I received a board sample
for a test.


I saw one panel but I did think it was a bad move not to at least include some samples. I ended up Google searching them, and finding some storyboards. I decided to take the safe route and board them as they looked on the show, proportion-wise. Details mostly omitted, except for close-up shots. When you have to draw the characters smaller, it's tougher to display their acting.

Why don't they include construction sheets on drawing the characters. They exist, there's tons of them, phone book size model packs, once you end up on the show. Granted wouldn't a few of them help. Like a few headshots and some expressions, poses. But, more important as every visual storyteller knows.

I was surprised by this too. I took a test for Fox a while back and they had expressions, hands, and mouths out the asshole. No assholes though. For construction I lightboxed the character turn-arounds and built construction on top of them until I found a comfortable set-up. Then, I went to Hulu and just watched a bunch of King of the Hill episodes. I missed many episodes from this season anyway, thanks to never knowing when the hell it was on. While watching I would pause and copy down some expressions, mouths, hand gestures, and so forth.

No scene works in a vacuum. Where's this scene in relationship to rest the story? They know how the scene fits or why won't they tell us, what's the big secret here? Will we be graded as mindreaders as well?

You got an audio CD, right? Even without the rest of the story, just by hearing their voices you can recognize their emotions if you've seen the show. It's possible to board the scene stand-alone, and I think Wes Archer and the others realize that the board artist won't know the rest of the story.

My biggest concern, just getting into character. It's very different
watching the exploits of Hank Hill and the gang vs. playing Hank Hill.
And make no mistake, that's what one trying to get on-board to do. Coming from a different cultural
experience, I would like the show
creator's thoughts on the matter. Does it hurt to draft a paragraph on the characters, who's skins you must get into? But, that's not there either. So, can the game be, they expect follow-up on your part
to dig out these answers. Doesn't sound like, " hit the ground philosophy " to me.


I'm not aware of your cultural background, but it would be interesting to know. I think they were just looking for the basics in boarding, since they'll have a layout team to fix it and because this is a brand new show. Good staging, acting, solid proportions and proportions between characters, good perspective, and drawing consistency will most likely earn a pass.

The point to this post was if one ever get a test based on an established show like King of the Hill or say The Simpsons or Family Guy, and for whatever reason they don't include extraneous construction sheets and expressions, I'd recommend test takers go watch episodes and research the expressions themselves. It's very likely that the majority of test takers won't take that step and will try to wing it, and those who took time and researched the show will have a big advantage.

Site Meter