The job of an animator can be the most interesting, creative & exciting one. But the road to becoming an animator can be tough & challenging. Being a creative individual, you will have your moments of insecurities. You will doubt your abilities; even question your career choice. But the key is to hang in there, and not give up.
We look at seven effective ways that animators use to overcome these periods of doubt to create memorable work.
#1 Always be thick skinned
Rejection will be your life long companion. Make it your best friend. When you first start out, you will not be experienced enough. Once you land a job, your work will not be good enough. Once you get recognition, you will not be affordable. Naysayers will always find an excuse to reject your work, and you. Don’t let that get you down. We know that it’s easier said than done. But always remember that there will always be space for your style & creativity. You may have to wait a little to find the right opportunity. But till you find it, keep improving your style. The job of an animator begins much before they join a studio or start a project. Don’t take non-responses or rejections personally. A lot of factors go into selecting an animator. Once all these factors fall in line, you will automatically find your space. Keep working hard, and don’t give up on your passion. It will keep you going in spite of all the negativity.
#2 Patience is a virtue
We know that it can get frustrating but keep putting yourself out there. Exposure is a key component of the job of an animator. The more people you meet, and the more people see your work, higher are the chances of you getting your dream project. You may feel tempted to reject offers that don’t match your vision of being an animator. But that will be the biggest mistake you make. Take any job that you get, even if that means getting coffee for the star animators. Always remember that it is easier to find opportunities & contacts when inside than when standing outside the gates. Use your free time to get feedback & build relationships. You never know when someone remembers your style & hires you for the job of an animator.
#3 Every criticism is a stepping stone
When people provide feedback & criticism, don’t take it personally. You, the individual, is different from your work. People are criticising your work, not the person you are. Animators often make the mistake of confusing the two, in the process losing opportunities & associations. Remember that the feedback is the result of knowledge & experience. You don’t have to necessarily agree with everything. But don’t be stubborn. It could simply be a difference of perspective. Agree to disagree instead of turning it into World War III.
#4 Presentation matters
You may be a lone player but studios prefer team players. Be very sure about how you present yourself. Of course, your animation skills are of prime importance when interviewing for the job of an animator. But no one likes an unfriendly, disrespectful person. If you are going to work in a team, being friendly will go a long way in establishing and getting your work done. Communication is a huge part of working in a studio. It will be very important to explain your ideas, and understand others. Stay open & receptive and you could end up making some life-long friends. This will also be the key when you become an animation lead or a supervisor. You’ll not only have to balance different work & personality types, but also manage disputes & motivate the team.
Innovation is the by-product of the job of an animator. This involves not just creative innovations but also technical ones. Since a lot of modern day animation is done with the help of software, technical problems & limitations are part of the package. The more you learn how to deal with these problems, higher the chances of you becoming Mr. Dependable. Challenges may also appear in the form of animation or character constraints. You may have to work with a rigger to create things that will make a shot work better. This is also an important skill to become a lead animator.
#6 Director: the captain of the ship
Yes, you are an animator with a signature style. And you know best what works for your characters. But you are also part of a large team, led by the director of the project. It is your responsibility, as much as any other member’s, to bring the director’s vision to life. You are bound to get feedback that may not be in line with your ideas. But being stubborn will only hamper the project. Do put your point across, but agree to disagree. We know that it can be frustrating. But imagine what would happen if each animator wanted to bring their own ideas & style to the forefront. Try to understand what the director wants. Put forward your suggestions, and try to find a balance. After all, you may be stuck on one shot, whereas the director is looking at the big picture. So while your idea may be brilliant on its own, it may not fit the bigger story arc.
#7 Own your work
This may sound a little contradictory. But you are an artist. And you know best what fits your style. Also, all your great works make it to your demo reel. It is important to work as a team, and meet the director’s vision. But you don’t have to accept everything like a robot. You can always put forth your ideas & suggestions. Of course, they may be rejected. But, at least, the director, and the team, will know that you have a mind of your own. You may even get a chance to put your own creative spin on a shot. Most directors appreciate animators who contribute ideas, and explore exciting & entertaining possibilities. The best way to achieve this is to present your idea clearly & concisely with complete planning & blocking. Chances are that any ideas that get rejected at this stage will never make it back. But any ideas that get selected at this stage may make it to the final film.
It is not easy to put yourself out there every time with the knowledge that there could be criticism & rejection. But those who make it through this make it big. Remain passionate & persistent, have a good work ethic, and keep a positive attitude. The more you learn from every set back, the faster you will move towards your goal of becoming a successful animator.