Interview with Alexey Medvedev – Animation Supervisor

New interview! Hot off the presses! I’m really excited to share this interview with Alexey Medvedev, Animation Supervisor at Wizart Animation – TV Series Department. Alexey is my Supervisor on the TV show YOKO. I’ve worked with Alexey for about 3 years now, and it has been awesome! I owe a lot of my improvement in my animation abilities to him. Alexey has a huge passion for animation and also a great eye for detail. His feedback on my shots and guidance really helped me grow as a animator and push my skills. He is a great guy to work with and really knows how to lead a team of animators. I hope you all will enjoy this interview with him, he has some really great answers. First though, check out his demo reel below:

Alexey Medvedev Demo Reel 2017:

 

Where are you from and how long have you been working as an animator?

I was born in Lugansk (Ukraine), but for more than 15 years, I’ve been living and working in Moscow (Russia).

Have you always worked in the animation industry, or did you have any other jobs before becoming an animator?

I have a Master’s Degree in Political Science and Master’s Degree in Project Management, however, I did not work in any of those fields. Ever since high school I really loved music and planned to do it all my life, but my parents said that music is just a hobby and you need some real education… bla-bla-bla.. I know that many of us have been in the same situation. So, I went to University to study Political Science, as my parents wanted. But, at the same time continued to learn music and play in a band.

After University, myself and fellow band-members decided to level up and move from Lugansk to Moscow! The city of big possibilities and broken dreams. You can actually find me behind the keyboard in this video from 2002 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Er2-cb9sM4E

Sadly, this trip ended as a total epic fail. We were all good friends in Lugansk, but when we moved to Moscow and forced to live all together (5 men) in one small room in the hostel it became difficult. We were not ready for that new big family. So, after one year our band broke-up. Moscow broke our dreams to become famous stars and we parted just as friends. In that moment I understood, that I never want to depend on anyone in this life, and I stopped playing music.

How did you learn animation? Did you go to school for it?

After Moscow,  I came back in Lugansk. My mother convinced me to enroll in the Public Administration Magistracy and get a Master’s Degree in Project Management. But during all those boring lectures about politics and management I read the book “3Ds Max Bible” and started to learn Photoshop. I did not have a PC at home, I just read this book all the time. Sometimes I was given the opportunity to work on the PCs of my friends as well. I often tell this story to young people, who have iPhone 6S, MacBook Pro and more yet, they tell me that they cannot learn or do something 🙂

So, I got my Master’s Degree in Project Management and came back to Moscow. Some of my friends helped me to get a job as a Junior Modelling Artist in a small animation studio. At that time I could create models of sofas and vases and I thought that I was a God in modelling! But, once in the studio I realized it was quite the opposite..

This was around 2004, and I had worked there for about a year when my boss made an offer for me to try animation. (Actually, it happened because he had just fired another animator. Yeah, crazy times…) So, that is how I became an animator.

After that, I spent many years learning and studying animation by myself. In Russia there was no special animation schools and there was almost no information on the internet back then to learn from either. After 5 years of my blind practice, Sasha Dorogov, a famous Russian animator who worked at Disney for more than 15 years came back to Russia. Sasha started to teach animation here in Russia. I was not his student directly, but got a lot of information from my friends. It was like a breath of fresh air after being imprisoned in a stuffy cave.

Since that time I have worked on many projects! Then one day, a friend of mine who worked as a producer in the new series department of Wizart Animation made me an offer to join their team as a Supervising Animator. They were starting a a new co-production Russian/Spanish TV Show called “Yoko”. I decided to give it a try and now it has been almost 4 years that I’ve been doing it!

What is a typical day like as an Animation Supervisor?

Actually, my working day is not that big of differences compared with a regular animator’s day. I’m also looking at animation all day!

How is working for TV different from working on feature films?

I think the main differences are that TV has small production teams and is more forgiving in production mistakes, it also has less strict quality requirements. It’s like comparing a small fishing boat and the Titanic, really. Also, when you are working on feature, you know that the audience will see the final result after several years and you do not actually know if it will be successful or not. As said Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Disney Studios said “Even we cannot predict success of our movies.”

What is different from being a Supervisor versus a regular animator on a show?

Here I can point two main exceptions:

  1. I need to hire the animation team and organize their work.
  2. I do almost no animating myself. Instead, I spend most of the time reviewing other animators work.

Also, there are other responsibilities that are important for a supervisor, because you have to stay between your team and the Director. It is the Supervisor’s job to transfer clear information from the Director to the team and constantly monitor the quality of animation according to the Director’s and Producer’s requirements. Sometimes, it’s not easy either! Almost always animators on your team have different experience levels and you may spend 80% of your time reviewing 20% of the animators to the get necessary quality.

How is it working with a team of remote animators on Yoko?

On “Yoko” we had 2 teams of animators – one Russian and a second international one. I’m working with the foreign animators. It was a big challenge for me, because it was first time I needed to communicate in English. Also sometimes I needed to work nights through the different time zones.

Do you think using remote animators is helpful for a studio?

Definitely yes. The main reason why studios are working with freelancers is to save money. This is because freelancers often get their salary by episodes with a fixed fee.

Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on in your career?

My favorite project for this moment is “August 2008” created by studio MainRoad|Post http://mrpost.ru/projects/28

It was the first Russian movie with a lot of scenes involving character animation. For me, as an animator, it was a big level up! Also, working with MainRoad|Post was the best time of my life. I call them the “Russian ILM” 🙂

What do you do outside of animation to stay motivated and creative?

I’m an ordinary person. Sometimes I get frustrated with the work as well. But, when I return to the animation, I realize: what may be better than this? Damn it, I have the best profession in the world!

Do you have any advice you can offer newer animators that want to work in the industry?

I can say only one thing, beginners should spend a lot of time and attention to learn and practice the “animation basics”.  A person, who may perfectly animate a bouncing ball, can rule the world! 🙂

 

Thanks again to Alexey for taking the time to write out these great answers! I hope everyone enjoyed this interview and please, if you would like to reach-out to Alexey, below is his IMDB and Linked-In page.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2324626/?ref_=nv_sr_1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexey-medvedev-831b3376/

 

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Interview with Heather Carpini – Freelance Animator

We got another great interview this week! I am happy to share with you all an interview I did with the crazy talented Heather Carpini! Heather and I just recently met after working on a fun project last month. However, Heather has had an awesome career as animator, both as a freelancer and at some major studios working on big name projects! She is a really fun person to work with and an awesome animator to boot. So please take a moment, check out her demo reel below then give the interview at read. It’s got some great answers!

Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?

I am from Newport News, Virginia. I’ve been working in animation since 2002.

What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?

I can’t recall the exact moment. I always loved animated movies and cartoons. I was obsessed. I would pause Disney movies so I could draw the characters.  I was always drawing. And then when I was around 10 or 11 I started telling people I was going to be an animator at Disney when I grew up.  I still haven’t worked at Disney but I am an animator!

Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?

I went to Ringling College of Art and Design in the computer animation program.

Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?

I have worked both in-house and freelance animation jobs over the years. My first professional animation gig was working remotely in 2002 on the Hermie and Friends series for Glueworks Animation.  Most recently I worked remotely on the film “Rock Dog” with Little Zoo Studio.

I have also been fortunate to work in-house as a contract animator for Blue Sky Studios on the films “Horton Hears a Who!” and “Ice Age: Continental Drift”. I have also worked in-house for Sony Imageworks on “Green Lantern” and I’ve worked in-house at some smaller studios on various projects.

Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?

My typical day as a remote animator can vary based on the project/projects I’m working on and if I’m working a “Day job” at the same time.  Typically if I’m solely working remotely my day starts in the morning around 7 or 8am, I check email and skype, get any notes together and make a plan for what I need to do that day. I work till I get hungry, take a lunch and then work till dinner. Usually there are some skype meetings/notes in there.  Sometimes my day is longer or shorter depending on deadlines and notes, sometimes I jump back on after dinner to hit any late notes so the client has the updates for the next morning.  The main difference between remote and in-house is that working remotely I make my own schedule – which I love!  I happen to be a morning person but if something comes up and I need to go out during the day I have the flexibility and can work at night if I need to, I don’t have to “request off” or be held to a schedule as long as the work is done and deadlines are hit.  Both remote and in-house have their pluses and minuses.  The thing that I miss the most about working at a studio is the sense of team work and the atmosphere, I really like having other artists and animators around to bounce ideas off, and especially having senior animators to learn from on a daily basis.  I also miss having an IT department, when you work remotely you have to handle all those software and hardware issues yourself!

Do you keep a regular set of hours?

Typically I try to… but that’s just my personal preference. I feel most productive in the morning so I prefer to work early and I try to stick to a routine as much as I can.  Sometimes given deadlines and feedback and time zones; that isn’t always possible and that’s where it’s important to be flexible as a freelancer. Sometimes the client’s needs are such that you have to work later in the evening or you get notes at the end of the day that need to be hit by the next morning.

I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?

It’s always a good idea to be diversified.  Have a large skill set, maybe even a backup plan that doesn’t involve animation.  Slow periods can be devastating on your finances, not to mention your stress level.  Since I made the switch to remote freelancer and decided to stop chasing the in-house jobs I have learned to keep all my options open. During slow times I have taught painting classes, been a pet sitter, worked in graphic design, and real estate. The main thing is to have options and to make sure you save money during your busy times to help hold you through the slow times.

In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?

For the past couple years it seems to be Skype is the most common tool for interacting with clients, both chat and video.  I’ve worked for a number of different companies and it seems like everyone has their own way of doing things. Many of the larger studios have some sort of pipeline system but some don’t. Smaller studios you might just be uploading scene files to an ftp server. It really just depends.

How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?

Network, Network, Network!  I’m not really that good at networking myself but it’s a necessary skill in this industry. Every job I have had, I have gotten through someone I have worked with previously.

 

What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?

Network, Network, Network! Go to industry events, keep up and participate in online groups and keep working on your reel. 11second club challenge is good, or make up your own stuff and have people critique it.  Above all, be persistent. Keep applying, send your reel. I got several rejection letters from Blue Sky before I got the job working on Horton Hears A Who!

Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?

This is probably the least fun but one of the most important aspects of the job.  For taxes I use turbo tax but I’ve also gone on the IRS website and read about being self-employed, working from home and what I can deduct, so that I don’t miss anything. Make sure you keep detailed info and have a good filing system for contracts, invoices and receipts. Also, always read your contracts!

What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?

I hope it does! With the speed of internet connections and ability to work off-site I hope more common place for studios to utilize remote workers. It allows for more freedom and stability for where you can live. Cost of living and quality of life is a big thing as you get older and having the choice to not live in California, Vancouver or New York is a big plus for remote workers. Also not having to relocate constantly to chase contracts in the film industry.   That’s my hope anyway!

Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?

Honestly I have loved all the projects I have worked on. The films hold a special place in my heart but the fact that I can work on such fun stuff and get paid to do it is truly a privilege.  Once, on a film, a supervisor gave me a shot that wasn’t very exciting and he apologized… I told him don’t apologize, there are no small shots! Every shot in the film needs to be there to tell the story.  So that would be my closing thought… remember there are no small shots or small projects, do your best and enjoy the opportunity!

Thanks so much to Heather for sharing her time and answers with us! If you want to learn more about Heather, check out her IMDB page, or her LinkedIn Profile links below:

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2593233/?ref_=nv_sr_1

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathercarpini/

Interview with Kaveh Ruintan – Freelance Animator


It’s another Monday, and that means only one thing.. a new post! This week we have another interview! I had the pleasure to chat with the one and only Mr. Kaveh Ruintan!! Kaveh is such a talented animator and great person to work with. I have had a great time working with Kaveh on two different projects now and he is a huge asset to any team. Kaveh is one of those animators who no matter the shot, he is going to give you something awesome to look at when it’s finished. He has such a great eye for animation. Oh yeah, and he is also just a super fun guy to chat and work with! Please, take a look at his demo reel below then give his interview at read! Kaveh has a ton of great answers and advice for all animators!

 

Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?

I’m from Iran and I’ve been working in animation since 2009

What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?

As long as I can remember I’ve always loved animation, I remember watching Disney’s Jungle Book as a kid and wanting to grow up and be just like Baloo The Bear. After Toy Story came out I started thinking that perhaps I can actually do animation for a living but still wasn’t sure. It was always in the back of my mind, then came a movie called The Incredibles and that did it for me, man, that film was so awesome that I knew then that life wasn’t worth living if I wasn’t an animator!

Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?

I’m self-taught in animation, but I have a degree in Fine Arts so I guess a little bit of both?

Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?

It was around 2013 that I got into freelance/remote work but I actually started my career working in house for a studio, back in 2009 I think, it wasn’t a very good experience for me and I got a bit discouraged in animation. After that I worked in house for another studio called Tuca Animation, it was a great place and I learned a lot, unfortunately that studio is no longer active but I met some amazing people who I’m still in touch with and two of whom I’m currently working with on a secret project!

Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?

The typical day as a remote animator for me starts around 9am, armed with a big cup of coffee, sitting at my desk, I usually like to start my day with watching a few clips from my inspiration folder. It’s a folder where I’ve gathered art works that I find inspiring over the years, there’s animation, live action, drawings, photography, paintings, you name it. It gets me excited for my day and also is a good reminder that I have so much more to learn!

The actual part of animating isn’t very different whether you’re at home working remotely or at a studio. You just sit at your computer and do animation. The one thing that is great about the studio environment is that sense of collboration that happens when you’re physically in the same room with other artists and you talk about your work, ask their opinion and bounce ideas off of eachother. Which of course nowadays we can almost replicate with online meetings where everyone joins in but it’s not quite the same.

Do you keep a regular set of hours?

I try to, but with remote work it’s not always easy to do. Sometimes other people are in different time zones and you have to attend meetings. But as much as I can, I try to stick to a 9am to 6pm working hours.

I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?

Yes! Improve your skills and grow! Start drawing, join a life drawing class if you can, if not just set aside an hour or two every day for drawing. Study film making, there are some great books out there (I’ll share some of my favorites below).

Study the work of masters, the 9 old men, James Baxter, Glen Keane, Sergio Pablos. Study acting, join an improv class if you can, study film, break them down, pay attention to composition, to lighting, to camera moves, the great directors always have a reason for moving the camera. Go outside and do some photography. These things will add to your knowledge and also help to keep you inspired.

In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?

I’ve worked on projects that we’ve done everything through email and I’ve worked on projects where there was a great pipeline setup with an online software like Shotgun or Cerebro. Usually it depends on the number of people involved and the production budget for that project.

How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?

I owe my first remote gig to my good friend and super talented animator Chris Mayne. He knew of an opening for a remote animator on a TV show that he had worked on and he recommend me, thankfully they liked my reel and I was hired!

I’m not sure if this would be helpful but, for breaking into the industry, there are two things that in my humble opinion are the most important. First is your reel, which should be good, there are a lot of great info on how to make a kick ass reel out there. Just Google it!

Second thing is your attitude and professionalism. It doesn’t matter if you have the best reel in the world if you’re not a team player and can’t collaborate effectively with others.

Also remember that animation industry in the world is a very small, tight community and most people know each other. Try to be respectful and professional to your colleagues, even when you’re in school, be nice to your fellow classmates. Try to help others if you can. The person sitting next to you right now might end up hiring for a project a few years later.

I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?

That is so true! It can definitely be tricky, it’s not always easy to plan ahead. I’m not sure if I have a good answer for you. I have doubled up on projects before and sometimes it’s been difficult. To me, I just try to plan ahead as best as I can as far as how long each project would take and go from there.

What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?

Keep at it! This is going to sound like an old cliche but if you work hard, keep improving and getting better, sooner or later someone will give you a chance. If you can’t get into a studio right out of school, don’t be discouraged, keep learning, do small animations for practice, reach out to experienced animators, show them your work and ask for feedback. When I was learning I found a veteran animator through a forum and he agreed to give me feedback on my bouncing ball exercises. He didn’t ask for anything in return, he just helped me out and I learned a lot from him.

On that note, I’ll be more than happy to give feedback if there’s anyone out there who would like to show me their work, you can find me on twitter or vimeo.

Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?

I’ve done one small gig for a game a few years back. the game was never released so I can’t talk about any details. But overall, you need to pay close attention to mechanics, physicality and weight and to make sure to check your work from all angles.

Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?

When I started learning 3D, I learned some modeling, rigging and lighting. I wanted to learn everything so I could make my own short film! But I soon found out that it’s almost impossible for one person to master everything.

Having said that, I would encourage student to learn about other aspects of production, even if their focus is on animation (Just to clarify, by learning other skills, I mean to get a general understanding of how things are done). Those skills will definitely come in handy one day, as an animator, a general knowledge of modeling and rigging would be helpful just so you can understand how things work under the hood.

There’s been a couple times that I was asked to work with the rigging team to test drive rigs and to make sure they were production ready, and having an overall understanding of the technical side helped me to communicate more effectively with the TDs.

Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?

I’m probably the worst person to ask this from! I’m not very good at the business side of things, thankfully I’ve been lucky to have had jobs where people on the other side were more than fair to me.

What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?

I’m seeing more studios nowadays willing to do remote work, and it looks like it will be more common as we have better tools for online collaboration.

Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?

Almost every project that I’ve worked on has had some great memories and it’s difficult to choose one as my favorite. Usually the people that I get to meet and collaborate with are the highlight for me! But I think one of the best projects that I’ve worked on to date has been La Noria. The short film directed by veteran Pixar animator Carlos Baena and produced by Sasha Korellis.

Man, working on this project has been like an animation grad school for me, I’ve learned so much, and not just about animation, but about directing, editing, lighting, etc. Carlos and Sahsha are very generous with sharing their knowledge and also with letting us see what other departments are doing, I’ve worked on other projects where animators were only allowed to see the animation and not other stages, which is fine, but being able to see the whole pipeline and learn from the work being done by other artists  has been invaluable to me.

Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?

One thing that I believe in, is to give each shot my absolute best effort, regardless of how much it pays, how long the shot is or whether or not it’s a juicy shot. Take pride in your work, always try to do your best work in the given time, don’t cheat your audience, because what you’re animating will eventually be part of a show or a film that people will pay for with their money or their time.

Let me leave you with these words from the legendary animator Glen Keane:

“There come times when you’re so sick of a scene that you just want to say good enough, move on and be done with it – but what you’re really doing is cheating your audience.

You’re the only one who knows that you didn’t do everything you could have with it, and the audience doesn’t know they’ve been cheated. I just want to make sure I’m not cheating anybody by taking an easy way out.”

 

Recommended books:

On Film Making by Alexander Mackendrick
Director of The Sweet Smell of Success and the original Lady Killers. He also tought film at Cal Arts. Great book to get an overall understanding of story and film.
Five C’s of Cinematography
Great book to learn the fundamentals of photography, camera, composition, etc.
Adventures in Screen Trade by William Goldman
Awesome book by the writer of The Princess Bride and Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid. He shares his experience as one of the top screen writers in Hollywood
Drawn to Life Vol. 1 and 2 by Walt Stanchfield
The lessons from a life time of animating and teaching. Priceless!
Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks
Great book to learn more about acting.
Artists Guide to Facial Expression by Garry Faigin
Probably the best reference on how the human face moves, and it’s written for artists! Highly recommended for animators!
In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
By the editor of GodFather III and Apocalypse Now. He talks about the essence of editing.
On Directing Film by David Mamet
By the writer of The Untouchables and Glen Gary Glen Ross. Need I say more?
Making Movies by Sidney Lumet
Director of 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Network shares his experience from some of his films.
Bill Peet: An Autobiography
An all around inspiring book by the legendary Disney story artist Bill Peet.
Painting with Light by John Alton
By John Alton, the master of film noir lighting. Great book to learn about light in live action films.
Story by Robert Mckee
The bible of storytelling in cinema!

 

Thank you so much to Kaveh for participating in this interview. I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to get in-touch with Kaveh, below is his IMDB and Linked-In page.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm7699224/?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kavehruintan/

Interview with Chris Mayne – Freelance Animator

Chris Mayne Banner

I thought I’d start off the series of interviews with the one and only Mr. Chris Mayne! I first met Chris when I was in my second class at Animation Mentor. He was always very active on the school forums and facebook pages. When I learned he lived in Kansas (a city not typically known for a large animation industry) I was very interested to learn how he still managed to have a such an awesome career in Animation! I wrote Chris an email back then asking for tips and advice on navigating the animation industry as a remote/freelance artist and he gave me some really great information. I directly contribute this advice to my ability to land a good freelance gig shortly after finishing Animation Mentor.

I had the pleasure of working with Chris on the TV series “Yoko” for Wizart Animation. He is an amazing animator and just really fun guy to work with. He also is extremely generous with his time and effort to help others. He maintains an extensive spreadsheet with tons of Animation Industry Job Postings and keeps it up-to-date very frequently. Please, before reading the interview, check out some of his awesome work in his demo reel below!

Lets get started…

  • Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?
    • I’m from Overland Park, Kansas and have been animating for a little over 8 years now.
  • What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?
    • I’ve always been interested in animation but honestly didn’t really give a lot of thought to becoming a professional animator until later in my life. I graduated from college with a marketing degree and worked various jobs for a few years that I just wasn’t happy doing. I knew a change was needed. While watching The Incredibles in the theater, that was when the heavens parted, choirs were singing, and it just hit me that I could be doing THAT for a living.
  • Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?
    • My adventure in learning how to animate started at the Academy of Art but continued through Animation Mentor, where I was part of the 7th graduating class.
  • Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?
    • I actually started my career at a studio in Kansas City. It was the only time I’ve worked in-house. That studio is no longer operating, and I’ve been animating remotely for 7 years now.
  • Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?
    • I would say what I like the most about animating remotely is I feel I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I’ll split my time between the day and night to finish up my work if needed. Most studios really don’t mind when I’m animating as long as I get my stuff done. There are times I miss getting to work side by side with other artists though.  While I utilize things like Skype or Google Hangouts to chat, it’s just not quite the same as face-to-face interaction.
  • Do you keep a regular set of hours?
    • Not necessarily. Ideally I prefer to get all my animating done during the day; however, like I mentioned earlier, it’s the flexibility I enjoy in my schedule.
  • I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?
    • Take a vacation!!! Recharge your batteries. After that, you could do some personal animation tests. I’ll also try to do some additional networking and reach out to studios to see if I can nail down some future projects to work on.
  • In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?
    • Email is still the main method of communication for me although I have used Skype and/or Google Hangouts a little more often. I haven’t been involved on too many projects that use something like Shotgun; however, there have been a few. I’m seeing more and more job listings stating a desire for candidates to be familiar with Shotgun, Perforce, etc.
  • How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?
    • My first remote gig came courtesy of a former mentor I had in school. I stayed in touch with him after graduating and when my stint at the Kansas City studio came to an end, I made sure to contact him again to see if he maybe had any projects he needed help with. While he didn’t have one at the time, he did have a lead on another job with a friend of his.  Thankfully it worked out to where I got to be a part of that project, and ever since then I’ve been working from home.  I’ve found the most important thing through my years of freelancing is definitely networking and then staying in touch with who you connect with.  Stay on their radar so when they have a project (or know of one) needing extra help, your name is at or near the top of their list of who to contact.
  • I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?
    • Oh yeah, I’ve totally doubled up on projects and have even worked three at a time before. You need to know what you’re capable of doing. I hate turning down work and have definitely had my ass kicked a few times because I just couldn’t say “no”. Be smart with your planning/scheduling. If you don’t feel like you can take on additional work, don’t force it.  You may likely end up putting out crap animation and then the studio won’t want to work with you again.
  • What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?
    • Be proactive with creating a great reel. Talk to other artists and get their eyes on your work. Do lots and lots of networking. Talk to studios.  Start getting your name out there. You may snag some remote work in the process.
  • Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?
    • The only thing I’ve done for game studios is work on some promotional videos/trailers. I can’t say that was really any different, but it has afforded me the opportunity to work on some extremely fun characters.
  • Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?
    • I’ve only done animation in my career. When I first started learning animation, I did do a little modeling and rigging; however, that definitely wasn’t for me. It’s actually pretty scary to look at what I did. I’m going to go curl in to a ball in the corner of a room and cry a bit now that I’m thinking about that….I will say I have missed out on some jobs that required other skill sets so it can be advantageous to be able to do more than one thing.
  • Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?
    • I wish I had someone to handle the business side of things. It’s actually what I least like about all of this. I typically get contracts from the studios so there’s no need to make my own. Make sure you’re reading them though. Don’t just blindly sign your name. If you have questions, ask them. On a couple contracts I’ve been able to get some things added, reworded, or removed.  When it comes to invoicing, make sure you put an actual invoice number on it. It seems trivial, but studios will appreciate it.  I also try to put descriptive information on the invoice for services I performed, such as what project I was working on, dates I worked, etc. For taxes, I can only speak in regards to U.S. taxes. But keep track of everything, whether it’s paying for cloud storage, upgrading your computer, etc. Working at home, you can also deduct a portion of some of your bills, such as utilities.
  • What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?
    • I’m not surprised about the growth. For some, hopping around from state to state or country to country totally works for them. For others, it’s just not feasible for various reasons. The technology is already there though. More studios could utilize remote workers if they wanted to. I don’t know that it will ever be the norm, but I do at least stay encouraged that there has been an uptick in the number of studios willing to work with remote artists.
  • Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?
    • Definitely! The very first TV spot I ever worked on was for Lucky Charms cereal. That one will always hold a special place in my heart. I got to work on quite a few Lucky Charms commercials after that and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. I also did some animation on promotional videos for Lego Dimensions that I absolutely loved.  Coincidentally my kids got a huge kick out of that as they would sometimes watch me working on it. Animating Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle was such a blast. There are so many other projects I could easily name here, but for the sake of time and sanity of anyone reading this I’ll just leave it at those.
  • Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?
    • I love animating, but it has definitely been a difficult journey. You can’t get discouraged during the rough times. We all go through them, but we have such a supportive community. Take advantage of it. I’ve made so many friends in the industry and could never thank them enough for all the help they’ve given over the years.

Thanks so much for your time Chris!

If you would like to learn more about Chris, or contact him for work below is a link to his IMDB page and his linked-in account.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5284095/
LinkedIn:
 https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrismayneanimation/

New shot and some much needed updates!

arg
Wow! The last couple of months have been a very exciting and busy time for me. I finished Animation Mentor at the end of March and immediately hit the ground running to try and find my first  job as an animator. I was extremely lucky in my timing and was fortunate enough to land a position as a Character Animator for Wizart Animation! I am under an NDA so I am not legally allowed to say very much about what I am working on. But, what I can say is that I am working remotely for the TVShows department on an upcoming children’s television show titled “Yoko”. I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to work on such an awesome project while living in an area with essentially ZERO animation industry. I am working alongside so many talented animators and it has been inspiring every day to work and learn from each one of them.

During my off-hours I have been slowly starting to work on a new personal shot for my demo reel. One thing I learned while at Animation Mentor was to continue to improve and stay hungry, even after you get your first job. It can be very easy to get comfortable just animating in the style that your job or current show requires. However, in order to stay relevant and competitive for future jobs you need to constantly be improving and working in various styles. It is important to show you can animate in a wide variety of ways because every project is different and you don’t always know what your next project will be. Since the show I’m working on is a much different style of animation from feature film quality work, I have began a new acting shot using a brand new rig from Long Winter Studios called “Argus”. I am really hoping to improve my close-up acting and facial performance with this shot. It has been a ton of fun working with this new rig, and I am really enjoying it so far.

Below is my very first pass of blocking; I have done very little animation on the face, only enough to show eye-direction and get a general idea of some of the blinks. I wanted to get the subtle body animation worked in first. I am learning that animating such a subtle piece is actually quite hard. As animators we often want to have things move a lot, but it is pretty difficult to keep a character still and make sure that they feel alive at the same time. With this shot, I’m already learning how difficult it can be to keep a character alive during a long silence. I know I will learn a great deal from this piece. Stay tuned for a new update, hopefully next week!

First-Pass Blocking: