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Starting Your Career? Why a Small Studio can be your BIG break (+Giveaway) Part 2

Starting Your Career? Why a Small Studio can be your BIG break (+Giveaway) Part 2

In Part 1 you began to realize how beneficial a Small Studio can be for you

4 Major Points were covered:

  1. The wishful assumptions we make about our ‘dream’ studio
  2. That there are other opportunities you haven’t considered
  3. How Small Studios foster mentor-ship and growth
  4. How Small Studios can provide better shots

Now your going to discover how they can give you a better demo reel, enable adventure, and be more innovative.

Small Studios Can Give You a Better Demo Reel

Great Mentorship + Great shots = Better Reel.

As I said in part 1, we’re digital nomads usually changing companies year after year. We get hired by how impressive our demo reel is.

This means you need to appeal to supervisors who are watching thousands of reels a month. And it also means appealing to HR, who aren’t typically artists.

But both of them are looking for something unique, something entertaining.

If you’ve been guided well on a smaller team, have made the most of great shot opportunities chances are your reel will stand out.

Imagine how interesting your work would look if it showcased a piece from Duet or the Gruffalo:

The best part is you don’t have to be Glen Keane or Andreas Deja to pull it off. Just showing projects that have refreshing new style unlike anything they’ve seen before can land that next job.

And small studios excel at doing something ‘different’.

My Good friend Joseph Holmark landed a gig at Blue Sky Studios on Rio 2 after showcasing shots from Singapore like this:

Joseph shares his whole jawdropping transition from One Animation to Blue Sky in this podcast:

He exposes all the lessons he learned at a small studio, his animation workflow, how the job offers came and so much more – in great detail. Give it a listen.

Small Studios Are Nimble and Innovate

Perhaps the greatest allure of a young studio is the fact that they are different.

That’s what gives your demo reel a unique feel.

These places are like a young Pixar doing Toy Story. They were trying to create what they’ve always wanted to make, not somebody else’s vision. They were taking risks, pushing the envelope, discovering their message and style.

In Pencils to Pixels – John Lasseter even points out how Disney rejected 3D and that’s why he went to Pixar. That was back in the 80’s when they had 50 employees.

While everybody was squabbling on the path to Disney, John traveled the road not taken.

Today, as much as I personally love Disney or Pixar I have a certain expectation for how their movies will look now. So do the parents who take their kids to the movies. There’s a degree of ‘oh it will be like this.’

All of that is for good reason. Those companies have found their calling, bread and butter. The problem is they are now BOTH large and dependent on it.

Asking Pixar to make a rated R animated film would be too big a risk for anyone there to take. So they are slow to change, careful in their footsteps.

Nothing wrong with that but that’s where small studios can be sooooooo exciting. They are nimble. Instead of careful steps they are blazing a trail – taking leaps into the unknown.

It’s there you’ll be on the cutting edge. Amazing things can happen, and you’ll be at the ground floor when it does. Or worst case scenario, you walk away with unique looking artwork.

Like Moonbot Studios and their Scarecrow Short Film for Chipolte:

Or their vastly different video game project ‘The Golem’

Each project is full of drool inducing appeal, each project is vastly different from the other. Its challenging status quo and daring to venture into unknown territory. If thats how you feel too watching it – its how it will feel to everyone else.

Even if you were just there for one project and had to leave – HR staff and Supervisors at other studios would be completely refreshed seeing your demo reel.

You would be unique in their eyes because you were part of something unique. All of that of course is just icing on the cake – worst case scenario. This is a place you could potentially love to be apart of and stick around. Just take a look at the company culture – I’d work there in a heartbeat.

Look for young studios doing something different, going out on a limb – exciting is the flavor of every work day.

Small Studios Are Fun

Are nerf gun fights in the office more fun at Disney or at a company of 50? Probably about the same.

There’s a strong illusion that everything’s just better on the other side or at the ‘dreamy’ places but don’t fool yourself into assuming you’ll be missing out on fun.

Once again don’t get caught up in the name. In a small crew setting you’ll get to know everyone extremely well.

It’s the difference between trying to reserve a dinner for 40 vs 9. If you could even get enough seats for everyone, how difficult would it be to schedule? Would you even get to talk to more than 10 while eating?

Its easy to setup fun events like this BBQ for the whole team, and its what really makes your job memorable.

By knowing everyone in the office, it’s just more likely you’ll enjoy any project you’re working on. From all the inside jokes, support in stressful overtime, to all the shared experiences outside of work.

And you’re fostering lasting friendships for life that can be crucial to landing new jobs in the future.

Small Studios Enable Adventure and Don’t Have to Be Forever

Another point new artists forget is we are contract/project based.
So we usually are digital nomads. We’re on a project for 3, 6, 12 months and then we travel to another city or country to work at a new company.

Staff positions are a rare commodity these days. To take full advantage of this you can travel all over.

For 24 years of my life – I lived in Florida. In 3 years animating all over, I’ve either visited or lived in 9 different countries.

This can lead to a very exciting life if you stay open to possibilities. With smaller companies in vast numbers scattered all over the globe you can literally base your next job on where you might like to live for a year.

Japan? Sure, let’s give it a go for 6 months. Germany? How about a year. Argentina? Let’s do it!
Think of the new hobbies you can explore cultures to soak in, friends you could make across all over the planet – the doors are wide open.


Bern, Switzerland

Bali – Indonesia – Christmas 2013


Ubud, Bali – Elephant Sanctuary


If you ever get tired of some country, or you don’t mesh well with a company’s philosophy you can move on. Maybe it will be a time then to try out a big studio – see what it’s like. You’ll have a fresh look on it all after traveling the world as a digital nomad.

Or maybe you’ve found a country and a studio you absolutely love. Maybe you want to stick around. Staff positions will be more readily available to you, because there’s less competition and because your probably high quality foreign talent that isn’t interested in running off to Pixar for a while.

Whatever you decide – in a foreign land every day at work will feel like a permanent vacation. Your precious 2 week ‘vacations’ can be used to visit family during the holidays while you live in paradise every single day.

If you’re a citizen of the US like me, you’ll find just about every other country offers more holidays throughout the year as well.

20 Year VFX Supervisor Veteran Alan Mckay has a great podcast on ‘Traveling the World as a Digital Gypsy’ Check it out for detailed info on getting the adventure in your career full swing at your beck and call:

Does this Sound appealing? Will you stay open?

Ditching BIG Studio Envy

Some of the greatest pressures we put on ourselves can stem from what our family or friends say and do around us.

When I graduated my 1st animation school – I never found animation work. When I graduated my 2nd school – I finished and feared the same would happen all over again.

I saw awesome friends literally go off to Pixar, Sony, Blue Sky and they deserved it.

Yet at the same time I couldn’t help but be jealous.

I didn’t react against them or put them down, but it definitely left this gnawing hunger to succeed as much as they did.

So when I accepted my first job in Singapore as part of a small team, I doubted its worth. Should I do something so crazy for a year?

I imagined what my family would think of all this wasted time and money on education that didn’t pan out. I imagined people cackling behind my back at how foolish I was to go after a dream job, and should just get a real job like everyone else.

What happened instead changed my life.

Instead my family was blown away by the opportunity before me, a chance to see the world. My animation friends at Sony and Pixar said:

‘Wow, you’ve traveled all over Asia; I’ve always wanted to go there. You’ve really embodied the life part of animating – I wish I could do the same’

Slowly, as I lived the experience, the jealously evaporated, the want for Pixar vanished, and I became extremely grateful.

I realized my dream was to be a great animator, and create amazing art for the world.

I believe that’s what you are here for too, and you can find a way.

Below I’ll help get you started.

How to Choose Your Path and a Free Giveaway

Now that you’ve taken a harder look at why you want to be an animator, you’re ready to choose the studios you’d like to work for and then decide how best to prepare for them. It will take some research, some digging but its worth it.

To help with your journey, here is a free gift to get you aware of the tons of job options available to you. This PDF shows you a list of studios big & small all over the world. Some you probably haven’t even heard of.

Studio List Giveaway

Print it out or save a copy on your desktop, as you learn animation. This way you can plan your future career right now – or months later as you get clearer on what you’d like to do.

Remember to ask yourself these questions when deciding on studios:
1. Who could I learn from?
2. Where could I learn the most?
3. How much stronger will I be after?
4. What kind of a demo reel will I have after?
5. Do I want to travel?
6. What experiences do I want to have?
7. Where would I like to live for a year?

If you’re still thinking you have only 1 option Big Studio or Small –
Remember the world is not This or That it’s ALL of the above

Try everything. You’re not stuck anywhere.

Share in the comments right now – What is one studio you would like to start at? Why?
Also feel free to ask me any questions, I’ll respond to all of them.


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