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Ready to Be Recruited: Hiring Execs Share Advice to Land Your Dream Animation Job

Sony Pictures Animation, Titmouse, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Bento Box, Netflix Animation, DreamWorks Animation, WB Animation
Sony Pictures Animation, Titmouse, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Bento Box, Netflix Animation, DreamWorks Animation, WB Animation

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Ready to Be Recruited: Hiring Execs Share Advice to Land Your Dream Animation Job

***This article originally appeared in the August ’20 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 302)***

One of the major draws of the annual SIGGRAPH confab is its ability to match animation and vfx studios with recent college graduates and job applicants. To help our readers, we asked some of the top studio recruiters and hiring execs about the key positions they were looking to fill and the skill sets they’re looking for in their ideal applicants:

Brooke Keesling

Brooke Keesling

Bento Box | Brooke Keesling, Head of Animation Talent Development

Now Hiring: We have been hiring all year, and we’ve been very busy in production even during quarantine, with all of our artists and producers working safely from home. As I type this, we have openings for Storyboard Artists, Directors, Designers (Background, Character, Prop, Color), Art Directors, Animation Checkers, Producers, Post Production Supervisors, etc. We are incredibly busy right now and are so excited to hire many talented people and welcome them to Bento Box. We have many shows in production (Bob’s Burgers, Central Park, Duncanville, The Great North, to name a few) as well as in development. It’s a terrific time to break into animation!

Portfolio Tips: Make sure that your portfolio is current and organized, so we can easily find the work that you’d like us to see! And make sure to check our careers website regularly, since we are always adding new positions!

Best Approach: Many people contact me through LinkedIn and email, which is delightful. But the main thing we’d like people to do is apply at our website (www.bentoboxent.com) — that’s where we can see all of the talented applicants in one place, and that is the first step in our hiring pipeline.

As I said before, Bento Box is extremely busy right now and we are always looking for a diverse array of talent! Check our website often, and please keep applying: We recruiters at Bento Box always do our best to help talent find a spot in our studio!

Helpful Tips: I love seeing work in a variety of platforms and formats such as Vimeo, Instagram, Twitter, personal websites, zines, comics, etc. As long as we can find the work that you want us to see, you’re all good. For instance, if you’re applying for a Character Designer job, make sure to send us a link to your character designs. I know it sounds basic, but you would be surprised how much searching we recruiters have to do sometimes!

Biggest No-Nos: Sometimes we find amazing artists who have no contact information listed, or their email address is no longer working. Please make sure that your current email address is easy to find so we can reach out to hire you. Also, if your portfolio is password protected, please include the password in your application.

Matt Roberts

Matt Roberts

Disney Feature Animation | Matt Roberts, Artistic Recruiter

Now Hiring: The bulk of all our current hiring is focused on our next film, Raya and the Last Dragon, with just a splash of recruitment focused on our unannounced film that will follow it.

Available Positions: Since we’re well into production on Raya, our hiring has been focused on disciplines for shot production such as Character TDs (especially for technical animation/character fx) and Lighting. We are also looking for Look Development Artists (our title for CG texture/shading artists) for future roles.

Best Approach: Our recruitment team is on LinkedIn. Those interested in our opportunities can also check our Open Positions page on www.disneyanimation.com and can follow us on social media as Walt Disney Animation Studios on LinkedIn, @DisneyAnimJobs on Twitter, and @DisneyAnimationCareers on Facebook.

Portfolio Tips: To make your application as specific as possible to the job you’re applying to and to read the job posting carefully for the preferred format for work. If a specific format is requested, such as a reel as opposed to still images or specific file format such as .mov or .pdf, it’s because it’s the preferred presentation format of the hiring managers to view the full potential of your work and will only set you up for potential success with your application.

Desired Skill Sets: This can vary depending on the role, but universal criteria that tends to be true to most of our disciplines are appeal, observation, storytelling and versatility of craft (as in, whatever specific role you’re applying for, you can show a range of skill and variety of work within that discipline).

Biggest No-No: I’d say forgetting to include a password to a password-protected reel. You’d be surprised how often this happens. Including both a link and its accompanying password to your reel on your resume can definitely help cover your bases to ensure the password isn’t lost in the application process.

Doeri Welch

Doeri Welch

DreamWorks Animation | Doeri Welch, Director, Feature Animation Recruitment

Now Hiring: DreamWorks Animation is actively hiring for many TV and film projects in development and production at the studio.

Available Positions: Story, Art, Previs/Rough Layout, Storyboarding, CG (Animation, Effects, Character TD, Crowds, Lighting, Riggers) and Production

Best Approach: Please apply for open positions or express interest for future positions at DreamWorksAnimation.com.

Portfolio Tips: Present your latest released work and tailor your submissions to suit the job you are applying for by reviewing the job description. In all our disciplines, we are looking for a balance of your strong unique artists’ point of view and your ability to adapt to the different art directions and story needs of our varied DreamWorks projects. Show us work that demonstrates your innovative ideas, solid fine art foundations, technical ability, storytelling, acting, history, and passion. Also, check out our #CareerTipsTuesday at facebook.com/DreamWorksCareers.

Desired Skill Sets: More than being an expert with one software program or technique, we are looking for artists and production people who love collaboration, contributing to a variety of styles needed for art and storytelling, problem solving and a sense of fun. You can learn to use the newest tool set if you have a well-developed eye and a taste for creating the unknown.

Biggest No-No: Forgetting to provide the password to your reel or portfolio!

Netflix Animation

Netflix Animation

Netflix Animation

Now Hiring: Netflix is in an exciting position to have an unprecedented number of shows in production across features, kids & family series, preschool series and adult series. We are actively working on projects in development, pre-production and production.

Available Positions: As we continue to grow as a studio we are always looking to connect with the amazing talent in the industry. We will be looking to hire artists not only this summer but throughout the year in the front-end production areas like storyboard artists, storyboard revisionist, visual development artists, character designers and production management.

Desired Skill Sets: Each position will have a job description outlining the specific needs but overall we look for amazing artists that are passionate and looking to help shape the new wave of animation! We look for creativity and imagination, storytelling sensibilities, communication and collaboration, and the ability to innovate!

Best Approach: Imagine getting a birthday card from someone who only signed their name to the bottom. We all get these on occasion from people who have maybe sold us life insurance in the past. They are easily disregarded; open-read-toss. Now, imagine a card where along with the typical corny prose included in birthday cards that person added their own personal note. Something you both shared, an experience, etc. It’s harder to toss that second card because the person invested their time beyond just signing their name. It’s the same with candidates reaching out to studios. I

If in their email or PM via social media they offer a thought like, “Hey there, I loved what you guys did on the XYZ episode of the 123 Show. So cool! I think the work I do could add a certain something-something to that show, can you please take a look?” it elevates them from those who just send a CV or a link. It’s all about branding and investment. How are they different from other candidates? What can they add to the mix that we may be missing — be it a unique style, a unique story? We are thirsty for new voices to come in and expand our points of view; be that via art, storytelling or elsewhere in the production pipeline.

Portfolio Tips: This is going to sound as worn out as an old doormat, but it is still true: best images first and best work only! Some artists think that quantity of work trumps quality. That’s rarely the case. We’d rather see fewer well-executed images than many that fall into the so-so category. By displaying so-so work, the candidate is telling the recruiter, “I don’t know the difference between the good stuff and the stuff that needs more work.” That’s not the message a candidate wants to convey.

As the expression goes, “Kill your darlings!” A candidate should be severe in curating their portfolio, only their best work! It might be wise to ask a peer artist or a trusted professor to help in this culling/selection process as they can offer a more impartial opinion.

Biggest No-Nos: Every recruiter has a story about No-Nos. One recruiter on our team shares that at an animation conference, a candidate followed her into the bathroom to strike up a conversation. Others will share tales of candidates that reach out on a weekly basis to ask for an update on their status. We as a recruiting community need to do better about communicating back with candidates, far too often the norm is that a candidate will apply and after getting an automatic “Thank you for your interest” email they receive no further correspondence. This ghosting must be frustrating and it’s something we should address.

It’s welcomed to check in once a month or so, better still when the candidate has new work that they want to share, but checking in repeatedly without new work just feels awkward.

Candidates need to know that the feeling of helping a candidate find the right role for them, one that we know they’ll crush, is why we do this.

That matchmaking takes time, or it takes no time at all; sometimes it’s like magic, but most times it’s like that machine they use when you are getting new glasses (You know the one, A or B? B or C?) with the recruiter showing various candidate’s work to the teams and looking for the one that best aligns the talent of the candidate with the needs of the show. Trust me, if the production sees how that candidate addresses that need, the recruiter will jump to connect!

Jana Day

Jana Day

Sony Pictures Animation | Jana Day, Executive Director, Recruiting

Now Hiring: Sony Pictures Animation is actively recruiting for two movies in production (one is the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel slated for 2022) and several in development. We also recruit for TV animation development and we have multiple projects moving through the process at any given time.

Available Positions: We have the creative front end of production. We look for visual development artists (character, environment, props, color & light and 3D vis dev), story artists and editors.

Best Approach: Sony Pictures Animation posts on our website, SonyPicturesAnimation.com, as well as LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also find our individual recruiter pages on LinkedIn or Instagram.

Helpful Tips:

  • Keep it simple. Your portfolio website should be easy to navigate and show only your best work. Include work that shows appeal, versatility, solid draftsmanship, originality and a range of styles and designs.
  • Show all the work from beginning to rendered piece. We like to see how you think and how you overcame certain challenges. The final pieces are great, but there is beauty in the process.
  • Build relationships. We are a small industry and there are so many resources available to connect with other artists. Connect through alumni networks, animation events or associations. Connect and share your work.
  • Be patient. We work in an industry that can be churning away at 100 miles a minute one day, and the next it can slow to a crawl.
  • Feedback. We look at all the artwork, but we can’t always provide specific feedback to everyone.
  • Rejection happens. It’s not that we don’t like your artwork, it just means we don’t have a style match for you at that particular point in time.

Desired Skill Sets: Our artists work across a wide variety of projects. We don’t have a specific house style. Our artists are always pushing themselves in their designs or storytelling. They look for unique ways to tell a story and want to work with artists that enjoy pushing the boundaries.

To do this, we look for artists with excellent draftsmanship, a good sense of design and color, versatility in styles and approaches. Someone that can color inside the lines, but more importantly, can also color outside of them. Someone with a sense of unique appeal, highly creative and unusual. We like team players that take direction well but are also easily adaptable and can turn their artistic direction on a dime.

Biggest No-Nos: Be prepared. Research the studio to which you are applying to and become familiar with the projects. It’s frustrating when we receive a generic cover letter or email addressed to another studio. Review and edit: Have someone take a quick look at your work before you hit send. Edit out any work that may not be as successful. It’s always better to leave us wanting more than asking questions about why you left an image in.

Make sure that recruiters can access all of the artwork in your portfolio. If you have any of your work password protected, make sure recruiters have access to the password, prior to any reviews happening.

Ben Kalina

Ben Kalina

Titmouse Studios | Ben Kalina, COO and Exec Producer

Now Hiring: We are hiring pretty much across the board over the next three months including in: storyboard, design, animation, composite, production and post-production. Titmouse is working on 15 series and multiple short-form projects (advertising, pilots, development, shorts, etc.).

Helpful Tips: Keep your online portfolios up to date and treat it like a physical portfolio. Include the best of your relevant work, not every piece you’ve ever created (or make those available somewhere else). We keep portfolios on file and refer back to them as openings come up. I always tell people: just because we’re not looking for someone today, doesn’t mean I won’t be looking for someone by Friday. We hire through online submissions and recommendations. We have a lot of people submit work through our website, but referrals from current and past employees always go a long way. In-person events at schools and festivals are also great because you get to know the artists. You can find listings at titmouse.net/careers.

Antonio Caballero

Antonio Caballero

Desired Skill Sets (Answered by Antonio Canobbio, SVP and CCO, Titmouse): The main requirements once you pass the obvious ones, academic skills in art and animation seen in your portfolio, we are looking for weirdos that want to spend their life drawing and making cool stuff. Now, an animated project is rarely completed by yourself, so we are also looking for people that work well in a team and enjoy the process of collaborating. For the D&D first edition nerds like me, here are the necessary stats to get a job with us:

  • Strength 3
  • Intelligence 15
  • Wisdom 10
  • Dexterity 5
  • Constitution 3
  • Charisma 5

Portfolio Tips: With online submissions, people have a tendency to send work as-is without really thinking about the job they’re applying for or who’s reviewing it. There’s also a trend in applying to all open positions at the same time, using the same materials. We see a lot of people applying for character design, BG design, production assistant, director, line producer — all at the same time. We love hiring people who are multifaceted, but we want artists to keep in mind that these are different positions and require different types of portfolios, applications and resumes. Each time you apply, make sure to update your portfolio and highlight new/key skills.

Patty Willert

Patty Willert

Warner Bros. Animation | Patty Willert, Director of Artist Management 

Now Hiring: We are actively hiring on several projects both in production and development. We remain very busy at the studio producing a number of series and home entertainment titles, in addition to a lot of exciting projects in development.

Desired Skill Sets: ​We are looking at a range of skills from design, boarding, art direction to writing and production management.

Best Approach: For us, direct is best. WBARecruiting@warnerbros.com or patricia.willert@warnerbros.com. You can also connect through LinkedIn and the Women In Animation website.

Portfolio Tips: Organize your work clearly and try to use a portfolio site that shows your work to its best advantage. Send along the password to protected areas when you reach out to me directly.

Biggest No-Nos: Do not send out blanket intro emails to everyone at a studio. We often have artists who think this is helpful, but sending the same note to 50 people is a bit sloppy and disruptive. Be thoughtful and precise with how and why you are connecting.

Visit the virtual SIGGRAPH 2020 Job Fair at s2020.siggraph.org/exhibition/job-fair.

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