Animation Industry Power Q&A
with SchoolCreative Instructor Jesse Daniel & Screenwriter Paul Donnett
Join us for a video conference with Jesse and Paul on oct 23 @ 10:45 am in room 57. Learn more about the real Animation industry in Vancouver.
Learn more about School Creative
Did you know!
So you want to work in VFX or animation?
The visual effects, or VFX, and animation business in British Columbia generates a hefty portion of the province’s $2.4 billion film and TV production industry, an area that is prime for pursuing a career in.
“The number of digital animation and effects projects I can share with you is that as of our year end of March 31, 2017, it’s up 33 per cent from 2016, and anecdotally, the average age is 28 years or so with a salary in the $60,000-plus range with ample opportunity for growth,” said Prem Gill, the Chief Executive Officer of Creative B.C., the government body involved in the promotion and development of creative industries in the province.
“What’s interesting is how many people you don’t consider that are also employed such as engineers, math students and others who often use this business as a jumping off point. John Lutz of Electronic Arts often says that digital entertainment, video games, animation and so on are often a launch pad for other tech careers and start ups.”
BCIT’s Faculty of Digital Arts program head Ramin Shadmehr certainly fits that description. Shadmir went from Electronic Arts to forming his own startup, Port Moody-based Ace 3D FX, and then into teaching.
These days, Shadmehr is mostly focused on training future prospects in 3D modelling, art and animation. The 15-month program takes in two sessions of 25 students each. Standard tuition is $23, 350 (domestic) and $34,250 (international), which is considerably less than a university degree that might earn you significantly less afterwards.
“I don’t know about the other schools, but we vet our students before they come in to be sure that they are really talented and that when they come out of the program they are going to be employed,” Shadmehr said. “That’s why we are constantly keeping our program up to date and making major changes to introduce new components by working closely with industry partners at places like Sony Imageworks.”
Keeping up with technology and trends in the industry is key to faculties from BCIT and Capilano University to SFU’s SIAT Campus or the Vancouver Film School. It’s no easy task for educational institutions or industry players to stay ahead of the curve. The truth is that schools can’t train enough workers with industry requirements, so the studios develop their own internships and in-house training programs.
“It’s one of the fastest growing industries I can think of as every day some company is developing or testing a new tool and, if industry adopts it, we need to know about it,” said Shadmehr. “We don’t expect students coming in to know all the applications, we teach that, but what matters is you artistic drive and commitment.”
Of late, finding enough people with that get up and go and the skills needed to put it together is challenging the industry. Gill notes that there is a considerable influx of international experts relocating to Vancouver and then discovering that there is enough consistent work to keep them here permanently.
“They may come over for one job, but then they stay, settle and have families,” she said. “The global demand for visual effects and animation is huge and, while Game of Thrones or Star Wars may not be shot here, a lot of that kind of work on those programs is. Just next week, the new My Little Pony movie is premiering in New York and it was done here at DHX.”
Mark Breakspear of Sony Pictures Imageworks breaks it down to the basics: “I look for people who have a good eye and, frankly, if someone comes in with that looking for a job in an area that is fully staffed, I may hire them anyways because true talent can always be trained.”
And once you are trained, be prepared for a roller-coaster ride in terms of hours worked and deadlines. Bringing a project from start to finish is a nail biting endurance game where 80-hour workweeks aren’t uncommon at certain key junctures and you might be doing some of that work in the wee hours.
Inspiration comes at curious times and there is no way to schedule it. Such is the way of Hollywood North’s busy creative industry sector.