Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sometimes "They" Are Other Artists

As a sort of follow-up to my last post, I'd like to point you to an excellent piece by animation veteran Steve Moore over at the FLIP blog.  It's a great look at studio politics in the present day and a warning about the rose-coloured glasses that animation artists often wear.

I'd point out, especially to students about to enter the workforce, that the large studios many students aspire to are often the most political.  They are filled with excellent artists and those artists are also highly ambitious.  It's the combination of those two qualities that got them there.  That causes the political maneuvering for choice spots, whether it's job titles or the juiciest shots, to be extreme.

Smaller studios are generally lower pressure places.  As an individual represents a greater portion of a studio's workforce, it means that individuals are treated better.  Should someone leave,  there's a larger hole in the project.  Smaller studios are also places where you can make mistakes without the spotlight being on you.  Smaller studios tend to work with smaller budgets and have smaller audiences, so the inevitable mistakes early in a career don't attract as much attention.

The "Frank and Ollie trajectory," as Moore describes it, was always a rare occurrence.  It's good to remember that as much pride as you might take from your employer's name, it's most likely a temporary association.

And just so you don't think that Moore's opinion is the exception, read what Steve Hulett of The Animation Guild has to add.


Floyd Norman said...

I confess I loved working at Disney, Pixar and a host of smaller studios. Why? Because I loved the medium and I wasn't out to build a stellar career. It's those who aspire to be big fish and don't make it always tend to be the most bitter. I had no such aspirations so my time at various studios were a joy.

We tend to forget there were hundreds at Disney who received little or no recognition. Hell, even the pay sucked. But, we loved animation. That's why most of us came into this crazy business.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

As someone who's been animating in the gaming industry his whole career, I can say that all that's been said here applies to us as well. All I can say is, I'm not having more fun working on the AAA titles as I was when I was doing the small, crappy games. Actually, I had a better social life, did exercise and ate properly. Now I'm crunching away doing Unpaid overtime.

If any of you are interested, here is an article from Penny Arcade that sums up pretty well what we go through:


Mitchel Kennedy said...

I don't understand why anyone would want to work at one studio for life. There's too much to experiment with in too many ways at too many places!

anik said...

I respectfully disagree that small studios treat their artists better and have less politics. Although your logic sounds valid, it just doesn't happen this way. I have worked with a number of large and small studios and each have their problems. And the fact that small studios are often owned by an artist doesn't help, since often the producers nurture a culture of worshiping the owner and create a very big pressure on the employees to conform to the studio style in order to fit in. They also often expect from you to do more: work longer hours, help with general studio tasks and participate in all the after hours events, all out of pure patriotism because "we are a family". At the same time small studios now rarely keep permanent staff of artists, your contract is on project basis, so you are as disposable and easily replaceable as in a large studio. In short - it all depends on the owner's personality: is he/she really involved, does he care, is he generous of spirit, does he encourage favoritism and gossip, etc. Out of four small studios I have worked with, unfortunately only one provided a rewarding satisfying experience, and the rest were much worse than working at a big studio with its cold corporate, but more professional environment.