Sunday, September 09, 2007

"You Know How Lucky You Are?" Part II

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.")

16 comments:

Christian Roman said...

I'd just like to touch on the observation about TV board artists moving into feature. For some time there have been complaints within the TV boarding community about the amount of work board artists are asked to do: not only boarding, but layout, design, sometimes rough animation posing, all within a tv storyboard. I've never complained about this workload because I've always enjoyed it and been able to meet my deadlines.

Here's the thing - feature boarding used to be solely concerned with 'story' and 'character' and not so much with the cinematography. But as directors now want to see more fleshed out animatics (such as on Incredibles), many productions are finding that TV board artists have the range of skills necessary to pull them off. I wouldn't be surprised if more and more tv board artists are brought up to the 'big leagues' as it were as feature productions make more specific animatics.

Anonymous said...

Having worked from tv to feature. It is very hard to break into feature boarding only because there are so few positions and its much more demanding than tv boards. You have to be at the top of your game with the artistic skills and story knowledge to survive. There has been many great artist that transfer into feature from TV. So it is possible.

Anonymous said...

Are you out of your mind? Feature storyboards are a fucking breeze compared to TV boards.
In television, the demands are greater, the deadlines are tighter and the pay is smaller.
Every time I've seen a feature board artist move "down" to television, they can't hack it and wind up a nervous wreck... and their boards are usually shit too because they're so used to "the good life" that no one's ever made them push their abilities.

Anonymous said...

"Are you out of your mind? Feature storyboards are a fucking breeze compared to TV boards.
In television, the demands are greater, the deadlines are tighter and the pay is smaller."

See comment #1 above, and remove your head from your arse.

What you write may have been true 15 years ago-not anymore. Many many feature productions require boards every bit as tight as TV--except usually with more characters, poses and detail.

And the pay isn't always better either. People do it under those circumstances because they have the opportunity and would rather work on moves than tv shows if they can. You obviously haven't ever worked in features. You know zilch about it.

It's guys like yourself who KEEP the animosity and "snobbery" going between areas, too. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

Feature storyboards are a fucking breeze compared to TV boards.


This guy is an idiot. He obviously has never worked in the big leagues so his knowledge is very limited. Its his way of comforting himself that he's good at anything in life. P.S. I had the same attitude and jealousy when I was working in TV towards feature. So its understandable that you are bitter.

Anonymous said...

"This guy is an idiot. He obviously has never worked in the big leagues so his knowledge is very limited."

"It's guys like yourself who KEEP the animosity and "snobbery" going between areas, too. Nice work."

LOL talk about "bitter" and "snobby"... let's add "ignorant" and "defensive-as-hell" into the mix.

Pardon me for daring to propose that feature people are less than godlike.

Now go make your sequel to "Surf's Up" while you look down your nose to the folks who work on "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends."

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Such a fuss over nothing.

I've boarded every damn type of film in my long career. Feature films, television shows, commercials and live-action. Each demands a slightly different skill set, but none are what you would ever call easy.

But yes, there was a time when the story artist was king and lived a charmed life. However, I doubt any of you are old enough to have worked during that remarkable period when Walt Disney was the boss.

There's no need for snobbery. A good board artist is a good board artist.

Anonymous said...

There are good board artists and then there are the board artists who THINK they're good.
The irony is that if all of the crummy board artists disappeared then good board artists would be making $5,000 a week because they'd be in such high demand. But since nobody in charge knows what a good storyboard looks like you can be a crummy board artist and still thrive.
I suppose it doesn't matter anyway since the content of most cartoons right now is so terrible that it doesn't matter who's boarding it.
The best storyboards in the universe can't save stuff like CLASS OF 3,000.

Anonymous said...

"Pardon me for daring to propose that feature people are less than godlike.

Now go make your sequel to "Surf's Up" while you look down your nose to the folks who work on "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends."


"Less than godlike"? Listen,whoever you are: you lashed into an entire work classification of people with the most nasty, personal invective. All you did was make insulting blanket statements about people every bit as diverse as the people in layout, TV BOARDS, BGs, etc,etc.

I've never looked down my nose at the people who board Fosters(of which I'm sure you aren't one). NEITHER am I going to diss other people with clueless, puerile wannabe jabs like "go make your sequels to Surf's Up"--what? is that supposed to be OOOH--burn!? Please.

Are feature people less than godlike? I hope so(and what a childish statement to throw out there anyway-fanboy talk). But feature or TV, there are jerks everywhere and you're clearly one of them as proven by your own words.

The Green Carbon Trader said...

Hey I gotta a hand full of tips on my website on finding a job in the industry particularly the 3D animation industry which I find is a little easier to break into since your skills translate into other areas such as game development. My advice to you is to take your storyboarding skills and credentials and venture into conceptual art which could be very lucrative if done right. By diversifying you can attract ppl to your portfolio which would also have your storyboard pictorials.

I hate to advertise on your site but I think its relevant, so I'll point to the article I think is most relevant, and I'll backlink as well:

http://www.homemadeanime.com/2007/05/secrets-to-finding-job-in-computer_18.html

Anonymous said...

"Are feature people less than godlike? I hope so(and what a childish statement to throw out there anyway-fanboy talk). But feature or TV, there are jerks everywhere and you're clearly one of them as proven by your own words."

Somebody sure has a fragile ego.

Anonymous said...

Floyd and Chris..... You both speak from the experience of working on various types of productions, especially you Floyd, you've done it all. Thanks for your input! I've had the privilige of working with you both and I've observed first hand your ability to switch styles as needed, and more importantly, the fact that you play well with others regardless of where you are working, or if it's tv or features.

Anonymous said...

..."bitter" "snobby" "ignorant" and "defensive-as-hell,"
Good Lord, people!
You know, for being in a Union, you don't appear very united.
I thought this was supposed to be a support group of sorts, where we solve our mutual problems!
Hostility and bickering only feeds the Production Beast. We come out divided, they conquer. That's not the way to stand up for our rights.

-Pat

Christian Roman said...

We're also 'artists'. I'd imaging running this union would be like herding cats.

Anonymous said...

which is why it is obsolete. the indistry has evolved to include so many specialist jobs and so many different needs that addressing everyones specific problems does not seem possible.

Christian Roman said...

ON the contrary, considering how many people clamor for the defense of their overtime and such, yet are deathly afraid to say anything or stand up to their producers, I'd say the union is needed.

Until such a time comes when all the levels of production and the individuals working them have the strength and confidence to demand a fair wage and treatment on their own, a union will be needed. When I work a job, I know what I'm worth, and I know how I should be treated. The one who say, "You don't know how it is" and "There aren't many jobs out there" and "I don't want to make waves"... these are the people who have the lack of confidence in their worth to their productions that NEED a union to defend them.

Just because the members of the union aren't very unified in their views (remember, the USA is technically a Union, and see how often we as a country agree) doesn't mean these poor argumentative and disillusioned artists don't need someone looking out for their best interests (see Collective Bargaining Agreement).

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