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for Non Artists:
They've broken the news. The show's not meeting its target demographic. The merchandise isn't selling. Or the company hasn't decided to renew for additional episodes. Whatever the reason, the outcome's the same. The show you've worked on for months, maybe years, has reached the end of its run.
So where do you go from here?
Depending on how and when the news comes down, you may have days, weeks, or months to spring into action. First off, make sure your resume is up-to-date and error-free. Competition's tight and you don't want bad appearance bringing you down. Secondly, don't fear picking up the phone or talking to your co-workers and finding out what shows they know about.
Recently, I came to know this firsthand.
In September of 2001, I came onboard Invader Zim at Nickelodeon as a Production Coordinator. In January 2002, our order was cut back and I was given three weeks left to work. Some people, because of the stage the production was at, were given more and others less because their roles on the show (on the new timetable) were coming to an end. I've built up a fair amount of contacts over the past five years, but what amazed me most was talking to people, hearing people talk to other people, and realizing how many people in the industry I don't yet know. People do cross paths over and over, but don't fool yourself into thinking you know everyone.
I've emphasized it before and will again -- network, network, network. It's times like this that are the reason why. Also, if you know of openings on a show that aren't right for you but are for others, share the news. People do remember that and may do the same for you in the future.
If your savings or severance is adequate enough, definitely take a break. Getting away to reassess and let it all out, if need be, can be very healthy. Admittedly, though, this is a luxury and one I myself have not really had. I went months without work, but I actively pounded the pavement at every step.
Sometimes you have to take an entertainment industry job that isn't animation because that's what's available. Depending on your career stage, this isn't necessarily a step backwards. For someone who's spent years being in timing, or worked his or her way up the producer ranks, it might be more problematic. Personally, I had a four year gap between one animated series and the next. Though largely I made that choice in order to go to school, many of the things I learned still apply. In those years, I worked as an Administrative Assistant for a store that specializes for writers and filmmakers, as well as at Michael Ovitz's now-folded Artists Television Group (a live-action production company). Things I learned seeing the industry from different points of view I can apply to understanding how animation companies work. So if the animation work isn't there, don't fear spending time in marketing, public relations, live-action production or any other area if they'll take you.
I've also had my share of non-industry jobs. After I left Sony, I did temporary employment for that next year. This exposed me to many types of business, and if nothing else helped me earn money while building up my appreciation for knowing animation was where I wanted to be. It's also great as a writer to be able to learn about industries I otherwise wouldn't have been exposed to.
If either of the above scenarios happen, keep in touch with your animation contacts. You never know when opportunity will come. Sometimes, though, it does take a bit of patience.
The ending of Invader
Zim made me realize that all of my articles prior to this, while accurate,
may have presented the industry with rose-colored glasses. Don't be fooled,
it's harsh and ugly and you never know what may happen. That said, if
it's in your blood, don't ignore the call. I can tell you by experience
that if you're prepared to roll with the punches, the rewards are well
worth it. I felt happier with my four months at Invader Zim than I've
been in the four years I was out of the industry.
Shannon Muir 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.
Muir moved 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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