So, it's about 6 months or so after some folks have graduated and I've gotten a few emails on the subject and actually a few asking this very thing as well at a users group meeting in Austin last week so....
Thought I'd just answer here.
A few thoughts in bullet point form as it seems easier for folks to follow:
- Honestly look at your reel - There's a saying about doing a thousand bad drawings to get to good ones. It's the same in animation - you have to do a lot of bad footage to get good enough to be hirable. If your work isn't up to snuff and you really want to be an animator, that is what you should be spending every moment you can spare on. Look at your time, are you spending hours a week watching your favorite shows or playing games? There's a chunk of time to be had.
- There are SO MANY animators looking for work right now - Many studios have closed in the last few years so you're competing in a very saturated market. Animators with years of experience are looking for whatever jobs they can get in some cases. It's a competitive market. Compete or....
- Are you sure you want to be an animator? If animation isn't your passion, better to figure it out sooner and get to work becoming an expert in another of the many many facets of the animation process. Modeling, Rigging, Pipeline, Lighting, Pre-vis, Layout, and on and on the areas go.
That's what happened with me, I started out thinking I loved animation but that's not what it really was. What I'm passionate about is making characters so that's where all my free time goes to - making Morpheus' and Squirrelies and learning how to be a better TD so that I can make the stuff I want and animate efficiently when I need to.
- Should you go back to school? Only you can answer that. I would say think long and hard about taking on more student debt, it stays with you a long....long....time. Once you have the basics, there's nothing to keep you from learning on your own, working on projects and growing as an artist. There are also workshops that some of the animation schools offer that might be helpful if you just want some more of that.
- Other ways to get better - Practice in places like the 11 Second Club or work on a friend's short film... or your own. Coming out of Midway I did a ton of footage on my buddy's film to get more key frame footage for my reel. Caveat - don't work for free for people or projects you don't really care about. I know some folks have had good experience working spec (free) for projects, just not me.
- Other options - If you're sure and can't get the job yet, look in other possibilities - smaller commercial studios even local ones if you're not in LA or NY or another hub. There are even some government contractors that need artists at times. Larger corporations often have staff artists too. If you have any connections (maybe a family friend with a business), see if you can get a freelance project.