With the amount of competition today in the animation and film field, one of the great ways to break into established feature film companies or TV production studios is through internships. But even the competition for internships are extremely high, so how do you stand out from everyone that has applied? How do the few that do succeed get to where they are now? Here are a few words of wisdom from some of my animator friends that have interned and/or are newly hired addition to animation studios such as Blue Sky Studio, LAIKA HOUSE, MPC, and Adult Swim.
Lastly, I’ve also included my own experience at Floyd County Productions working as an illustration/production intern with the illustration department of Archer.
Studio: Blue Sky Studio
Location: Greenwich, Connecticut
Affiliations: School of Visual Arts (SVA)
Position: Production Assistant (Full Time)
Portfolio: www. jenhurler.com
Blue Sky Studio is best know for their 3D animation franchise features Ice Age and RIO. Other well-known animations produced include Epic, ROBOTS, and coming soon to the big screen is PEANUTS:The Movie, a remake of the classic Snoopy franchise comic in CG 3D.
Just to clarify–this isn’t an internship, but rather a full-time job that I was offered. In this position, I aid the fur department in the day-to-day grind. I schedule and help run everything from inter-departmental rounds, to art critiques with the film directors. There’s a lot to learn regarding the BSS pipeline and different software used, but it’s a learning curve I enjoy.
I actually got this job thanks in large to SIGGRAPH and my school, SVA, where I am an MFA student. At SVA, they bring various studios to visit. Previously, Blue Sky visited the studio, and I made sure that I spoke with the recruiters there to ask for advice. I was bummed because they did not offer a production management internship position (their internship spots tend to rotate), so I asked them what I could do in the meantime. I was careful not to bum rush her at the end of the presentations as many students do. It’s important to calmly wait your turn, and then to not steal all of the time they have. Whenever a recruiter stays later, you should be grateful and not abuse the fact that they are going over their time (and have probably had a long day). So keep your questions/pitch short, but be sure to ask interesting questions so they will perhaps remember you better.
Taking the recruiter’s advice, I was able to find some freelance producing work in NYC for the summer, which then turned into a full-time job. I found this work through a recruiter (whom I found through my department at school) who matches people with companies. Fast forward to SIGGRAPH, where Blue Sky was offering resume reviews. The recruiter I had spoken to at SVA ended up being my reviewer, and they remembered me! I was excited to tell them my progress, and from there they felt I was qualified for the job. An interview a few weeks later landed me the amazing opportunity I now have!
My goal for now is to learn as much as I can in my role, in my department, and at this studio. I would very much like to stay at Blue Sky and invest my time and energy in growing within the company. My dream is to become a producer, which is many years and promotions ahead. It is daunting thinking that I am only starting now, but it is a journey I will savor.
Studio: LAIKA HOUSE (*HouseSpecial)
Location: Portland, Oregon
Affiliations: Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah
Position: CG Intern
Student Emmy: 3RD PLACE Animation Production
Speechless Film Festival: Best of Festival
LAIKA HOUSE, now known as House Special, was formerly the commercial division of LAIKA (originally Will Vinton’s studio before it was bought off), a stop-motion CG animation company. Feature films LAIKA has produced includes Coraline, The Box Trolls, and Paranorman. House Special division works on commercials in partnership with leading advertising companies such as Leo Burnett and Saatchi&Saatchi with brand names such as M&M, International Delights, and Honey Nut Cheerios.
I applied normally as every student apply through online portfolio submission and luckily got it. I was been told that I got selected mostly because the CG supervisor and CG manager liked my film’s main character design and his thinking process in animated shots on my demo reel.
Well initial weeks of the internship were not so busy, just getting used to the production pipeline, proprietary tools and software, getting to know the studio, colleagues and assignments were pretty short like two to three seconds of animation etc. But any intern candidate must keep in mind that the quality which will be produced through those two to three seconds must be of the studio standards and serves the purpose of story telling. After I finished my first few short assignments on M&M’s Bachelor spots I was given chance to animate more important and challenging shots on the unreleased short film “Alchemist’s Letter”. This was my biggest opportunity to present my skills and direction through animation as well as through strong communication, and I proved it. I was able to deliver eight shots for this short in six week deadline.
Now production pipeline or daily working schedule will always differ from studios. At Laika House we had to go for dailies to report our progress and to get direction from directors and supervisors. We had to watch full animation cuts during dailies to check whether the acting or performance going in good direction or not. We always had to keep in mind the shot continuation for a film or an advert. All interns were allowed to take part in the discussion to give constructive feedback.
At the end of the internship I gained so much of experience as well as confidence to enter in the CG industry. And all artists from senior level to entry level developed a friendly atmosphere. Especially I was surrounded by senior animators Allan, Wendy, Chris and Lindsay and made my work easier asking them suggestions on my shots. In my cubical Wendy had a great Dane named “Grover”, he kept me always busy in cuddling him.
Some of the commercials Prasad worked on during the internship:
M&M’s The One
Currently I am planning to animate long shots and cameras and keep learning through the production process. I wish to direct feature length animated films in the future, but it needs so much of hard work and passion for story telling. I hope I would be able to get there some day
Studio: Moving Picture Company (MPC)
Position: Production Assistant (Full Time)
Rhode Island International Film Festival Grand Prize
SIGGRAPH Asia 2014 Official Selection
MPC is a leading Production and Post-Production company in London that has created visual effects for countless films such as Man of Steel, World War Z, Life of Pi, and Prometheus.
It was amazing. Their First Step program is designed to let people look into real productions. They took very well care of all of us interns. Everyone had his own mentor and every week all interns got presentations from another Supervisor on what their departments are like. I got this position through my network and my reel so all I can advise is: Set up a great network it might bring you your next job!
MPC offered me to stay, but I wanted to finish school, so I went back to Germany. They again offered me a full time position after graduation, but I took on another job. *(Markus now works at PIXAR)
Studio: Adult Swim
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Position: Production Intern
AdultSwim is a cable network owned by Turner Broadcasting with famous adult humored originals such as Squidbillies, Black Dynamite, and Aqua Teens Hunger Force. They share a channel space with Cartoon Network but with more raunchy and unapologetic adult contents. They also had great runs with syndicated adult themed animations such as American Dad, Bob’s Burger, and King of the Hills.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend that worked for Cartoon Network, and she sent my resume to Adult Swim. That connection got me the interview, from there it was up to me.
My experience at AS was great. I realized very early on that the internship could be as beneficial as I wanted it to be. Meaning, I could easily be complacent or I could try to be involved in as much as I could be.
So my advice is to meet/ connect with as many possible people. Offer/ be willing to help even when it’s not asked or expected. If you are given an opportunity, do better than what was anticipated.
My internship was just the beginning of my career. I now work for Adult Swim Digital Media making original content.
Studio: Floyd County Production
Affiliation: Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta
Position: Illustration/Production Intern
Floyd County Productions is best known for its award winning and Emmy-nominated adult humor FX animated series Archer. Other animated series from the studio included Unsupervised and Chozen.
Sometimes getting an internship is also about how straightforward you are in asking and showing what you can do. Normally, Floyd County Productions (FCP) doesn’t usually offer internships but I just went ahead and asked my friend who is the Illustration Director working on Archer if there was any position available or future programs for that anyways. He told me there was no current programs available but if I really wanted to learn and was willing to jump in, then he could possibly set up one under him. Of course, I said yes right away and made sure to follow up with times and schedules available. It also didn’t hurt that the illustration assets were created mainly in Adobe Illustrator and I had well over 8+ years of experience in the program. I also took the initiative to draw up a portrait of my own version of me in ARCHER style in my free time to send to him for critiques just to show them what I could do.
Coming from a graphic designer background, I’ve had countless years working with international companies designing websites and creating a pipeline for working remotely but this was my first experience working at an animation studio so everything was really exciting.
There were a couple of things that were new to me including learning about style guides created to keep an animation’s look consistent, how assets were used in the pipeline, and the specificity of an animation series’ production schedule.
I was also able to use some transferrable skills in my production management schedules from working web projects to help facilitating the pipeline for the illustration department’s standards used for Archer’s season 6. Overall, a priceless experience that taught me a lot more about working with people and industry pipeline that would be near impossible to get just from school.
Currently I am holding an internship position at the Atlanta Film Festival as a Programming Associate and am interested in learning more about organization pipelines in hopes of one day setting up my own animation training school/company in the next 10-15 years. I would also like to try and hold a position at an international animation company or studio to gain more insight to the ways they run things.
I am also working towards my MFA in Animation with a stop motion thesis focused on fabrication using felted wool and the laser cutter and would like to be able to one day teach others and share the knowledge I have been fortunate enough to gain myself.
On an ending note, I think Prasad’s animation sums it up quite well. Instead of thinking that things are “impossible”, we have to think more along the lines of “I’m Possible”. With lots of dedication and a passion for what we love, extra care to reach out for opportunities, dreams can come true. As fruitless or slow as things may seem, things usually don’t happen overnight and it takes one step at a time before our goals begin to manifest. Sometimes things are hard and you waver from your path because of challenges in life or for many different reasons.
Ultimately, your biggest challenge most often than not turns out to be your own fears that keep you from succeeding than any external factors. Life is a learning experience and even when we are done with “school”, life still has a lot to school us with. I hope that even when things get though and you want to give up, never stop believing and create your own path.