How To Hire Animators For Your Animation Studio

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I founded an animation studio back in 2010 and hiring has been one of the most challenging parts of producing projects.

Our studio, Nørlum, scales between 3–30 employees and we’ve co-produced two feature films so far: Song of the Sea ((Cartoon Saloon) I was producer and Animation Supervisor)), and Long Way North (Sacrebleu Productions) just to give you some scale and reference.

We have a big network from our time at The Animation Workshop (Danish animation school), which helps immensely as the best introduction to talent is through recommendation from someone you trust and share taste with.

Below I’d like to share how we went by hiring animation talents.

How to find talent

  1. Through your network is the best and most reliable way to start.
  2. Online sites for freelancers or social media groups on LinkedIn and Facebook where you can post jobs in animation.
  3. Also the new site/service Artella.com could be something for you maybe?
  4. If you have specific artwork you admire then find out who made it and write them to let them know that you really like their work and would like to enquire about their employment situation. If you don’t have an artist’s name, but just the name of the production company, then write the company and ask who they used for that specific work. In my experience most companies are very friendly in such a situation and happy to share information as they would usually like to see artists they like, have a good job – this is also a good way to expand your network if you’re building one (which you always are!).
  5. Contact animation schools and ask which graduates they have looking for work. Schools are very interested in their graduates getting work and are likely to answer your request. It’s good to keep up to date also on graduation films and ask about the students who did work you love – then you have their names and can follow them until they graduate or you can suggest an internship solution to get to know each other while they are in school. Many schools have internship programmes or the students look for something during the summer on their own.

How to hire talent

  1. Levelling expectations is the most important thing in hiring someone. You have to know what you are looking for and be able to describe the job as clear and in-short as you can.
  2. For example, that you have no drawing skills means that you have a decision to make: Do you know the visual style/animation style you want in your company/project and are looking for someone to nail that style under your direction and supervision? Or are you looking for someone to come in and be in charge of the visual development/animation style? There is a huge difference and something you do not want to leave up to chance that you agree on.
  3. Let them know exactly what you have in mind as well as where they can contribute with more freedom and own opinion.
  4. Offering space, time and responsibility for your staff to grow is an essential part of creating a passionate crew who will stay dedicated through those problems that will arise during production.
  5. When posting a job we do a short, but clear job description and ask that people send us an email with links to their work. Clarify whether the job is freelance or on-location. This will save you some time later on especially if it’s on-location only.
  6. In portfolio and showreel viewing it is important to remember that a good draftsman is not necessarily a good animator. If you love someone’s still images always check out the animation-reel as well as the sense for illustration and design does not always transfers to drawing movement in sequence.
  7. We usually look most at life-drawing, sketches and motion drawing when accessing if someone’s fit for an animation position and of course the animation reel.
  8. Sort through portfolios and get back to everyone, yes everyone! who applied. Especially if you are building a network, but in general it’s just good, professional behaviour, to let someone who applied to work with you, know if he or she is still being considered or not.
  9. Last bigger project we did we got a lot of application (500–600) and we wrote everyone back. The appreciation and respect from the artists this gave was amazing to see as it is not fun to let someone know that they didn’t get the job.
  10. The people you are considering after reviewing their work, you should set up a meeting or online call with. Having met someone and felt if this is someone you could see yourself work with closely is almost as important as them having a great portfolio and reel (if not more!). People can grow to amazing lengths during a production if they have a the right attitude and talent and if you know how to set the framework for them to allow this.
  11. In the call, be up front about salary, work hours, the amount of work they are expected to produce, the software and general production pipeline, their former experiences (or lack thereof) with similar projects and talk about your project with them. All this combined should give you a good sense of how you think they fit into your company/project.
  12. Don’t make up your mind during the call. Go through everyone and choose the one you have the best overall feel for to do the best job possible.
  13. Again, get back to everyone, also the one’s who you didn’t choose. People understand and they will respect you for it and hopefully follow your company to be ready to apply next time you’re hiring.

Hiring people for a team is a little different from hiring a single artist and you can also do some planning on how you want your company culture to be. This is a little more off topic, but important to mention, I think, as it flavours the above.

Hope this helps and good luck hiring!