When it comes to starting a career in the field of visual arts, a degree is important, but it certainly isn’t everything. If you’re an animator, bagging an internship at a top production studio is key to landing that first job and getting your career moving.
Here’s our guide on how to beat out the competition and secure your dream internship.
Why is an internship important?
There is lots to be gained from an internship at a reputable company, including the following:
- Experience– accept that you might have to start right at the bottom to achieve your goals. You need to learn the basics and develop a strong foundation.
- Personal development – identify working patterns, learn how to stream your processes and increase/improve your output. This will make you a much better employee and animation software user in the long run.
- A strong demo reel - it’s all about your portfolio in creative industries, and an impressive education isn’t enough to land you your dream job.
- Network – it will likely be your first opportunity to meet people in your chosen field. Remember: it’s often who you know, not what you know.
- Find out what it’s really like – maybe animation isn’t what you thought it would be, or maybe it’ll be just as you imagined: find out sooner rather than later.
- Transition from education to employment – the leap into full time employment can be challenging, and an internship is a great way to adapt.
How to get a great animation internship
1. Aim high
There’s no point in playing it safe and sticking to smaller studios that seem more obtainable. You have absolutely nothing to lose at this early stage in your career, and even if you don’t land the role that you apply for it’s a great way to learn about what the animation giants are (and aren’t) looking for.
It might surprise you to find out that even if you don’t live near Hollywood, there might be a big-name studio close by that has internship opportunities. Do some online research and see what companies are out there; there are literally hundreds of incredible production houses dotted all over the world:
- Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings, Avatar) – Wellington, New Zealand
- Framestore (Harry Potter, Guardians of the Galaxy) – London, England
- Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Ponyo) – Tokyo, Japan
- Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Rio) – Greenwich, Connecticut
- Sony Pictures Imageworks (Watchmen, Spider-Man) – Vancouver, Canada
Sure, competition is stiff, but someone has to land those to-die-for internships: why not you?
2. Create a killer demo reel
Your demo reel is the most important tool you have for securing an internship with your chosen company. Without it, there’s no actual proof that you can do what you claim to be able to do, so it’s worth taking the time to get it absolutely right.
Your reel is what sells you: it’s your calling card, your first impression, and your only opportunity to impress the people that have the power to help you start your career.
There are a few golden rules when it comes to creating a killer ‘reel:
- Tailor it to the company – check their guidelines regarding length, format etc.
- Show flair, originality and creativity – you need new ideas
- If a piece of work isn’t absolutely perfect, leave it out
- Show variety where possible, but don’t include sub-par pieces to achieve this
Imagine how many demo reels the recruiters will have seen before yours; figure out what makes you different and lead with that. The key thing is to stand out from the crowd, as you can be sure that it’s a pretty huge crowd trying to nab that spot.
3. Build your network
As we said at the beginning of this article, an internship can be a great way of making connections, but it doesn’t hurt to try and grow your network beforehand.
This is by no means a revolutionary job-hunting tip, but it’s more about what you do with it than about the technique itself. LinkedIn is the go-to professional networking site, and with good reason. Professionals at all levels have profiles on the site, and it’s a great place to introduce yourself to others in your field. It’s quick and easy to make a profile, and you can also upload your resume so potential employers can find you. What’s not to love?
The thing is, though, that everyone knows about LinkedIn, so how do you avoid getting lost in the crowd of eager animators? Well, the key to being a successful networker is having something to say.
When you do decide to reach out, introduce yourself, be interesting, and give the person a reason to write back. They probably get dozens of messages per week, how will your intrigue them? Think about it, what is special about your voice?
4. Know where to look
Obviously, Google is a great starting place, but do you have a list of reliable resources that you can keep referring back to? When you begin your search for an internship, get organized first and decide where you’re going to search.
Some of the best studios list all their opportunities on their own sites, so this is a great place to start the job hunt. For example:
Some of the biggest job sites such as Monster and Indeed feature animation internships from well-known companies and mid-size agencies, and it’s also worth seeking out specialist job sites like Animated Jobs and AWN for opportunities in start-ups and smaller studios. LinkedIn is more than just a networking site and is also a great place to search for new opportunities.
Set up email notifications for your chosen resources so you can be the first to apply for any new jobs: getting in there first is a great way to avoid getting lost in the heap.
5. Quality vs quantity
When it comes to applying for internships, it’s going to be a bit of a numbers game: the more you apply for, the better your odds are of getting an interview. Also, your resume and cover letter need to be tailored to each job as you’ll get a much better response if the recruiter can’t immediately see that your application is generic.
Customizing your applications can be very time consuming and this can limit the amount of resumes you send out, so how do you get the balance?
You don’t need to start each application from scratch, and by tweaking a few details you can easily tailor your resume:
- Adapt your key skills and experience to suit the individual job role
- State why you want to work for that particular company, rather than just ‘in animation’
- Adjust your template to include key aspects of a company’s branding, such as its pantone
- Address your cover letter as personally as possible and state where you saw the job
With most things in life, the key to getting an awesome internship at a top studio is mostly down to working hard. But, it’s also important to work smart to make the most of your time and your talents.
Be methodical when job hunting and applying for internships, and always have a plan of how you’ll approach each company. Do your research and don’t be afraid to shoot for the top studios: someone will get those positions so why not you? Finally, hone your voice and work out what it is that’s special about you, then get out there and sell that thing.
Have you interned as an animator? Let us know how you landed your role in the comments.