Sunday, April 04, 2010

Industry Lessons I Have Learned

Time for another dose of ILIHL (1976 to now.) ...

There's a bunch of different routes into the animation biz, almost as many ways as there are people.

* You can come in as an intern/trainee ... and they'll pay you not much.

* You can come in as a big shot (or medium shot) from a related business ... and they'll pay you more.

* The entry door is bigger when the industry is roaring, but even when it's not, there's still a semi-open entrance ... and it will be bigger than a mouse hole if you have the right skill set.

It's important to play well with others.

* Artists come to me from time to time with the complaint: "My boss in unreasonable and wrong. What can I do?"

I tell them: "You've got a decision to make. Do you want to stick to your principles, tell them off and be right? Or do you want to be employed? Because from what you tell me, it's gonna be tough to be both."

* A wise old animation artist told me long ago: "Be nice to your co-workers on the way up, because at some point during your career they're going to be the person who's in a position to hire you ..."

* It's useful to start each workday like you're in a popularity contest ... because in one respect or another, you are. (You're always playing the political game ... whether you want to or not. The only question is: Are you playing the game well? Or badly?)

* When you're wrong, apologize. It won't kill you. (And the apologizee will appreciate it.)

* Build a network of allies and mentors. One or more of them will help you to your next job.

* Don't whine; don't argue. Otherwise you'll acquire a reputation of being a pain in the backside.

To the extent possible, do NOT live paycheck to paycheck.

* Put away 10% (or more) of what you earn. Always live below your means.

* Assume you're going to be unemployed at some point, because you will be.

* If and when you start pulling down the Big Bucks, don't make the mistake of thinking: "This is the way it was meant to be, and this is the way it will be forever." Because it won't.

* Focus on building a retirement next egg -- 401(k), SEP IRA, Roth IRA, etc. -- at the earliest opportunity. The sooner you start, the sooner you'll be financially independent.

The more arrows (skills) you have in your quiver, the more employable you will be over time.

* Grab every opportunity to acquire more training. (Classes, grad school, after-work training.)

* Ask somebody with more chops than you to give you pointers.

* Offer to help newbies. (Most of them will remember and think kindly of you when they're in charge of your department.)

What I wished I'd done at the start of my checkered career:

* Been less of an argumentative a-hole.

* Practiced the Golden Rule more (Not "He who has the gold, makes the rules," but the "Do unto others ..." version.)

* Said "Sure, I'll be happy to do that," more often.*

(* Note: In some ways this job of biz rep has been perfect for me, because you have to be an argumentative a-hole from time to time to do it semi-effectively. On the other hand, being endlessly unpleasant never carries you all that far ...)

27 comments:

Herman G said...

Much Appreciated.

yahweh said...

One more lesson hard learned. This industry, due to its nature, is inhabited by many immature people that will carry a grudge, be childish and look for any reason to dump on someone they perceive to be better than themselves or threaten their own position (intentional or not). So, even if you follow all of Steve's rules from above you may still get screwed over by someone who you thought was a friend and a co-worker. It doesn't have to be from a non-artist or your bosses. Many in this industry do not behave professionally no matter how professionally you behave.
No way you can always anticipate it and nothing you can do about it - just don't be surprised when it happens.

Anonymous said...

And one more... Make and save as much money as you can in your 20s and 30s. When you shift into 40s and 50s, no amount of networking, skills, or friends will change the perception of the younger workers and execs that you are an "old timer". And as one Cartoon Net exec stated, "you don't want to hire someone in their 50s, they might die before the production is over."

Anonymous said...

Be young and cheap, don't draw, give lots of notes, do voices, collect residuals, and tell everyone you are only in animation until live action heats up again. You will be a huge success.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Steve. Thank you for posting this.

Steve Hulett said...

This industry, due to its nature, is inhabited by many immature people that will carry a grudge, be childish and look for any reason to dump on someone they perceive to be better than themselves or threaten their own position (intentional or not).

I worked for just such an individual who went by the handle of "Ken Anderson."

There are many in the biz who want the company to serve as Mom and Dad. Oh, managers will talk in meetings about everybody being "family," but at the end of the workweek, if they're downsizing you'll be put up for adoption.

It's the way it works. The way it has always worked. Even Disney under Uncle Walt had massive layoffs. (Just ask Floyd. He was there in 1958 when the studio cut loose lots of long-time employees.)

Anonymous said...

I was having a fantastic job interview. They loved my demo reel, they liked me. I was being introduced to a who's who of the studio. The job was mine for the taking.

As I was leaving I shook every hand, thanked each interviewer by name, and when I got to the Studio Exec I mentioned that my very own flesh and blood brother had taken an animation class from him. (My bro is a very funny guy and I think everyone must think so too)

"What's you brother's name?" he asked. I told him. To my complete surprise, The Studio Exec said to me "Oh THAT guy! He was are real Wise-ASS!"

I was shocked, embarrassed. I didn't know what to say. In a daze I found myself saying "I know, it runs in the Family"

Lessons Learned:

Never name drop unless you know that your reference is Gold.

Don't interview doped up on Cold Medicine, you won't think quick on your feet. Reschedule.

Anonymous said...

This industry, due to its nature, is inhabited by many immature people that will carry a grudge.

What industry isnt?? I think you should replace "this industry" with "humans."

Anonymous said...

This industry moreso than any other.

I've worked in a lot of different industries, and there is a very prevalent state of arrested development in animation. I love the industry and I love the people I work with, but you have to approach it from a certain way. What I have gleaned is that very few people have ever played sports, and whether you like it or not, that experience provides a lot of lessons for working on a team. Lessons that many people who grew up drawing in the corner(god bless them) bypassed.

Steven said...

"When you shift into 40s and 50s, no amount of networking, skills, or friends will change the perception of the younger workers and execs that you are an "old timer".

And as one Cartoon Net exec stated, "you don't want to hire someone in their 50s, they might die before the production is over.""

By your comment, it seems that you are not yet in that age group. Are you looking forward to the time when you will need a job as much as you do now, (actually even more- you will probably have more financial responsibilities and more accumulated debt), and you won't be able to get a job because you are considered an "old timer?" Do you think that day will never come, or do you have some kind of magic potion that will keep you young forever?

You seem to be resigned to the inevitability of the earlier and earlier onset of age discrimination in our business. Believe it or not, it wasn't always like that, at least not nearly to this extent, and it doesn't have to be this way in the future.

How would you like to make a difference? How would you like to do something about it? Ultimately, you will benefit, as well. Just give us a name. You are "Anonymous"-it's safe. Just tell us the identity that clever, witty "exec" you quoted. It's time we made an example of somebody.

Anonymous said...

This is all good stuff: The writing and the subject thereof. It is things we never talk about. But the few who write of what it really takes to work and survive, their writing should be catalogued in the halls of wisdom. There is a lot of hope to be derived from reading of this stuff. From there, we get the input of Anonymous at 10:11AM, who says: "What I have gleaned is that very few people have ever played sports, and whether you like it or not, that experience provides a lot of lessons for working on a team."
Wouldn't it be cool, if it were organized, to play teamgames of sorts so that we can study and gain those skills, for those of us who've had a tough time being exposed to them to begin with? Any thoughts?????

Anonymous said...

Every studio Ive worked at has had some type of after hours (or lunchtime) sports program.

Steven said...

Are you guys kidding? That's all you have to say? Sports???

Anonymous said...

"Every studio Ive worked at has had some type of after hours (or lunchtime) sports program." Yes, I've seen them while there, but I'm refering to the 'off in the corner geeks' who missed that. Really, it just isn't the place for the lesser-than-social's to butt in the table-tennis group. I MEAN: a learning group OUTSIDE the studio, such as through the union. A better-yourself-program opportunity that people can come to. They already have interesting programs such as events they list in the Pegboard.

Short Bus said...

Are you guys kidding? That's all you have to say? Ageism???

Mars Cabrera said...

First rule of Sports Club is NOT to talk about Sports Club!!

Anonymous said...

In addition, I hope the animation community learns to adopt such catchy sports phrases as 'step up to the plate,' and 'eye on the ball', and slap each other in the ass when we do a good drawing. I also want the character designer to inject my ass with steroids in the bathroom. Then we can all whore it up at the club with porn stars and have our text messages released to TMZ! Yes, sports!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't have to be sports to be lessons on teamwork...it could be boardgames and anything else we can creativley come up with. The point is: to offset our knee-jerk reactions based on dysfuctionality by actually doing stuff that would give us the tools to overcome the geek-ness that has led to problems. Whats so off about that? It is a way to provide a real service. And as for Mars, there would, could and should, be plenty of talk about what it is that exactly what you are doing, and how you are feeling. That goes beyond just forming a club and coming to the plate with the latest of sports-gear. It is ABOUT: dealing more effectivly with the behaviors required as the original writer was eluding to. The behaviors that allow us to survive in the business and live another day.....sanely.

Steven said...

I don't know what you guys are talking about. In any job I have ever had the teamwork aspect of the work was the best part and what I missed the most when the job was over, (after the income, of course).

Of course, management is not above accusing you of not being a "team player" if you complain about things like unpaid overtime.

Anonymous said...

Here are the keys to the opening post: 1: It's important to play well with others. 2: Grab every opportunity to acquire more training. (Classes, grad school, after-work training.) 3: What I wished I'd done at the start of my checkered career: * Been less of an argumentative a-hole. (End Quote). That this kind of writing has generated a postive appreciation for bringing it up in the posts thereafter, is an indicator that some recognize the need for self improvement, and could use help to obtain it. Most people learned how to play well enough in their young lives. Others have not. So the former may like the teamwork experience. Others have a more difficult time, and they struggle with their place in the industry. Sure, each is responsible for their own development, but in that SOMEONE has the insight to write what is in the opening post is not only a God-send, but not hard to play off of in a positive manner. If it went no further than that, all the person got was the kudos from those who agreed thereafter. Work with the text. It doesnt get passed along from one leader to another. It is extremely rare writing. Cant get enough.....

Corey said...

Great post. If I might add:

Have a sense of humor about the industry. There are a lot of moaners & Eeyores. Don't get dragged into a negative mindset!

Mars Cabrera said...

Actually, be cautious about "sense of humour"--- what's funny to you may NOT be funny to others.. you know like .... your boss!

what's perceived as negative could be just "being realistic"...so, know your bounds and limits-- lots of trapdoors out there..

so, when in doubt--- ASK STUPID QUESTIONS, it could one day save your life...

Floyd Norman said...

I'm all for a sense of humor. It never hurt me. I picked on Disney CEO, Michael Eisner for nearly 20 years. The boss took it as a compliment, and requested my services for special projects.

Plus, Roy Edward Disney described me as a "Troublemaker," and Roy meant that as a compliment.

Steve Hulett said...

The more thin-skinned, the more insecure.

Anonymous said...

The trick to having a sense of humor, is actually being funny.

The people who *think* they have a sense of humor are the ones who fall into trap doors with their foot in their mouth

Anonymous said...

This is some great advice... I wish I followed all of it from when I first started in this industry.

I think classic virtues like humility, hard work, generosity etc. go a long way on my animation teams. There just some great people on the projects that helped the whole production be more fun and run more smoothly and those people were gold. I have to work hard to be more of that guy.

And I haven't worked on a team yet where there weren't a number of people who were twice the artist I was so work in animation is always like being paid to go to school. It's the best perk of getting to draw for a living!

-Doug TenNapel

network marketing training said...

Work with the text. It doesn’t get passed along from one leader to another.

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