Monday, July 8, 2013

Pedro Cabeleira on the challenges of forging a career in animation

    Pedro Cabeleira is an animator and visual effects artist who learned his craft at Escape Studios in London, where he studied the dark arts of Maya back in 2011, tackling as his first project an ambitious, realistic digital sculpture of Bruce Willis. FLIP asked him to talk about the challenges of forging a career in what remains a very difficult job market for recent graduates.

    FLIP: You studied animation and visual effects at Escape Studios in London - how was that experience?

    Pedro: It was a great experience - from the specialised classes, clearly directed towards the industry, to the great amount of friends and contacts you make. After all, we need to remember that other students have the same purpose, and if they are successful, they might be the friend letting you know of an opportunity out there somewhere.

    Regarding the course at Escape, you have to keep in mind that it is only 12 weeks long, which means that results might not be immediate. But, if you go the extra mile, and use the resources and knowledge they provide you with, you will definitely see the difference.

    Bruce Willis Portrait - modeled at Escape Studios
    FLIP: Did Escape prepare you for a career in the industry?

    Pedro: I would say it prepares you as well as a course can, considering that a course is not the same as work experience. Things are always different once you get hired; you have to learn the company's way of doing things. You have to adapt, and get used to working a normal work schedule that imposes a faster pace than your personal projects.

    Technically speaking, Escape prepares you well. However, once you are on a job, you need to make sure that you don't rely purely on the knowledge you brought with you. It's an important foundation, but we always have so much to learn. The best way forward is to investigate and be open to new ideas, and of course to ask your peers and seniors for advice.

    FLIP: How easy has it been for you to find work, and what projects have you worked on?

    Pedro: I was quite lucky regarding my first job. When I finished the course at Escape I made sure that I had put together a show reel.  Even though my reel still needed to be improved on, I knew that I could show it with confidence and send it out to potential employers.

    At that time, Ninja Theory (a games company) were looking for people to start a paid internship in Cinematic Animation.
    Ninja Theory - Pedro's first VFX job
    Since the deadline was coming up, I decided to take my chances and send in an application. I was selected for an interview and ended up working at Ninja Theory for just under a year, on the game Devil May Cry.

    After this, I had a period when I went back home to Portugal, but I wanted to get back into the industry, and so decided to use the internet's resources to make sure that I was easy to find, and my work easy to reach online.

    I registered online with a couple of recruitment agencies, and soon afterwards I was contacted regarding a couple of opportunities, one of which came through - I currently work as an animator at Cubic Motion in Machester.

    FLIP: What advice would you give to anyone trying to break into the industry?

    Pedro: Know that this is not an easy industry. It demands hard work, and it is not always the most rewarding when you are starting your career. But, if you love the work, hang on in there and push through. If there is an opportunity somewhere, even if it seems unlikely, risk sending your stuff over, and don't fall into the never-ending cycle of improving a reel forever and never sending it over. On the other hand, if you feel like there is something in your reel you can finish off a few days before sending your portfolio, hold off on it just long enough to make it look really good. But don't keep tweaking it if it might take another month or two to get it right.

    And keep in mind, this is still a relatively small industry where people tend to know each other. One of the important things is that people tend to hire people they feel they want to work with, because they would be good colleagues. After all, these projects are one big collaboration.

    Interviews are crucial at this point - be genuine, be friendly, and be sure that the company understands that you are enthusiastic and you really want the job you're interviewing for. At the same time, try not to look so desperate that you would say almost anything to get in the door (even if you would).

    (Editor's note: you can see Pedro's work at his website here. You can also see other interviews with recent animation graduates, such as Mikkel Brons-Frandsen, who graduated recently from the excellent Animation Workshop in Denmark.)

      1 comment:

      1. An outstanding interview! I will recommend this to my students!