A Student Blog Worth Your While Reading

I forget how I managed to stumble across this blog (probably late at night when I’m a bit sleepy) but I’m glad I did. Written by the students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, it’s a collaborative effort by the animation students there.

It’s a wide ranging blog that covers anything from individual animator’s to hints and tips on techniques to opinions on the industry as a whole.

While there may not be the sage advice you would find on a an experienced animator’s blog, it is quite fascinating to see the opinions of students who too often neglect to run any kind of individual blog. Besides that, there are also links to workspace advice, internship opportunities and links to suppliers.

The updates are fairly frequent and the tone is friendly. The SMFA Animation blog is certainly one you should consider adding to your bookmarks.

How I Would Spot Great Upcoming Animators

I noticed it the other day but figured it wasn’t worth commenting on until Amid posted a concise rounding on the list the other day over at Cartoon Brew. For one, I agree with him on the choices, they are all established animators. Heck, Pendleton Ward has his own TV show that’s already in production on its second season!

In fairness, I hate lists. I tend to disagree with all of them unless their made by myself, and even then I tend to change my mind fairly quickly. Variety’s list is not credited to any one person in particular, which is a shame as one person may have put in some effort seeing as its their name at the bottom. Nonetheless, I will give the people who did write it the benefit of the doubt. At least it isn’t near as bad a list as the one published by Time a while back on the 10 Most Controversial Cartoons.

So how can you determine who is and who isn’t an up and coming animator? Unless you can read the thoughts of development executives out there, spotting the next Chuck Jones is nigh on impossible. The following is based on my own thoughts so please, if you have anything to add, please do so in the comments below.

Firstly, what does it mean to be “up and coming”? It’s a bit of a pointless phrase at the end of the day. Is it when you enter the fringes of the animation community, or when your video goes viral? What if you’ve toiled away as an independent filmmmaker for years before one of your creations enters the wider public’s eye? As far as I’m concerned, it’s when you have established a name for yourself within the animation community. They are the people who are going to watch your work and come out and support you or even come to you for support when necessary.

So what do up and coming animators have in common? The first thing is that they work and work bloody hard too. You never seen an aspiring animator sitting on their laurels. If they are not actively working by day and creating by night, they face an uphill battle to become known. Plenty of established animators, illustrators and background artists have a paying job during the day while at night they work away on their personal stuff. Just some examples include Chris Reccardi, Lou Romano, Steve Lambe, Mike Maihack, the list could go on forever. The point is, they have a deep passion for what they do and they use every (or almost every) waking hour devoted to it. They know that using their spare time to promote themselves is the most productive thing they can do.

After these same folks have created their films or whatever, they get them out there. Elliot Cowan applies for as many festivals as he can find. As a result, he could now be considered world-renowned! YouTube and other video streaming websites have also helped the up and coming animator get their stuff out there with little to no additional cost involved.

Aspiring animators also actively updated a blog or website and can often be seen attending community events. Look at Mr. Warburton, he’s a very well established animator but he always attends events or functions where colleagues and other animators will be present.

Those are my thoughts, now, how can you spot the next crop of animators? They will most likely be attending school of some sort. Besides the obvious skills they will be taught, it also provides them with a ready-made network of friends once they are finished. They will also be studiously developing their student films. The crop on show at this year’s ASIFA-East festival was outstanding. I’ve heard stories of students never completing their film, or rushing to get things done at the last minute. If they can’t get their act together in college, what hope do they have at a studio or as a freelancer?

They will also be active within the community, either attending events on a regular basis or being a member of the executive committee. They will be building contacts and networks at these events and will regularly meet people outside of said events.

Lastly, they will be good animators, with a knack for visual design as well as storytelling. They don’t necessary have to be a jack-of-all-trades, but they will excel in one particular area and they will use it to their advantage.

These are just a few quick musing on what I would be looking for if I was trying to spot the next great animator to emerge. Like I said above, it’s nearly impossible to spot the next great talent until they have already arrived. If you are in the animation industry, you have no excuses for not having advance warning.