How do you get a job in the animation industry?

idk, I just did a super quick search on one site and found a handful of entry-level/low-paying foot-in-the-door type jobs. Sure, there aren’t a million of them, but it’s way easier than getting in as a production artist.

Also, as I mentioned above in the thread, I have a lot of friends who got into the business this way. I’m not just spouting anecdotal evidence, I know people who have entertainment careers because they took whatever job they could get at a studio.

So if a bunch of friends had to work for no or low pay would you say this type of exploitation is systematic in the US animation industry?

Maybe I’m being unclear. I don’t know ANYONE who worked for no pay. When I say “low pay” it’s no worse than any entry-level or US minimum wage job, because these jobs can be done by anyone, and don’t require any artistic skill. So, I wouldn’t call them exploitation.

However, I do believe the US entertainment industry is exploitative overall, and that’s why I ended up leaving. I’ve worked 80 hours per week while getting paid for 40. When the employees complained we were told we had the “privilege” of working on “cool stuff that you can’t work on anywhere else.” There have been lawsuits about the working conditions, but they have barely changed. At one of my jobs they canceled everyone’s Christmas holidays. The work is incredibly fun, but most companies take full advantage of the fact that you enjoy your job by paying less than non entertainment jobs, and expecting more hours and sacrifice. So, that’s not exploiting the new people, it’s exploiting everyone at every level.

Having said that, many people love it, or at least accept that this is the reality of the industry. Many people have long careers in entertainment. I could only handle about 8 years of it.


I think a new artist will be fine if they follow a few simple rules. Obviously you do not want to go head first into an exploitative situation. That is not healthy. I have at various points volunteered my time, but not a lot in terms of time. It has always been a very organic and natural progression. Helping people online to work out technical issues in software to being asked to volunteer to write a tutorial for a website to eventually getting paid as a tutorial writer for a well-known print magazine. It usually goes like that, one simple thing leading to another.

Once, I made a 3D Subsurf #9 from a specific font for a guy who I did not know so he could put it on his robot for a competition. It took me 15 minutes. He won. We forged a relationship and that lead to getting work. That work he gave me led directly to adding things to my portfolio that in turn helped me win a very good client who paid well and I have kept working for after 10 years!

Another thing that came out of the free tutorial and all of the free help I gave online in that community led to another job from someone in that community where I got paid a good wage to model in subsurf as I was now the subsurf “expert”. This was also added to my portfolio and so it goes., one thing leading to another.

Once I told a client specifically I would make the $500 trailer (which was insanely under-priced) so long as I could take my time with it and make it kick ass…lol And he agreed and I did. The pay was nothing but it gave me confines and a goal and it was worth it for me for a lot of reasons including learning new tools. But most importantly it gave me another notch in my reel and that lead directly to getting hired by a client to build a small studio in order to make his short film.

Sure I could have just as well done it on my own. And I would have eventually anyway. But then, there was $500 I would not otherwise have. It is all a matter of perspective. I did it only that one time because I had a little challenge I wanted to give myself. And it paid off many times over.

On the other hand I have had to work for really bad clients who I eventually had to simply dismiss. Those who will exploit you or otherwise expect way too much for the money and/or time allowed.

So I am not advocating going off and working for free everywhere and having yourself become exploited. Not even at all. But do realize that there is an organic process that is completely natural in the way things work in the world. Never do anything you don’t want to do. But if it feels right, if it has that “this is the thing I need to do know” feeling to it. Do it. And don’t regret it. It will pay off even if you can not see from where.

In general, for a lot of reasons, I have never worked for one of those “volunteer for the experience” projects. Mostly because those people I have noticed don’t really have it together. And I am not a fan of wasting my time and working for people who don’t know what they are doing.

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I strongly recommend that you check out any of the late Herman Holtz’s (nee “Hermann Holz” – he was German) books on being a successful contractor. In very easy-to-read language, Mr. Holtz spelled out the “P’s and Q’s” of how to construct a successful business out of your passion, and how to avoid the various mine-fields along the way. He spoke from personal experience and was a very good instructional writer. :+1:

You not only need to “have the chops,” but also need to know how to play the game of business and win. (The laws are different in various countries, but the essentials of business success are pretty much the same everywhere. The expectations – and, needs – that client and provider have are the same. They need what you do and will pay a fair price for it.)

And then, one day your business grows to the point where you just can’t keep doing it all yourself, and you begin hiring people. And so it goes.