Animator Career Interview

A very nice person in a facebook animation forum, needed to interview some professionals in the animation industy for a school project. I volunteered. And I thought someone else might find this interesting... So here's the interview:

1. How hard is it to be an animator?
Is it hard to be a construction worker, a doctor or any other job?
As most professions out there, I would say: Of course it is. It is a job... Same as any other job, you have to educate yourself, go to college/university/school to learn how to do it, work on it and evolve...
But, you start, you need to develop quite a few skills for it. For animating specifically, you have to learn how to draw like an illustrator, how to compose a picture like a photographer, how to act like an actor, how to direct like a director and know basic anatomy like a doctor... before you even start learning how to animate!
And then, of course, is the matter of what kind of animator you're going to be... There is no one single kind. Are you going to be a 2D animator? A 3D animator? A puppet animator? A visual effects animator? A motion graphics animator? Experimental? etc etc... Each of these have their own set of skills you need to aquire and subdivisions you can specialize in.
And then of course... after maybe years of working and learning from your experience, hopefully you will develop a unique artistic style and start standing out of the crowd (if you're interested in doing your own projects).
It is hard. But if you like it, and work on it, it will be rewarding! As any other job. But more fun!
2. What is your favorite part of being an animator?
Two things really. The first one is that it allows me to incorporate all my hobbies in to one profession. I like to write scripts, draw, act, compose and play music. Animation is the only profession (and art form) that allows me to do all these things and produce one solid thing. I get to have fun, when I'm working.
The other... it might be one of these things that you might be too young to understand. I'll try to describe it as best as I can. It is the aspect of giving life... Birth!
Picture this:
You draw, for hours on end and you test it and you go back to correct everything and draw some more and then... you add the voice recording, and figure out the lip-sync and then a prop has to come up and you draw that, and test all these again and go back to refine it.... and then you add sound effects and then..... after hours of working on just a few seconds of film, and you have all the elements added and queued in the right place and you are tired and kind of dizzy... and you're ready to call it a day... 
But you sit back and you press "play"... You need to make a final test. Just to see how the day went...
And all these individual things that you were adding to the puzzle, suddenly have become one solid character that moves and speaks and interacts with other things and other characters. That moment is magic. You've just collected a bunch of souless things and you've made life! I become Dr. Frankestein and want to yell "It's alive!!!!". Oh, it's magic!
And this aspect of animation, this "giving life" part of it... is what the actual word "animation" means.

3. What is your least favorite part of being an animator?
The business part of it.
I am a free-lancer animator, and as such, I have to be in charge of promoting myself and my work. I have to attend social gatherings and talk about myself and hand out busness cards and be all "yeah, I'm the best, hire me!" which is sleazy to me and... boring. Don't get me wrong, I love meeting people and I love talking and learning about other people's work... but talking about myself is the most painful thing for me.
And of course, I have to take time out of my work, to sum up the day's work in cute animated gifs and pictures to put on the social media and remind people of the cool things I'm up to.
Let's just say that to me: Promoting is -just- not as fun as Creating!

4. What is the average animations you get done in a day?
I'm not sure I understand the question... You mean how many seconds or minutes of film I get done in a day? Or films? How many hours I work?
It depends on the project... I mean, if a scene has complex backgrounds, or complex movements, or many people in it, it takes longer than say making a simple walk-cycle or a logo intro!
If you work on a large studio, the work of each scene is divided among different people... Some will do backgrounds, some will do key frames for one character, some would do the in-betweens, some would do the effects, and a whole different team would handle compositing, editing etc...
I, currently, mostly work alone, so I have to do all these things myself.
Let me give you an example, see if this helps: "Demon in love" was an animated short I did in roughly three-four months, from start to finish. It took me 3 years to complete "Apostle Paul: Journey from Damscus to the Acropolis". Both of them are on my website, pick a random 10 seconds from each, and you might understand why.

5. How does your job affect your personal life, like family and social activities?
A job is a job... You might do overtimes often, but you, generally, have to keep on a schedule. And studios tend to keep those things tight. You work 8 to 11 hours, and then you're free to go home. If you fear you're going to be behind deadlines you put some extra hours in... And, you might be called in on a Sunday at times.... But, generally, it should work as any other job does (according to where you live).
I am a free-lancer, and I have been fortunate enough, to always have clients bringing me projects. So I have the luxury, let say, to, up until now, to make my won schedule and not let my job interfere with my personal life.
I have a family, I go out, I do all the things I would do, even if I was unemployed.
That said... Animation has an artistic aspect to it, and since I am -most of the times- my own director, there is always an inspiration factor that might strike at an inconvinient time. I tend to not stop what I'm doing, to go back to work. I put my kids to bed at night and I might work late after everyone is asleep.
Does all that answer this question?
6. Do you get some attention when you go in public?
Generally, no. Animators, usually, don't become celebrities. Pick your favourite animated film or show. You probably know who is voice-acting and you might even know the director... but you never know who animated the thing. And it's usually a bunch of people.
Having said that.... There is a new kind of animator, who do become celebrities and they might get attention in public. And those are You-Tube animated-vlog type of animators.
I'm not one of those. I have come across people who have seen my work... but I got the attention after my work was brought up.
7. What is a typical work day like?
It rotates for me. Since, like I said, I don't currently work with a team of animators, and I do all parts of the poduction... I am either starting on a new script that a client has given me or I have written and start storyboarding. Or I am further ahead on the production and work on character designs, layouts, props. Or I work with the sound engineer and actors, for the voice overs. Or with the composer for the sound design, or soundtrack...
Mostly, I sit on my desk animating a scene.

8. If I graduate college in 2030, will there be any open spots for me?

Things change all the time.... But I think yes!
Animation (and most of it's forms) have been around for too long, and have survived/conquered/incorporated new technologies and new genres and new trends... Puppet animation and claymation was thought dead for a while, but isn't, flash animation is still around and more popular than ever... heck, even for 2D in general, people said it would die, after Disney switched to 3D.
It evolves and I think it will still be around, in some forms. If there is a college teaching it, I'm sure there will be open spots for you.

9. If you won the lottery, would you quit your job (even if you love the job you have right now), and why?

Would I stop animating and producing films...  No! I love it too much.

I would probably do it on a larger scale, with more people!

10. What was schooling like?

Oh, It was really fun... Difficult, but really fun!
I was at uni for six years. My first degree was in Visual Communication (majoring in Filmmaking and Animation). That course was all about communicating your idea through any medium it might be required from you. I did illustration, photography, graphic design, filmmaking, flash animation, and 2D animation, art history a.o.
My second degree was in 2D Animation and I took all kinds of drawing classes (anatomy, figure drawing, clothed figure drawing, analysis of form, animal study, heads and hands, colour and design, character design, storyboard design, layout design etc) but also art history, animation history, sculpting, 3D sculpting, compositing, lots of animation classes (2D, assisting, 3D etc), and quite a few busness classes (how to prepare, promote, evaluate and advertise yourself and your work). 
The first degree taught me to conceive ideas and figuring out how to realise them, in a way that the message comes across. How to brainstorm, how to organize and how to be confident with any material that might suit each idea. And how to present them convincingly! The second degree taught me how to do things right! Methods, techniques, structure and, basically, everything that has to do with 2D Animation, from people who actually work for the Disney, Nickelodeon, Pixar etc...
It was tough. But to be honest... some of the best years of my life. Being surrounded by creative people, you can't but be creative yourself! And animation is such an interesting field that you can't help but be sweapt away in it's magical ride.

11. What do you do to overcome "creative block"?

I draw something else, study someone else's work and try to figure out how they do it, study work from people I admire, go for a walk and clear my head, listen to music, play guitar, hang out with friends, read a book...

The idea is to clear your mind of clutter and anxiety... I do something creative/relaxing or be in a creative/relaxing environment ... And like I mentioned earlier: Being surrounded by creative people, you can't but be creative yourself!

...And poof, the block is gone!

12. How did you've found your own unique art style?

It isn't difficult, but it takes time! You excercise at various different styles, while learning how to draw anyway... Somethings just kind of stick with you from each style, and after a while your own unique aesthetic -kinda- pops out. You go with what you like and are more comfortable drawing and... there it is!

13. Who inspired you to animate?

I think I might have mentioned this earlier, but animation might have been a one-way street for me, as it incorporates all the things I like doing most in life, like writting scripts, drawing, acting, voice-acting, singing, playing and composing music... My involvment with animation was based on the logic "what profession I would actually enjoy doing the most"!

But if I can turn this question to "who my Animation heroes are?", I would have to say the likes of Eric Goldberg, Glenn Keane, Richard Williams, Tex Avery and Chuck Jones, Bruce Timm... and so many more!

And strangely for a man my age, I do owe a debt of gratitude to Edd Gould, a guy much younger than me... who found a way to do his own things, promote it and become a hit... all by the time he was -like- sixteen!!! He, sadly, passed on. I was, already, a professional animator when I discovered his great body of work, but got a lot of inspiration from him!

14. Is there anything else you think I need to know?
If I understand correctly, you are quite young, and what I am about to write might sound like the ramblings of an old relic but here it is:
I have one advice... Be a good person! Become friends with everybody!
Be kind, try to not get angry and frustrated... And even if you do, try to swallow it and try to reason with people. Invite people to your world and get into theirs. Observe. Invest your time and your energy to your family and friends, neighbours and co-workers. Watch and learn how each one laughs, cries, eats, walks, phrases things, gets angry, has fun... Be part of it all, for everyone. Have fun with them at their joy, and help them at their sorrow.
Sure, you'll get hurt, and sure you'll be betrayed, and, of course, some people will not deserve your time. But, do it anyway.
Not only, it will make you one great animator, because you'll know how to embody each character you are tasked to portray... It will also make you a great person!

Oh, I'm suprised I haven't mentioned this yet: Read The Illusion of Life and The Animator’s Survival Kit.  If you are serious about animation... these two books will be your bible! 

I hope, all that helps!