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Is 'work for hire' the only thing being taught?

Share your views on the state of the Animation Industry.

Is 'work for hire' the only thing being taught?

Postby Charles » Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:22 pm

I'm wondering if anyone has had an experience where a business education was offered or is being offered or is incorporated into a curriculum for animation.

I get a distinct impression from my conversations with artists and animation students that it is not the case.

An organization like the Animation Guild which is the only union for artists in the biz has no real interest in teaching an alternative approach. Their money comes from artists in work for hire situations at the studios in LA. The animation schools nationwide support this system, encouraging students to develop their portfolios and reels and look to studio employment with no other career alternatives being offered in discussion. Maybe they do but I've never heard anything about it anywhere.

Groups like the Creative Talent Network and the annual CTN eXpo they sponsor along with their Center Stage Gallery offer venues and opportunities for developing an independent aspect to one's career but it's all centered upon the studio culture with no real emphasis on anything that's going on outside of the status quo work for hire community.

Where is the conversation dealing with the new opportunities and processes that are emerging for artists outside of the work for hire mentality?

Here's a trend I'm seeing develop from enrollment to my school The Animation Academy in Burbank. It seems that more and more young people are looking to break into the field on a professional level without the usual desire, ambition or purpose or working at a studio. They appear intent on doing their own thing and are influenced by sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They look more towards independence and alternative career approaches as opposed to the "I gotta get a job in a studio" kind of mindset.

Pockets are developing where artists are engaged in the creation of content outside of the normal course of things. An aspect to animation is emerging that never really existed before at this level. It's all good as it will lead to more artists creating in work for hire jobs... ;) :D

I'm compelled to share what I'm seeing, discovering and experiencing in present matters that affect the future or our community.

Keep your options open. There's new things happening all the time.

And by all means regardless of what your situation is... Keep Creating! 8-)
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Re: Is 'work for hire' the only thing being taught?

Postby tstevens » Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:41 pm

The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in most artists but the ability for them to run a business is rare. I think all of us at one point or another have dreams of getting an angel investor (or crowd funding) to get a project off of the ground with the hope that it will pay the bills and get our foot in the door with a larger entity. However, my experience with most artists is that they usually want to create and not manage. The hardest part about running a company and being an artist is separating yourself enough from the product that you can make smart business decisions. Let’s face it: most artists would work for free if they thought the project they were hired for was cool. The business side of animation isn’t something that can be easily taught. You really have to learn it through trial and error.

Business advice that I had been given for years never made much of an impact until I had circumstances or jobs that brought that advice into focus. Sometimes it takes falling on your ass a few times to understand how certain business decisions can make or break you or your company. The first two years that I went out on my own were very good. My third year in business was rough. The only thing that made it work was that I had saved enough money from the previous two years to coast through the slow period (if any of you have ever paid quarterly taxes you know how one slow year can really hurt).

My advice to those who decide to veer away from the studios and start their own company, or work freelance, is that you need to do a few things…

1) Cultivate your contacts. More often than not you will only get new clients occasionally and most of your work will come from the same sources, assuming that they find your quality of work good but reasonable.

2) Everything is negotiable. Unless you are working for the government (or in feature 3D) you should be able to negotiate your wage and terms. This is especially important for women since it is shown that women make less than men overall partially because they are less likely to negotiate.

3) Make sure that you get a contract before a job begins with payment and terms spelled out. Never do work without a contract unless you really trust someone. If you are uncomfortable with the terms, or have questions, bring them up.

4) Always get money up front to start work. If they can’t pay you 50% to start, be very leery. It is OK to do spec work to get a job but, know when to stop. I will do spec storyboards and designs along with a quote knowing that those pieces could be taken elsewhere and shopped around. My figuring is that you need to entice people up front so a little work can go a long way.

5) If you start a company, do it the right way. Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number) and abide by the rules in your state for taxation. I would also recommend getting business checking and savings accounts for paying things so there is a clear separation between you as an individual and the business.

6) LLCs are popular but beware. If you do form a business, an LLC is a nice alternative to being a sole proprietor because it gives some legal protections. However, depending on your state laws, an LLC may not have as much protection as you think (a lot of this depends on how you file end of year taxes).

7) Advertise and market yourself. Do whatever it takes to get your name out there: traditional mailers, e-mail, social networking through facebook, twitter, linked In etc. (This was my mistake in year 3).

8) When in Rome do as the Romans. If you run a business you have to treat it like a business and interact with people in a professional way. This means that you have to act professional, look professional, and work in a way that shows you are honest, reasonable, and trustworthy.

These seem like easy things to do but, when you are in the trenches, they aren’t. Every time you lose a quote you have to go back and figure out what you could have done to get the job. Sometimes there may have been nothing you can do. Sometimes you totally screw it. The only way to get the next job is by learning from your mistakes on the previous one.

Unfortunately, you will have to work for other people to make a living. There are a few artists out there who will get the funding for a project that they created, but most won't.
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Re: Is 'work for hire' the only thing being taught?

Postby Charles » Mon Jun 23, 2014 1:24 pm

Good advice and practical business guidance tstevens. You've always been a solid contributor to AN in that regard.

Still one should be mindful of work for hire as opposed to intellectual property / content ownership. Which is why crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular option for artists who are looking to migrate out of the client / employee based model and into the IP ownership model.

Even if you're successful in a work for hire situation it's a good idea to think in terms of equity. If you can hold on to some rights such as publication rights of the images you create or ownership of original artwork that you can sell later on it's better positioning than just delivering a job in exchange for a fee with no equity participation in any form whatsoever.

The comparison between Rhythm and Hues and Pixar is one which I frequently use as an example.

Which would you rather be, which would you rather have...

A service oriented VFX studio whose destiny is in the hands of content owners, or a content creation studio who owns what they create and reaps the benefits of the equity of their properties?

If this discussion were prevalent in the educational system and within the animation labor union at least artists would be more aware and better suited to operate in the full extent of the industry and everything it has to offer. Not just in work for hire but in all aspects including content ownership.
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Re: Is 'work for hire' the only thing being taught?

Postby SNAKEBITE » Thu Jun 26, 2014 3:09 pm

I've been lucky enough to work in many creative fields. Because of that my ideas on how to be compensated ranges more then the average comic book or animation artist. I can tell you with much confidence that getting paid upfront for your time to create does not mean you sign your rights away. Even business people who are not creative understand this.

Companies always have money in place to pay the people who are building but very rarely do they think that is enough compensation for what they are building or creating.

The work for hire myth of being paid upfront OR on the backend is very damaging. It is not an "or" situation, it is mos definitely an "and" situation... If you do get bought out in the front end then make sure you are compensated accordingly. Which most upfront pay scales are rarely, if ever, according to the real worth.

All of our art should be looked at as licensing thing. Even the stuff you are paid for. The strength in the creative fractal is very powerful. Remember what your ideas can spark. A chain reaction should benefit all.

Good news though, in my circles more of us are hip to it.
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