Sunday, May 01, 2011

Sheridan Industry Day 2011

(Updated Below.)

The industry awaits the screening

April 28 was Sheridan's annual industry day for its two animation programs. It wasn't until it was over that I realized that I took far fewer pictures this year than in years past and I don't know why that is. For photos of past industry days, click here. Each year, the student faces change, but the guests and the events stay pretty much the same.

Based on industry attendance this year, it appears that the business is recovering from The Great Recession. There were companies from outside the local area attending, including DreamWorks, Walt Disney Television Animation, Bioware, Pixar, Atomic Cartoons, JibJab and Blue Sky. Nine studios conducted job interviews on campus on April 29. Many of the local studios prefer students to come to their premises for interviews.

I didn't see any TV cameras this year, but the Toronto Star covered the event.

Above, the students set up their presentations for their post-screening meetings with industry people.

Tony Tarantini is behind the podium. He is responsible for organizing industry day and has done so successfully for the last several years. To the right of the podium are Chris Walsh and Chang Dai. Chris was in charge of the 4th year production course this year and Chang is receiving the award for best animation for her film Vigour.

While industry day is fun for professionals who meet up with friends and for returning alumni who are back to scout out talent, it can be a stressful day for the students. Everyone is hoping to attract studio interest, an interview, and best of all, a job. I try to explain to students that rather than look at industry day as the climax of their educations, they need to scale down their expectations and think of it as the first day of their job hunt. No matter how good their films are, the students can't control the state of the larger economy, the schedules of industry projects or the needs of a particular studio. While students feel judged, the quality of their work is only one variable of many.

The other stressful thing is that from kindergarten on, students have been told what to do in order to succeed. Read this chapter, answer this question, get a good grade and get promoted. School is a highly structured environment. Work is, too, but the time between school and the first job is one which has no rules. There are no guarantees for getting a job, there are only strategies and luck. Some students, due to their personalities or their histories, deal well with the uncertainties of the job hunt. Others are less likely to take initiative and can't bridge the gap. It can be one of the tougher transitions in life.

As always, I wish the class of 2011 the best of luck in their quest to find their places in the animation industry.

Update: By coincidence, Leisha-Marie Riddel, a graduate from last year, has written a blog post talking about her transition from student to professional that is definitely worth reading by anyone still in school or has just graduated.


Pete Emslie said...

Mark, there's a problem that seems to have arisen from using the computer commons area for the student work displays. The students located around the back of the area don't seem to get as much traffic as the ones nearer the front. I think I'd heard a similar complaint last year from some students too, so I think it's a valid concern. I'm wondering whether a solution might be to direct some of the industry folks in from the far side of the room to help balance things out.

Steve Schnier said...

I don't know if a good or bad location in the computer commons area affects the industry reps' perception of the students' work.

It comes down to how the film plays during the screening. If the student's work is particularly strong, the industry reps will find them no matter where they're hiding.

Ke7in said...

As someone who had a table right at the back last year, it does have some effect. Theres much more room to manoeuvre, and you can actually stand and chat with someone at your station without feeling crunched near the front and in the middle where its much more wide open. These are also the tables with 3 or 4 people at them instead of 5 or 6.

I agree that if a studio is inclined, they will do what they have to to find you, but I did get two emails in the weeks following industry day from studios who said they tried to find my station and couldn't. I believe they are given maps but I got the impression that no one really used them.

And lastly for people who are more design or layout oriented and maybe didn't put their focus on their films but rather their portfolios, I would have to believe that the decreased foot traffic and the limited space.

But all in all, its still a good experience, in that it gives you a little reality check right off the bat that if you thought you would be handed a job, you won't. Its your job to find them and make the impression, not vice versa. And if bad seating and limited table space are what is keeping you back, you probably aren't that employable in the first place, but it does make an already nerve-racking day that much worse.

Steve Schnier said...

I dunno. If I was hidden away at the back, I'd get a whack of helium balloons or an inflatable gorilla to draw attention to my location.

Then again, if the work doesn't justify it - a good location or the best gimmick isn't going to help you.

Andrew Murray said...

It changes from year to year. One of my hopes is that the screenings over duration wasn't as long as previous years.

Sounds though like it was a really good event for 2011.

John Celestri said...

Mark, for my information, what is today's equivalent of an entry level job when we started? When we started, it most likely was xeroxing drawings onto cells, and re-pegging them for registration.

This is a sincere question on my part. I don't know the answer.

Mark Mayerson said...

Hi John. If you a board artist, you'll start out doing corrections. If you're a designer, you'll start out designing props. If you're an animator, you might start out doing layout (which means assembling scene elements based on the board) or be a junior animator, doing simpler scenes. There's no clear ladder like there was.