The Way In

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By Cory DeVore

Animator, artist, filmmaker, and owner of a rude cat

 

“How does one enter the industry?”

 

Solid question.

Whether that is (or isn’t) animation related is up to the asker. And the question? Not so simple to answer.

There are doors. Many doors. Some are ornate, and others seemingly dull. Some require blood and sweat to unlock, and others tears. But one thing is for sure:

we want someone to tell us which door(s) to seek out…

That is, however, an impossibility. The industry — nay, the world — is much more complicated than that. We all have very different interests, needs, and definitions of success. Not to mention work ethic. With those differences come differing priorities and paths, and I can guarantee you that none of them will fit with your special “life/career plan.” You will get work that is completely left field from what you expected, and you will move to places that had never even crossed your radar. Ever. And your life is all the better for it — if you realize and accept this right now.

It’s not what you think it’ll be, and it’s much harder than you expect.

But it is very much worth it.

A common saying among artists of all kinds is that, “breaking into the industry is the equivalent of breaking out” (of jail, that is). This meaning that, “once someone comes in one way, that way is now shut.” Though, this is not necessarily true, it has truth to it. You see, there’s no right way in. There’s a wrong way, that’s for sure, but the right way is dictated, once again, by the asker. And no two ways are the same.

Perhaps it’s best we break this down, and look at the two main approaches to this door issue, eh?

Approach #1 – The System

Ah, yes, the slow climb. The approach that the prophets — er, uh, our parents — once spoke of. This way is the most straightforward, and usually less risky. It can lead to consistent work early on, as well as growth. But that growth has an exponential difficulty. Like a good ol’ RPG. The higher you go, and the more cogs you work your way around, the tougher it gets to step up once more.

Usually, this approach starts with college. And not just any college, but one with connections. If you actually work hard (which is honestly step one of this entire process, people), and leave college with a reel/portfolio worth its salt, than this could be a nice transition into an entry level position or paid internship directly into the industry or even studio you want.

After that? Simple (LOL, not really), you either ride the system, and work extremely hard to “level up” (very valid), or you switch to…

Approach #2 – The Climb

Now, this approach is a valid choice from the start, but it’s also open to you at any time in your career. That’s right, whenever you want, you can switch.

If we consider the first approach as working your way up through the floors inside the building, than this would be the equivalent of climbing up the outside. It’s risky, scary, and somewhat insane, but once you get to the floor you want, just knock on the window (I know, we left the door thing. Same sentiment, though.). Or smash it, there’s always that… And the nice thing? The only things you need to worry about are you, and those who open windows. Which even the latter can be bypassed. You are what’s important here, and that’s that.

This approach is harder to nail down than the first. It’s the “boutique” path. It’s punk rock, and it’s exactly what your parents and friends told you *not* to do. It usually consists of personal projects and a whole lot of networking. On that side of it, we’ve got it easy. Thanks to social networking, we can connect with people we look up to, ask questions, and find an audience, without ever leaving our tiny studio apartments in the middle of bleaksville. We’re incredibly lucky we have all of this, and we should embrace it.

So let me conclude with some important advice:

Make things. Make good things. Open up a window, climb outside that stuffy building, and knock on every other window until you get an answer.

Meet everyone you can, and find meaning in the work you can get. Sometimes, that meaning is just experience or money. But if you keep going, and keep knocking (or sometimes smashing), you’ll find work and experiences that leave you with a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Whether that’s making advertisements in a teeny tiny market that help small businesses thrive, creating art that inspires others, or providing entertainment that empowers young kids, you can truly love this field.

Remember that it’s difficult. Remember that it’s unexpected. Know that it’s about the people you meet and experiences you have, and not which windows (or doors) you enter. And realize that that is the best kind of creative fuel, and what makes life truly worth living.

Agree? Think I‘m crazy? Let’s hear ya‘ll’s thoughts!