Tips for Breaking into the Visual Effects Industry!

Are you new to the Visual Effects industry? Having an issue finding a job in the field? Finding a job as a brand new artist may prove extremely tricky for most; especially for those in Vancouver. Although there are a lot of VFX Studios in town and a huge demand for artists, there is also a lot of competition – both locally and globally.

You would think that getting a job would be much easier since there are initiatives such as the DAVE (Digital animation, visual effects and post-production) tax credit, but why are the studios still hiring from outside BC and Canada? The answer boils down to experience and the ability to show the studios the quality of your work. But wait – that’s not it! You also need to show them that you are able to work in a team environment, hit deadlines and quickly adapt and make revisions based on dailies. The problem is that without having had a job in the industry, gaining experience is fairly difficult to achieve. Catch 22?

We’ve spoken to many recruiters and leads at some of the largest VFX Studios in town, and we have a few tips for people trying to get their foot into the door in the industry.

  • Keep your demo reel current! This is very important as a lot of newly graduated artists submit their student reels… If they don’t get a job, they keep applying with the same reel year after year. Studios like to see that you are always updating your reel, and pushing yourself.
  • Put your best work at the beginning – When building your demo reel, make sure you put your strongest work at the beginning. If you start out with weak work, this will give a bad impression of your reel. In fact, if you aren’t extremely happy with certain pieces, omit them from your reel completely. A recruiter would rather see 30 seconds of amazing work, than 2 minutes of weaker content.
  • Show relevant work – If you are applying to a studio that does primarily VFX work, edit your reel to include more relevant pieces. Showing a bunch of animation shots when applying to a VFX house might not be the best idea… unless you are applying for an animation position. Also, make sure you are showing work that is relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Clearly indicate what you did in the shot – If you are showing shots from collaborative work, make sure you indicate what your role was in the particular shot. Failing to do so may give the impression that you did everything in the shot… which may be misleading.
  • Keep Applying – If you’ve already applied for a studio but haven’t had a response yet, it might just boil down to timing. Sometimes there just isn’t a job available (or enough jobs available), and you may need to wait. Apply again in a few months, but make sure you keep your demo reel current! (See tip #1) If you apply to the same studio a few times, and your reel is updated in between, this will look really good for you!
  • Find Collaborative Projects! Sometimes just working on an open collaborative project can be really good experience and a great networking experience at the same time. Check around locally to see if any other artists are getting together to do some side projects, or even check out some of VCGA’s open collaborative projects, like “Galactic Battles”. These projects can help you get used to working in a team environment, doing regular dailies and all about the pipeline that studios use. It also gives you some cool stuff to put in your reel and introduces you to like-minded people in the industry.
  • Network! It’s not ALL what you know, but who you know, too! Find some local social events and meet people in the industry… as well as other enthusiasts and people new to the industry. VCGA has regular events you can drop in on to meet tons of like-minded artists. There are a lot of other groups locally that focus on bringing like-minded artists together for social events.
  • Don’t Stop Learning! One thing that is crucial when looking for any job, is to keep up your skills, build them up and stay current! Spend as much time as you can, working on projects, refining your skills and training to do more. Keep up on the latest software if possible, and seek training courses or online videos. Never stop learning. This will help you adapt to new technologies and methods.

These tips should hopefully help you get your foot in the door with a local VFX studio or smaller CG company. Once in, it’s all downhill from there. Build up some experience, find your niche and become a rockstar!