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Starting out - short film or stick to animation tests

I have been interested in stop motion since a very young age and have been experimenting at home with Dragonframe. I am now 21 and after studying model making for 3 years at college, I want to follow a path which will hopefully lead to a career in stop motion animation. I have already applied to two animation courses in the past two years, both of which I didn't get into unfortunately. I think what is key to getting a job is a good showreel, however I don't know if I should just focus on animation tests or embark on a short film project. I have actually had many ideas for short films (most of which I have actually posted on here), but I get demotivated really easily as it is a huge undertaking for one animator. My ideas seem to be very elaborate with more than one set (which of course has to be constructed) and I find myself having a huge list of things to tick off. Does anyone else find starting out a bit daunting and also is there anyone on the same boat as me that has any tips for what steps to take? I would appreciate any advice from the pro's too, any advice at all!

Thanks 

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You could pick a key scene from a film you'd like to do, and focus on just that, rather than all the other sets and characters that might be needed for the whole film. That still gives you a shot where you have a character and a context, rather than just an exercise. I was thinking of doing something like that, putting a reel together with the interesting bits from some films I will never make.

Hi Angus, 

I've seen some of your animation and watched your projects and think they're really great. I'm in a very similar boat as you. I'm 19 and have been serious about stop motion for 2 years now, though I have never taken any kind of course or class. I'm entirely 'self taught'. Although my animation leaves something to be desired, I was able to get a semi-professional gig doing an ad/ident for a guy's company in December. To date, that has been my only 'job' as an animator, though it opened up a door to a slew of career connections.

The process of getting started is still herculean in proportion, though I do what I can to tackle my to-do list. I have only ever really done short films and test clips, I still need to make a reel of my own. 

I think you definitely have what it takes to make a short film. In the end what course you take in starting your career comes down to your own choice. Chances are the most difficult part will be finding a company/film maker who needs or wants a stop motion animator to hire you. I guess that's why so many of us opt for freelance short films. 

Best of luck

Hey Angus, follow you're dreams and don't let anyone tell you differently. Otherwise, you'll end up regretting that you didn't "go for it" when you had the chance. Do one thing on that list and it will get shorter each time. Eventually, you'll accomplish your goal.

The alternative is that you'll find yourself 30 years down the road, kicking yourself for not pursuing your passion and trying to play catch-up with nowhere to go but a dead end street.

Go! Fight! Win!

Never give up! Never surrender!

Dennis

Hey Angus,
I think that the answer to your question depends a lot on what specific direction you would like to go in the stop motion field. You say that key to getting a job is a good reel but that depends entirely on whether you want to be an animator, director, build props or sets etc. If it is your goal to create your own stop motion productions and take on assignments as a freelancer it will also be important to develop skills in coming up with interesting concepts and turning them into solid films. Learning the language of film and how to tell a story is something that you can't really do by just making animation tests I think.

Maybe you can set yourself the challange of coming up with an "round" idea that limits to only one character and one location and let's say two minutes. Doing a short and not too complicated piece as a whole might also help you find out which parts of the production you love most and which might need more of your attention to improve on. There will be plenty of time in the future for all those grand ideas. We all have those! :)

But then again, if you only really want to become an animator then maybe sticking to (elaborate) tests might just be enough.

Here's a suggestion: 'Ideas for the Animated Short' is a great book, which has lots of stimulating stuff on getting a concept realised.

Just thinking about what James said above.... You are keen to build up a showreel, I would like to have someone help on my project. Is there anything we might be able to do that would help both of us? Message me if you want to discuss it.

I am based near Exeter in Devon. 

Wow didn't expect this much feedback. Thanks guys! As to the projects, James and Simon that is something I might be interested in and I'll get back to you on that asap. I actually have followed you on YouTube, Simon. Your motion control shots look superb!   

Hi Jasper. That's some great advice, much appreciated. I feel I have more experience in building models/props than actually animating them which is what I would like to be better at. I do enjoy making the puppets and sets, and would certainly be up for some jobs that require a model-maker for an animated project, in fact just last year I made a stop motion prop for a Harryhausen-esque sci-fi/fantasy project which was a fantastic opportunity.

Jasper Kuipers said:

Hey Angus,
I think that the answer to your question depends a lot on what specific direction you would like to go in the stop motion field. You say that key to getting a job is a good reel but that depends entirely on whether you want to be an animator, director, build props or sets etc. If it is your goal to create your own stop motion productions and take on assignments as a freelancer it will also be important to develop skills in coming up with interesting concepts and turning them into solid films. Learning the language of film and how to tell a story is something that you can't really do by just making animation tests I think.

Maybe you can set yourself the challange of coming up with an "round" idea that limits to only one character and one location and let's say two minutes. Doing a short and not too complicated piece as a whole might also help you find out which parts of the production you love most and which might need more of your attention to improve on. There will be plenty of time in the future for all those grand ideas. We all have those! :)

But then again, if you only really want to become an animator then maybe sticking to (elaborate) tests might just be enough.

That's a really good idea! I could come up with something, maybe a suspenseful, dark scene. Cheers Nick!

StopmoNick said:

You could pick a key scene from a film you'd like to do, and focus on just that, rather than all the other sets and characters that might be needed for the whole film. That still gives you a shot where you have a character and a context, rather than just an exercise. I was thinking of doing something like that, putting a reel together with the interesting bits from some films I will never make.

Thanks for the kind words, Cadmus! I'll accept an job, just want to be able to get my foot in the door.

Cadmus Rimbeaux said:

Hi Angus, 

I've seen some of your animation and watched your projects and think they're really great. I'm in a very similar boat as you. I'm 19 and have been serious about stop motion for 2 years now, though I have never taken any kind of course or class. I'm entirely 'self taught'. Although my animation leaves something to be desired, I was able to get a semi-professional gig doing an ad/ident for a guy's company in December. To date, that has been my only 'job' as an animator, though it opened up a door to a slew of career connections.

The process of getting started is still herculean in proportion, though I do what I can to tackle my to-do list. I have only ever really done short films and test clips, I still need to make a reel of my own. 

I think you definitely have what it takes to make a short film. In the end what course you take in starting your career comes down to your own choice. Chances are the most difficult part will be finding a company/film maker who needs or wants a stop motion animator to hire you. I guess that's why so many of us opt for freelance short films. 

Best of luck

Thanks Dennis. That's the worry, even now I feel like I have wasted some good years when I could have been actually making something instead of thinking about it and worrying if I'll be able to do it.

Dennis Heinzeroth said:

Hey Angus, follow you're dreams and don't let anyone tell you differently. Otherwise, you'll end up regretting that you didn't "go for it" when you had the chance. Do one thing on that list and it will get shorter each time. Eventually, you'll accomplish your goal.

The alternative is that you'll find yourself 30 years down the road, kicking yourself for not pursuing your passion and trying to play catch-up with nowhere to go but a dead end street.

Go! Fight! Win!

Never give up! Never surrender!

Dennis

Ah, you ain't seen nothing yet with that moco rig. Now fully functional v3 with a mini rig on its way too!

Angus Lamont said:

Wow didn't expect this much feedback. Thanks guys! As to the projects, James and Simon that is something I might be interested in and I'll get back to you on that asap. I actually have followed you on YouTube, Simon. Your motion control shots look superb!   

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