Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Board Tests

The testing issue just never goes away.

A month ago, a board artist at one of our fine entertainment conglomerates, who was working on a show that was wrapping up, said to me:

"We're all done with this series in a few weeks. And we're all taking tests to get on the next one. The tests they're asking the crew to cover three and a half pages of script ..."

Three or three and a half typed pages pencil out to a week's worth of work, give or take. When I heard about this, I went to H.R. and ranted about the abuse being visited on production staffers.

I pointed out:

1) Artists have to pour their hearts and souls into work that may or may not result in a job, and do it gratis. For a week.

2) Studios already employing board artists shouldn't require those board artists to take a week-long test to get another job on another show. They already know the artists' capabilities.

3) If an actor or writer or (God help us) production manager was up for a job, it's doubtful the prospective employer would ask the candidate to come in for a week and work free-of-charge to show "how he handled the assignment."

This has been an issue for a decade or more, but (amazingly enough) back when I started as business rep, tests were minimal. Portfolios and maybe a short drawing test were considered sufficient to secure work.

More innocent times, I guess.

Long tests became the norm back in the nineties, and TAG (naturally enough) started complaining about it. Each time we complained, studio reps listened, nodded their heads in agreement, and said that "something had to be done."

And something was done. For a few months. Then new show-runners would wheel into town and initiate new week-long tests. No studio administrators would say boo about it. Then we would start complaining again.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

This time around, the studio in question has agreed to reduce board tests by 40%. We'll see how long the reduction lasts.


Anonymous said...

40%. That's Monday through Wednesday afternoon.

Steve Hulett said...

Some artists won't take tests. They survive.

My take on tests as always been: I get the need for short drawing tests to make sure the work in an artist's portfolio is their work. But week long tests are stupid.

They weren't an issue when I started. (There weren't many.) But they sure as hell are now.

Anonymous said...

Three and a half pages!? Geez! And what happens when a board artist is currently working when they take a test? Just exactly when do they expect the artist to have time?

Anonymous said...

Being asked to submit a reel or portfolio to a current employer starting a new show seems reasonable (though still somewhat insulting), but being asked to do a test (especially a long test) usually means you're starting out with less than a 75% chance of getting the job. The test means they don't think you can do the work and you have to prove them wrong.
The employer (especially the bigger employers) need to look at portfolios and ask around to see if the artist is qualified and make the best decision they can. If they hire the wrong person then they should absorb the costs. Not the artist who doesn't have the resources. As a director I've handed out assignments to artists and for one reason or another blew the assignment (even though they may have seemed qualified for the job) and I had to find a way to get the work done. There's always resources inside a studio to allow this. It's not fun, but there's no way to tell if it will happen - a test would not help one bit with this situation.
Rule of thumb amongst studios: if you have time to take a test (especially a long test) you probably aren't worth hiring.

Anonymous said...

My gut instinct (and experience) is that very few artists actually get hired from tests. How about TAG doing a small survey asking a few questions about hiring from tests?
Ask if you took a test and how long a test it was, were you hired from the test, what was the position you were testing for (storyboard, SB cleanup, revisionist) and did you get any feedback from the test.

Steve Hulett said...

Good idea.

I know through anecdotes that some folks get hired through tests. I also know that many don't.

Anonymous said...

Here's how I think it works:
Let's say I'm a producer at an animation studio looking for a board artist. I already have an artist picked out for the position but legally the job has to be available to everyone, so I have all applicants take a test and tell them that an artist will be selected for the position based on their test results. A week or so later word leaks out that the position has been filled, presumably by one of the artists who took the test. But in reality the position was filled weeks earlier by the artist I wanted. It just looks better all around if it seems as if we're an equal opportunity studio. This scenario play out a few tears back and a lot of artists who took the test are still pretty pissed off about it.

Anonymous said...

"Studios already employing board artists shouldn't require those board artists to take a week-long test to get another job on another show. They already know the artists' capabilities

If an actor or writer or (God help us) production manager was up for a job, it's doubtful the prospective employer would ask the candidate to come in for a week and work free-of-charge to show "how he handled the assignment."


Exactly, so why is this tolerated ? WHO started this crap anyway ? And what's the unwritten Rule saying it's got to be this way ?

You said that the times when one could land a position with a portfolio/reel or maybe a "short drawing test" were "more innocent times" . I disagree . Those were more sophisticated times when artists weren't so easily cowed and taken advantage of. I'd say the times now are more "innocent" in the sense of being "naive" (gullible).

Wake up people.

Anonymous said...

Even more annoying is taking the test thinking you might have a shot, only to find out the creator of the show already had friends in mind to work on it. So when you do pour your heart and soul, working to impress in such a short amount of time, it's all for naught.

Anonymous said...

How do you figure 3 and 1/2 typed pages equal a week of work when we only get four weeks to do a 22 minute episode, usually 30 - 40 pages of typed script?

Floyd Norman said...

I've seen this happen first hand.

Cronies already had the job sewed up while poor saps wasted their weekend working for nothing.

I agree. Wise up!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous@7:34 - not in the industry, eh?

Typically an SB artist will be give 3 to 5 weeks for ONE act of a script (or less) which would equal about 10 to 12 pages of script (or less).
So actually 3 1/2 pages in a week would be considered pretty fast.
I'm with the guy above that said that anyone who has the time to do 3 1/2 pages of script for a test probably isn't considered a desirable candidate by the studio. They'd much rather hire someone from another studio (or give them freelance) - assuming there isn't any collusion going on, of course.

brandykruse said...

Let's see, I tested for the Tick, HEAT Seekers, Family Guy, Time Squad, and Robot Jones and got the job (I think that's it...). I tested for Billy and Mandy, some WB superhero show, and Blue Sky and didn't get the job. All those tests were around 1/2 to 3/4 of a page. (Except the Blue Sky test which was simply to create your own situation with two characters, which was fun).
Board artists are asked to do so many different things from show to show the gig really needs to be broken up into more distinct classifications. On some shows acting is paramount, on some the fight scenes are most important, while on the board-driven shows the artist is also a writer. I've had gigs where I mostly did revision work for the director.
That being the case, testing is super necessary and I can't see it going away. But yeah, 3 pages is abusive.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 9:33

I'm in the industry thank you, we get 4 weeks to do 22 minute comedy at a union shop. Maybe your studio
or production gives youmore time.

But now we are using SB Pro and cintiqs we are reusing assets and so forth. So congrats on having more time, but that isn't how it works everywhere.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 8:59 - Anon@9:33 is right. You're said you're doing a 22 minute show all by yourself in 4 weeks and that's why you felt the test was fair. Maybe someone needs to do some math for you.
Or you're the fastest SB artist in the union.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the only one on staff hitting that quota. Again we're using SB pro and reusing preexisting assets so it goes quicker than when I was on other shows that we had more time since they were new and we weren't using SB pro.

Anonymous said...

Hey,'re saying you do a full 22 minute show/30+ page script every 4 weeks all by yourself? And others are doing the same?

Your math is either wrong or you have to be really stupid for accepting that job.

Anonymous said...

Why am I stupid, I make my quota without overtime or stress, and in spite of the disbelief my math skills are fine. I watch the show I work on and be damned if it isn't 22 minutes each week, give or taker a few seconds.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's not your math skills, but your comprehension skills.
What the other anonys are saying is that you seem to be saying that you storyboarded a 22 minute show all by yourself and that's impossible. They (and I) assume you storyboarded 1/3 of the show and not 3/3 in the 4 weeks and that there were at least 2 other artists working on it at the same time.
If that is the situation then you storyboarded approximately 10 pages of script in 4 weeks which means asking someone to do a test of 3 1/2 pages of script is a quarter to a third of your workload and should be done in the same ratio of time. That is a long ass test to ask someone to do.

Why are you having problems with this?

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with not having people take long tests but you and the others don't comprehend. I get an entire script for an entire episode and I board it - plain and simple.

There are guys called revisionists who come in and REVISE my boards. There are different tests for each classification, I've taken both for different productions. Each requires a different amount of work and I have landed jobs doing both, based on tests.

Why are you having a problem with that?

Anonymous said...

If you're boarding 30 to 40 pages of script in 4 weeks all by yourself you're either crazy or a liar.

Maybe both. Especially if you're doing it for a normal salary.

You need to tell us what production is crazy enough to expect that type of work so we can all stay away from it.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm crazy then because I'm not a fucking liar. And I'm not stupid, as if I'd let you know my production. Tell me yours, of course you'll lie. As far as pay goes, I'm on the high end of the survey.

The quotas are easy compared to the country I'm from. We don't even get revisionists there, nor do they have Storyboard Pro. So I'm happy to have the best salary I've ever had and the benefits that the union provides.

It's good to know that my competition is slower. Helps give me job security.

Anonymous said...

Do we really need to snipe at each other? Aren't we all on the same side here?

Anonymous said...

Actually, if this guy is doing that much for that little pay then we aren't on the same side. He has essentially taken a job that should be done by 3 artists and is setting up a very bad precedent.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this guy is legit, however I've worked with Spanish and Fillipino artists that go that fast, and a friend of mine worked with some Japanese artists that also go that fast.

But for argument's sake, if he is doing this amount of work, how is he hurting himself if he works a 40 hour week and no overtime. He just draws faster than others. Some animators turn in scenes faster where I work but it doesn't affect the rest of our quota.

The studios get lucky sometimes that they get fast artists who enjoy what they are doing.

Sure it sucks for the rest of us to have to compete with that kind of talent, and I agree that the testing system sucks and is unfair, but congrats to someone who has a higher skill level.

Anonymous said...

Hey bro, if you think you're on the high side of the pay-scale you're not. You're on the low side. Everyone else is doing a 1/3 of the work you're doing so if you break it down by pages you're getting really LOW pay and really screwed.

have a good day!

Anonymous said...

How am I getting screwed? I work forty hour weeks. No overtime. I enjoy drawing. So if it takes you 3 times the amount of time to do what I do, then maybe your screwing the studio.

I'm paid around $130,000.00 a year with two weeks paid vacation, to me that's more than fair.

Anonymous said...

If the anon is getting the work done in 40 hours a week, what's the problem? The individual production style is also going to have a huge impact - and we really don't know enough to make a judgement call on that. (Although the anon DID state that sbpro and re-using assets did make things go faster.)

So I'm gonna say it's awesome that you and your co-workers draw so fast, anon. :) And if some of us aren't that fast - doesn't mean we're screwing the studio, either. It could just mean you're on the high side of how much work an artist can get done in 40 hours.

Anonymous said...

lol...if I could do a 40 page script board in 4 weeks I wouldn't do it as a staff position for 10k but as a freelance job for 24k.

Yep. You are getting ripped off, my friend. Most shows pay between $550 to $600 per script page and with you they are paying $250 per script page. You are getting paid less than the cheapest freelance board around. Congratulations. The studio you work for is laughing at you.

Anonymous said...

Considering how slow and expensive you are, I and others that can do the same will be replacing you soon.

yahweh said...

You need to really listen to what you're being told by most of the others on this board. You are really being under compensated. It might not feel like it because you feel like you're making a good salary, but when you're doing 3x the amount of work as everyone else (even if it only takes you 40 hours a week). No other studio is asking anyone to do near the amount of work you say you're doing.
If they only budgeted at $250 per script page than there's something wrong. Ask around. The freelancers are making more than you are.

Anonymous said...

It's only 3 times the work if I'm working 3 times as hard. I've worked for higher page rates, but the system we have in
place is way less drawing than I've ever done and probably something any of you seasoned guys could do too without breaking a sweat, which is why there are others on staff doing the same. I am salaried and covered, fuck freelancing, I've done that enough.

Anonymous said...

Well, getting back on track here about the discussion of whether a 3 1/2 page test is realistic or unrealistic. Despite what our good friend above, who has a completely unrealistic view of what can and should be done in any given time-frame, even one page of script can be too much work when asking someone to test without compensation. Not to mention very rarely will one page of script really give you all the answers you need.
I've heard plenty of stories about how some studios need to keep replacing people they hire from tests. Could it be because the tests don't tell them anything more than looking at portfolios?
Do they really think these tests are being done in a vacuum? I know I've had several people ask me for input on these ridiculous things before they turn them in and I assume I'm not the only one.

Anonymous said...

I doubt anyone's still reading this thread anymore, but yeah- if you can't gauge a board artist's abilities in one page max, you're simply a shitty director or production manager.

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