Go to Spungella for new posts.

> academyanimation is no longer active and serves as archives

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Keys to Getting a Job by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson

update: this post has now been translated into Italian! You can read it at animatorspot.com

Disclaimer: I haven't seen any notification that taking notes and posting screen captures of this
lecture are forbidden. If so, please contact me first before taking legal actions. ;)

I wanted to write down the main points of the Demo Reel Siggraph video "Resumes and Demo Reels" (link to video is not valid anymore; if anybody can find the clip online, please leave a comment) by Pamela Kleibrink Thompson, because it's good stuff. Make sure that you watch the video as well.

Obviously when she mentions that you should divide your reel into sections, like character animation, modeling, logos, etc. it might not be relevant to you, if you are applying for a full time character animator job. But overall it's a great and very useful lecture.

Here's her contact information:

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
The 911 Recruiter/Career Coach
Ask about the Career Navigator Program
Career Coach column at http://mag.awn.com


You are a product, a unique individual and you need to package yourself. The marketing tools for that are:

- Resume
- Portfolio
- Demoreel

Main objective is to get an interview.

The invisible resume and the most important marketing tool though, that starts with you entering the interview room or classroom, is your reputation. Attitude is a key factor. People within your company will move to other jobs and referrals are a big part of recruiting. You want people to remember you in a good way. A fantastic resume and reel will be useless if someone doesn't want to work with your personality.

When you start at your first job, have enthusiasm, go the extra mile, be a problem solver, don't complain, follow directions, give ideas and contribute, etc. It's all a matter of attitude.

Once you get that interview the people want to find out 3 things:
- are you willing to do the job (that's your attitude)?
- can you do the job (although that's obvious looking at the reel and resume)?

and most importantly:

- will you fit in? Are you a team player?

You need to convince them. Do your homework, research the company you are applying for, be prepared.


"Make it Easy for the Recruiter." - Recruiters are generally overwhelmed, they have to do a lot of sifting through resumes. But their job is to find the right person and they know their company. Don't just hand your reel to your friend at the company, but go through HR as well. They know about project openings that your friend doesn't. Better safe than sorry.

"You spend a lot of time agonizing about your stuff. Do you know how much time they spend looking over your stuff? Probably about 5 seconds." Due to high volume of resume/reel submissions, your work has to stand out, otherwise your resume ends up in the trash and not in the "to be called" stack.

Resume Checklist:

Contact Info at Top
- Phone Number > Current area code & Voice mail or answering machine
- Name
- Email address

- Large, legible type font
- Easy to read
- Not too much type
- List skills
- Highlight accomplishments (this is your time to brag)
- Single page > If multiple pages, contact info on other pages too

Proofread (it will land in the trash otherwise)
- Goal/objective > What you want to do (important if changing careers)

Be specific
- No "variety of 3D packages", because companies use computes that scan for certain keywords. So if a company is looking for Maya animators and the recruiter is scanning through all the resumes with that keyword and it's not on your resume, it won't pop up.
- make sure that your resume copies well (dark paper will make it hard for the type to read; don't use parchment paper, etc.)

She shows great Sample Resumes with Gray Scale Art obscuring the Contact Information, hard to read and crowded fonts.
In short:

- Test your resume - fax, copy (legible over several generations)
- Color (no orange, dark blue, purple)
- No marble/-parchment paper
- No gray scale
- Attach artwork
- Review and update every 6 months
- Update when information changes

Good resumes are easy to read and have plenty of white space. Simple, clear and concise. (shows sample)
The structure would be something like this:

Telephone*fax*email address*web address
OBJECTIVE (be specific)
*Bullet points
EXPERIENCE (Include accomplishments)

(funny story about an Amblin intern who used to walk Spielberg's dog, which is a little mutt; cracked me up because the rumor is that Shia's name is Mutt Ravenwood and he's Indy's son. So Indiana is named after his dog and now Indy's son is named after Spielberg's dog! The circle is now complete. Oohkay... anyway.)

Resume via email:

- Don't send resume as attachment (fear of viruses).
- Send resume in an email message as text.
- Don't email from work or use work email address on resume.
- Don't expect employer to visit web site to view or download resume (make it easy for them, don't give them extra work to do)


Cover Letter Tips

- Personal connection
- Common ground
- Referral
- Advantage

3 to 5 paragraphs long

- Cover letters are:
> A sales tool. Part of the marketing package.
>Often not read, especially if they are too long.

- Cover letters should be:
> Short and to the point.
> Specific and clear.
> Easy to read.
> Addressed to someone specific.

- Use cover letters to:
> Clarify what you are offering the company, if it isn't clear from your resume.
> Indicate career change or clarify special circumstances or skills.

- If one page resume, copy double sided with cover letter
> "See my resume on back of this cover letter."

She lists areas that need artists. Mentions Consumer Products (Packaging & Advertising) as a very steady and sought after position.


Demo Reel Do's

- DVD (now primary media over VHS otherwise 1/2" VHS (NTSC for U.S. Companies))
- Web sites (ask first if company will look at it)
- Check DVD before you send it (on different machines)
> PC & Mac compatible
> Autoplay [after checking with recruiters, they do NOT encourage autoplay, just have a simple menu that says "Start Reel" or something, because it's irritating to them when the reel starts automatically and they are not ready]

- ALWAYS include a resume and reel, breakdown/credit list with your reel
- Clearly label your reel and reel breakdown with your name and contact info
- Best, most recent work first (funny story about that)
- 3 minutes or less
- One shot can get you hired

Make sure you watch the video for the examples and stories (about the one shot reels for instance).

- Focus on your strengths
- Demonstrate your abilities and creative talents
- Show a variety of work
- Customize your reel to the job and company you are applying to, if possible. (you might need multiple reels)
- Include a head and tail slate with your name and contact info, especially email address.

- Divide your reel into sections: "Character Animation", "Modeling", "Logos", etc.
- Update reel and portfolio every six months
- Remove old work, even if you love it (another funny bit)

"Most times people will spend about 30secs on your reel. If they don't see something in those 30secs you're out of there."

You're going to be judged on the weakest piece in your portfolio.

Professional Presentation
- Screen shot on label or outside wrapper: memorable image of your work.
- Include the screen shots with your resume: separate sheet attached
- Package yourself
- Details matter

Video shows nice DVD wrapper example, matching DVD with DVD label (CONTACT INFO on wrapper, DVD itself, etc.).

- Include life drawing or other fine art work such as sculpture, painting or photography at the tail of your reel.


The Breakdown - also called Credit List or Shot List

- Always include it with your demo reel.
- Be clear.
- A short paragraph for each shot on the reel is plenty of information
- Be precise and consise.
- For example:
> Segment 2: "Wizard of Oz" film, animated witch melting with Software A and hardware B for company C

Information to be included:
- What was your involvement with each piece? Explain exactly what you did for the shot.
- What project was it done for? > Film, game or TV?
- Where was it done? > At which company? Personal project at home?
- What tools did you use? > Hardware and software

Movie shows "Breakdown List Sample". (surprised they liked that one, looks like too much work - the second one is cool though with thumbnails for each shot and a little description).

- Put slates before each shot or superimpose description on shot (subtitle) (I see subtitles more than slates, that way the reel is not too long)
- Students often work on group projects
> Student should specify what he did on each shot.
> If student did everything, say so in the breakdown.


Demo Reel Don'ts

- Never send masters or originals.
- Don't put your best stuff last. The viewer may never get to it.
- Don't do a chronological work history.
- Don't include early tests.
- Don't include mediocre work.

Focus on the Visuals not Audio.

Kiss off loud, obnoxious music or elaborate sound.

- Color bars are not necessary nor countdowns
- Don't expect prospective employers to view samples or a resume on a web site. A lot of companies will look at it, a lot won't. Ask first what they prefer. Main rule, don't ask employer to do any extra work, make it easy for them.
- Don't send the exact same reel in 6 months. We have very good visual memories.

Companies have reel review sessions and there are dedicated people who take notes and log comments about your reel. All the notes are collected and put into a file, that file grows and there are notes about how you improve and at a certain point you are called "Hireable". So when your skill set matches their openings you will get a call.

Your Demo Reel will not be returned.

- Minimize erotica, satanic and violent material.
- Don't include live action film without animation or computer graphics
- Don't send work in progress.
- Don't ask for feedback by phone. (if you're lucky to get feedback, pay attention, don't argue, don't be defensive, take notes)
- Don't shrink wrap your reel.
- Don't email images as attachments. Fear of viruses.

Don't take it personal if no company calls back, there could be many reasons.

- Don't put tutorial exercises on your reel.
- Don't embed images in email unless you have permission. Slows down downloads.
- Don't wait until a conference to submit your reel.

At Digital Domain, they get 30 to 40 reels in a normal week. When they advertise or post a job, they get around 300 to 400 reels. At Siggraph week, they get between 3000 and 4000 reels. Think about that. It's going take them a while to go through the reels. So if you don't hear from them immediately, it means that they may be reviewing reels still. It's going to take them about 3 months to get through all the reels, that they see at Siggraph. Now some of them will do it more quickly, because some of them will just fast forward through your reel. Really quick. After all the agony you've done making sure that your reel is the greatest it ever could be, they might spend 30 seconds on it, possibly, if you're lucky. They are going to fast forward it and see if there is anything that catches their eye. That's why you need to make sure that your best stuff is up front, ..." Grab them right away. Some companies will bring back the reels from Siggraph and watch them properly, over the course of time, others will just fast forward through them in their hotel suits late at night.

Why are companies even coming to Siggraph with their big expensive booths? Why collecting all those reels? Because there might be one or two or three out there that we really want to find. So they want to hire you, they are looking for you. You just have to make it easy for them to find you.

Start sending your reel in December. Or for students right after graduation in April or May.

More Demo Reel Tips:

- Be impressive, not excessive.
- Keep it short and sweet.
- Always include breakdown.
- Always label with contact info.
- Quality matters.
- Your demo reel gives the viewer a look into your brain -- how you solve problems.

There is no magic formula. It's just hard work and persistence and networking.


Jobs in Visual Effects:

- Modeling
- Texturing
- Lighting
- Animating
- Compositing
> Small companies want generalists
> Large companies want specialists

Shows different demo reel examples of modelers, texture artists, lighters (Lighting and Compositing combination skills are very popular and a double threat)

- Animation, Ringling Student Reel, now at EA, less than 2min long short film (most student reels lack weight). It's not just about jumping and walking or pushing something, it's about personality. - funny though because one of the first things you see are breasts (made out of wood though), the clip is funny and towards the end clearly sexual (the audience laughs), but it's not disrespectful and the response is positive, so I guess she got away with it. :)
continues with compositing, fx artist, etc.

A lot of times the sound is off during reel reviews (except during lip sync animation clips).

For Riggers, show the rigs moving, not static.



- make it easy for the recruiter, package yourself well, be flexible, be ready to take chances, take risks.
- Content is what counts
- What matters is the work
- Nobody cares how old you are or what school you attended
- What makes a reel great? If your work can be cut into the company's work seamlessly, that's great.
- Show the very best you can do
- Show off your skills
- Show you are capable of doing the work

Your most valuable marketing tool:
- The Invisible Resume
- You start building it in school
- You build it on every job
- Your reputation is most important
- Make sure it's stellar

Don't burn any bridges.

She tells a story about someone screwing up big time, getting on "the list" by just not showing up at work for his first day, because he decided to work for another company. But he didn't call the first company to tell them that he's not going to show up. Big mistake.


That's it, the Q&A is not on it. Lots of good stuff tough otherwise, you should print it and make a little book out of it. :)


jeffff leeee said...

this is great! thanks jd. and remember kids, don't make any mistakes!

Joey said...

This is so great presentation!!
This is must-see presentation, I insist!

your favorite student ever! jeffff leee said...

"Don't send the exact same reel in 6 months. We have very good visual memories."

I was just reading this over again and I noticed this part. Does this mean once we send in our reel we should never send them the same clips in the reel EVER again? even if we polish the crap out of it further?

what if we add new clips and took on the bad ones but still had some of the older clips? that would be okay right?

Jean-Denis Haas said...

You know, I always wondered myself. I would see if you improve on it, why not. Also taking older clips out and keeping the kick ass ones, why not. Unless you have 10 new amazing clips every 6 months, which could be difficult.

bert said...

Can you tell me what sort of material would make up a good portfolio if I were applying for a position in a story department? Would animation examples be appropriate? Character designs? Or maybe just a few short examples of something that I boarded?
Great posting by the way.

Jean-Denis Haas said...

Those are good questions, but unfortunately I don't know. My best guess would be storyboards, but I don't want to send you down the wrong path.

I would go on splinedoctors and ask the doctors. With Pixar's storyboard on campus I'm sure they can help you out in some way.

bert said...

Thank you. I'll head on over to Spline Drs. and ask.