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6 Tips from Recruiters Who Look at YOUR Animation Demo Reel

by | Aug 15, 2014

Hello Animation Job Seekers! Recently, we had the the pleasure of hosting recruiters from one of the largest, most important animation studios in the world (trust us, its big … ). They gave us some insight on their pet peeves, their likes, and what they look for when hiring a new animator for their studio. Take note, be motivated, and go make that demo reel!

– The Animation Mentor Crew

  1. You have 30 seconds to make an impression.
  2. You have 30 seconds to make an impression on the recruiter. Remember, studio recruiters look at thousands of reels a month. If you spend 30 seconds on your fancy name intro and your eclectic taste in music, they will quickly lose interest.

    Animation Mentor Alumnus Siggurdur Orri Thorhannesson’s Demo Reel, he currently works at Framestore and recently worked on Guardians of the Galaxy

    Recruiter’s Tip:
    Keep it simple.

    Start with a simple title card including your name and contact information. Move immediately to your BEST shot and then follow up with your other acting or body mechanics shots. End with your contact info again. Your animation demo reel should not be longer than one or two minutes.

  3. Don’t put everything you’ve ever done in your demo reel.
  4. Representing every shot you’ve ever worked on can actually work against you. Recruiters don’t want to see everything you’ve done – including your bouncing ball exercises. Recruiters regularly cite instances where the demo reel starts off strong and then loses steam because the work became progressively worse. Including everything you’ve ever worked on can take you from a possible “yes” to a very clear “no.”

    Recruiter’s Tip:
    Recruiters would rather see 2-3 really strong performance shots than everything you’ve done in school.

  5. Unique acting is King.
  6. Check out this playlist from The New York Times Magazine’s series, “14 Actors Acting”. Javier Bardem, Matt Damon, Jennifer Lawrence and many more famous actors silently act their scenes and the emotion reads beautifully. A nice study of facial and body movements for animators.

    Tailor your demo reel to the studio you are applying to and take note of those studios known for great acting. Recruiters at character-driven animation studios like DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Studios, or Pixar Animation Studios, really hone in on unique ideas and non-cliché acting choices.

    George Clooney, Sandra Bullock and many more actors comment on what they thought was the best acting performances in the past decade and highlight unique acting choices from The New York Times Magazine series “Screen Tests”.

    Recruiter’s Tip:
    Take acting classes. Why? So you can learn acting methodologies and embody the character you are trying to bring to life. You are a unique person so if you can feel it, you can animate it. Don’t be cliché.

    Another option is to observe your family, your friends or great actors that are masters at understanding their bodies and facial muscles so they “become” the character they are playing. There are tons of video references of great actors who talk about their approach in developing a character and what type of mannerisms they create to make that character seem believable. The same methodology can be used for animators – build the character back story, and determine what quirks or mannerisms they have that are unusual and non-cliché. Observe, act, plan, and animate.

  7. Know your audience. Tailor your demo reel to the studio you are applying for.
  8. Animation Mentor Alumnus Nicole Ridgewell’s Demo Reel, she was a Pixar Intern and is now working at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

    When we say interesting acting choices and unusual ideas are what recruiters look for, it doesn’t mean you should animate a gory “serial killer” shot for a studio like Pixar or DreamWorks. Take a look at the body of work the studio does and tailor your animation shots for that studio. They don’t want you to mimic their style but to use your best judgement on the type of audience they cater to. Stay away from anything that could be considered offensive.

    For example, the demographic for recruiters are mostly women, so you might not want an animation shot that will offend women in your demo reel.

    Recruiter’s Tip:
    Everyone has a different type of sense of humor. Stay on the safe side when choosing your shots for your demo reel – being offensive reduces your chance of getting hired.

  9. Make sure your demo reel link works.
  10. Sometimes its the simple things that cost you the job. Don’t overlook the details when you submit your demo reel to a studio. When you give them a URL to look at, make sure all the links on the page work. If its password protected, make sure you give them the right password. As a rule, recruiters are very busy people, so make it easy for them to view your work.

    Recruiter’s Tip:

    • Online streaming videos are preferable
    • Create a your own Vimeo channel
    • Showcase your demo reel in HD
    • If they like your reel they will look at other videos in your Vimeo channel even if its a work in progress.

  11. Be aware of trends.
  12. Be cognizant of animation trends and dialogue shots that have been used by thousands of people. Recruiters tell us that they see a lot of “death” or somber scenes. Five years ago, this type of shot might have been rarer in animation but it has become more mainstream. Vary your dialogue choices to showcase that you can animate range and different types of emotional beats.

    Current Animation Mentor Student Tim Rudder and his unique take on this dialogue performance

    Recruiter’s Tip:
    Animate something unexpected. With current pop culture trends swaying towards dark themes as seen on The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, or even Game of Thrones … they are getting tired of the brooding anti-hero … unless there is a unique twist to it of course. Be the unique storyteller that you were meant to be.

These tips are meant to be guidelines because in the end, “one size doesn’t fit all.” Every studio is different so experiment, don’t give up, and keep working on your demo reel so you can land that job! You can do it!

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