Here in New Zealand, the 3D industry is kind of swamped, and it’s very hard to get in anywhere without the “who came first, chicken or egg” years of industry experience. Freelancing is the way to go if you want the kind of background to get accepted elsewhere, but then you still face the same issues trying to get freelancing contracts; you have to basically approach poor musicians (for example) and offer to animate an album for zero budget, at your risk not theirs just to have some kind of a portfolio.
To apply for a position, you need to put together a DVD reel showing no more than two and a half minutes and contact details. Post these around to the TV advertising agencies, studios etc, and see if anyone has something you can help with. It can be very frustrating because often they have many such applicants or there simply isn’t the seasonal demand for new projects.
There are some good animation schools, and I’d recommend Media Design School in Auckland for professional tutoring in 3D. It’s very tough there but the tutors do know their stuff. They would teach in Maya though are mildly aware of Blender, although they would be quick to point out that Blender is not an industry recognised tool in this country… a belief which seems to perpetuate itself.
I actually “like” Maya as this what what they trained my in and I can see various shortcomings of both packages since I use both. My beef against Maya is that in New Zealand the unspoken trend is that “of course” you all pirate Maya to do all your work until you land a proper job to afford it. I disagree here, with personal ethics against piracy… but it’s me this puts at a disadvantage given that it’s them who have all the job opportunities.
I’m considering starting New Zealands first OpenSource studio, pretty much because of the frustration… but that’s a lot to swallow. You don’t get the owner of the garage fixing the cars, and it’s the hands on modeling and animation I want to be doing, not the project management, hiring of staff, commisioning or pricing of work etc.