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Animated Insights for Non Artists:
A World of Choices - One Year Later
by Shannon Muir

February 15, 2002, marked my debut column for DIGITAL MEDIA FX. I'd been let go from INVADER ZIM the week before with no idea of where the future lay. As things had been, I'd stopped producing a smaller but similar column for a competing site for a variety of reasons, but primarily because I though INVADER ZIM would keep me too busy. I discovered DIGITAL MEDIA FX while job searching on the Internet, and really felt it would be a home for what I'd wanted to do and reluctantly given up. Even in the midst of my own uncertain career, I wanted to share what I'd learned with others.

A year later, I'm glad I made that choice. Not just to share from my experience and observation, but getting the opportunity to talk in-depth with others. Making sure my readers get a detailed wealth of information is why I've made quite a point of bringing mini-interviews to the column every other month, and intend to as long as I don't run out of new concepts to bring you. I can research heavily on subjects, and bring my own slant, but it is important to me that you hear these professionals in their own words about their own experiences. Some of the people that you've read in this column were already friends of mine (Monique Beatty, Christy Marx), but it also encouraged me to stretch myself and really get to know people I'd only met briefly in the past (Patric Verrone, Dean Stefan, Tad Stones).

Some of you have written asking if I can put you in touch with my interviewees. Unless they specifically give me permission, I cannot honor these requests. Most of the people I feature either have their own websites or interact as part of a moderated forum associated with shows they are or have worked on. A little detective work will find you most of that information. Surviving in this business depends on a lot on doing your own investigative work, both in networking and job leads.

Another thing I've learned from the e-mail I receive is that artists do read these columns, although they weren't the primary audience I set out to reach. This pleases me in that I believe artists and non-artists should better understand one another. Though, sometimes, people ask me questions I don't really know the answers to (such as the going rate for a 3D animator). I'll research those as time permits, but to be honest I'm feeling fortunate to find time to share information on the non-artist area I've devoted myself to. Having said that, I want to publicly welcome any artist who wants to read these columns and learn more about the industry.

My own life in this field really changed over the last year as well. As I'm writing this, I have just finished my first week of graduate school at California State University, Fullerton, in the Mass Communications program. My goals now are to ready myself for communications management positions -- preferably in the development of animation and/or live-action children's programming -- and also be able to teach extension courses or at community college part time while pursuing a professional life in this business.

Don't think for a minute though that I'm going to be out of the animation arena while I'm spending my next year-and-a-half as a graduate student, though. The other big event that's happened over the course of the past year is that I'm currently at work on my first animation script for a foreign company -- a culmination of a dream that began seventeen years earlier. Unfortunately, contractual obligations prevent me from telling you more at the time I'm writing this. If and when I can share more, I will. Believe me, none of this is where I'd imagined I'd be a year ago.

It's still a tough industry out there. Nearly everyone I've talked to seems to be working for less than they're accustomed to be paid, or trying to find some outside work to supplement their income. As I said when I started this column, I want to try and present the state of the industry as honestly as possible. Yet, I don't want people giving up if the passion for this medium truly burns inside them. Just know what you're up against.

Welcome to the next leg of the journey. I hope you'll continue along for the ride.

Click here to discuss this column in the dFX Forums.

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

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