A Career in Film Effects

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Akademee

Well-Known Member
Hi 405th,

I have been here for a number of years and with this site opening doors to new sites and resources on the internet, it has inspired me to attempt to take prop making a bit more seriously. I am of course talking about a potential career in film effects.

Although today's great films are CGI masterpieces, there will always be demand for costumes, weapons, settings, and other props (until actors are replaced all together!). I have read many articles on the subject of entering the industry and while that is all well and good, I have yet to know how to actually get started.

As an FYI, I am 18 and live in Maryland, USA. Now I am not going out on a limb here and saying that I make better props than anyone here, that's for sure, and much of my worry hangs around that exact premise. I wouldn't call myself a prodigious artist, but I learn fast and practice hard. At least from what I can see, these seasoned effects artists seem older than I am which makes me to believe that skills do develop and improve with time and practice.

My concern is: "Is it enough?" Through trying my hand in the professional world (ie engineering and robotic sciences) I have found that there is ALWAYS someone with a better resume than you do, and that is a fact of life, but in a more artsy industry, is it considered a deal killer?

Thoughts anyone?

Thanks!
Akademee
 

OptimusWang

Jr Member
As someone who has worked as a creative for Disney, ESPN, and is currently an Art Director for an ad agency, I can assure you that nobody gives a crap about your resume or education. A degree is mostly handy for networking (which can be invaluable later in your career), but when I'm interviewing it really comes down to your portfolio. A killer portfolio will absolutely land you jobs, while a weak one will get you dismissed quicker than you believe.
 

Akademee

Well-Known Member
by resume, I did mean portfolio, sorry about that, but what separates a good portfolio from a weak one? Obviously you want lots'o'stuff in it, but when it comes down to what is good and not good, how does that work?
 

Hugh Holder

Well-Known Member
The problem with the special effects industry is that a lot of the more traditional studios have been forced to shut their doors because of digital effects shops.

Even worse for you being a U.S. citizen, a lot of digital and traditional special effects shops are being forced to shut down because they keep losing contracts to larger studios that are outsourcing work to other countries (India, Singapore, UK)

Here's an article talking about it.

Now that's not saying you shouldn't try, but like you said expect a lot of competition. The entertainment industry is more cut-throat than ever, and if you expect to stand out you need great work.

Also, if you don't already have the money to go to school on your own don't even bother taking on loans. As long as you like working on a job for 6 months then taking the chance that they will/won't pick you up on the next contract (if there is one) then the industry is definitely for you. Of course, not all production houses work this way but a good number of them do.

As far as getting into the industry: Your work is the most important thing you have. Degrees are nice but your portfolio is what is going to get you noticed and employed. I suggest honing your skills as a hobby first to build up your (resume) then look for an internship.

In my opinion, engineering and robotic sciences is a great field to stay in. Especially with all of the small scale companies and research being done. In fact, you should try combining your love for prop making with that field and establish your 'brand' even further :)

My point is, being an artist AND an engineer is a powerful combination that more and more companies look to keep as an asset. (And I really mean that as a 24 year old that was offered relocation and 2 sign on bonuses to take a job)
 

OptimusWang

Jr Member
by resume, I did mean portfolio, sorry about that, but what separates a good portfolio from a weak one? Obviously you want lots'o'stuff in it, but when it comes down to what is good and not good, how does that work?
Actually, you don't want "lots'o'stuff". I would rather see 3-5 samples that impress me than 30 pieces that are meh with those 3-5 thrown into the mix. You want to refine your portfolio until it's only top-notch stuff, not dilute it with filler.

As for knowing the difference, if you have to ask you probably need more practice. I'm not trying to be snarky (god knows I'm still terrible at post production), but it's the truth. The best thing you can do right now is keep practicing, preferably with someone better than you so that you can learn as quickly as possible.
 

Akademee

Well-Known Member
It seems like the only thing that I have got down-pat is scale modeling. I know that there are miniature needs, but I just don't see how those are going to stand up to CGI stuff. Is something like this acceptable to place in a portfolio?

 
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Akademee

Well-Known Member
it is not intended for use in a portfolio, obviously all that beginning stuff would be removed, and I would probably just use stills.
 
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