Two members of award-winning visual effects studio Framestore, based in London, came to visit us in university today to give a talk about the best route to get in to the company and general advice for breaking in to the industry as a recent graduate.
First up was Toyah Middleton, who gave us a brief introduction to what Framestore did a s a company and the projects that they're currently working on. Working in the VFX industry requires a combination of both technical and artistic skills, and generally they are very departmentalised. This means that you are hired for a specific role (this is true mostly of the film industry) as opposed to some of the commercial houses that require you to be more of a generalist.
One of the main things I took away from Toyah's part of the talk was the opportunities Framestore offers to it's runners. Within this particular company, runners are taken on with the intention of promoting them at some point in the future, this means that their showreels have to be of a high standard. Throughout your time as a runner, you receive a mentor in your specialism alongside training towards your intended area of work. For 3D runners, that involves training in tracking. Runners also have access to rigs and computers within the company, and are able to use the facilities at weekends as they please. It's a perfect opportunity to do as much networking as possible, whilst working towards your specialism in your own time and learning from those around you. At Framestore, there is a focus on promoting within the company, so junior positions are more rare, making running a great opportunity for recent graduates.
Other key points that were made included the importance of keeping up to date with trends and software that are being used by companies; attending events, conferences and industry networking events; keeping your reel and CV constantly up to date and available online and finally following companies on social media to have an awareness of the projects that they're working on.
Michael, an animator at Framestore, told us about his experience of getting in to the industry. He is originally from Sydney, and started out as a concept artist. Whilst working as an artist, he would spend his spare time playing with the company's rigs to learn animation. A good piece of advice he gave us was to utilize what the company you are working for has - whether that's making the most of the facilities or taking advantage of the people around you to network. According to Michael, most companies expand for a show and then retract back to just a core team once it's over - this can come as a bit of a shock when you're a junior and you think you're in a stable job. However, as you gain more experience, you become more valuable to the company and are more likely to be established as one of the core team. As a junior in film, you don't typically have much to offer because of the high standard of polished animation that is expected, therefore doing work in your own time is absolutely crucial to improving your skillset.
We were also lucky enough to be shown some of the shots that he worked on for Guardians of the Galaxy, and the demo reel that he used to get in to Framestore in the first place. What was truly fascinating about this was that he'd included videos of the flipbooks he had made at ages 13-14, and apparently this is what got him the majority of his jobs due to it's unique take on an animators reel. Different bits and pieces can be included in a reel, as long as it shows an artistic ability of some kind that is relevant to the position you are applying for, this is especially the case for animators.