Friday, 22 May 2015

Twelve Steps to Finding the Perfect Summer Internship

Interview, a short animated film by Mikkel Okholm and Mikkel Brons-Frandsen
How do animation students find summer internships and placements in the industry? Jobs in the entertainment industry have always been highly competitive, and even unpaid internships can be hard to find, So how do you track them down? There are many ways - official jobs postings, word of mouth, rumours in the pub, personal contacts, even cold-calling - all of these can be effective ways to find a summer placement in the business. Below are the twelve key rules we think are vital for success.

Rule No 1 - Get good at what you do

Ok, you're still a student - no-one expects you to be Michaelangelo,  but the industry is competitive, and you need to be good at your work.  Make your animation good quality, entertaining and fun to watch. Employers like students who are confident in their skills.

Your demo reel is your shopfront - make it enticing

Rule No 2 - Have a great demo reel

Your demo reel is your shop front, your display of talent. Nowadays it will be online at a website or blog. At this stage it doesn't have to be perfect - just show your best work done so far.  A great demo reel brings in work and helps an employer identify your skills.

Rule No 3 - make your work easy to find.

Got yourself a blog or website? If not, why not? These days, employers won't wait for you to send them a reel - they want to click on your work. So make sure your demo reel and artwork is hosted online at your blog or website. If you don't have one, do it now.  It's free!

free websites!
A blog is quick, easy and free to start. You can also build your own website at, which might take a little longer to create. Which one you choose doesn't really matter, as long as it looks crisp and clean and is a good shopfront for your talent. For more on how to put together a free website or blog, see this post.

Quick, easy and free - a great way to showcase your talent

Rule No 4 - polish your CV or resume

The next thing you need is an up-to-date, short, and easily readable CV (or resume in the USA). For more on how to put together a great CV, read this post.

Insert your name here.

Rule No 5 - Research - find out who is hiring

There are literally hundreds of animation, games and visual effects companies in the UK alone, and hundreds or even thousands around the world. Remember that most media companies speak English - wherever they are located. Make a list of companies, or - better yet - create a spreadsheet, so you track where you have applied and when. Try to find out who is looking for talent. Keep an eye on job forums, industry news websites, Facebook pages. There is always a company somewhere looking to hire fresh talent.

To start looking, check out this Games Development map. This map shows the locations of Games studios all over the world. Click on the red dots to find 'em. The same goes for the CG Studios Map. As above, this map shows the location of CG studios all over the world.

Rule No 6 - sign up for job alerts.

One method is to sign up with the internships page at awn - The Animation World Network. Other places to look include mediargh which posts lists of internships and also jobs.

Rule No 7 - Start applying

Now it's time to start applying. You will need to draft a good cover letter to send to each company you are applying for. Draft a standard letter, save it, and then start adapting it. Each letter should be tailored to suit the company you are applying for so that it doesn't read like a form letter.

What are your skills, and how are they relevant to the position you are applying for? Employers like to see that applicants have done their homework and can explain why they are interested in a career with their company. Be enthusiastic, and show that you know what that company does for a living.

Rule No 8 - It's OK to work as a runner or intern

Finding internships is easier than finding a job, but they are still competitive. And yet, in an increasingly tough world for students trying to break into the creative industries, it can be an important step on the ladder to a successful career.

Runners - first learn to make great coffee
A successful internship brings experience, contacts, and direct understanding of what is needed to get a job with an animation company. Equally, working as a runner can be a great way in to a company. You may end up making a lot of coffee and tea, but if you get taken on - it will have been well worth it.

Rule No 9 - Get ready for interview

Company recruiters want to know that you are enthusiastic and motivated for the industry and the job role you are applying for.  You must research the company.  Recruiters often ask questions like: "What do you think this job involves?" or "what do you expect an average day to be like?".

They may also ask what your career goals are. This is a good opportunity to explain your career ambitions, but don't be too ambitious. Everyone wants to direct Hollywood movies and win Oscars, but the reality of most careers, especially in the early years, will likely be rather different. Being aware of what a realistic career in the visual effects industry looks like will win you the respect of the person interviewing you. Saying you want to be Stephen Spielberg will not. 

Rule No 10 - Work your connections

Personal connections count. If you know people who work in the creative industries, ask them about internships. There is no shame in this - many of the jobs you get in industry will be thanks to the sort of loose connections that make up what we call networking. Employers want to be comfortable with the person they are hiring, and if someone within the company can vouch for the applicant, then so much the better.

Make a list of people you know in the business and see if they can help you out. Many of our graduates might well be willing to help out a fellow student at Animation Apprentice - if you ask nicely. Sending down the ladder to help give an opportunity to a newbie isn't as rare as you might think.

Keep your eyes and ears open. Photo: Wikipedia

Rule No 11 - Keep your ears open!

Finally, keep in touch with your fellow students! You can keep each other informed about who is hiring and who needs bodies in a hurry.

Media companies tend to practice crisis-management, which is to say that when they need people, they tend to need them right away. So keep you ear to the ground, polish your online portfolio, and be ready to move quickly.

Be the rhino - get a thick skin

Rule No 12 - Don't give up!

Develop rhinoceros hide. Expect rejection.  Don't take it personally - it's just business, and it isn't personal.  Keep trying and you will be rewarded.

To find out more about Animation Apprentice, click here for a link to Frequently Asked Questions. To sign up for our next classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link. For more information on finding work and surviving in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we arehelping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films. Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business. Also see our post about freelancers and taxes.

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