How do I break into the film and games industry? What should I include in my demo reel or portfolio? How do I best prepare for interviews? If you're asking these types of questions about the film and games industry, read on!
CG Spectrum recently hosted a live Q&A on ArtStation, opening up the floor to aspiring film and games artists seeking career advice from our dedicated Career Development Manager, Maxine Schnepf. We had some really great questions from the ArtStation community and truly stellar advice from Maxine on how to get your first job in games or film!
About Maxine In her role at CG Spectrum, Maxine helps students increase their hiring potential and get ready for life beyond school in their chosen discipline. Highly experienced and well-connected in the VFX industry, Maxine's worked in all aspects of the post-production process as a VFX Producer, Department Manager, Production Coordinator, and everything in between.
CG Spectrum's Career Development Manager, Maxine Schnepf
Here's a sneak peek at a few of the questions that were asked throughout the session:
[Stephen:] How do artists just starting out find those first jobs in the industry?
[Maxine:] This is one of the most common questions I get from students. Internships are a great way to get some experience. That being said, some of those film and video game internships are SUPER competitive to get into! And they aren't always available.
So what else can you do to get some experience?
Volunteering: Try to find a relevant game/tech/animation/creative conference and volunteer your time. Not only can you use this volunteer experience on your CV, but typically if you sign up to be a volunteer you'll also get FREE access to attend the conference! Tickets for those events are usually quite expensive, so it's a win/win to volunteer.
Game Jams & Collaborations: Being able to show that you have teamwork skills and know-how to work with others can be an asset. Even though these projects may not be paid, they count as experience and can also add to your portfolio.
Alternate job entry-point: If your portfolio needs some more work, you can also consider getting a different sort of in-studio job. It's a good way to get relevant industry experience while you work your way up to more of a "dream job" position within your creative field. Some examples: QA Tester, Production Assistant, Runner, Receptionist, Render Wrangler, etc. This is actually how I got my first job in the industry! I was an Office Manager at a commercial Editorial studio.
[Christine:] What advice do you have for networking?
[Maxine:] My #1 piece of advice especially with regards to networking, is to do some research. Being on social media and places like Artstation and LinkedIn can take up a LOT of your time if you aren't going about it in a conscious sort of way.
Instead of just focusing on the front page of Artstation and seeing the most popular projects and accounts, start looking up specific companies that are relevant to you: your projects have a stylized sort of look to them, and you're based in the US, so you should be looking for studios which create similar looking content within your country. And don't just go looking at the bigger name places - go on Steam or the Apple/Google Play Store and look for mobile games and indie games that have a similar art style. Then you can try to find people who work at those companies and have the job title that you want. THOSE are the people you should be contacting and getting info from.
With networking you also want to try to connect with people who are in adjacent fields to you - if you only talk to other 3D character artists, you're basically talking to your competition. So finding some animators or content creators might be a good avenue for you.
[Marcia:] How hard it is for someone "older" to switch careers and start looking for jobs in film and games?
[Maxine:] Hi Marcia! Good question - many of the students at CG Spectrum are in a similar situation, where they are pivoting their careers into another field or industry.
I think the bottom line is that it's going to be hard whether you're 20 years old, or 40. When you're older, the most difficult thing is finding the time. You likely have other responsibilities like a full or part-time job, family, etc. So it can be hard to dedicate a consistent amount of time each week to studying and practicing your skills. In the end, it comes down to your personal situation, and also how quick you are to pick up new skills and software.
CG Spectrum alum, Ivan Bolonić's FX work in Houdini
[Diego:] I submitted an art test with a studio as part of my third interview, and they said I needed more time to be ready. Should I wait to apply for other jobs until my art is better in terms of fundamentals and I feel more confident?
Hey Diego! I think it all depends on the company. Just because you were rejected at one place doesn't mean that some others won't hire you! The fact that you made it as far as an art test shows you're on the right track. That being said, you should ALWAYS be working on your fundamentals and improving your portfolio until you land that job. I think you should continue applying for other jobs and work on a new portfolio project if you haven't already.
After 3-4 months, you could even try to re-apply at the same studio you were rejected from, and tell them that you've been working on improving your skills. They may reconsider!
Good luck Diego - and remember that if you're already getting some bites for jobs, you're clearly doing SOMETHING right! So don't give up.
[Christine:] What impresses you when looking at a candidate?
What impresses me is someone who has a consistent and clear style, presents their work well, and has done their research. Hope this helps and good luck!
[Grant:] What would you say is the biggest piece of advice for a concept art student trying to find a job in the industry?
Hi Grant! Great question - I think that the most successful artists have a demonstrated ability to showcase consistency in the style of their work and how they draw. This doesn’t mean that you can only draw one type of thing like fantasy elves only - it’s not about the subject matter but rather HOW you draw it. Regardless of whether it’s a fantasy spaceship or a present-day city building, it’s more about having a consistent painting style. That way, it’s easier for potential clients or hiring managers to imagine themselves working with you, and imagine you executing their vision with your style.
Another thing to keep in mind is that many people who work as concept artists also do other jobs in digital painting professionally - book and print illustrations, illustrations or designs for advertising & commercial projects, storyboarding, etc. Having consistency with your painting style but playing around with the subject matter will help to keep you open to other opportunities like that.
[Alex:] When we see studios mentioning remote work does it mean you need to be in the same country as the studio just not the city or can you literally be anywhere?
Hi Alex! It depends on the studio - some hire remotely but you need to still be based in the same country for legal/payment purposes. While others are able to hire internationally. When in doubt, either read the job description to see if they are specific to mention it, reach out to a recruiter or hiring manager and ask, or you can just apply and see what happens. Another thing you can do is try to look up the company on LinkedIn and see if any of their staff work in different countries - that’s a great indication to see if they hire remote/international.
Looking for personalized career support to get your first job in film and games?
Along with our expert-led courses that teach you industry-standard technical and creative skills, we also dedicate time to helping you build a well-rounded set of soft skills — so, you're sure to check all the boxes on a prospective employer's checklist!
As part of our career services, we offer portfolio and demo reel reviews, resume/CV assistance and interview prep, help with internship and job applications, career-focused workshops and webinars, and a jobs board and monthly careers newsletter!
See how Maxine and our career services can help you get into, or move up in the film and games industry!
CG Spectrum is an online animation, VFX, digital painting, and game development school that brings the industry to you. Whether straight out of high school, changing careers, or upgrading skills, our goal is to help you build the job skills and confidence to pursue your dream career in film and games. Get more out of your education with world-class career training and mentorship from leading film and game industry experts.