Hand with pencil

Do you want to make this year the best ever for your animation career?

Here are the seven most important things you can do right now to accelerate your animation.

Do your best work

It doesn’t matter if you’re animating at school, at work or at home on personal projects – but practising with the intention of doing your best work is the fastest way to get better.

George Leonard’s brilliant book Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment says it’s not enough to practise. You must practise with the intent of perfecting your craft – regardless of the outcome.

Stock up your library

There are a few books that should be on every animator’s bookshelf.

For animation technique you simple can’t go past these three classics:

  • The Illusion of Life – For the longest time, this was considered the only book on animation technique. It still stands as a classic, if for no other reason that it defined what we now call the 12 principles of animation. If you’re going to take advice – you might as well hear it directly from two of Disney’s nine old men.
  • The Animator’s Survival Kit – If you want to be an animator and you don’t own this book: buy it immediately. If you own the book and haven’t worked through the examples: do it immediately. There is no better, more practical book than this one.
  • Character Animation Crash Course – Even though Eric Goldberg’s book has an emphasis on hand-drawn animation, the principles are the same for 3D. This book is a great companion to the Richard Williams classic, with very little overlap and a similar practical how-to style.

For other career advice on getting into the animation industry, I can highly recommend David B Levy’s three excellent books.

Start with Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive if you’re early in your development.

Then move on to Animation Development: From Pitch to Production and Directing Animation once you’re ready to take the plunge into directing your own shorts.

And for funny, heart-felt advice on how to stay sane in an artistic career, grab a copy of Hugh MacLeod’s brilliant and highly opinionated manifesto: Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity.

Update your reel

Your reel is a living document, and if you still have a demo reel that hasn’t changed in a year – you need to address that as a matter of priority.

As a start: Why not focus on adding one thing, and removing one thing.

Progressively culling your worst animation and adding more awesome shots is a must if you want to keep moving forward.

Meet some new people

It’s a simple fact that jobs get offered to people that studios already know. Especially in an industry as small as ours.

Take the opportunity to expand your circle of friends: go to an industry night, volunteer at a film festival, attend a guest lecture or a panel session.

The more people that know you, the easier you are to hire.

Connect with people in your network

Haven’t given your animation school buddy a call in a while? Jump on the phone, email, skype, facebook – whatever.

There is nothing worse than someone who only reaches out to contacts when they want something.

Don’t be that guy.

Keep in touch. Ask about their work and their personal projects. Offer your help. You know – be a friend.

That way when you do need a favor, you’re not cold-calling random people in your network hoping they remember you sufficiently to help you find work.

Revamp your website

Ahh … you have a website, right?

If not, then don’t put it off. Setting up a personal website is something you can do in the next few weeks that will greatly increase your exposure and improve your ability to advance your animation career.

You can start with a free service like Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress. Or if you’d prefer to have your own domain name, grab it before it gets taken and create your own site to host your reel.

Personally – I use PowWeb because they’re cheap, reliable and have great customer service, but there are tons of great web hosts to choose from.

And if you haven’t updated your site in a while, spend an hour adding some new information about you and your work.


Yes really. (Did you think I was going to miss that one out?)

Make a film. Enter a competition. Experiment with a new medium.

Unless you’re working in your absolute dream job, chances are you have some ideas and techniques you’d like to try out, but can’t do in your regular work.

Adding to your set of skills is not just valuable – it’s marketable. And it will give you a chance to work through some of the many exercises in Richard Williams’ book The Animator’s Survival Kit.

Best of luck! Looking forward to what you come up with this year.

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