Insights for Non Artists:
Networking in Animation
This republished column has been expanded for Digital
Media FX readers.
jobs in this business (or most types of business) hinges on who
you know. So if you're just starting out looking for writing or
production jobs in animation, you probably want to know where
you can meet people when you don't have many professional credits,
or perhaps none at all.
are a great resource. For example, I attended the Gathering of
the Gargoyles 2001 in Los Angeles, and the offerings there were
phenomenal. Over 50 guests from every aspect of the industry attended.
I'm not even counting people like myself who appeared on the "From
Fan to Pro" panel; many of these guests have been in the
industry for over a decade. From what I observed, they easily
conversed with anyone who approached them. Many of these people
talking to them had no other professional credits, they just wanted
to say 'hello.'
At one particular
panel, someone went so far as to say if he had two scripts in
front of him by new writers, one by someone he had never heard
of, and one by someone he'd met once at a convention, he would
choose the one by the person he knew. One brief meeting really
could make all the difference.
that's becoming a major Mecca for animation is Comic-Con International:
San Diego. From the name, it sounds like a comic convention --
and did begin that way -- but now features SF and fantasy in all
forms. The Animation Writers Caucus holds a yearly panel and reception
(which is usually open to any interested attendees; check specifically
if you go), and often the Con sponsors animation-themed panels.
I had the privilege of moderating a panel on "Breaking and
Entering: Animation Careers" in 2000.
just a few examples. All kinds of animation-related conventions
(or even SF/fantasy ones with animation as a subset) happen in
almost any major city. Search out directories on the web for events
happening in your area, or by your area of interest. Also directories
about voice actor guest appearances will also lead you to many
convention listings, such as webcomics.com.
Also, if you're
in an area where seminars are offered, either at college campuses
or through organizations like the Learning Annex, attend and take
advantage! Not only the people leading the seminar may be good
to know, no telling what the background of your fellow students
is. You may be surprised. I met some great people in my classes
at UCLA Extension, some of which are now being taught online via
sites such as OnlineLearning.net. Many institutions now offer
online instruction, so geography proves less of a limitation,
though ultimately you will probably need to move to the Los Angeles
area and meet the people in person that you first met online.
things like artists aren't worth knowing because you're a voice
actor, or you shouldn't bother with sound editors because you
want to write. Learning about any aspect of animation can strengthen
you regardless of the path you choose. If you educate yourself
about how the whole process works, you can do better at what you
want to focus on (my personal belief).
If you think
you're shy, and the idea of going up to people you've never met
is terrifying, or speaking to a crowd is paralyzing, I have a
response to that. I did too, once. Just start small. Bear in mind,
especially if you want to be an animation writer, you'll have
to be regularly in meetings where you may have to interact with
people to get your ideas heard.
Try to find
out if someone whose animation work you know and respect is coming
to an event. Comic-Con, for example, lists all registered professionals
expected to attend even if they're not guests of honor. As soon
as you get access to the list of events (either online or at the
event), pore over all the listings -- every panel, the booth signings,
see if that person is appearing anywhere. If so, then go there.
If not, then just try to keep an eye out for them (which I admit
is tough in a sea of name tags).
I make a suggestion like the above, I have to say don't get all
gushy and gooey when you actually approach them. Better to slowly
and carefully choose your words, even stumble over them in modest
honesty, than coming off unprofessionally. Most professionals
I've met, if you clearly explain you are working to be in the
industry and also let them know you respect their work, seem happy
to talk to you. Be brief, and offer your business card if the
person would be interested; definitely don't force it.
if you're brushed off for any reason, don't take it personal.
It may not even be a true indication of the person as an individual;
the person you approach may truly just be too busy. Respect it
and move on... and pat yourself on the back for taking the first
step. In either case, if you can bring up the nerve, try to meet
a second person while you are there. If not, make a goal to shoot
for two more contacts the next year.
The most important
things to remember are not to badger people and work on building
genuine relationships with these individuals. If all you do is
sucking up to people hoping for work, they will see through you.
Care about those you talk to, see what you can learn from them.
Who knows, some may even become friends versus just professional
acquaintances -- but it all begins with conscientious, courteous
here to discuss this column (and share your
ideas) in the dFX Forums.
is known in the animation industry for her work as a production
coordinator for Nickelodeon's Invader Zim. She also served as
a Production Coordinator for Extreme Ghostbusters and a Production
Assistant for Jumanji: The Animated Series. Muir is an accomplished
writer and often participates on panels or as a guest speaker
at conventions like Comic Con International.
to Los Angeles in 1996 from Cheney, WA (population approximately
8,000), knowing she wanted to be part of the animation business.
Since then, she's never strayed far from making that dream reality,
whether it be actively working on a production or writing articles
about the industry.
You can email
Shannon Muir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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